Dirty Trick

DDG uses a four-foot-wide lot to build (too) tall, enraging residents on Manhattan’s Upper East Side

Architecture Development East Newsletter
180 East 88th Street (Courtesy DDG / March)
180 East 88th Street (Courtesy DDG / March)

Do you know the one weird trick that lets developers build tall buildings where they’re not supposed to?

It’s not stilts, DJ booths, or mechanical floors this time. DDG Partners got city approval in 2014 to take a regular, 30-foot-deep lot and slice off a four-foot-wide chunk, then used that buffer to avoid zoning regulations that govern the height and setback of buildings on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The developers are building a 32-story, 521-foot-tall luxury tower whose address is the tiny lot on 88th Street, but whose entrance is on adjacent Third Avenue. The tower is 60 feet taller than those typically allowed in the neighborhood, The New York Times reports.

A five-story brick building occupies the site of the future tower. (Google Earth)

A five-story brick building occupies the site of the future tower. (Google Earth)

“There’s lots of little lots in Manhattan, some that are five square feet, but they’re relics, or they provide access. This is novel; this is new; this is a very aggressive strategy,” planning expert George M. Janes explained to the New York Times. Carnegie Hill Neighbors, a local residents’ group that opposes the tower, hired Janes to conduct a site analysis. Janes noted that the developers may be trying to avoid building a larger base for the tower, which would be needed if the lot abutted 88th Street. With the zoning circumvented, the square footage for the base can instead be used to boost the tower’s height.


Permits were issued in March, and DDG is banking on the tower’s height as a major selling point. Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat who represents the neighborhood, sent the Buildings Department a letter last week requesting a stop-work order, noting that the building sets a precedent for exploiting “a new and dangerous loophole.” In light of this project, the department is reviewing its earlier rulings.

It’s worth noting the the developers contributed nearly $20,000 to de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit that supports the mayor’s social initiatives. DDG declined to comment on the donations, but did say in a statement that they “have and will continue to support public officials with a positive economic development platform that allows New York City to remain a beacon and attraction for the rest of the world.”




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