Extell Development recently purchased the Congregation Habonim site on West 66th Street.

The kinds of mega-towers now rising just South of Central Park could soon be coming to the Upper West Side, as developers have begun to amass property on West 66th street, warn Landmarks West and the Coalition for a Livable West Side.

Extell Development and Megalith Capital have purchased several low-slung buildings on 66th between Columbus and Central Park West with considerable development rights — and may have their eye on other nearby buildings with unused development rights too, the preservationists warn. Landmarks West noted earlier this month:

“This week, the Real Deal reported that Gary Barnett’s Extell Development signed a contract in April to buy 44 West 66th Street from Congregation Habonim.

On March 4, Megalith Capital purchased three properties from the Walt Disney Company for $85 million: 36, 38, and 40 West 66th Street (below). Habonim stands adjacent to these three buildings.

Last week, Megalith filed plans to demolish its three buildings, which in total would allow for a development of 75,000 square feet. The Extell purchase occupied by Habonim allows for another 75,000 square feet of development rights. The closing date for the sale is set for October 31.”


Several other nearby buildings also have unused development rights which could be cobbled together to build a larger tower, says Landmarks West.

“Other properties to watch: the First Battery Armory (a NYC individual landmark) at 52 West 66th Street, which has 132,338 square feet of unused development rights; and the vision-impairment nonprofit Jewish Guild Healthcare at 15 West 66th Street, which has 68,000 square feet of unused development rights. Can these unused development rights allow Extell and Megalith to build mega towers like those along 57th Street?”

The Coalition for a Livable West Side, a group that tracks Upper West Side developments, consulted land use expert Brian Cook about the properties, and he said that the developers could gather development rights to build a tower about as large as Ariel East or Ariel West, two buildings in the upper 90’s that are 37 and 31 stories respectively.

“Air rights can only get transferred across the street from a landmark through a special permit process. It’s possible but it would require public review (ULURP).

“Looking at the block, if Extell owned the four buildings 36-44 West 66th Street, they would have approximately 124,760 SF of air rights. In the R10 equivalent districts it’s hard to predict what a development will look like because the district has so much flexibility.

“In terms of size, it’s actually closer to the Ariel buildings that Extell built on 99th-100th Street along Broadway. Ariel East is around 110,000 SF and Ariel West is around 180,000 SF.

“It’s possible that the first battery could try and sell air rights, but that could require a ULURP. A more likely scenario would be that Extell would use 15 West 65th Street as a bridge to get the air rights. They couldn’t use most of the development rights from 15 West 65th Street as the actual building is in a different zoning district. But since they have a small portion of their lot in between the Extell owned building and first battery, it could serve as a connector. In that case, it could make another 130,000 SF available.”

The mega-luxury towers just South of Central Park have rankled people because they were assembled without public hearings even though they will redraw the city’s skyline and cast shadows over Central Park.

An Extell rep didn’t respond to a request for comment on their plans for the property.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 29 comments | permalink
    1. Jeff says:

      Hmm, this seems a bit alarmist. A tower of up to 37 stories would still be less than half as tall as the skyscrapers being built on 57th Street and certainly not unusually large for the UWS.

    2. Lisa says:

      Any additional development on 66th Street or 65th Street would mean standstill traffic for the M66 crosstown bus, not to mention other vehicles.

    3. jules says:

      Not sure what the point of the story is?
      Nothing wrong with turning old ugly buildings into apartments…. However. What about commenting on the much needed upgrading of the info structure and the dirty streets and overflowing trash cans… The subways are the best thing about living in our City. However, with even more people living here… ?? Get going with more planning please MTA.. It will soon become unbearable to live here.

    4. Soxtory says:

      I think there are currently five towers of this size under way in the area around 61st, West End and Riverside.

    5. Tony says:

      Here is a question for an research minded UWS resident…

      …what has been the trend in terms of population density on the UWS over the past 25 years? How does our neighborhood compare to others?

      I would love to see that as a westsiderag article!

    6. diane says:

      Gary Barnett needs to go AWAY! Enough of his ugly, huge towers. When does the greed stop? Never of course. There’s never enough money for someone like him. But the city better get on him and all the others or Manhattan will be nothing but these gigantic buildings creating massive shadows on our parks and wind tunnels on our streets.

    7. denton says:

      Another billionaire’s row? This is good. Maybe we’ll get some more billionaire restaurants. I’m tired of walking six blocks to Per Se.

    8. Get money says:

      Hopefully all these rich people moving in will need to eat. That way the long-vacant former Food emporium on 68th & broadway can be filled by a new supermarket.

    9. Iiari says:

      Um, not sure what the problem here is. Bring on the new towers!

    10. Nathan says:

      Bring it on. The rent is too damn high because of overly restrictive development policies and the rent controlled aristocracy!

    11. Paul RL says:

      I wish Billionaire’s Row would replace Homeless Row and Substance Abuse Row in the West ’90’s!

    12. “Megalith Capital”? Are these guys joking?

    13. Jeremy says:

      Meh. This is exactly the playbook for the anti-construction crowd at Landmark West. When Ariel went up, they made a big deal about the other buildings that would be destroyed as the neighborhood turned into a development free-for-all. End of the world, blah, blah blah.

      Check out “Fighting New Heights on the Upper West Side” in the NYT from May 1, 2006.

      Eight years later, I’m hard pressed to think of a project that has ultimately generated more indifference in our neighborhood than Ariel. The sky has not fallen on Landmarks West or anyone else on the UWS in the intervening time.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        the construction of the Ariel and its sister high rise across the street led directly to a massive rezoning of the UWS from 97th to 110th, RSD to CPW. building heights in that area are now very strictly limited.

        • Jeremy says:

          Exactly. Landmark West did a phenomenal job of trying to screw up increased housing capacity in an area that would be well-served by a ton more market rate volume. At the same time Ariel has had exactly none of the impact that they tried to rile people up about.

          This is their cynical playbook, and it only serves to cause long-term pain to the neighborhood. They should go away.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            nice backtrack, but you can’t have it both ways. first you claimed that the Ariel had no impact and generated “indifference” — no other high rises followed. then when i point out to you that was because the entire neighborhood was rezoned in reaction, you bemoan the fact that there is not a “ton more market rate volume.” which of course can only be achieved by DEMOLISHING a “ton” of existing buildings.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        … and i have to think Landmarks West had a lot to do with the rezoning / downzoning.

    14. Stuart says:

      Billionaire’s Row? Let them move next door to Mike Bloomberg on East 79 street. But if they must live on UWS, we will have trouble. They will spend tons on their apartment, the stock market will crash, and they will be forced to take the subway, which is already overcrowded. Do you believe the MTA will be upgrading more UWS subway stations while they haven’t completed the 2nd Ave subway or the 7 line extension? These new residents will also be unable to afford private school tuition, so their kids will attend the already overcrowded public schools. Think about all those old parking garages that were torn down for high rises and their new tenants. We are screwed.

    15. webot says:

      What is the story with synagogue ? are they closing? incorporated in new building?

      Habonim always struck me as a sad bunker-like building. Like it did not want anyone to notice it and if they did , they where a fortress against the street.

      I think the congregation was founded by holocuast survivors , if I am not mistaken. That maybe the very sad reason they built a building that looks like that.

      • David says:

        Habonim is relocating during construction (over to West End avenue, I believe.) Once the new building is complete, Habonim will be back there, with more than twice the square footage – which is necessary, as the congregation has outgrown the space.

    16. Juia Fine says:

      Any chance one could “landmark” 720 West End Ave, The Williams Senior Residence (95th St.)? We, seniors, are trying to stop the Salvation Army from selling our building to developers who want to build luxury apts. We are also looking for some entity to buy it in order to maintain 350+ units of affordable housing for seniors in this area. Help?

      • webot says:

        Julia – Landmarking has nothing to do with the use a property. You can safely assume that a conversion of the building to for sale condominiums would not involve its demolition. Especially if its overbuilt per zoning.- meaning a replacement building would have to be smaller.
        No one should give you fallse information with regard to the LPC.

        The appeal should be for the Salvation Army to keep the status quo or find another non profit to purchase the property.

        I would have assumed that most of the tenants are protected by rent controls – stabizlation, scrie , etc..

        either way, best of luck to you

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        While it may be true that landmarking the Williams to stop the evictions of the seniors is not a realistic tactic, it is certainly worth getting expect opinions on this and looking into it more. Landmark West has tremendous expertise in landmarking, and it is also worth a discussion with Borough President Brewer and CouncilMember Helen Rosenthal’s offices. I know both have been helping the Williams tenants.

        All of these are more reliable opinions than an anonymous commenter on a blog!

        • webot says:

          Bruce I am member of this blog community as much as you . The question was regarding landmarking.

          Again NOT an invitation to promote your lefty causes and your democrat idols and to disparage me.

          Thank you.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            I urged the seniors at Williams to LOOK INTO the landmarking option by consulting with EXPERTS such as Landmarks West and the local elected officials who have taken their side (Gale Brewer, Helen Rosenthal).

            that is sound advice. it says nothing about whether or not it is possible.

            but for the record, your advice was wrong. Landmarking CAN in some cases inhibit interior conversions and is not limited to “demolitions.” whether this applies to this case, i leave to the experts.

            it’s not clear who you were claiming would give “false information”.

            • webot says:

              That is your “opinion” on whether it is “sound advice”.

              Yes, it is true LPC does landmark interiors – but that is in very rare instances where the space is truly unique, usually public space and has been unaltered – think the inside of Scribners, Sephora.
              I do not speak for others (as you claim to) but just because you say it does not make it true.
              Giving an elderly woman false hope that landmarking is the answer is just cruel. There are other options.

              Also, while I am in favor of landmarking large swaths of the City , the byproduct of that is more expensive housing as the existing stock is not added to and the pressure mounts and rents/costs increase.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              this back and forth has gone on long enough but i can’t let you get away with accusing me of being cruel to seniors by giving “false hope.” that is hitting below the belt.

              the Williams seniors are threatened with eviction from their home, a home they thought they would be in the rest of their lives. even if there is only a 1% chance that the tactic the Williams resident suggested (landmarking) would work, it is worth a phone call or two to people who would know in order to get facts. i just provided some suggested people to call. that is the right and entirely responsible thing to do.

    17. Bruce Bernstein says:

      Hi Juia, I think you might want to contact Landmark West:

      the current UWS “historic district” seems to stop two blocks shy of the Williams.

      good luck to you. I think the vast majority of your neighbors support the Senior residents and want you to stay.

    18. DMH says:

      Yeah – not a fan of Barnett and Extell. The 421(a) tax abatements for billionaire condos at One57 were just a galling outrage – 57th Street in Midtown is hardly underutilized land.

      Everyone makes up their own mind on the Poor Door (his idea too, right?) but for me, I don’t like it. Offensive and the opposite of what a good neighbor is about. You’re getting tax credits to incorporate this housing, so incorporate it. (Just my view – I also think the debate is healthy to have).

      It was interesting that Extell’s extra-legal agreement to de-regulate a bunch of units at the Belnord (it was not legally permitted, but I believe tenants had signed off on it anyway) got thrown out in court this year.