In 2014, a developer sought approval for an odd alteration to a lot on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Instead of a 30-foot-deep lot, abutting East 88th Street, the developer sliced off a narrow sliver only four feet wide, reports the New York Times.
The change, approved by New York City, became part of the official map of taxable lots that November. But the motivation behind it became clearer only in recent months.
That thin buffer between the building’s lot and the street allowed the developers, DDG Partners, to avoid an array of requirements for a structure’s shape and size when it touches the street — and ultimately, opponents of the project say, build a tower about 60 feet higher. The Upper East Side tower takes its address from 88th Street, but because of the tiny lot, the entrance is around the corner on Third Avenue.
With permits issued in March, the developers have wasted no time: Rebar jutted out in clusters above street level on a recent afternoon from the poured foundation of what is to be among the neighborhood’s tallest towers. Signs outside announce the multimillion-dollar condominiums now on the market. Height, one of the developers has said, is a major selling point.
George M. Janes, a planning expert, who was hired by Carnegie Hill Neighbors to analyze the site, said the developers appeared to be seeking to avoid building a bigger base for the tower, which would be required if the lot touched 88th Street. And the square footage that would have had to go into that extra base could be used instead to add additional height to the 521-foot tower. If required to add to the base, he said, the tower might have to be shortened by about 60 feet, or roughly six floors in a typical building.
It’s a blatant device,” Lo van der Valk, the president of Carnegie Hill Neighbors, said. “That principle, we have to put it to the city: Do you allow this? Did you do this intentionally?