Community Board 7 Tackles ‘Out of Context’ Buildings and Other Issues


Renderings of 200 Amsterdam (left) and 50 West 66th Street (right).

By Alex Israel

Community Board 7, which covers the Upper West Side, is joining the chorus of voices speaking out against a recent influx of tall buildings in the neighborhood. Members discussed the issue at a full-board meeting last week.

The board has written a letter to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, which oversees zoning, expressing general concern with overly tall buildings that are “out of context” with the neighborhood. They also approved a separate resolution to amend Zoning Regulations and address oversight of these types of buildings, citing 200 Amsterdam Avenue as an example. Both letter and resolution received praise from various local residents, who thanked board members and elected officials for speaking out against these issues.

CB7’s efforts support the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development’s case challenging the Department of Buildings on their approval of 200 Amsterdam Avenue. Olive Freud, who’s been leading the charge on behalf of CFESD, commended CB7’s resolution for “hitting all the points,” and encouraged the community to keep up the momentum and “spill out their hearts” at upcoming public meetings, which include:

CB7 also passed a number of other resolutions, including:

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 50 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      I believe CB7 members are “out of context with the neighborhood”.

      Nobody voted for them and I don’t believe their views represent the majority of residents of the UWS.

      The UWS should be a diverse and welcoming community and should move forward and adapt to changing times. These CB7 members simply want to close it off and protect their personal entitlements.

      • Sid says:

        They are appointed by the Manhattan Borough President. Perhaps you should become a public member or apply to join, instead of lambasting them and their work.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        It’s astounding that Sherman is convinced that his views, and not the views of the 50 people on CB 7, represent the “majority of the residents” of the UWS.

        While CB7 members are not elected themselves (and how would that be possible, with 50 members?), they are APPOINTED by elected officials: 50% by the Borough President and 50% by the Councilperson. The electeds try to make sure that CB7 members represent all factions in the community.

        Of course, Sherman could apply to these officials for membership. Even more so, he could go to the hearings and publicly express his views in favor of these ultra-large ultra-luxury buildings.

        But he and his co-thinkers tend not to do either. They prefer to make comments anonymously on a blog.

        You can criticize the activists like Olive Fried all you want, and call them “self-appointed”. But Olive and her co-thinkers have confidence in their convictions. The get into the arena and publicly and proudly fight for their views.

        And all available evidence is that their views on development represent a broad majority of UWSers.

        • Jay says:

          “And all available evidence is that their views on development represent a broad majority of UWSers.”

          What evidence? Anonymous comments on a blog? Where’s your poll?

          Most residents on the UWS are fully aware that the neighborhood changes over time and are welcoming of new things. They don’t bother getting into mindless debates with NIMBYs because it’s pointless and we have better things to do with our time.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            in response to Jay:

            the evidence is:

            — all UWS candidates run against over-development. i can’t recall ANY candidate who ran supporting the point of view advocated by you and Sherman.

            — elected officials who oppose over-development, such as Gale Brewer and Helen Rosenthal, are very popular.

            — the people at community meetings are always overwhelmingly against these huge ultra-luxury buildings.

            by the way, you have misused the term “NIMBY”, which was originally meant to refer to those who opposed social services agencies, supportive housing, and so on. Opposition to the decimation of the neighborhood by over-development is PRESERVATION and SELF-PRESERVATION. These ultra-large luxury buildings only benefit the developers and the ultra-rich.

            • Jay says:

              What percentage of the total voter population voted for either Gale or Helen in the last election? 5%? That’s some pretty light evidence.

              Don’t confuse apathy for support. Gale, Helen and the people they appoint can afford to “oppose” these developments because they know they have no say in the end anyway. They know these buildings will be built largely as-is because they conform to current zoning regulations.

              Also, I have not misused NIMBY. The folks that oppose these developments have no real argument against it other than the fact they don’t like change. They are not out of context with the neighborhood they are being proposed and they break no zoning laws.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              response to Jay:

              every municipal election has relatively low turnout… but it is way higher than 5% of the eligible voters.

              both Gale and Helen R. won in overwhelming landslides. If they were so out of step, wouldn’t they have had opposition that received more votes?

              but i notice what the pro-developer faction likes to do is use these sort of cherry-picked statistics on elections when it serves their purposes, and not when THEIR candidates triumph.

              for example, De Blasio won in two landslides in elections that had similar turnout to Bloomberg’s three wins. But Bloomberg got nowhere near the percentage of votes. but somehow, De Blasio doesn’t REALLY have support — but Bloomberg did.

              Or even Giuliani, whose re-election had very low turnout.

              in addition, Jay mis-characterizes and distorts the cogent arguments the people opposed to 200 AMsterdam are making. please give them the respect of correctly stating their arguments.

            • Jay says:

              Ugh… your response is an excellent example of why trying to have a reasoned discussion with a NIMBY is a waste of time.

            • dannyboy says:

              So you’re sticking with the “percentage of the total voter population voted for either Gale or Helen in the last election? 5%?”

              Guess you don’t like facts.

              Hate science too?

            • dannyboy says:

              Jay,

              Is this 28 Page Statement of Facts “an excellent example of why trying to have a reasoned discussion with a NIMBY is a waste of time.”?https://cfesdny.org/docs/BSAAppealFinal.pdf

              Shouting “NIMBY” is only a reflection on yourself. We are a commUNITY.

      • John Elari says:

        If anyone is “out of the context with the neighborhood” it’s you, Sherman. And I’m betting a survey of UWS residents would support that & CB7. And I’m also betting that you haven’t been a resident very long, or else you too would have a sense of history for our hood they way CB7 and long time residents do. Being a diverse and welcoming community doesn’t mean we have to build monstrosities to the sky.

        • dannyboy says:

          Sherman develops his taste while living in Florida, resulting in a unique point-of-view.

    2. Jen says:

      Thank you for the update, WSR, always a great source of important issues.

    3. young man says:

      NYC is a city of change. The 14-16 story apartment houses were out of context when they were built. At least now you have landmarks to protect some of the nicer elements of the neighborhood. I’d be happy to see plenty of buildings replaced to make this a more attractive neighborhood – I’d even start with the 1940’s building that I live in.

      • dannyboy says:

        Yes, “start with the 1940’s building that [you] live in.

        But then please don’t expect those who live in “landmarks to protect some of the nicer elements of the neighborhood” to just rollover because “NYC is a city of change.”

        200 Amsterdam Avenue IS out of context.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        response to “young man”:

        Where will you and your fellow tenants go to live when your building is torn down to make way for an ultra-luxury high rise?

        just wondering.

    4. yourneighbor says:

      This has got to be my all-time favorite:

      “Calling on MTA to “use every dollar wisely” and to “spend as efficiently as possible” when it comes to Capital Spending”

      Yeah, like that is ever going to happen.

    5. Movin On Up says:

      “Out of context” means either “I don’t like it.” or “The new building is going to block my light and lower my property value.”, neither of which is a legitimate complaint to block construction of new housing.

      Buildings decay. Context changes. Needs change. There are a lot of building on the UWS that should be razed and replaced with modern construction. Unfortunately, there are personality types who seek validation by being obstructionist to modernization. The good news is that these people won’t outlive the need for new housing.

      • dannyboy says:

        “Unfortunately, there are personality types who seek validation by being obstructionist to modernization. The good news is that these people won’t outlive the need for new housing.”

        Hoping for someone’s demise?

    6. Rob G. says:

      There isn’t a community board in the city more destructive to their own neighborhood than CB7. They seem to be fine letting mental patients and drug addicts roam the streets. But to allow something nice to be built that will actually improve the area? No way!

      • Jen says:

        I had no idea that CB7 are responsible for changing all the laws and their enforcement regarding mental health issues. Thank you for enlightening us.

    7. Christina says:

      Well, thank goodness the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s on Amsterdam ave. As well as CPW and West End ave. have been left alone!

    8. Jay says:

      Perhaps they should define “out of context” first.

    9. Paul RL says:

      I find it ironic that the people opposed to these buildings most likely are living in buildings that others were opposed to for being “out of context” with the neighborhood back when they were built.

      • Stef Lev says:

        an in your face building of this type doesn’t compare to what you suggest. You must be a shill for the developers.

        • Paul RL says:

          Stef, I’m sure that shills for developers have better things to do than troll the West Side Rag. But to your first point, in all seriousness, what’s the difference between these two buildings (in context to what’s around them) and buildings like the Dakota, the Apthorp, and the Belnord? Those were “in your face” buildings back when they were built.

    10. Stev Lev says:

      What irony, holding their meeting at the new Lincoln Square Synagogue, who sold their building and air rights at the 200 Amsterdam Avenue site, one of the offending projects in contention!

    11. Lincoln10023 says:

      I’m glad that CB 7 is finally taking an active stance against these tall buildings but why did it take so long! It was Olive Freud and others who took up the cause. Also, for Rosenthal and Brewer to hold a meeting at the Lincoln Square Synagogue stings a lot since they sold their old Synagogue and Chase Bank site, I believe along with their air rights, to the developer of 200 Amsterdam. Ouch!!! Please consider another location.

    12. Concerned in Lincoln Square says:

      Seriously, didn’t Lincoln Square Synagogue sell their buildings to the developer of the 200 Amsterdam Avenue?! Wouldn’t one of the local schools have been a better site for the meeting.

    13. Ryan says:

      I agree. We are very fortunate to have green space and sun in certain parts of NYC and we need to focus on maintaining that for the well being of the city and its residents. This is not a matter of stopping new building, its just ensuring that any new development is done in a responsible manner that does not infringe on the health and well being of the city community which is currently crowded and over-developed.

    14. Bruce Bernstein says:

      Can we please end the myth that this new breed of monster luxury buildings represent “added housing”? 200 Amsterdam has circa 100 units, which will sell for many millions each, and many of which will serve as pied-a-terres for the ultra rich, and will lie vacant for much of the year. They will do nothing to address the housing crunch for poor, working class, middle class, and even upper middle class people in NYC.

      you can say what you want about developments like Lincoln Towers and Park West Village being “out of context” for their times. I don’t want to debate whether the architecture and design was appropriate. I’m not an architect nor a city planner, so i won’t go there.

      But i do know something about housing policy. these buildings were made up of hundreds of units of middle class housing, and did address the housing crunch of the time. And they still house many hundreds of middle class residents on the UWS.

      False equivalence.

      • Sherman says:

        Hi Bruce

        Not everyone is like you who is able to have lived for decades paying peanuts in rent and then get an insider deal to purchase their subsidized apartment for a song.

        That’s why we need new construction.

        Sherm

        • Jen says:

          Sherm,

          You are like a broken record everybody is tired of.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          let’s assume everything Sherman says about me is correct. (Of course, it isn’t… but just for arguments sake.)

          Shouldn’t he be praising me as a smart market-aware capitalist? Doesn’t his hero Trump always boast about the “great deals” he gets?

          • Sherman says:

            Hi Bruce,

            For starters, I despise Trump. I’ll admit I’m a registered Republican and have been since I was in college but Trump is a Republican like I’m a platypus.

            But yes, much like you Trump has exploited and abused the system for personal financial gain. But in Trump’s defense at least he doesn’t stand on a soapbox constantly declaring that everyone else but him is “greedy”.

            And no, you’re not a smart capitalist. You’re a sanctimonious hypocrite.

            Sherm

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            response to Sherman:

            your diatribes have been so far out in right field that i actually don’t mind when you resort to childish name-calling. it’s good comic relief.

            i have no problem with calling rich people who want more-more-more, at the expense of poor, working class, and middle class people, greedy. I’ll continue to do so, every chance i get. I don’t mind that it apparently gets under the skin of people like you, but that’s not the intent. The intent is to talk about the extreme inequality that has developed in the past 30 years.

            • dannyboy says:

              Sherman’s rallying cry that rent regulated tenants are subsidized is just wrong.

              His proposal that these tenants be thrown out and the apartments rented to richer people is just sickening.

              But I expect that his wrong and sickening ideology plays well in Florida, as he shops for off-price clothes at his banana republic.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              in response to Dannyboy:

              Sherman and his coterie of right wing co-thinkers have actually moved their oppressive thinking to another level. No longer do they simply want the rent-stabilized tenants thrown out. Now, they want the entire BUILDING torn down and replaced by something more “modern” (and much more expensive).

              It’s a myth that landlords aren’t making money on rent stabilized units. I plan on repeating the following facts, which i posted on another thread, every chance I get:

              Net operating income per unit for rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan was close to $900 in 2016.

              this means that, on average, the landlords made $900 PER MONTH on each and every Manhattan unit. this is post property-taxes but before paying the mortgage and building improvements.

              https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/rentguidelinesboard/pdf/ie18.pdf

              Net operating income on rent stabilized units grew faster than expenses. It increased by 4.4% 2015-2016. this is the 12th straight year that it has increased.

              In other words, landlords make a lot of money on rent stabilized apartments.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              further response to Dannyboy:

              Dannyboy said “His proposal that these tenants be thrown out and the apartments rented to richer people is just sickening.”

              I actually have a similar response. Sherman’s postings, attempting to target and demonize the tens of thousands of rent stabilized tenants on the UWS (and the several million in NYC) just make me sick to my stomach. It really is a hateful — dare i say fascistic? — way of thinking.

          • Sherman says:

            Hi Bruce

            It’s kinda deranged that you refer to me as “hateful” and “fascistic” because I believe – as do many other New Yorkers – that rent regulation should be ended.

            Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman – hardly a right wing ideologue – once wrote a scathing editorial in The NY Times about how rent regulation is a disaster for NYC. (I was in grad school at the time and my economics professor made the article required reading). I suppose Krugman is also a hateful fascist.

            I’m glad you’re bonding with your friend dannyboy who recently posted a atrocious joke about murdered children (since deleted by WSR). I guess dannyboy is not “sickening” to you.

            Sherm

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              response to Sherman:

              I can assure you Paul Krugman never attacked rent stabilized TENANTS as “entitled” and being the cause of the housing shortage, the way you have.

              i notice that right wingers love to quote this Krugman article, which i will look up. He hasn’t been complaining about rent regulation for decades.

              i wonder what graduate school you went to — the Ayn Rand School of Social Misanthropy?

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              further response to Sherman:

              so does this mean that you endorse ALL of Paul Krugman’s views?

            • dannyboy says:

              “Sherm”

              STOP YOUR LYING.

              if you can

    15. 69th St. Dude says:

      I am wary of entering this thread.. but, regardless of the many reasons we residents near these proposed buildings are OPPOSED to them, we are the ones making our voices heard and that’s why the CB7 is working on this issue.

      Both of the buildings would be taller than the Millennium Tower on 67th btw. Broadway and Colombus.

      I used to live in a brownstone on 69th Street on the 4th floor and could not see the sky due to that building.

      Now I live on 70th and pay a lot to live in a place with a roof deck because I hold outdoor space at a high value for the many health benefits it provides. And to Paul’s comment “that the people opposed to these buildings most likely are living in buildings that others were opposed to for being “out of context” with the neighborhood back when they were built” THIS comment is an absurd assumption. I’d say the majority of the buildings on the UWS were built in the early twentieth century when at the time there was a desperate need for housing on Manhattan.

      Ok, I think I’ve ranted enough on this comment that probably nobody will read. Bye!

      • Paul RL says:

        Hi 69th St. Dude, and welcome to the fray! My counterpoint is that while the buildings that I mentioned in my comment were indeed built in the late1800’s and early 1900’s, they were huge in context to what was around them. They loomed over and overshadowed their 5-story brownstone neighbors, which themselves previously replaced smaller, single-residence wooden structures or farmhouses. Furthermore, the fact that there may have been a housing shortage at the time is irrelevant to the argument because these were built as luxury buildings. In the case of The Ansonia (which I didn’t mention), that was a luxury residential hotel. One doesn’t have to reach far to surmise that there was opposition to those buildings by their neighbors at the time, yet today we all love those buildings right? So here we have the same set of circumstances – two big luxury buildings that some neighbors are opposed to, who in turn live in buildings that others were opposed to at one time. What’s changed? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical?

      • dannyboy says:

        @69th St. Dude who wrote: “I am wary of entering this thread.”

        I can’t blame you, I stayed off out of this discussion for 4 days and 28 comments.

        I’ll just add that the most “Out of Context” Building was done by The Donald. Just look for buildings with the name Trump emblazoned across the front, and you will understand what “Out of Context” means, starting with Trump Tower.

    16. William H Raudenbush says:

      A few things.

      1. Correction on the meeting.

      The Meeting will be held

      Monday March 19th 7PM
      Rutgers Presbyterian Church
      236 West 73rd St.

      1. It is hosted by Borough President Brewer and Councilperson Rosenthal; and will feature remarks from Frank E. Chaney, Esq. and George M. Janes, (AICP, Urban Planner) who will speak about the legality and appropriateness of 200 Amsterdam respectively. See you there.