Issue of the Week

Air Rights


Subject: Trump World Tower - 845 1st Avenue, Manhattan
Date: Mon, 07 Jun 1999 12:25:32 -0400
From: Bruce Silberblatt

Dear Mayor Giuliani:

The Trump Organization is preparing to erect the 90 story Trump World Tower luxury condominium in my district at First Avenue between 47th and 48th streets one of the most egregious examples of an out-sized, out-of-place building ever to appear in New York. It violates the Zoning Resolution on at least three pertinent points and thus is illegal.

Violation 1: The Trump zoning lot straddles two different zoning districts, C5-2 and C1-9; it stands in C5-2 but transfers some two thirds of its floor area from the C1-9 district abutting it to the west. The boundary is 100 feet west of and parallel to 1st Avenue. Such a transfer is barred by Chapter VII of the Zoning Resolution.

In 1986 a DOB letter purportedly amended Chapter VII to allow zoning lot air rights transfers across a district line when the use and bulk regulations on both sides were identical. DOB by law lacks power to amend the Resolution (it is strictly limited to interpreting and enforcing it); amending the Resolution lies with the Mayor, City Council, and Planning Commission and entails public review which includes all the community boards in the City - a procedure that was flagrantly ignored in this case. The DOB 1986 letter is hence invalid.

Violation 2: Even if the DOB 1986 letter was indeed legal (which I do not concede), the two districts C5-2 and C1-9 are not identical either as to use or to bulk regulations. There are uses permitted in C5-2 not allowed in C1-9. Tower, plaza, and setback bulk regulations are significantly different.

Violation 3: A building over 25% residential in a C5-2 district must conform to tower on a base regulations, which severely limit both height and floor area. The 90 floor Trump World Tower is a sheer monolith in a plaza, set back on all streets fronts, and utterly fails to comply with tower on base zoning.

Beyond Zoning issues, the proposed Trump World Tower would severely impact environment and infrastructure. It is in an area served by the overtaxed Newton Creek Sewerage plant across the East River in Queens. The top 200 or so feet of the building will intercept, given a southerly wind, the noxious exhaust plume from the Con Edison Waterside plant (at East 39th Street). It would cast long shadows over the neighborhood, including across not one but two parks Dag Hammarskjold and the United Nations gardens.

There is widespread opposition to this Trump ego trip. It is not a small group of influential people who, as Trump has suggested, fear "losing their views" but instead a huge array of taxpaying, voting citizens from all walks of life who are legitimately and seriously concerned with out of control overdevelopment. This issue extends far beyond the borders of Turtle Bay. Although it is my neighborhood that would suffer the most from this inappropriate intrusion, uncontrolled "development" is a matter that adversely affects the entire City.

The United Nations World Headquarters, an internationally and architecturally acclaimed complex that is the unquestioned centerpiece of the East River Turtle Bay waterfront, would be overtopped by the arrogant Trump World Tower. The Trump monument to himself would bulk 860 feet tall, higher than anything in the area, humbling even the Secretariat by 350 feet - the equivalent of an upended regulation football field!

The City's 1947 commitment to the United Nations that no structure in the neighborhood would ever overshadow the United Nations would become a dead letter. It is the United Nations that quite properly is the centerpiece of the Turtle Bay riverfront. Trump would usurp that distinction for himself. You, as Mayor of our City, should not allow that to happen.

Very truly yours,
Bruce A. Silberblatt

Bruce Silberblatt is a Vice President of the Turtle Bay Association and its Land Use Chairman.