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A 30-story Manhattan tower could end up slicing off 5 floors in an extreme solution to a zoning dispute. Here's what happened the last time an NYC building did that.

Business Insider | Jun 6, 2019, 06.19PM IST

1059 third avenue

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A community group has filed a zoning challenge against a 30-story condo tower that's already nearly finished construction.

  • A 30-story building on Manhattan's Upper East Side that has nearly finished construction could end up shaving off five floors to settle a zoning dispute, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
  • New York City's Department of Buildings told INSIDER it's "currently reviewing and giving careful attention to a community challenge regarding the project at 1059 Third Avenue."
  • Though DOB doesn't force out-of-compliance buildings to slash stories, developers can take a number of options to get in compliance, such as knocking down ceilings or creating affordable housing space.
  • The last time a building took such a drastic measure was in the early '90s, when another Upper East Side building chopped off 12 stories.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A towering Manhattan condominium complex that has nearly finished construction could end up shaving off its top five floors amid a heated dispute with Upper East Side residents, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

New York City's Department of Buildings is looking into a recent zoning challenge a community organization has filed. The Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts say the building is nearly 10,000 square feet too large for its zoning lot.

"The magnitude and pervasiveness of errors found in this drawing are exceptional," the organization's attorney said in its zoning challenge filed April 20.

Manhattan's borough president, Gale Brewer, went even further this week, reportedly sending a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and urging investigators to look into how the building was permitted to get so big.

"I'm calling for an investigation into seemingly-fraudulent building plans for 1059 3rd Avenue filed with DOB," Brewer tweeted Wednesday.

The developer for the building, Real Estate Inverlad Development, did not immediately respond to INSIDER's request for comment on the challenge.

Lopping off floors is perhaps the most extreme solution to get in compliance

1059 3rd ave

Facebook/Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts

A community organization called Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts filed a zoning challenge against a 30-story building that's nearly finished.

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The Department of Buildings told INSIDER it first issued permits for the building's foundation in September 2016 and have approved a number of amendments since the original permits were issued - a common process that occurs as developers change their design plans over time.

The most recent amendment was approved in February 2019, and DOB said it's currently reviewing the zoning challenge and will post the results publicly on its website.

"We scrutinize every new-building application for compliance with the city's zoning resolution," DOB spokesman Andrew Rudansky told INSIDER in a statement. "As part of this process, we're currently reviewing and giving careful attention to a community challenge regarding the project at 1059 Third Avenue."

But if the building is indeed deemed to be out of compliance, DOB isn't responsible for determining the penalty.

The developer could come up with a variety of solutions to make up for excess stories, including tearing down ceilings to reduce square footage, or devoting a certain amount of space to affordable housing.

In 1991, workers used a robotic demolition machine to cut 12 stories off a building

The last time such an extreme measure was taken was in 1991, when an Upper East Side apartment building stood 12 stories too high for the city's zoning rules, according to a New York Times article at the time.

The building's top 12 floors were demolished slowly in 1993 after two years of strategizing how to do it safely, according to the Associated Press. Workers first took down the walls and windows and used a "robot" - a Brokk 250 demolition machine - to gradually pick away at each floor from the top down, while debris was dropped through a chute to the street below.

It was "a painful way to correct a mistake on a zoning map," the developer, Laurence Ginsberg, reportedly said in 1992.

Though Ginsberg had tried at the time to make a deal to keep the top 12 floors if he promised to build housing for the elderly, the community group that had led the zoning challenge to the building insisted that the floors be removed entirely.

The New York Times noted in 1991 that "neither the builders nor opponents of the project could recall so drastic a penalty for a zoning violation … By the same token, there seem to have been few violations on such an obvious and large scale anywhere in the nation."

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