FRIENDS is thrilled to share the news that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied Stahl an appeal for the second time. This final legal battle is over at last for Stahl York Ave. Co., LLC, owner of the City & Suburban Homes Company First Avenue Estate complex, an individual landmark.
For years, Stahl has waged a protracted fight against the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in the courts as they sought to demolish two historic buildings in this full-block complex. Like the groundbreaking Penn Central case of 1978, this week’s legal victory 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.”
The First Avenue Estate is
a full block complex of tenement buildings, located between East 64th and
East 65th Streets and First and York Avenues, that 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.
is proud of its longstanding leadership role in this issue, which most recently
entailed the filing of an amicus
curiae brief in 2017 on
behalf of the City of New York, with the support of local and national
preservation groups, as well as elected officials.
We are grateful to the
many partners who joined us in these efforts and
contributed 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
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
This Fall: FRIENDS’ 16th Annual Ambassador to the Upper East Side Award Dinner
FRIENDS OF THE UPPER EAST SIDE HISTORIC DISTRICTS will proudly present
THE SIXTEENTH ANNUAL AMBASSADOR TO THE UPPER EAST SIDE AWARD to
Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels Thursday, September 26th
6:30 p.m. Cocktails 7:30 p.m. Dinner The Metropolitan Club 1 East 60th Street New York City
Click HEREto purchase tickets or make a contribution.
Barbara and Donald Tober, Co-Chairs Karen and John Klopp, Co-Chairs
Vice Chairs Alice and Kevin Concagh · Anne Eisenhower · Mark Gilbertson Jamee and Peter Gregory · Marlene Hess and James ZirinPolly and Peter Millard · Melissa and Chappy Morris · Allison and Peter Rockefeller Elizabeth Stribling and Guy Robinson · Bunny Williams
Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels are “ambassadors” of preservation, architectural history and design in every sense of the word. Through individual pursuits and together, they have sought to safeguard and celebrate the built and natural worlds, infusing a spirit of warmth and generosity in their Park Avenue neighborhood and their farms in Millbrook and Aiken.
Following a career in global public relations at Tiffany & Company, Fernanda became the Founding Chair of the Tiffany Foundation, directing substantial funds in support of the arts, preservation and placemaking, including significant support to the High Line’s revitalization. In 2010 she received the Rachel Carson Award from the National Audubon Society, which recognizes women leaders in conservation. Fernanda continues her stewardship work as a trustee of the World Monuments Fund, and involvement with the Bard Graduate Center and Dutchess Land Conservancy.
As Vice Chairman and Founding Director of Stribling Private Brokerage, Kirk Henckels is at the vanguard in preserving Manhattan’s most prestigious historic properties. Kirk’s lifelong fascination with architecture led him to publish Life at the Top: New York’s Most Exceptional Apartment Buildings, with co-author Anne Walker in 2017. Kirk is Vice Chair of the Institute for Classical Architecture & Art, on the board of the Aiken Land Conservancy and recipient of the Clelia Delafield Award for his years of service to the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Lifelong equestrians, Fernanda and Kirk are active with the Millbrook and Aiken Hunts, supporters of the U.S. Equestrian Team and for 25 years hosted the Fitch’s Corner Horse Trials, the premier lower-level equestrian event in the country.
Fernanda and Kirk are quintessential New Yorkers, embodying the spirit and sense of community that characterizes the qualities of a neighborhood that Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts seeks to protect and celebrate every day. We are thrilled to salute them with the 2019 Ambassador to the Upper East Side Award.
Advocacy Alert: Stand with FDNY Union for State Zoning Reform
FDNY Union Pens Letter Supporting State Bill – Tell Our State Legislature You Agree!
On top of undercutting predictable development and the intent of zoning regulations, the inclusion of empty “mechanical” voids in the core of new buildings poses grave safety concerns for New York City’s firefighters and the citizens they protect every day.
That’s why last week the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York penned a memorandum in support of a state bill that would implement a broad framework for reform and help put a stop to the exploitation of the mechanical void loophole.
The powerfully-worded memo states: “It is difficult enough for Firefighters operating inside of high-rise buildings. Access to the fire area and to whatever is on fire is paramount to save lives and to protect Firefighters operating at these fires… While we acknowledge and accept the risks of our profession, we strongly oppose construction methods that are inherently dangerous that for no valid reason increase the threat to the lives of the public and our members… we strongly support this bill which would prohibit the creation of these dangerous phantom floors within buildings in New York.”
Bill A5026/S3820, sponsored by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and Senator Robert Jackson, would use the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law to address excessive void spaces by better regulating building bulk. This bill will complement the work begun via the recently-passed Zoning Text Amendment from the Department of City Planning and championed by our City Council Members, but it must be heard by the close of session on June 19th if it is to pass.
Please call Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly Housing Chair Steve Cymbrowitz and urge them to bring this important bill to a vote before the session closes on June 19th!
Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie Speaker@nyassembly.gov 518-455-3791 (Albany) 718-654-6539 (District)
Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, Housing Committee Chair Cymbros@assembly.state.ny.us 518-455-5214 (Albany) 718-743-4078 (District)
We are thrilled that the Commission has recognized two of the many sites in Yorkville that speak to the neighborhood’s unique legacy as a home for a wide variety of immigrant communities and the institutions which served their many cultural, religious, and social needs. FRIENDS has enthusiastically supported these designations and we look forward to the recognition (and hopefully designation!) of other buildings in Yorkville.
Mechanical Voids Zoning Text Amendment Summary and Impact
The Breakdown: Mechanical Voids Zoning Text Amendment Summary and Impact
On Wednesday, May 29th, the New York City Council voted to amend the Zoning Resolution to cap exempt mechanical void space within new buildings in residential neighborhoods. This text amendment went into effect this week. This ruling is a small but powerful step towards closing commonly-abused “loopholes” and restoring predictability to new construction. So what does this mean?
This zoning text amendment DOES:
Codify a height threshold on “free”
mechanical void space
Currently, the allowable zoning floor area of a building does not include spaces used to house necessary mechanical equipment – such as electrical chases, pipe shafts, centralized HVAC systems– that are crucial for buildings to function. Essentially, developers have abused this giveaway to include excessive “free” floor area that far exceeds what is reasonably required to provide necessary mechanical services to a building. Now the exempt spaces will be limited to 25’, or about twice the height that will reasonably accommodate residential mechanical equipment, spaced out at least 75’ from one another. Though the 25’ threshold is generous, it is far more reasonable than the empty spaces exceeding 100’ within new buildings that do nothing to provide community benefits, affordable housing, or an adequate number of units to address the city’s rapidly increasing population.
2. Begin to address the concerns of neighbors, advocates, and elected officials for a zoning text amendment
The initial Department of City
Planning study that led to the agency’s recommendation for a zoning text
amendment was a direct response to the advocacy of FRIENDS of the Upper East
Side, local elected officials, and advocacy and neighborhood groups. Aiding this campaign was the indispensable
urban planner George Janes, whose technical analysis of the zoning tactics
leading to unreasonably tall towers in residential neighborhoods informed both
the identification of the problem and the discussion of potential solutions.
Council Member Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer have been particularly strong allies in this campaign, providing leadership and support from the beginning. In fact, the first public commitment on this issue came at an Upper East Side Town Hall sponsored by Council Member Kallos. FRIENDS’ Executive Director Rachel Levy’s question to Mayor Bill de Blasio about excessive mechanical voids elicited a pledge from DCP Chair Marisa Lago to analyze mechanical voids and deliver a solution.
Land use processes are invariably
enriched through public influence, and elected officials and advocates showed
up in droves to offer public testimony in response to the DCP proposal released
in January 2019. While testimony reflected that a comprehensive solution will
require further study and more expansive reform, the City has shown its
willingness to foster spirited public engagement in the pursuit of addressing
legitimate concerns raised by groups like FRIENDS.
This zoning text amendment DOES NOT:
Abolish large voids
Void spaces larger than 25’ in height may still be included in a building’s design for engineering or aesthetic purposes, but voids larger than 25’ will count toward the site’s floor area ratio dictated under the constraints of existing zoning. While the inclusion of empty spaces will be permissible, voids will be more difficult to exploit simply as a height-boosting tactic now that the portions beyond 25’ will be counted toward a building’s maximum size. Note that nothing in the new zoning text requires “mechanical” spaces to serve legitimate mechanical uses. In fact, the DCP study on the excessive voids concluded that the average mechanical floors for all towers in the initial study area of high-density residential districts in Manhattan were 12’ tall. The 25’ threshold codified in the new text already provides more than double the space necessary for average building mechanicals, and itself is a kind of giveaway.
2. Hinder in-progress or approved projects
Though the closure of the mechanical void loophole will restore some degree of predictability in future structures, it will not retroactively address completed, in- progress, vested, or approved developments that have profited from this tactic.
3. Fully “void the voids”
It is important to note that this
zoning text amendment will only cover enclosed
mechanical voids in buildings within Manhattan’s
highest density residential districts (R9 and R10 and equivalent). While a powerful
step, the scope of this legislation is quite narrow and focuses only on certain
voids in certain districts. It will also not comprehensively address such other
loopholes as the lack of a codified minimum lot size that prevents developments
from evading zoning requirements, or using mechanical voids in commercial
districts. However, it is an important first step and “foot in the door,” so to
speak, toward the implementation of future measures to ensure predictable
growth and protecting the livability of our city.
So what comes next?
The Department of City Planning has acknowledged that further loopholes need to be addressed by the agency. DCP has committed to completing follow-up zoning studies during Summer 2019 to further expand the geographic scope of the enclosed-voids study into such commercial districts as Lower Manhattan, Midtown, Long Island City, and Downtown Brooklyn. Also this summer, the Department will release results of a study related to the establishment of a minimum lot size for non-residential zoning lots and the impact of tiny, unusual zoning lots. The un-buildable lots issue first came up at 180 East 88th Street, raised by FRIENDS together with Carnegie Hill Neighbors and Council Member Kallos. Advocates and zoning experts believe that a minimum zoning lot size should be mandated in order to limit the manipulation of zoning lot boundaries and mergerssimply to skirt existing zoning regulations.
In addition, in Summer 2020 DCP will release its analysis of unenclosed mechanical voids in residential buildings, such as the 150 foot open-air void at 249 East 62nd Street. These unenclosed spaces are NOT covered by this newly-approved mechanical void action. It is not difficult to see how this leaves a gaping hole in the new zoning as developers will likely turn to unenclosed voids to artificially boost upper floors.
These ongoing commitments are a positive sign of DCP’s
intention to study other loopholes commonly used in the illegal height-boosting
gambits of contemporary buildings. FRIENDS hopes that these studies will yield
future zoning text amendments that will be open to debate and commentary in the
public arena. We strongly intend to continue working closely with our elected
officials to push DCP and the City for more comprehensive and impactful
solutions to these issues. We firmly believe that spirited public discourse,
though often complicated and rarely expedient, does nothing but enrich the