Built too tall, 1059 3rd Ave may be forced to lop off five floors.

It hasn’t happened in nearly 20 years, but Orlando real estate developer Inverlad may have to alter an Upper East Side building under construction. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts say it’s too tall.

Built too tall 1059 3rd Avenue, on the Upper East Side, may have to lose five floors to comply with zoning approvals.
Built too tall, 1059 3rd Avenue (see construction crane) has raised the ire of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

Many consider architecture an art and New York City its greatest organic museum. Construction of towers unremarkable for anything but size dismays most of them. They are unfit companions for the Empire State, Chrysler and Woolworth buildings.

Lesser invasions of neighborhoods where zoning and historic preservation prevent smothering esthetics generate anger close up. Developers team with designers to skirt the rules and build big to sell even bigger.

The City’s skyline was ruptured. Rigid towers cater to billionaires searching for a place to park their cash, not to live in. The boring beasts mark their emptiness with blocks of dark windows every evening.

Built too tall, 1059 3rd Ave crossed a line

Local activists found discrepancies with what the Department of Buildings approved for 1059 Third Avenue and what was being tossed skyward. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer threw a red flag.

And this isn’t the first time 1059 3rd Ave has been in trouble. In January, debris fell from the building, damaging another below. A man taking a shower was injured when concrete crashed through the ceiling.

According to an article in the New York Times

“The Buildings Department approved the architect’s plans showing that the tower would be in compliance with zoning rules, Ms. Brewer said, while the architect’s detailed drawings of the building, which would be used by the builder, included thousands of extra square feet that apparently went unnoticed by city reviewers.”

Developers Built a 30-Story High-Rise. They Might Have to Chop Off 5 Floors.

Something was amiss as the building soared higher. Friends of the Upper East Side recruited consultant George M. Janes to have a look at the approved plans.

“This building is too big, and it was purposefully too big,” Mr. Janes said. “I review things all the time and discover mistakes, but nothing like this. This was purposeful deception.”

The builders and their architect, of course, deny any wrongdoing, but cutting corners on the rules and slipping things past a long suspect NYC Department of Buildings isn’t exactly a rarity.

This level of rule breaking is far beyond standard cheating

This level of rule breaking exceeds standard practices in deception, Brewer believes. If so, its remedy is extreme. New Yorkers last witnessed it in 1991. A building on East 96th Street was forced to lose 12 of its 31 stories after being caught violating zoning rules.

It was a breathtaking penalty. Few thought New York had the guts to slap it on a developer.

But it happened, and it may repeat.

The Department of Buildings, roused from slumber by publicity, is reviewing Brewer’s complaint. Also, intriguingly, the Manhattan District Attorney is looking into allegations of fraud.

Technology’s changed since 1991, and so has real estate developer gall.

If forced to find a way to squeeze 1059 Third Avenue into the rules, the builder might just knock out some ceilings and reduce square footage by turning the top floors into palatial zones where three maintenance workers will need to stand on each others’ shoulders just to change a light bulb.

We’ll see what’s next in the battle between developers and New York City residents determined to retain a place to live while investors seem committed to creating a virtual urban piggybank.

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