Testimony of the Real Estate Board of New York Before Manhattan Community Board 6 in Opposition to East River Fifties Alliance’s Proposed Rezoning

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is a trade association with over 17,000 members comprised of owners, builders, residential and commercial brokers, managers, lenders, and other real estate professionals active in New York City.

REBNY opposes the East River Fifties / Sutton Place Text Amendment proposed by the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA).

ERFA’s proposal directly conflicts with the City’s stated housing goals and is completely inappropriate for this area of the city. The proposed rezoning is a blatant attempt to block a single development and represents an abuse of zoning. The Department of City Planning (DCP) found that the proposed action will likely have significant negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood by acting as a disincentive to any new housing production, both market rate and affordable.

While the applicants are promoting the proposed action as a contextual rezoning that will produce affordable housing, the DCP stated in the Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) that the “proposal would reduce the amount of housing that could be built in the area, based on unduly restrictive limits on heights…exacerbating the shortage in the supply of housing, and thereby the city’s affordability crisis.”

Further, it is inaccurate to describe the proposed action as a “contextual” rezoning. The proposed rezoning area is comprised of numerous buildings of varying heights that far exceed the proposed height limits. In fact, 16 buildings would become non-complying as a result. The DCP stated that neither the Department nor the Commission would “support a contextual rezoning that would render non-complying so many of the buildings within the rezoning area.”

Not only is the proposal completely out of context for the area, but it is also wholly incompatible as an amendment to the voluntary Inclusionary Housing Program (IHP). The IHP awards additional residential density to a project that provides affordable housing. This proposal would break from this logic by providing a non-residential bonus for the provision of affordable housing. Further, the proposed action would establish floor area ratios and density bonuses that are inconsistent with its application anywhere else in the city. While the DCP has indicated interest in making changes to the IHP, it has made it clear that any changes will be applied uniformly throughout the city. It has specifically stated that it does not support the creation of Inclusionary Housing Program variants for individual neighborhoods, which would undermine the ideals of equity and efficiency.

ERFA’s proposal will set a dangerous precedent that serves the special interests of a few over the greater good of our city and in no way represents smart, rational planning. A vote in favor of this rezoning is a vote against affordable housing. We urge the Community Board to examine the facts and reject this application.