Menin Secures Concessions In East 94th Street Rezone Development

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A developer looking to win approval to rezone a mid-block lot on East 94th Street has agreed to make a series of changes to their proposed building, Council Member Julie Menin’s office announced Tuesday.

Menin said the agreement was able to secure the typically oppositional concessions of not only reducing the total proposed building’s height by 70 feet, but also securing an increase in the share of affordable units to 146 total.

The council member called the agreement “unprecedented.”

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“Those goals are mutually exclusive, generally,” Menin told Patch Tuesday afternoon. “I drew a line in the sand with the developer and I said I will not agree to any deal that does not do both.”

Additionally, the developers of 231 East 94th St., Friedland Properties and the Chapman Group, agreed to several other commitments on park funding, a childcare facility, use of union labor and other benefits.

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Neither company could be reached for comment.

Shorter tower, more affordable units

Originally given a mixed reception, Community Board 8 overwhelmingly voted to approve the zoning change back in November with a number of conditions attached.

Menin’s agreement meets many of the community board’s requests, with a handful of compromises on affordability levels and on the distribution of apartment sizes.

For the Upper East Side, it marks a major increase of new permanently affordable housing units in the neighborhood where only 14 new affordable units were created in 2022.

Menin told Patch that, through many back-and-forth negotiations, they were able to secure a 70-foot height reduction, bringing the height from nearly 500 feet to 414 feet, and the addition of 33 additional affordable apartments from the developer.

“My overarching goal was to get both increased affordability and to lower the height,” Menin said. “Those were the top two community concerns.”

“Not many districts can boast this double sided win,” said Community Board 8 chair Valerie Mason. “Community District 8 is in dire need of affordable housing and this is a long awaited first step in the right direction.”

Changes in affordability, but a net-gain in units

The increase of affordable units did come at a trade-off in terms of the unit sizes and the level of affordability.

In the new proposal, the building gained 62 studio apartments and lost 41 one-bedroom units, 15 two-bedroom units and four three-bedroom units, raising the total number of apartments in the building to 487 — a net gain of 35 units.

Affordability levels have been changed, too.

The original proposal had nearly 50 units pegged at both 40 percent (roughly $40,000 of annual income for a single person) and 60 percent (roughly $59,000) of the Area Median Income.

Now, the 60 percent bracket has been eliminated and replaced with one at 80 percent (roughly $79,000) of AMI, with 88 units listed at that income level. And the 40 percent bracket now has 20 fewer units, for a total of 29.

The upper level of affordable income requirements, at 120 percent of AMI (roughly $111,000) had only 15 units in the original proposal. The new configuration nearly doubles that number to a total of 29 units.

In the end, the total affordable units rose from 113 apartments to 146 units total, according to Menin’s office.

While the agreement raises the overall number of affordable units from 25 percent to 30 percent of the building, a key condition of the community board’s approval, the board also wanted to see the affordable units pegged at an average of 60 percent of AMI. Under the new agreement, 18 percent of the affordable units will be at the 80 percent AMI level, with an equal six percent each for the remaining units for a total of 30 percent.

Another part of the agreement could also help boost affordability, Menin said. While not a done deal, developers have agreed to begin conversations with city agencies to utilize housing vouchers at the property.

Menin said she was also able to secure $150,000 from the developers in improvements and maintenance for James Cagney Plaza, the open street adjacent to Ruppert Park, and a commitment to noise mitigation.

The building will also make an effort to lease space to a childcare facility — another issue of importance to the council member, but not a condition made by the community board.

Developers also reached an agreement with 32BJ for the building’s service workers, and said that if a new 421-A deal can be reached in Albany, they would also begin negotiating with the New York City District Council of Carpenters.

The entire building, said William Friedland, of Friedland Properties — and a former member of Community Board 8, hinges on a new 421-A deal in place as well.

Freidland told the community board at an October meeting that once approved, and after a 421-A replacement finally happens to help finance the project, construction would take about 36 months.

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