TENANTS AT REAR OF NEW LUXURY RENTAL BUILDING DISTURBED BY RAW CONCRETE VIEW

170 amsterdam rear
Photo of the rear of 170 Amsterdam Avenue after rain, taken from a 23rd story apartment at 160 West End Avenue. Courtesy of the tenants group that has raised concerns about the building.

By Eileen Katz

The new rental building at 170 Amsterdam Avenue (68th street), which stands out for its unique exoskeleton structure, is rapidly wearing out its welcome for some of its neighbors.

Residents at 160 West End Avenue whose apartments face the rear of the new building say they’ve quickly grown tired of the raw concrete view. They’ve come to call a small structure on the roof “the bunker.”

“While everyone understands all views are insecure in NYC, unprecedented ugliness on a luxury building suggests cause for alarm,” the residents wrote in a letter to West Side Rag.

diagridThe building won a citation this year from the New York state division of the American Institute of Architects, among other awards. Apartments hit the market several months ago. The picture at right shows the front towards the end of construction.

According to the statement from the residents group, they first grew concerned about how the structure looked in July and were “stunned to hear from Equity’s on-site property manager that the roof was in fact ‘finished per design.’”

The residents wrote to Handel Architects and developer Equity Residential more than a month ago. Group co-leader Fran Seigel said she heard back this week, after West Side Rag began making inquiries.

George Kruse, Equity Residential VP of Development, said he’d discuss the issue with architect Frank Fusaro. “The entire building is poured concrete. When it gets wet, it’s going to look like that.”

“No one is thrilled about this,” Fusaro acknowledged. He called Seigel and discussed possible remedies, including treating the concrete to eliminate the mottling.

It’s still not clear what might be done about this – if anything – and who would pay for it.

“We realize it is a very challenging situation – David and Goliath at best – but we think a minimal cosmetic fix, like properly finishing the unsightly concrete, is not a huge deal,” the residents wrote in their statement.

Two more photos from the tenants group show the roof on a dry day:

entire roof

Aug. roof photo

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 86 comments | permalink
    1. Sean says:

      I always thought Lincoln Towers was kind of an eyesore itself.

    2. Sherman says:

      I live in the area. I think this building is actually kinda cool looking.

      • Nathan says:

        I like the building too. The roof isn’t the best part, but guess what? Roofs are going to look like roofs. We should all be so lucky to have view from the 23rd floor.

    3. drg says:

      Sean..how true.
      can you imagine the utter uproar and condemnation the Lincoln Towers proposal would have today…replacing the landmark worthy tenements…not to think of the population density issue…the horror, the horror…

    4. Jeff says:

      I’m generally a fan of this building, but the roof is definitely its aesthetic weak spot. That’s not so much because of the “bunker” but rather the weird beams that resemble lumber and make the structure look unfinished. The owners should really think about staining/painting them.

    5. senyc says:

      Oh,the worries of the one percent….

    6. Upper West Sider2 says:

      It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes – cheap construction being presented as an aesthetic. The reality is that it is a truly hideous construction from any angle and in all weathers.

      • 24gotham says:

        I would hardly call this cheap construction. There is a lot technology and design involved to create an exposed concrete exoskeleton structure such as this is. This isn’t just a basic glass box. And it is far more than the value engineered bland and banal concrete bunkers that make up Lincoln Towers.

        Raw concrete is an aesthetic that does not appeal to a good many people, but that doesn’t make it bad design or cheap.

    7. Christina says:

      I hate the design of the building. Reminds me of something ( possibly a bus depot or car garage) that belongs by the Port Authority on 42nd St. It’s an eyesore! Oh well.

    8. Diana B says:

      Now, that’s a first-world problem!

    9. Ellie says:

      The new rental building is an eyesore, particularly the view of its rear. The bare-cement look is ugly and as another writes, it is a case of the Emperor’s New clothes. Horrible appearance, and one wonders how the inside structure looks to tenants. UWS declines with this architectural mess. Sorry to say.

    10. Gretchen says:

      I like this building, despite comments. It’s infinitely better than its neighbor, the hideous, gloomy structure housing the Lincoln Sq. synagogue, which looks like it should be on Rikers Island.

    11. Anon says:

      I can’t believe anyone rents on the bottom few floors of this building. Walking down Amsterdam it’s like being in their apartments with them. Floor to ceiling windows might be nice on the upper floors but near the street there is no privacy if you want some natural light.

    12. Michael Marks says:

      At least from ground level, I generally like the new building. The exterior of Lincoln Towers is awful, it reminds me of the projects. There are so many great buildings on the UWS, Lincoln Towers is one of the worst.

    13. Liam says:

      Are you kidding me???? I live in this building and although I admit the design isn’t necessarily cohesive with the upper west side it is hardly some thing to complain about. Unfortunately, my apartment faces the back so If anyone should be writing a letter it should be me!

      Lincoln towers would not look out of place In the Soviet Union…. If anything, LT should be demolished it’s hedious!!

      • ScooterStan says:

        Re: “LT should be demolished it’s hedious!!”

        Perhaps YOU should be demolished for misspelling “hideous”. Remember, it’s “eye before eee except after see…or whenever the mood strikes”.

        As for Lincoln Towers looking “hideous” that’s the opinion of someone who DOES NOT LIVE THERE.

        Actually, on the inside, Lincoln Towers is:
        a) home to lovely spacious apartments featuring parquet floors, walk-in closets, excellent sound-proofing, etc.;
        b) a diverse community of active seniors and busy young families;
        c) excellent landscaping and plenty of outdoor benches for socializing.

        But PLEASE DON’T EVEN THINK OF LIVING HERE. You obviously would NOT be welcome with an attitude such as yours!

      • daniela weiss says:

        I had a question about the community room for anyone who currently lives in the 170 Amsterdam Avenue building. please email me at yafaconsulting@gmail.com thanks!

    14. Una says:

      This building is a joke..all you see are beds in the windows. It’s the furthest thing from a luxury building. I think most of the comments here were written by the building agent as there could not be that many people interested in such an ugly building

      • Jeremy says:

        You don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s not at the top of the high end, and Equity doesn’t really have its act together on the service side, but it’s a perfectly fine building. Biggest two issues are the floors that aren’t flat, and the view of 170 WEA.

      • Sean says:

        All you need is a bed if you live in the cloud. Young people don’t have as much stuff as the oldsters.

    15. neighbor says:

      100% with Liam: LT should be razed and replaced with twice as many modern buildings, each half the size of each current humongous monstrosity. And how about the security guards. And in general, those huge, nondescript buildings are the remnants of a much bleaker times. They do look and feel like projects, or the Soviet dream housing, or a medium security prison. It’s a shame that such pretty, leafy grounds look and feel like a waste of space.

      • ScooterStan says:

        Re: ” LT should be razed and replaced with twice as many modern buildings, each half the size of each current humongous monstrosity.”

        OH, SURE! On your say-so, the Co-Op Boards of each of the LT buildings will IMMEDIATELY arrange to have the buildings demolished and replaced with less “Soviet-looking” structures!

        But, Ummm…do you have any recommendations as to WHERE the current residents (some 80% to 85% of whom are shareholders…which means they’ve BOUGHT their apartments) would live while their buildings are being made visually appealing so as to suit YOUR taste???????

        OH, Re: “And how about the security guards.” Our LTCA (Lincoln Towers Community Association) Security Guards are ABSOLUTE PROFESSIONALS AND WONDERFUL PEOPLE who are there to help at a moment’s notice.

        As is said about NSA surveillance applies to our security force: “If ya ain’t done nothing wrong, ya ain’t gotta worry!”

    16. Don says:

      Complaining what a building looks like while living in the NYC version of a Russian Housing Bloc probably means the commenter never looked at the ear sore in which he/she lives. I’m happy for any building that blocks my view of those visual atrocities from Broadway. Saying that the Lincoln Towers site is well located for enjoying a cultural center of Manhattan. I’m finally happy I no longer am forced to look at Lincoln Towers on a stroll down Broadway.

    17. Pedestrian says:

      The modern Buildings that get architecture awards rarely are built to enhance the neighborhood in which they are built or to add any beauty to the city, they are built to satisfy an architectural conceit and an owners greed.

      This is another build that should get an awRd for ugliness! I pity the neighbors who have to look at this monstrosity. It is bad enough to look at it as one passes by.

    18. Bob says:

      i live on w68th between columbus and central park west. the building isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. But it’s true, the back is ugly as hell.

      also lincoln towers look kinda shabby too.

    19. Steve in Manhattan says:

      Fifth Avenue residents tried to kill the Guggenheim starting in the late 40s. I’m not saying this is a Wright-style masterpiece, but at least let them finish it.

    20. Gary says:

      I live in 160 WEA face the new building at 170 Amsterdam. The view of that building that wins awards faces Amsterdam Ave. The view from our side is the one pictured. It’s surprising that the developers didn’t think to give the rooftop structures a uniform appearance. One is black, one plain concrete and one wood. For little investment, there’s no reason they can’t make it uniform. In addition, the elevator bank for the upper half of that building facing 160 WEA has fluorescent lights on all day and night. It’s like the Seinfeld episode where Kramer said he couldn’t get any sleep because of the Kenny Roger’s Roast Chicken blinking neon sign facing his bedroom window. 170 Amsterdam should use curtains or some other window covering so we don’t have to see the “wall of white light” all night. We would like our new neighbors to be good neighbors.

    21. Jessie says:

      Despite the un-attractiveness of LT, I will tell you that as a resident, this couldn’t be a better place to live. Our apartment was renovated by the previous owners and it is very spacious and modern, we have outdoor space and the building itself is very well run – super clean, organized, not in the red. In addition, the private park is certainly a huge draw for many of us, especially those of us with kids. AND it’s still zoned for 199. So many of us are now millionaires.

      So – yeah – it looks like the projects and these types of buildings would never be built today, but don’t judge a book by its cover. Lots of us are very happy.

      • 24gotham says:

        “I love my 8′ ceilings!”

        Said
        Nobody
        Ever

        • jessie says:

          Ah… 24Gotham – the benefits FAR outweigh 8″ ceilings.

          Keep snarking, I’m enjoying my LT life and laughing all the way to the bank…

          • 24gotham says:

            Moot point – Most of us on the UWS are laughing all the way to the bank.

            I will stick with my classic prewar with 9’9″ ceilings and irreplaceable detail, and trade in the “lush gardens” for 1/3 less monthly maintenance. Riverside Park is only a block away, it doesn’t cost extra, and it always interesting.

            • jessie says:

              Well, 24Gotham, that is the difference between you and me. For me and my family, LT works perfectly and I have no qualms about saying so. And you are incorrect in stating that we are all on a level playing field as far as value of apartments. If you’ve been following ANY of the discussions on the school situation you’d know that things are changing. We will always be zoned for 199. So – that’s that. And I don’t think that Riverside Park compares to a private park where kids can literally roam free like nowhere else in the area. But maybe that’s not your priority. It IS mine. I’d trade that for your precious “detail” any day of the week.

              So feel smug about what you will and I will do the same.

          • Sean says:

            If the ceiling height is so low, the first tenants fifty some years ago must have been really short.

      • Iiari says:

        Totally agree on LT. Not much to look at, but they’re comfortable, spacious, genuinely economically diverse (by NYC standards), and extremely well run. We’re happy to be there.

        And count me as a fan of 170 Amsterdam. I absolutely called the wet concrete issue, however, and remember clearly telling my wife when it was being built that you could “start the wet concrete countdown complaint clock.” I’ve lived in several cities with prominent concrete buildings, and they do look atrocious when wet. “Wet rags” we used to call them. I wonder if they’ll consider painting or sealing them. I’d prefer sealing, and I would think it wouldn’t be super expensive to do…

      • Puddles says:

        I also live in a large beautiful studio in 170 at Lincoln Towers with a very large Terrace. The landscaping throughout Lincoln Towers’ grounds are delightful. It’ the best place to live in NYC!!

    22. 24gotham says:

      Well isn’t this just a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Except in this case, it is a stunningly beautiful kettle.

    23. Jake says:

      The Equity buildings (like Arch Stone before them) are arguably the worst run in the city. Dirty, scuffed halls, smelly trash rooms, lifeless personnel, every day a different moving truck, constant for rent signs and half-inflated balloons…They are the Wal*mart of UWS housing.

      This architectural effort is the least crappy things about them.

    24. Frank says:

      Why not both … and restore the grid. ‘Superblocks” are dreadful.

    25. Fran Seigel says:

      A BIT OF CLARIFICATION:

      We do not see that the admitted unattractiveness of the Lincoln Towers buildings has any bearing on the crux of the issue.
      What we are talking about is the highly disturbing and unsightly roof on anew luxury building which has received various design awards, and praised in the press for being well-done and beautiful.

      And how can it be possible that those who so thoroughly dislike Lincoln Towers can be fine with adding to the neighborhood, 170 Amsterdam’s unsightly roof?
      Do they really believe that because we live in Lincoln Towers we are somehow disqualified from protesting an unsightly stained 3-story structure on the unfinished- looking roof that dominates from the windows of hundred or more of our homes?

      Lincoln Towers buildings and coop community have been a done deal for many decades, and are large rock-solid community of diverse owners, living in roomy and well cared-for apartments admittedly built as boring and unattractive1960s boxes. To suggest tearing down this community is not within the realm of legality, viability, overall health (or humanity for that matter) of the Upper West Side.

      In the big picture, West Siders now face a large number of many aggressive changes and challenges in our neighborhoods. Hopefully the overarching needs for balance and understanding with the rapid changes in density, affordability, services, commercial rents, etc. will inspire us to create a better shared community and resources for all of us.

      • Jeremy says:

        Fran, would you be amenable to investing money to make some changes to 160 and 170, in order to improve the view from 170 Amsterdam?

        • fran Seigel says:

          Hi Jeremy,
          I understand you see this as a parallel issue, but we absolutely do not. I don’t think I can explain better than my “clarification” given above. So we may have to agree to disagree.

          • Jeremy says:

            Unfortunately, you don’t control this conversation. I don’t see why Lincoln Towers owners should be allowed to let these giant eyesores impose on the community. You can’t call out “the overarching needs for balance and understanding,” and not take any of your own steps to remediate the abject visual pollution that is 160 and 170 WEA – a design that is far more criminal than any amount of unsealed concrete at 170 Amsterdam.

            Also, the rats! You guys have so many rats behind your building – so much hantavirus.

      • Nathan says:

        How’s the roof at Lincoln Towers look?

    26. Andrea Reese says:

      I’m relieved to see this article. I often work as a photographer in the Lincoln Center area and so I saw this building going up. Because I like to shoot portraits outside using natural light, I found myself having to adjust many shots to avoid this building in the background. At a certain point, it appeared that the construction had stopped even though the building still didn’t look completed. I assumed the construction had been halted due to a violation, but much later, the building remained the same, with ugly splotches on the concrete that seemed to keep getting worse each week. I really felt for the local residents. While I like raw, urban, distressed architectural in general, and this building might even look ok in Dumbo or Williamsburg, it really clashes with the Lincoln Center area surroundings.

    27. Robert Hellmann says:

      I’ve been a visitor to the building across the way on a number of occasions and have noticed the ugliness of the concrete structure. The irony is that this structure is part of an “award winning” building! Fix this eyesore to justify the title. This is a new building, there’s an opportunity here; don’t say it’s finished when it’s clearly not. Do it right, and do right by the neighborhood!

    28. Audrey Ellinger says:

      This is really an eyesore that needs to be attended to . I am sure noone in the opposite buildings wishes to view this on a daily basis rain or shine.
      audrey

    29. Liz says:

      What an eyesore. Who designed this piece of garbage. It looks like something throw together in a Third World country.

      What a nightmare to be paying NYC type rents to see that ugly monstrosity every morning.
      Makes you want to put up a fake vista on your window like back in the ’80s.

      What zoning board approved this addition?

      • Jeremy says:

        Could have been NYCHA. At the time, whoever had the authority was pretty much able to run roughshod over the existing San Juan Hill neighborhood. I’m sure that those dreary Lincoln Towers weren’t the aesthetic goal, but we’re stuck with ’em now.

        While putting up a fake vista on the 170 Amsterdam windows might be a little helpful, the apartments are actually relatively bright, and it would be terrible to put those huge windows to waste.

    30. LILA T BELANOFF says:

      As a frequent visitor to neighbors in the 160 West End Avenue building that faces “the bunker”, I would agree that in fairness to the residents of apartments facing it, something should be done to change what is a depressing view. It looks like a war zone. The creative architect and developer can come up something that would be more pleasant to look at- perhaps one approach might be some some cedar framing.
      Come on people , take responsibility for the aesthetics. It’s a quality of life issue.

    31. Gemma says:

      The only thing worse than the hideous cross-bars is the floor-to-ceiling windows. Without even trying, you get an unobstructed view of unmade beds and people walking around in their underwear. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so repulsive.

    32. ann kleiman says:

      What an untidy,poorly planned and ill matched top the architect stuck on 170 Amsterdam Avenue!! He should be ashamed not to have considered his neighbors.

    33. Joel Kramer says:

      Mr. Fusaro was candid and he is clearly honorable. He indicated the mottled, stained appearance of the concrete was NOT the envisioned or desired appearance of the structure. Mr. Kruse is reasonable as well. Ms Seigel your heading up the concern of many people is certainly appreciated. It seems we are on track for a reasonable solution to this issue.
      Let`s hope we can all see this to a successful conclusion for everyone. Mutual cooperation is a winning combination every time.

      • Jeremy says:

        Cooperation implies that people are working together. As far as I can tell, LT residents are just ogling and making fun of people in their underwear and otherwise making unilateral demands, with zero consideration for their own neighbors.

        • Sean says:

          Well, they do firmly believe that since they have been here for some 50 odd years and have thus set the tone for their area for so long that they should be allowed to continue as such. It takes an enormous amount of effort to torture everyone at Fairway and then be on the offensive at Lincoln Center.

    34. w. neff says:

      philistines

      • Upper West Sider2 says:

        Better than being a mindless follower of the Emperor! Or paying $4,365-$5,315/month for a one-bedroom apartment!

    35. tyler says:

      Personally, I think this building AND Lincoln Towers are both eyesores, especially when placed against the backdrop of nearby architectural gems like the Apple Bank, The Ansonia, etc.

    36. Rick says:

      The roof of 170 Amsterdam Avenue is quite unsightly and very depressing to have to look at, particularly the mottled cement structure. It looks shabby and unfinished and it would seem to me to be below normal architectural standards. Roofs make up part of our cityscape; and I would assume architects today take that into consideration when designing a building. If there’s anything that can be done to improve the appearance of that roof, that would be the right thing to do.

    37. Ronnie tuft says:

      It is a monstrosity. Surely the residents of 160 WEA who face it deserve some redress from the architects and the city dept that approved it. It is the very worst of urban design without any concern for the residences surrounding it. It is shocking and sad, too, that there are some who make such a smarmy remark that Lincoln Towers is an eyesore too. We’re talking about hard working, ordinary folks who have paid a lot of money to buy an apartment and then have such an ugly building arise and take over their view. This should elicit sympathy not contempt.

    38. Upper West Sider2 says:

      Presumably some if not at all of the posters vilifying LT live in 170 Amsterdam. Why did they rent there?

    39. Missing the Point says:

      Most of the comments are missing the point. It’s not about the ugliness of the neighborhood buildings, it’s about the unfinished/poorly finished roof of 170 Amsterdam. From the street, you cannot see the problem. Look at the picture above – it’s inconceivable that was the intended design. It’s one thing to lose your view but quite another to have a 3-story stained cement bunker directly outside your window.
      The developer should take pride in their work and rectify the situation.

    40. Peter says:

      The builders of 170 Amsterdam, for the years the scaffolding and noise inconvenienced their neighbors, could be “neighborly” and improve the appearance for those who consider the rear of the building unsightly. It may not be considered “necessary” to everyone, but it can’t “hurt” anyone to improve the look with a little paint.

    41. Len Margulies says:

      Congratulations Fran. It must be gratifying to see your hard work pay off. It reminds us all that a single individual who perseveres still can make a difference.

      When I look out my window I notice almost all the high rises make some attempt to integrate the roof top utilities into the architecture of the building. With all the care given to the unique design of 170 Amsterdam Avenue, it seems that after the roof top terrace was designed, the remainder of the roof was planned by the engineering team with no sense of the aesthetic.

      I am eager to open my window shades again to the fullest extent rather than use them to hide the offensive roof top.

      With all that said, I am very pleased that the architect is willing to work with us to address the issue.

    42. Jack says:

      Ain’t that called Art?

    43. Bloomie says:

      Ugly roof. Ugly building. Not worthy of any awards, except the UGLY AWARD.