Up in arms. When the New York Blood Center revealed plans to replace its three-story brick headquarters on the Upper East Side with a $75 million 16-story glass tower, the battle was joined. In October 2021, residents at the 301 E. 66th St. condominium filed a protest in New York Supreme Court against the center’s controversial proposal to rezone the residential block, which limits buildings to a maximum of seven stories.
Raising the bar. The rezoning requires approval by the City Council. With the help of Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant, and Marc S. Bresky of the Bresky Law Firm, the condo used an obscure provision in the City Charter that allows property owners of 20% or more of the land area included in the proposed change to require that the City Council approve the change not by a simple majority but with three-quarters of members voting yes. “This was interesting because the argument was that the rezoning had citywide significance,” says Ken Fisher, a land-use expert at the law firm Cozen O’Connor and a former City Council member. “It wasn’t, you know, the same as a sidewalk cafe.”
The results are in. Though the condo had also requested a temporary restraining order against the vote, on Nov. 23 the City Council voted 43-5 — nearly 90% — to approve the rezoning. But as Bresky sees it, the matter doesn’t end there. “The judge did not rule on the protest itself, so there’s a possibility he will decide in our favor, which would render the vote unlawful,” he says.
In the zone. Given the wide margin of approval, a second vote by the City Council would almost certainly meet the required supermajority. Still, the provision could be a valuable tool for other buildings facing a similar problem. “One needs to understand how to do this both on behalf of a co-op and a condo,” Breskey says. “It certainly is a very unique and unknown provision, which I believe has only been used twice in New York City since 1943. But it really gives shareholders and unit-owners rights that they would not otherwise be aware of.”