Related faces opposition to 92nd Street tower

Jun.June 18, 2009 04:01 PM

A showing of over 100 Upper East Side residents yesterday and speeches made by politicians were a testament to the enormous community opposition the Related Companies faces over its residential tower proposal at 205 East 92nd Street.

Yesterday’s meeting resulted in Community Board 8’s vote to reject the developer’s application for a 421-a tax abatement, which would give it a tax break on the project’s market-rate condominium component, in return for inclusion of affordable rental units.

Residents hope Related will abandon its plans if it cannot get the tax exemption.

But when one resident asked Jesse Masyr, a land use attorney representing Related, at the meeting whether or not the building would be economically viable without the 421-a abatement, Masyr responded that it still would be.

Residents are also fighting to make Related, which aims to get rid of public space to make way for its new building, provide some kind of alternate space. They argued that the area’s families have long relied on the open space, called Ruppert Playground, for recreation.

Related purchased the parcel from the city in 1983, and under the city’s 1968 Ruppert Urban Renewal Project Plan, were required to maintain it as open space, available to the public, for a period of 25 years. This time commitment ended last June, and the developer has filed preliminary plans for a 40-story building in the park’s footprint.

The developer filed for the abatement in the past month, racing for approval ahead of a July 1 deadline, after which the abatements will be subject to a new, more restrictive set of rules.  

“We are seeking to file under the existing building code, and not have to contort ourselves to the new building code, which [Related, and] most developers still don’t understand,” Masyr said.

Borough President Scott Stringer spoke confidently to the crowd, saying, “I think there’s some negotiating room here.”

He pointed to Masyr’s statement that the project does not yet have an official timeline for construction.  

“The project is not slated for any kind of action today,” he said. “I want you to know that we, and the people at Related, are ready to pull up our sleeves and work for a solution.”

The project is expected to include 49 affordable rental units for families making 80 percent of the neighborhood’s area median income, 127 market-rate rental apartments and 66 market-rate condos, as well as amenities for residents.

Community outrage to the project first erupted in late April, when more than 200 community members gathered at the park to protest the development.

After the meeting, City Council member Daniel Garodnick told The Real Deal that talks to reach an agreement with Related have been informal up until this point, but he believes the extent to which area residents oppose the project will hold weight in the city’s bargaining power to be compensated for the loss of open space.

He said the legal counsel at his office was currently “looking at every legal, legislative policy hook we can to try to deal with this situation before it gets started.”

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