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.