PLANS FOR UPPER WEST SIDE’S TALLEST BUILDING ON HOLD AS CITY REVIEWS CHALLENGE BY NEIGHBORS


Construction machines sit idle at 200 Amsterdam Avenue.

By Carol Tannenhauser

There will be no further permits issued for the controversial building being planned for 200 Amsterdam Avenue until the legal challenge to its zoning lot is resolved. What would be the tallest building on the Upper West Side — an expected 668 feet — is now on hold. (A rendering of the building is below.)

WSR learned this from George Janes, the urban planner who drafted the challenge. Janes learned of it in an email from the Department of Buildings, shared with him by a NY1 reporter.

“This is different from a formal Stop Work order, where an applicant has a permit, and work on that permit is legally halted,” Janes explained. “Here, since this is still early in the process, the DOB has said that the issuance of further permits is halted until the Challenge is resolved. The only permits they have are for the site prep work, and that work is largely done. So they can continue to be on site, but the work they are allowed to do is very limited.”

“The action is notable,” Janes concluded. “Challenges don’t normally impact DOB’s permit issuance process until they are resolved. I expect that this will mean that we will get an answer to our Challenge sooner, rather than later.”

SJP Properties, which is partnering with Mitsui Fudosan America to build the building, sent us a statement expressing its disappointment.

“We have employed the industry’s leading legal, zoning, architectural and engineering professionals to ensure, with meticulous attention to detail, that 200 Amsterdam conforms to all zoning regulations. We are confident that we will soon commence construction.

It is disappointing that this baseless action has jeopardized hundreds of jobs, and millions of dollars of property taxes that are used to support vital community services for all residents of the city, including those of the Upper West Side.

The design of 200 Amsterdam, including its height, is based on zoning that dates back to 1987 and was granted written approval by the boards of all eight buildings comprising the entirety of the Lincoln Towers community. Furthermore, three other developments within the same Lincoln Towers zoning block were approved by the Department of Buildings and built using zoning development rights that are identical to those being employed by 200 Amsterdam. The developments are 200 West End Avenue, the rental building at 166 Amsterdam Avenue, and the Lincoln Square Synagogue at 180 Amsterdam Avenue.”

Top photo by a local resident who wishes to remain anonymous.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 43 comments | permalink
    1. Jen says:

      Thank you all who made this challenge possible.
      Just to make sure UWSHebrew and Sherman and like minded – I’m not against development but this is a pink suede elephant in the room. You really don’t see the problem with the height?

      I’m not even go into the issues of air and light, it like pearls before swine. Some people think gigantic eyesores creating hazarodous living condition and impacting quality of life is fine. Otherwise they suggest you move to the suburbs.

      Another point is the infrastructure – insane traffic, garbage is nor capable taking of, subways, and most importantly schools. Whoever is giving these developers all this rights is not acting in good faith on behalf of the residents.

      • larry fine says:

        All this means is that the payoffs have increased.

      • Sherman says:

        Yeah, great news the construction of this building is on hold.

        I really like that lovely empty pit in the ground currently at that spot. It adds to the “character” of the UWS.

        Nothing like liberals blocking common sense improvements to the neighborhood!

        • Jen says:

          Don’t like the hole in the ground – go plant a tree or two.

          • bravo says:

            It’s not your land to plant anything on. I hope that it gets built and people with nothing better to do than try to influence how the city lives will accept that they have no more constitutional rights to a landscape than others have to live in a newly built home.

            • Jen says:

              “It is not your land to plant..”. You ever heard of sarcasm?
              And the comment of “people with nothing better to do..” makes no sense just because you have a different point of view on the issue.

        • Mark says:

          So the only two options are a hole in the ground or a huge ugly tower?
          Nothing like conservatives to bring no new ideas or creativity to the table.

          • Reg Lincoln says:

            Next step: The PS 199 parents included in the coalition working for a legal, proportionate 200 Amsterdam will be updating their fellow parents and neighbors about the Zoning Challenge and its next steps on TUES JUNE 13 AND WED JUNE 14 8-9am. Great opportunity to sign up for this effort and share info.

      • Nathan says:

        “Hazardous”? When you say things like this you lose credibility. Also, I can’t quite parse what you’re trying to say in the third paragraph.

      • Reg Lincoln says:

        Great work by the neighborhood here. The growing coalition of groups and neighbors welcomes a legal, proportionate building, and they have the zoning laws on their side. The developers clearly maxed out the planned height in order to have something to concede in the upcoming negotiation. Even the Dept of Buildings and DeBlasio are enforcing the zoning laws here after neglecting oversight on several prior developer manipulations. The developers are already planning a shorter building, which will benefit everyone in the long run.

    2. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      People complain about high housing costs but then block new supply from being created.

      • Cat says:

        So this building is going to provide lower housing costs?

        • 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

          Yes, adding more supply will result in prices that are lower than they would be if the supply had not been created. Conversely, restricting supply will result in prices that are higher than they would otherwise be.

        • Scott says:

          Supply & demand. It’s the immutable law of economics.

          • EricaC says:

            Scott – like so much of economics, that is all true ONLY IF you reality reflects the “pure” assumptions of economics. Supply and demand are immutable – in the absence of regulation, taxation and other factors. All of which are in boundless supply in real life. This is not a textbook; this is the complex real world, where none of these laws plays out as they did in college textbooks. So, yes, in the absence of other factors, additional supply should sate demand – but there are many, many, other factors.

          • Ken says:

            There’s another immutable law of economics is NYC; it’s called the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, rules.

      • jezbel says:

        This abysmal building will do nothing to bring the cost of housing down. Nothing in this town ever does. There are cost over-runs, unforeseen charges, change of plans making most building cost way over the projected amounts. They have compensate for that. And they do that with higher prices. More apartments does NOT equal lower costs. Think of more crowded streets, fewer parking spaces (if you have a car) more bikes, more strollers, more deliveries, more garbage. Fewer places available at neighborhood schools. More people less space.

        • Sanity says:

          So hundreds of years of the basic economic concept of supply and demand are wrong? Got it.

        • Woody says:

          It’s a waste of time to point out in detail the ridiculous logic in your arguments. You lack the most basic knowledge of how business and real estate work.

      • I have to agree. I am paying $3000 for a dump where my windows look onto brick. It’s NYC. We have Central Park and Riverside and another tall building which will hopefully help lower the obscene rents, for me, would help.

      • Cato says:

        The people who “complain about high housing costs” would not be benefited from the erection of this building. The apartments in this building will be available only to people who don’t give a rat’s caboose about “high housing costs” because they have unlimited money.

        Building housing affordable by the middle class would increase supply and therefore bring middle-class housing costs down. But no developer is going to do that, dazzled as they are by the sky-high prices the bankers and oligarchs are willing to pay.

        So let’s not misuse economic principles to beat down those who don’t want this monstrosity in our neighborhood.

        • bravo says:

          Abolishing or at least correcting and modernizing rent control would do wonders to lowering/normalizing the rents on this island. Hereditary rent control? $250 000/year income as the limit? Decades of artificially suppressing the supply? That’s why we have $3000/mo for a studio, people. Who would of thunk…

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            actually, we’ve conducted an economic experiment on that theory (getting rid of rent stabilization will lower housing costs) on the UWS over the past 20 years, since the rent stabilization laws were fatally weakened. i think the year was 1997. and the experiment has shown that the theory is flawed.

            Since 1997, a huge number of apartments on the UWS, maybe 50% or more, have been successfully moved by landlords out of the rent stabilization system. and the vast majority of vacant apartments that come on the market have been market rate.

            so the so-called economic laws cited by bravo and others say that, in such a case, rents should be more stable. Instead, they have skyrocketed in this period.

            why? it’s because housing is not a “commodity” like wheat or oil, which only reflect pure supply and demand.

            for one thing, housing on the UWS has severe supply limits. the demand is always greater than the supply. you would have to do away with zoning laws and start tearing down existing buildings in order to change that. is this what anyone wants or advocates?

            the fact of the matter is that prior to 1997, the UWS was more affordable. Rent stabilization laws are not perfect, but they helped keep it that way.

            And yes, this tiny number of super-expensive apartments will have no impact at all in the rental rates for the masses.

            • Jay says:

              “Since 1997, a huge number of apartments on the UWS, maybe 50% or more, have been successfully moved by landlords out of the rent stabilization system.”

              Source?

              “the fact of the matter is that prior to 1997, the UWS was more affordable.”

              Source?

              “you would have to do away with zoning laws and start tearing down existing buildings in order to change that”

              You think that. No one who has seriously thought about the issue would think that.

            • Woody says:

              I thought liberals usually justify bad decision-making by claiming that things would be worse if they hadn’t acted. Why not apply that reasoning now?

            • EricaC says:

              I don’t think that you can make any conclusion about the impact of deregulation over the last 20 years, both because of the uneven application of deregulation and because of the existence of so many other factors.

              I tend to agree that strong distortions of the market through regulation of supply does not work. The experience of the USSR is actually helpful in this respect (don’t think I’m just basing this on random communism paranoia; the command economy was complicated and difficult to manage, and was not working well for many years before that system came to an end).

              That said – housing is not fungible, and it is true that building endless supply of luxury housing is not doing a lot to keep teachers and nurses and others who can’t afford luxury apartments here in the City, and that raises issues of both a functioning city and fairness. I would prefer to see an end to rent control/stabilization and explicit subsidies for more housing (and the related services) that would keep people across the economic spectrum here. At a minimum, I would stop tax benefits to luxury housing. You can’t really claim it’s a free market when tax benefits are flowing freely.

    3. jimbo says:

      My crowd hung out in that playground back in the 60’s.We were there around the clock.Sports in the daytime & having a BLAST at nigh.WOW those were the days my friends–I thought they’d never end.Some are dead(RIP),some never recovered but most of us survived.

    4. robert says:

      Sorry to say all you are doing is kicking the date the building will start going up down the road 30 to 90 days. DOB has this fast tracked for hearings and once all the paperwork is reviewed by a judge and found to be in order it will move forward.
      This developers is doing and planning other UWS projects in the next year or so. Since all you are doing is adding $$$ to their legal bill you can kiss an possible concessions on their projects on WEA, RSD and several side streets.

    5. Shahandeh Rosenblum says:

      people this is not about rights! a high rise in this dimension will bring changes!for example: this building will be occupied by people that their life style would only drive upper west side rents and everything goes higher!I cannot believe people nag about how the store rents are climbing and it is making the local shop owners miserable but they are in favor of this building!people living there are the type of people that would promote a shop that sells bedazzled toe nail clipper for pets!!!! has anyone ever noticed that some of the streets are always remaining slushy and icy because a tall building is blocking the sun? these are like the very basic reasons to evaluate this construction! I am not even going to get in the discussion of environmental impacts cause I know nobody gives a damn about it.

    6. Reg Lincoln says:

      Great work by the neighborhood here. The growing coalition of groups and neighbors welcomes a legal, proportionate building, and they have the zoning laws on their side. The developers clearly maxed out the planned height in order to have something to concede in the upcoming negotiation. Even the Dept of Buildings and DeBlasio are enforcing the zoning laws here after neglecting oversight on several prior developer manipulations. The developers are already planning a shorter building, which will benefit everyone in the long run.

      • Jay says:

        “The growing coalition of groups and neighbors welcomes a legal, proportionate building, and they have the zoning laws on their side. ”

        Well… why are these NIMBYs fighting this building, since it meets all three of your qualifications?

    7. RSNY says:

      No problem with utilizing this space for new housing despite that fact that, yes, it will be filled with the uber wealthy, many of whom will live elsewhere and not contribute to the local economy. The true issue is one of character. 55 stories is too high and is out of place in the neighborhood where many buildings are landmarked. Plus a building 20 shorter will already put much pressure on both the local schools as well as traffic on Amsterdam Avenue where traffic approaches a large complex intersection. What type of concessions have they pledged to already to benefit the neighborhood? There is no need for the greed in creating an obelisk this height that will stand out as a middle finger to so many other already tall high-rises that have been consistently increasing in height.

    8. Bruce Bernstein says:

      it was just a week or so ago that many self-appointed experts on this blog were mocking those who were challenging the zoning. they said that they had no chance. “construction has already started.” and so on.

      well, it turns out that maybe they knew exactly what they were doing. they have thrown a monkey wrench into the process. and every day that construction is stalled is costing the developer, and making him more likely to modify his plans.

      I have no idea how long this legal case will go on, or exactly the process. i suppose it could be a week, or it could be a very long time. Or perhaps they are right — that the zoning variances used were illegally filed! it wouldn’t be the first time.

      but i give PROPS to those opposing this building, who have proven that they know a little bit more than the cynical nay-sayers give them credit for.

      and it’s always worth pointing out that these limited number of ultra-expensive apartments will have approximately ZERO effect on the availability and pricing of middle class housing on the UWS. that argument is a canard.

      • Jay says:

        Again… Bruce, you were corrected several times before. You know NOTHING about what the development entails. You don’t know anything about the pricing. You don’t know the number of apartments. Stop talking about subject you have already admitted you know NOTHING about.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          I’ve got to guess that Jay is a real estate broker or some other shill for the real estate industry.

          Jay, you’re getting two projects mixed up. the specifications for the project at 96th and Bway have not been announced. THIS project is 200 Amsterdam, and it will have only 112 residences though 669 ft tall, almost certainly condos, averaging 2,7276 sf. these will be multi-million dollar residences.

          http://newyorkyimby.com/2016/09/permits-filed-200-amsterdam-avenue-upper-west-sides-tallest-building.html

          • Jay says:

            Sorry to disappoint. I have no interest in real estate or anything related. I do have an interest in not seeing the old-guard play the “get off my lawn” act you seem so adept at. The neighborhood has changed and you and other NIMBYs refuse to accept it. Can you name any development over 20 apartments that you’ve approved of in the last 5 years?

            Your lack of economic sense is hypocritical and short-sighted. Those younger than you will pay the price for your short-sightedness and I know you don’t care about anyone else.

            I can’t all your naysaying straight. Again… you don’t know anything about this development. Tell us what the prices the condos will be sold for? You still haven’t provided sources for any of the “facts” you have posted…

      • B.B. says:

        You might want to get off your high horse and realize without cooperation by developers nearly nil to no “affordable” housing would be built in NYC.

        Next, this temporary lull isn’t a huge deal in grand scheme of things. To wit developer hadn’t even filed for permits to do anything else but demolish existing structure, that work is largely completed.

        It always amazes me how these so called “concerned” local residents and politicians fight their hardest to stop this or that development, but then are first in line asking and or demanding some sort of “community space” or use in the new building once they’ve lost. “Can we have something for the kids”? “How about a public space for the seniors”? “Will there be any affordable apartments for local area residents..”?

        It ain’t over until it is over. Any developer with even a small amount of experience building anything in NYC is aware of and expects some sort of opposition from local residents. It began with Jane Jacobs and her lot over Robert Moses’s plans for West Village, moved onto Jackie Kennedy and Grand Central Terminal and hasn’t stopped since.

        Some battles were won, others lost. This falls under sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

    9. B.B. says:

      This is nothing more than a temporary lull in the hostilities; as the saying goes “it ain’t over until it is over”.

      Whatever the city decides in thirty or whatever days is surely to be appealed by losing side. Once all administrative appeals have been exercised then will come the court challenges.

      Anyone who thinks developer is going to just go away and or vastly change their plans unless otherwise compelled to so do is dreaming.

      • Jen says:

        Not like “I have a dream” didn’t work before 🙂

        Or “I have gained this by philosophy … I do without being ordered what some are constrained to do by their fear of the law.
        Aristotle”

        Or some of us have fear of people with money and adhere themselves to such class. Remember formerly respectable Madoff?

    10. Marie Ames says:

      Everything is in place – the land purchased, monies are
      in place, etc. etc. essentially a train nobody can stop now.
      All of this objection should have taken place a long time
      ago.
      Too little too late is basically where you are now.

    11. vox populi says:

      The conservatives among us seem to treat the very legitimate
      “quality of life” concerns raised by upper west siders with distain and contempt. Perhaps they honestly believe that building more and more housing for the super-rich will create jobs and prosperity to our neighborhood. If so, they have been victims of the hucksters touting a variant of the long discredited “supply side -trickle down economic theory,
      Uber-gentrification of the UWS will simply make life more difficult for all but the limo folks.

    12. susan atran says:

      “Legal”? -how can a small plot like that command air rights of the tallest building on the upper west side? Did you see those convoluted “air rights?” If this meets zoning requirements we need new ones. This height is insane!