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Upper East Side residents sue over 524-foot-tall development

In the lawsuit, neighborhood groups claim the developers used loopholes to skirt zoning rules on building height.

Upper East Side residents are not happy with

Upper East Side residents are not happy with a development at 180 East 88th St., claiming developers used zoning loopholes to build much higher than should be allowed. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fagan

A new lawsuit has brought a skirmish over a residential skyscraper on the Upper East Side to new heights.

State Sen. Liz Krueger, City Councilman Ben Kallos, and two neighborhood groups are challenging the city’s approval of a residential building with an art gallery, currently under construction at 180 East 88th St.

DDG Partners’ structure is slated to rise 524 feet, when including mechanical equipment.

In a lawsuit recently filed in New York County Supreme Court, the Upper East Side groups claimed DDG Partners created a micro-lot to skirt zoning rules that would have otherwise limited the building’s height to about 300- to 350-feet, according to estimates from Kallos’ office.

The lawsuit alleges DDG Partners created a small zoning lot where its property borders 88th Street, which it transferred to an entity created exclusively to own the new buffer lot. DDG Partners then successfully argued the rest of the property does not border 88th Street, according to the lawsuit. This allowed DDG Partners to avoid zoning rules requiring buildings along 88th Street to use tower-on-a-base designs, where 55 percent of the building’s bulk is concentrated below a height of 150 feet, according to the lawsuit. The design standard can indirectly limit the overall altitude of buildings.

The Upper East Side groups have taken a number of steps to challenge the city’s interpretations of the zoning rules and attempt to halt the project, including appealing its decision with the city Board of Standards and Appeals.

A representative for the Board of Standards and Appeals said the body has not yet scheduled a public hearing on the matter and could not comment on pending litigation.

A representative for DDG Partners said the group looked forward to completing the project in early 2019.

“This architecturally distinctive project has received all required approvals from the NYC Department of Buildings and is in full compliance with the City’s zoning regulations,” the representative said in a statement. “The upcoming hearing will provide another opportunity to present information in support of the appropriateness of this design and the rigorousness of the City’s approval process.”

The city Department of Buildings, which has reviewed the plans and project in question, stood by its decision in a statement, reading, “We believe we made the correct decision and stand by it.”

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