Next Tuesday: East and West Side Megatowers to be Heard at Board of Standards and Appeals

180 East 88th Street and 200 Amsterdam Avenue Head to the BSA

(Left) L-Shaped building lot pre-construction (Right) Rendering by DDG
Next Tuesday, July 17th, will be a big day for New Yorkers concerned with the impact of megatowers on our city as two high profile projects on the Upper East and Upper West Sides will have their day at the Board of Standards and Appeals.
The project at 180 East 88th Street has been making headlines since its zoning gymnastics were covered in the New York Times, involving the creation of a tiny new lot carved out of the development site for no other purpose than to evade zoning rules applying to that location (see graphic to the left). Under the improper approval of the Buildings Department, this building explicitly violates the intent of zoning rules meant to foster livable neighborhoods and good urban design.
The Department of Buildings itself acknowledged the intention behind the micro-lot when it issued a Stop Work Order in May 2016, noting that “a zoning lot cannot be subdivided into a 4-foot lot for the sole purpose of avoiding a zoning requirement.” The Department later reversed itself when the size of the lot was increased by six feet, and allowed work to continue.

FRIENDS joined our colleagues at Carnegie Hill Neighbors in 2017 to challenge the Department’s approval of 180 East 88th Street at the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), with a hearing scheduled for July 17th. At the same hearing, a final decision will be announced regarding 200 Amsterdam Avenue, the gerrymandered “jigsaw puzzle” zoning lot (pictured, right) on the Upper West Side.
Both projects use tactics that undermine the predictability of development in New York, nullify zoning provisions that were designed to promote livability and thoughtful urban design, and threaten our residential neighborhoods. We urge the Board of Standards and Appeals to uphold the integrity of our Zoning Resolution and prohibit the sculpting of lots to evade the City’s own rules.
YOUR PRESENCE MATTERS! Show your support through attendance or public testimony.
JOIN US at the Board of Standards and Appeals
Tuesday, July 17th
Beginning at 10:00 a.m.
22 Reade Street, Spector Hall
Agenda available HERE.

Manhattan Electeds and Advocates Call on City for Immediate Reform

Manhattan Electeds and Advocates Call on City for Immediate Reform

In advance of Tuesday’s hearing, FRIENDS will join with elected officials and colleagues on the steps of City Hall to raise these issues to the citywide stage. The ability to freely sculpt zoning lots, as at 180 East 88th Street and 200 Amsterdam Avenue, that serve no purpose beyond circumventing zoning requirements has serious policy implications for New York City. But these are only two examples of the loopholes, which also include exempt mechanical voids and disproportionate floor-to-ceiling heights, being exploited citywide to game the system for excess height.

The Mayor has acknowledged that zoning loopholes, and specifically oversized mechanical voids as at 249 East 62nd Street, are a problem. Now, we ask for a comprehensive policy solution to address the many tactics leading to out of scale development in residential neighborhoods.
Join, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger (rep.), and Council Member Ben Kallos, together with FRIENDSCarnegie Hill NeighborsLandmark West! and others in calling for a comprehensive solution now, not six months from now.
 x   x
Monday, July 16th
11:15 a.m.
City Hall Steps
Media advisory HERE

Save the Date! 2018 Ambassador to the Upper East Side Award Dinner

Photo by Malcom Brown Photography


will proudly present




Monday, October 1st
6:30 p.m. Cocktails
7:30 p.m. Dinner

The Metropolitan Club
1 East 60th Street
New York City

Click HERE to purchase tickets or make a contribution.

Carol and Richard J. Miller, Jr., Chairs
Ann Ziff, Vice Chair
Judith-Ann Corrente and Willem Kooyker, Vice Chairs
Carole and John French III, Vice Chairs
Patricia Begley and George Beane, Vice Chairs
Sanford W. Morhouse, Vice Chair
Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla, Vice Chairs
Dotty and Lionel Goldfrank III, Vice Chairs
Barbara and James Reibel, Vice Chairs

Arete Warren came to preservation when the National Trust asked her in 1974 to establish the Royal Oak Foundation in New York to help preserve historic English houses and open spaces. Still in her 20s, she was already a seasoned art and architectural historian, having studied art history at Northwestern and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum under John Pope-Hennessy, and then at the Cooper-Hewitt. “I never studied preservation,” she says, “But I love history and I learned how to look and understand what I see.”

Since then, we have all benefited from Arete’s passion and trained eye. She is a scholar of decorative arts and architecture and a garden-design expert. She is co-author of Glasshouses: An Architectural History of Greenhouses, Conservatories, and Orangeries (Rizzoli International, 1988) and author of Gardening by the Book, published in 2013 to accompany the major Grolier Club exhibition she curated.

There is hardly an aspect of civic life in New York that Arete hasn’t touched. Her commitment to protecting what makes New York livable is demonstrated by her leadership roles on the New York State Board for Historic Preservation, the Empire State Plaza Art Commission, the Preservation League of New York State, the Metropolitan Opera and The Garden Club of America.

Arete has made the Upper East Side her home since she arrived in 1973. She still lives in the Charles A. Platt building she moved to in 1985 with her late husband William B. Warren.

Arete is a firm believer in grassroots preservation and a long-time friend and supporter of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. We are delighted to salute her with the 2018 Ambassador to the Upper East Side Award.

Making Strides Toward Common Sense Zoning Reform

Making Strides Toward Common Sense Zoning Reform
Image: Michael Korfhage, Crain’s New York Business
by Joe Anuta, Crain’s New York Business
This week at a town hall meeting with Mayor de Blasio on the Upper West Side, the Department of City Planning followed up on its initial commitment to address the mechanical void loophole made at a January town hall in response to FRIENDS.
When asked about their progress since January, a representative from the Manhattan office of City Planning explained that they are studying the issue and are on track to announce a solution by the end of 2018. They are investigating “the extraneous and even egregious voids that are really unnecessary for a building except to loft it taller,” and will deliver a solution this year.
So far it is unclear the route DCP’s solution will take, and whether it will provide an effective cure to the mechanical void exemption. FRIENDS will continue discussions with the administration, our elected officials, and our neighbors and colleagues to push actively for a zoning solution that rationalizes mechanical space, and also addresses the full scope of loopholes in our zoning that are being exploited including unlimited ceiling heights and gerrymandered zoning lots.
Despite lingering questions, this is a major step forward in FRIENDS’ campaign to “lose the loopholes” contributing to overdevelopment in our community and citywide. FRIENDS is proud to be at the forefront on this issue impacting buildings in our neighborhood, shining a light on these tactics, and actively challenging egregious buildings, like the “periscope” at 249 East 62nd Street and 180 East 88th Street, that abuse  zoning loopholes to maximize height. Stay tuned for future updates!



Last spring FRIENDS led the effort of local and national preservation groups, along with elected officials, to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the City of New York in the ongoing battle to stop the demolition of two historic buildings, part of the City and Suburban Homes First Avenue Estate. The full block complex of tenement buildings was constructed in 1915 by the City and Suburban Homes Company, and designated as an individual landmark for the significance of its design and pioneering role in social housing reform. Home to longtime tenants of modest income, these buildings continue to be a source of affordable housing on the Upper East Side.
This week the New York State Appellate Division ruled in favor of the City and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), upholding the lower court’s ruling and the LPC’s denial of the hardship application in 2014. Once again, the decision refutes Stahl’s arguments that it could not make a viable profit from the two buildings in the complex along York Avenue. Stahl had also attempted to appeal the case at the federal level, but was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2016. Like the groundbreaking Penn Central case of 1978, this opinion affirms the City’s right to regulate landmark-designated properties as a benefit to “all New York citizens… and quality of life in the city as a whole.”
FRIENDS is proud of its longstanding leadership role in this issue, and we are grateful to the many partners who joined us in filing the
latest amicus brief and contributing to this victory!
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
State Senator Liz Krueger
State Asssembly Member Rebecca Seawright
City Council Member Benjamin Kallos
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Preservation League of New York State
The Municipal Art Society of New York
New York Landmarks Conservancy
Historic Districts Council
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
Landmark West!
Friends of the First Avenue Estate
We are also enormously grateful to the tenants, neighbors, advocates, and elected officials who have worked tirelessly over many years on this hardship case. Thanks especially to those who contributed financially to our effort.
For more information, visit FRIENDS’  First Avenue Estate web page 
for a timeline of this ongoing case and links to additional articles about this site.