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Planned Midtown Easy skyscraper could be stymied by rezoning proposal

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The plan would cap building heights at 260 feet

Gamma Real Estate announced last week it’s tapped Danish hotshot Thomas Juul-Hansen to design the new tower at the troubled 3 Sutton Place site, but according to DNAInfo, the plans could hit yet another stumbling block.

The developer, which acquired the property through a foreclosure sale after the previous owner (the Bauhouse Group) ran into legal troubles, has already demolished three surrounding tenement buildings to make way for the incoming skyscraper.

Initially, Gamma was planning an 844-foot tower for the site, but they later scaled back the plans, going with a 700-foot, 67-story tower with the same number of (presumably smaller) apartments. This new incarnation of the plan is significantly shorter than the first doomed incarnation of the plan: back when they owned the site, Bauhouse was planning on a 900-foot building, which was met with strong opposition from the neighborhood.

Last week, though, Gamma president Jonathan Kalikow assured the Commercial Observer, that the “entire look and feel of the building” would be “contextual to the neighborhood.”

Residents of the Midtown East, however, remain unconvinced, and The East River 50s Alliance has now officially submitted a rezoning proposal that would limit building heights in the area.

The proposed zoning would ban any commercial development at all in the area, with the exception of “community uses,” like medical offices and daycares. More importantly for the Gamma project, the rezoning would also impose a height cap on new buildings, limiting projects to 260 feet, or about 25 stories—a major change for the neighborhood. As it currently stands, new developments have no height cap at all.

To help compensate for the potential loss of height, the plan would allow a slight increase in maximum floor-area ratio (from 12 to 13), encouraging more building density in the area. And—the final tenet of the rezoning proposal—20 percent of new units would be required to be “dedicated to below-market-rate housing on site.”

So far, the Alliance’s rezoning proposal has some pretty big backers, DNAInfo reports. Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick have all said they’d sign off on the plan if it passes the Department of City Planning’s review process.

The Department of City Planning is expected to certify the Alliance’s application “in the next two weeks,” making way for a formal public review process.