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Now For Something Completely New: the Condo Top Chop

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Top Chop

The Third Avenue condo tower long before it reached its current height of 30 stories (image via Google Maps).

June 7, 2019

With the market for luxury condos softening like a warm marshmallow, we’ve all heard of the condo price chop. But now comes something completely new: the condo top chop. 

In an extremely unusual twist, the New York Times reports, the developer of a nearly complete, 30-story condo tower on the Upper East Side might be required to chop off the top five floors – because the building is larger and taller than city zoning codes allow.

City officials are investigating a claim by Gale A. Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, that the 467-foot-tall building on Third Avenue near 63rd Street included nearly 10,000 square feet that the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) should have never approved. The building’s architect, Manuel A. Glas, denies violating zoning rules. 

In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Manhattan district attorney’s office calling for an investigation into how the building was allowed to get so big, Brewer says the condo tower exposes “egregious lapses” in the city’s oversight of developments. “If the results of the investigation conclude that the floor area now constructed was in fact fraudulent,” Brewer wrote, “the DOB must order an equivalent amount of footage be removed from the building.” 

DOB spokesman Andrew Rudansky said the agency was reviewing a zoning challenge over the building’s size brought by a neighborhood group, the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. “We scrutinize every new-building application for compliance with the city’s zoning resolution,” Rudansky said in a statement. “As part of this process, we’re currently reviewing and giving careful attention to a community challenge regarding the project at 1059 Third Avenue.” 

Removing floors or space from the building would be a drastic move. The last time it happened in New York was in 1991, when a developer was ordered to reduce a 31-story building on East 96th Street, near Park Avenue, to 19 stories.

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