A towering Manhattan condominium complex that’s nearly finished could end up shaving off its top five floors amid a heated dispute with Upper East Side residents, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
New York City’s Department of Buildings is looking into a zoning challenge filed on April 20 by a community organization called the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, which says the building is nearly 10,000 square feet too large for its zoning lot.
“The magnitude and pervasiveness of errors found in this drawing are exceptional,” the organization’s attorney said in its zoning challenge.
Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, went even further this week, reportedly sending a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and urging investigators to look into how the building was permitted to get so big.
“I’m calling for an investigation into seemingly-fraudulent building plans for 1059 3rd Avenue filed with DOB,” Brewer tweeted on Wednesday.
The building’s developer, Real Estate Inverlad Development, did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment on the challenge.
Lopping off floors is perhaps the most extreme solution to get in compliance
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The Department of Buildings told INSIDER it first issued permits for the building’s foundation in September 2016 and had since approved several amendments — a common process as developers change their design plans over time.
The most recent amendment was approved in February, and the department said it was reviewing the zoning challenge and would post the results on its website.
“We scrutinize every new-building application for compliance with the city’s zoning resolution,” a department spokesman, Andrew Rudansky, told INSIDER in a statement. “As part of this process, we’re currently reviewing and giving careful attention to a community challenge regarding the project at 1059 Third Avenue.”
But if the building is indeed deemed to be out of compliance, the department isn’t responsible for determining the penalty.
The developer could come up with a variety of solutions to make up for excess stories, including tearing down ceilings to reduce square footage or devoting a certain amount of space to affordable housing.
In 1991, workers used a robotic demolition machine to cut 12 stories off a building
The last time such an extreme measure was taken was in 1991, when an Upper East Side apartment building stood 12 stories too high for the city’s zoning rules, according to a Times article at the time.
The building’s top 12 floors were demolished slowly in 1993, after two years of strategizing how to do it safely, according to The Associated Press. Workers first took down the walls and windows and used a “robot” demolition machine, a Brokk 250, to gradually pick away at each floor from the top down, while debris was dropped through a chute to the street below.
It was “a painful way to correct a mistake on a zoning map,” the developer, Laurence Ginsberg, told The Times in 1991.
Though Ginsberg had tried to make a deal to keep the top 12 floors by promising to build housing for elderly people nearby, the community group that led the zoning challenge insisted that the floors be removed.
The Times reported in 1991 that “neither the builders nor opponents of the project could recall so drastic a penalty for a zoning violation.”
“By the same token,” the report said, “there seem to have been few violations on such an obvious and large scale anywhere in the nation.”
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