Two Groups File Challenge Against 69th Street Tower Even as Construction Continues


Machines at the site of 200 Amsterdam Avenue this week.

Construction is underway on a 52-story apartment tower replacing the former Lincoln Square Synagogue on 69th and Amsterdam. But two groups have now filed separate appeals with a city board looking to stop the project, which would be the tallest building in the area at 668 feet.

Council member Helen Rosenthal has joined with the community group Committee for Environmentally Sound Development to file one of the appeals, claiming that the zoning lot that allows the building to be so tall should not be allowed.

“The appeal, submitted to the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), argues that the proposed building’s zoning lot does not actually meet the definition of a zoning lot,” according to a statement from Rosenthal’s office. “The gerrymandered lot includes portions of several tax lots, combining the lot at 200 Amsterdam with all or parts of five tax lots from various Lincoln Towers buildings on West End Avenue.

“This is contrary, the appeal claims, to Zoning Resolution provisions which require that zoning lots comprise the entirety of one or more tax lots. Click here to read the appeal.” The challenge questions whether the developer adhered to open space requirements, among other factors.

“The only way for SJP Properties to justify such a clearly disproportionate supertall in a residential neighborhood is to violate both the spirit and letter of the zoning laws, specifically those defining zoning lots and open space,” said Olive Freud, President of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development.

Landmark West has filed its own challenge on similar grounds.

Freud expressed dismay that Landmark West was filing separately, splitting the opposition.  “It’s bad enough I have to fight the developers! I thought we were collaborating.” Sean Khorsandi of Landmark West wrote that its appeal “does not conflict with the appeal filed by the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, but rather continues the chorus of arguments against the development.  The professionals involved are working together.”

This isn’t the first time that groups have fought this building. A previous appeal to the Buildings Department slowed the project, but eventually didn’t stop it. The developers, SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America, have repeatedly asserted that the zoning lot is appropriate and that the building will benefit the neighborhood.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 23 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      This building should go up once and for all. It’s pathetic that the developers have to waste valuable time and resources to construct something they’re legally allowed to construct.

      Maybe if all these activists and pandering lefty politicians got out of the way and let developers tear down old and decrepit buildings and build more modern and efficient buildings we wouldn’t have a housing affordability crisis in Manhattan.

      I support this new building and I welcome productive and responsible new residents to the neighborhood.

      • Paul says:

        Oh, right. Because the 4,000+ people who already live in the ten buildings on that super block aren’t productive and responsible?

    2. Bill Dem Tall says:

      Re: “proposed building’s zoning lot does not actually meet the definition of a zoning lot,”

      Hmmm….what does that recall??

      Whoops, got it!

      Bill Clinton’s infamous “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

      Well, Teflon Bill escaped impeachment, and, hopefully, 200 Amsterdam will escape the bureaucracy of the BSA, and when all is said and done an ugly construction fence will be replaced by a handsome piece of modern architecture the equal of all the new construction on lower West End Ave.

      GO, 200 Amsterdam !

    3. Paul says:

      Go back to 2007, when the land swap leading to this development was announced. The lot allowed for about 45 floors as of right, and the acquirer openly announced the intent to build tall then.
      This was not news in 2014, 2015, 2016, or now.
      There is a time and place for everything, inclusive of NIMBYism.
      In this case, that time has long since passed

    4. your neighbor says:

      All these delays are only increasing the cost of construction which will be passed onto the eventual buyers or renters at this building.

      So this is not costing the developers anything.

      Hopefully they can get the building up past the point of no return quickly so we can get a nice building in a prime location in the neighborhood.

      • B.B. says:

        For the record nearly every developer of property in NYC knows or should know there are going to *issues*. As such they plan and budget accordingly. Unless things get way out of hand causing delays in terms of many years before completion, lawsuits and or other legal action is not unexpected nor may cause increase in final prices passed onto buyers/renters.

        Indeed one of the many factors in the high cost of building anything in NYC is the expected regulatory burden, community activism/opposition and so forth.

        Ever since Jane Jacobs and her followers got Robert Moses to back down over his planned downtown highway, local NYC communities have learned the power of the street.

        Main dangers come from a project that is delayed so long the market shifts before it is completed, leaving a developer stuck with a property that is hard to rent/sell units.

        This has happened before leaving developers stuck with rentals or co-op/condo units they couldn’t move. And is happening now as uber luxury buildings planned when that market was red hot are coming online when things have cooled.

    5. Jay says:

      These lawsuits are just a waste of money all the way around. People decry the high costs of housing around here and frivolous lawsuits like these only make those costs go up.

    6. This is R8 zoning and isn’t even classified as a tower.

      Wrap your head around that.

      Something is deeply wrong and disfunctional when a developer like SJP can spend tend of thousands of dollars lobbying city agencies to go against their own rules and set yet another terrible precedent. The department of buildings has made itself a defacto legislative body by warping our zoning code and allowing sophisticated real estate attorneys to craft complex and precarious justifications for developers’ projects. The DOB passes off these complex industry arguments as independent determinations. It would be more of an outrage if it didn’t happen so routinely.

      If someone wants to build an illegal building then change the law so it is legal. Don’t just make up your own rules and use political power to run roughshod over a neighborhood, it soils and sours our supposed representative government to the point where people don’t even bother to vote in local elections anymore because they have correctly summuzed their participation doesn’t make a difference when money is involved.

      William H. Raudenbush

      • Jen says:

        Thank you for the very good response.

      • The argument that creating more units pushes market forces down in the neighborhood is true, if and only if the new construction involves building rental units. As it is now, the cost of the land developed is high enough that developers look exclusively to luxury projects with extreme building heights to maximize profitability.

        Long-term affordability in this city is achievable IF the affordable housing mechanism du jour like the Mayor’s “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing” (MIH) is tweaked to restrict the up-zoning to projects that build rentals, not luxury condominiums.

        The changing in the nature of the new construction is important, because as it is now, MIH creates substantial secondary displacement because the existing market rate units in the area prices increase substantially (it’s in the DEIS of E. Harlem etc.)

        The real estate developers would be less thrilled with this idea than they are with the Mayor’s current plan: MIH, which they LOVE because of its large height giveaways for luxury projects.

        Up-zoning is not the worst thing in the world if it is done in conjunction with something called “floating zoning.” Floating zones can be used to plan for future land uses that are anticipated or desired in the community, but are not confirmed, such as affordable housing, commercial centers, and urban development projects etc. The community gets substantial input in the changes to zoning in their neighborhood with the floating zoning process.

        George Janes (Urban planner who filed original 200 Amsterdam Challenge) introduced me to the “floating zoning” concept when I asked him how it would be possible to make it more attractive to build more rentals here, and my idea about building market rate displacement contingencies into affordable housing up-zoning by requiring new market rate rental projects in exchange for up-zoning.

        • Sherman says:

          I’m not sure what you mean by “market rate rental apartments”.

          The “market rate” is whatever the public is willing to pay.

          If a landlord wants to charge $6,000 a month rent for a studio and there are 100 people ready, willing and able to pay this rent then that’s the “market rate”.

          I don’t believe that bureaucrats and “community activists” and archaic laws should determine what a fair rent should be. That’s how NYC got into this housing mess in the first place.

          I do agree with you that new buildings should not have such severe height requirements as an increase in housing supply – whether rentals or condos – will bring down prices.

    7. Reg Lincoln says:

      Hats off to the Committee for Environ Sound Devel for renewing the fight. The zoning rules are clear and the developer’s manipulations are not legal. Will the Board of Standards & Appeals defend the law and its intention of building proportionate buildings?

    8. Sean says:

      Soon Lincoln Towers will be hidden from sight. Is this what we want?

      • Yimby! says:

        YES!!!

        • Stop you complaining says:

          Some of the people who live on the upper west side want to live in new construction. People only complain because they can’t afford it.

      • YIMBY too says:

        Re: “Soon Lincoln Towers will be hidden from sight. Is this what we want?”

        Yes! We’re very stealthy around here, prefer shadows over harsh sunlight, etc.

        Think of us as Count/Countess Dreck-Ūla.

    9. Jay says:

      Folks complain about the high cost of apartments here and then file frivolous lawsuits like these. If you think the developer pays those costs then you’re deluded.

      • Jen says:

        Really? Are you saying that the apartments will be more expensive than the market price? If that’s the case, then nobody will buy them. Or you are saying that the apartments would have been cheaper than the market price if there was no lawsuits? Your comments defy logic.

        • Jay says:

          Jen,

          Is it your contention that lawsuits like these don’t cost the developer any money? If you don’t then perhaps it’s your comments defy logic.

          If you agree that it does cost them money, who do you think ultimately pays for it? You think the developer eats that cost?

        • Jay says:

          The idea that the additional costs that come from frivolous lawsuits just disappear and are not passed down to the buyer clearly defies logic.

    10. Vladimir says:

      All you folks are delaying me moving into the 52nd story penthouse. Vladimir