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Thank you, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, for alerting us to City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s new audit of the city’s POPs — and also for explaining what Privately Owned Public Spaces are.

The photo above of 200 E. 64th Street well illustrates the games building owners play.  That area behind the planters is supposed to be open to the public. The developer received over 25,000 square feet of additional floor space in return.

By David Brussat
 
In the morning of July 10, 2006, Dr. Nicholas Bartha, 66, took his own life by blowing up the townhouse he had resolved to live in until his death. The story of marital failure leading to lawsuits leading to the gas explosion is too sad to recount and beside the point of this post.  The lot at 34 East 62nd St., on one of Manhattan’s wealthiest blocks, has been empty for a decade. The battle to build anew has pitted preservationists against each other, and exposes the preservation ethos at its worst.The New York Times and The Architects Newspaper reported on the battle over the most recent design proposal.The controversy reminds me of the 1845 Greek Revival townhouse in Greenwich Village that was demolished during a 1970 attempt by the Weather Underground to build a bomb. It was replaced in 1978 by a quasi-modernist townhouse of brick, designed by Hugh Hardy in the same style except that its three bays seem to swivel on a vertical access so that half of it swings in on the building facade and the other half swings out. Really quite an interesting response to the site’s history, much more ingeniously creative than might be expected of a modernist. Lovely, in fact.

Had a developer proposed building a megatower in the middle of a narrow tree-lined street anywhere else in the five boroughs, he’d be laughed clear across the nearest river.  But the small piece of Manhattan encompassing most of the 50s, east of First Avenue, is the only residential area in the city with no height limits on buildings.  None at all.

ERFA town hall meeting to to oppose megatower invasion of Sutton Place

Hence, Gamma Real Estate’s plan to shoehorn a ludicrous spike smack into the middle of E. 58th Street, just off First.  Although the Kalikow family is trying to portray its massive project as a done deal, it is not quite.

The East River 50s Alliance (ERFA) has submitted a sophisticated rezoning plan for the neighborhood that would impose sane height limits on new construction while promoting more affordable housing than Mayor de Blasio would require under current rules.