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Old Posted May 24, 2016, 10:50 PM
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Developers Used a Four-Foot-Wide Lot to Build a Taller Upper East Side Tower

The go-to move for building taller than zoning allows is snatching up some air rights, but at 180 East 88th Street in Yorkville, developer DDG Partners found an obscure loophole to increase their building’s height. Back in 2014, as the Times explains, DDG received approvals to slice off a four-foot-wide lot from the 30-foot-deep site. This became an official taxable lot, but because it provided a buffer between the building and the street, it allowed the building to avoid typical zoning for structures touching the street, rising to its 521-foot height (60 feet taller than would have been permitted otherwise) and having its entrance on Third Avenue. Now that the motive has become clear, local residents and elected officials are not happy, and adding fuel to the fire is the fact that DDG contributed at least $19,900 to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

When the Department of Buildings first issued permits for the project in March 2014, they allowed the developer to utilize the Third Avenue lot, as well as the adjacent lot on 88th Street because it was more than 30 feet deep, “a size that could be developed into a separate building.” But it was after this that the developer received approval for the new lot, which in plans is referred to as a “rear yard” that would be a garden for residents that’s open to the street.

Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos feels that this “unbuildable lot” may create a “dangerous precedent for a new and dangerous loophole.” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is also speaking out against the city’s approvals, saying “At first glance, this project looks like a prime example where the Department of Buildings has failed to enforce the law. The zoning here is what it is, not what the developer wishes it were.” In response, the DOB is reviewing its rulings, noting that they’re “auditing this project for compliance with the city’s construction codes and zoning resolution.”