Sasha Pezenik

Is it a ladder? A petite Eiffel tower? Have Upper West Siders finally discovered vast reserves of fossil fuel flowing by the Hudson?

An odd contraption, Curious George-yellow and several stories high, raised some eyebrows when it appeared last week outside 200 Amsterdam Avenue, the former site of the Lincoln Square Synagogue. Since the synagogue moved a few hundred feet South, its old site has sat empty — and has increasingly become an eyesore — as locals await an expected development.

boring lincoln square synagogueThe machine, accompanied by a trough of dirty water, is the first evidence that construction is not far away. Contractors have told our tipsters that they are drilling to determine the bedrock’s depth, though they said they don’t know who is paying for the tests. Offices of the developer, the architects, and the zoning consultants have all either not yet responded, declined to comment, or said they “do not disclose” construction information. Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal’s office also hasn’t responded to our inquiries. There are no active work permits for 200 Amsterdam Avenue – and any activity appearing to be construction-related must be reported to the Department for inspection, according to a communications rep at the Department of Buildings.

As such, details about the new building’s due date, its height (last we heard it could be 600 feet tall) and whether plans will be subject to public scrutiny, remain obscure.

However, what we do know is that if construction involves at least bedrock exploration, it’s likely the blueprint will not outline intentions for a two-story boutique or bodega. Bedrock drilling is typically reserved for skyscraper architecture, as a steel skeleton bored deeper in the earth ensures security for an otherwise wobbling height.

Bottom photo by Steve Harmon. Top photo by Denton Taylor.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 25 comments | permalink
    1. ScooterStan says:

      Re: “…it’s likely the blueprint will not outline intentions for a two-story boutique or bodega.”

      Definitely NOT a bodega, especially since Trader Joe’s, Fairway, and Citarella are ALL a short walk north.

      Besides, as the NY Times recently noted, bodegas are disappearing from Manahatta as gentrification spreads further north. Although the article was well-done and thorough, it NEVER mentioned what will happen to that species of animal (probably) unique to NYC — the bodega cat.

      B/t/w: according to Wikipedia, that synagogue was where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan had her Bat-Mitzvah. So, nu, it would hurt someone to put up a plaque maybe?

      • whatsupduck says:

        That’s a really great idea.

      • Independent says:

        B/t/w: according to Wikipedia, that synagogue was where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan had her Bat-Mitzvah. So, nu, it would hurt someone to put up a plaque maybe?

        If anything, a statement renouncing Kagan and declaring that the cultural Marxism she embodies and represents is antithetical to Judaism, would be in order.

        (Though I wouldn’t expect this to be appreciated by an entity such as Lincoln Square Synagogue, long known to be on the left-fringe of (even) “Modern-Orthodoxy”. Alas.)

        • warren says:

          Are YOU sitting on the US Supreme Court, one of the co-equal branches of the most powerful government on earth? If not, are you of anywhere remotely comparable accomplishment? If not, maybe you ought to hold your arrogance back a little . . . it makes you look crass and simple-minded. Unless, of course, that’s what you’re going for.

          • Independent says:


            Although appearing directly below mine, the content of your post would suggest that it was intended not as a reply to mine but as a reply to a different post written by a different person. For my post contained no comment, whether explicit or implicit, about Justice Kagan’s level of achievement, ability, intelligence, intellect or any other such objective measure. I was commenting, rather, solely on the ideology, philosophy, political affiliations and sympathies and corresponding agendas that Justice Kagan has manifested during her career (past as well as present). I characterized these as representing and embodying cultural Marxism, which, in turn, I asserted is antithetical to (authentic, traditional) Judaism. (A statement that would be obvious and uncontroversial to anyone with even a minium familiarity with both ideologies.) I made these statements in the specific context of replying-to the poster “ScooterStan”, who had suggested that a synagogue (Lincoln Square Synagogue, to be specific) honor Justice Kagan with a plaque dedicated to her. It was in direct response to that suggestion that I made my post. In it, I made the argument that for a Jewish synagogue to honor someone such as Elena Kagan would not only be entirely inappropriate, not only paradoxical but actually sacrilegious.

            Having pointed-out that your post was entirely irrelevant to anything that I wrote in my mine, I will take the liberty of noting that I do not accept the premise behind and logic of the challenge that you made in your post. Not only that but I suspect that you do not really accept and abide by said premise and logic yourself.

            Imagine the following hypothetical: Everything else about whichever post it was that you were replying-to were the same but, instead of Elena Kagan as the subject of criticism or renunciation, someone such as, say, Justice Clarence Thomas, would have been. Would you, Warren, have responded in the same way that you did here?

            • D.R. says:

              I read your letter several times, Independent, and checked often for challenges to it.
              Since there were none, I’ll assume that you won.

          • zeus says:

            I say here and now what I said on August 8, and now, I rest my case.

            “A bat mitzvah of a person who got a lifetime job paid by the tax payers should be marked as if that person found a cure for cancer?
            I don’t think so.”

            • D.R. says:

              Your objective is the same, Zeus, but your premise is entirely different from Independent’s.

    2. Reb says:

      Scooter. GREAT comments!! Ha. ::-)

    3. AC says:

      LOL – “Contractors have told our tipsters . . .” As someone involved in the construction industry, whenever nosey people would inquire on what we were doing, we’d make something up just to see their reaction.

      The machine in the picture is a soil boring machine, typically used to install a ground water monitoring well. The depth of the well depends on the size of the structureto be built and depth of the foundation to be excavated. The well measures & monitors the level of ground water – helps to know this before excavating. A similar well was augered along the sidewalk at the SE corner of 80th street.

    4. robert says:

      Not about the “no permits issued” part of this article. When I looked up 200 Amsterdam in the system I came up with this that shows a permit was issued in April for the new building and its preliminary numbers

      Proposed: Use Zoning Area (sq.ft.) District FAR
      RESIDENTIAL 244,727 R8 1.57
      COMMERCIAL 50,654 C2-5 0.64
      COMMUNITY FACILITY 42,051 R8 0.25
      Proposed Totals: 337,432 — 2.41
      Existing Total: — —

      Proposed Lot Details:
      Lot Type: Corner Interior Through

      5 Job Types
      Alteration Type 1 or Alteration Type 1 required to meet New Building requirements (28-101.4.5)
      Alteration Type 1, OT “No Work” New Building
      Alteration Type 2 Full Demolition
      Alteration Type 3 Subdivision: Improved
      Sign Subdivision: Condo

    5. drg says:

      I dont understand why there is no clamor to have this building landmarked and protected!!

      It seems like a classic example of postwar Soviet bloc architecture, ironically used for religious purposes.

      • Don says:

        Very amusing comment “drg.” So true about all “those Soviet highrises in a park” to the west and south. Happy to have that criss-cross monster to block my view of them.

        • ScooterStan says:

          Re: “Soviet high rises in a park”

          Assume you are referring to the 8 buildings that make up “Lincoln Towers”.

          Like the lobster, that which is ugly on the outside (1960’s construction) is delicious on the inside. Namely: scads of closet space (even walk-in’s), large windows, real dining rooms, parquet floors, real useable terraces, etc.

          Probably the reason that a 2br/2bth/w.Terrace has appreciated $600K in under 10 years! But don’t even try; there is almost nothing available!

          Oh, and the “park” is beautifully landscaped and maintained!

    6. James says:

      How many stories could 300,000 square feet be? One57 looks like it has in excess of 800,000 square feet of space, so should we expect this building could only be much much smaller?

      • Steven Barall says:

        That lot is really small. At 50 stories, 300,000 square feet is 6,000 per floor. That would be a footprint of 100′ by 60′ and that seems about right.

    7. Christina says:

      Bodega??? I wouldn’t think they would be building a bodega around here since most of the hispanic/spanish/latin mini-marts have closed due to high rents. Besides they couldn’t compete with TraderJoe’s, Fairway and such.

    8. whatsupduck says:

      Maybe they are building the tower of Babel…cause that worked out so well for our peeps the FIRST time around.

    9. Gretchen says:

      According to zoning rules – or the lack thereof on that particular site, I read that they can go as high as they want – the sky’s the limit. Shadows anyone?

    10. Sean says:

      Can’t they turn this place into a Food Emporium?

    11. Funny enough, I wrote a bit about supertall buildings in a screed-prophetic-whine this morning:

    12. Barbara Stevelman says:

      To me, modern architecture of the steel and glass genre is more interesting and aesthetic than the buildings constructed from 1950-1970. The purchasers have more amenities and lifestyle advantages. I do not live in any one of them, but I know their presence has improved the property value of my co-op in this neighborhood And we continue to make improvements in our building to compete with the new buildings. And the new apartments are attracting more young and prosperous people to the neighborhood, which is good for business.