Disney Plans to Sell Several UWS Buildings to Developer; Preservationists are Wary of New Mega-Towers

Disney, which owns several properties in the West 60’s, including the ABC campus, is set to complete a sale of the properties to Silverstein Properties today, according to several reports. Disney is building a new complex downtown in the Hudson Square neighborhood.

The sale involves several buildings on 66th and 67th Street from Central Park West to West End Avenue, according to the Observer.

“The assemblage includes 125 West End Avenue, 320 West 66th Street, 147 and 149 Columbus Avenue, a parking lot on West 64th Street, 77 West 66th Street, 47 West 66th Street, 7 West 66th Street and 30 West 67th Street. The landmarked former First Battery Armory at 56 West 66th Street—which currently serves as offices for ESPN—is not part of the transaction.”

Preservationist group Landmark West has been tracking the sale, which has been in the works for months. The group calls the possibility of redevelopment a “threat to the Upper West Side.” Landmark West notes that some of the buildings owned by Disney are landmarked, making redevelopment tricky but not impossible. To get a sense of how complicated this process may become, see the annotated map and description below from Landmark West.

In the map above, ORANGE denotes an individual landmark (the First Battery Armory at 56 West 66th Street).  For context, the GREEN area is a scenic landmark (Central Park), and blocks in GOLD are part of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District.  This Historic District is comprised of hundreds of buildings.  Three of them are within ABC’s Campus.  These include: 7 West 66th Street24 West 67th Street, and 30 West 67th Street, built as ABC’s “Broadcasting, Operations & Engineering Building”. 30 West 67th Street has realized its full FAR potential and cannot develop further with a zoning lot merger or easement.

The brewing battle comes as preservationists are fighting other development in the area, including 200 Amsterdam Avenue (69th) and a potential Extell development on 66th Street.

Silverstein has not made its plans known for the buildings. The company did not have a comment for West Side Rag when the initial reports came out in April. This week, the company sent a statement to the Times about working with the Upper West Side community.

Marty Burger, chief executive of Silverstein Properties, said, “We look forward to working collaboratively with all our stakeholders, as we have always done, as we assume responsibility for Disney’s properties in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.”

Disney is expected to lease the buildings back from Silverstein for up to five years, so the development debate may bubble for several years.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 53 comments | permalink
    1. Carlos says:

      I restate my earlier suggestion to rename the area below 72nd Street “Midtown North” – less and less of it has the feel of the Upper West Side.

      • Irv says:

        I agree with Carlos re renaming that part, that is no longer the UWS.

      • BillyNYC says:

        I’ve been pushing for Midtown North to end at W. 72nd St. for many years. I’m glad it’s now on the board for a decision…

        • B.B. says:

          Lincoln Square, Columbus Circle or whatever you want to call area from 57th to about 72nd already is zoned, and for most part considered more “mid-town” than the rich heartland above.

          That ship sailed when “urban renewal” and other forces redeveloped much of the old Lincoln Square area. Without that Lincoln Center, Amsterdam Houses and so forth wouldn’t exist.

      • Jane says:

        Lincoln Center is an iconic piece of the UWS. Why would you want to rezone it to a fictitious “Midtown North”?

        • B.B. says:

          It isn’t whatever area is called we are discussing, but what zoning applies and thus what is allowed in terms of density and so forth.

          Go back and look at pictures of “Lincoln Square” area from late as 1950, versus after it and large parts of the UWS were declared “blighted” and thus ripe for urban renewal programs.

          If you’ve seen the opening of film “Westside Story” you’d know the area was mostly low rise walk-ups and tenement buildings.

    2. BillyNYC says:

      This is wonderful news because ABC/Disney hasn’t used most of this property in years since Disney took over ABC. Actually was beginning to look like an eyesore in the neighborhood and over at West End Ave.
      Now that area will be free zone of commercial buildings with exceptions of Lincoln Center and will look more residential.
      I would love to get rid of those projects….

      • arlene says:

        Who is it wonderful for except Silverstein !!! you are 100% incorrect. I live on W.67th street and there’s a line everyday for their live shows starting as early as 5:30 AM. their vehicle bays are constantly in use.

        for years the resident’s on this street have been trying to negotiate with ABC to be more mindful of the residents.. Now we have much more to be very concerned about – like 2 80 story buildings and years of demolition and construction .

        • Nelson says:

          Yup…you may be getting a new problem in place of the old one. Tourists and news vans will be replaced with cranes & jackhammers. I hear the TV shows will relocate to downtown studios. I hope not!

      • dannyboy says:

        “I would love to get rid of those projects….”

        And what is your plan for the people currently living there?

      • Chris says:

        Really Bill
        The new supper tall buildings will shadow the area and only the 1 percent will buy the units . Does nothing for the average west side residents

      • Carnival Canticle says:

        “I would love to get rid of those projects…”
        Sure you would, BillyNYC. I assume you mean the Amsterdam Houses, a 70-year-old housing development that has more of a sense of community than any of the rows of luxury buildings sprouting on the Lower Upper West Side and that look more institutional than residential.
        I assume you would also get rid of the thousands of people who call Amsterdam Houses home, and have for a couple of generations. (Oh, wait, lots of them are dark-skinned so it’s okay to sweep them to wherever you would would choose for them.)
        This is a 10-year-old article but maybe it will help educate you about the community think should go poof. https://www.nysun.com/new-york/amsterdam-houses-celebrate-60-years/59399/

        • Ed says:

          What about the gang activity and violence? Several incidents in the last few months.

          • EricaC says:

            Ed, I suspect the people living there would be delighted to be rid of the gang violence too.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          thank you, Carnival Canticle. well said.

        • NotImpressed says:

          Carnival is right.
          Walk through there at night and your wallet is likely to be distributed throughout the community.

      • Mark says:

        The housing projects?

      • Dwight says:

        West End Ave Both TV Studios have full time client So Billy you have no clue

    3. NY10023 says:

      Are the ABC News studios moving? I quite like walking by and watching 🙂

    4. Been There says:

      The block on W 67 between CPW and Columbus is full of politically and socially powerful people including at least one former Councilperson and one former Corporation Counsel.

      It’s the block that dealt Robert Moses his first defeat.
      And with the possible exception of the lot directly on Columbus there will be no high rises on that street.

      The area around 64 – 66 and West End is a different story entirely and the trend to high rises there will, of course, continue.

      Hopefully with large capacity parking garages.

    5. wombatnyc says:

      Bsased on previous Silverstein projects this does not look promising. They like to build things that are Big, Ugly and wrapped in glass.

      • Adam says:

        The days of artistic architecture seem to be long gone, except for a few exceptions.

    6. A Murphy says:

      This is a positive for the area to have nice new residential development in place of the commercial ABC buildings.

      Amazing that Landmarks West is already opposed to the redevelopment. You can always count on Landmarks West to oppose any type of development no matter how nice the architecture is or the potential improvements they could make for the surrounding neighborhoods.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        what was wrong with the commercial buildings?

        many West Siders work for ABC… working class and middle class jobs, not top execs.

    7. John says:

      No stopping the power that is real estate in this city; the big guys always win — as is evident with the recent ruling near Sutton Place. I hope Upper West Siders can fight and win, but I’m not hopeful.

    8. Pedestrian says:

      It’s not just preservations who should be worried. Anyone who is interested in good quality of life should be concerned. Years of construction with no city oversight. Building permits issued with little or no concern with their compliance with the building code or zoning or even if the plans submitted are truthful. Health and safety issues with mega towers that haven’t even begun to be addressed. The issues involved in construction in the City are massive and the impact on day to day living for many people is life changing. Government used to police these projects and ensure that residents were protected but government now works for the developers so the rest of us on on our own.

    9. Robert says:

      Before everybody marches and protests. They have also secured the air rights over many of the neighboring buildings. They were broken up into separate tax lots a while ago. That was BEFORE this move by DIS by a number of years. These breakouts were done at different times some as long as 15 to 25 years ago. That means for all the yelling about “evil developers” and “Trump types” it is your neighbors that are doing this. A small UWS COOP building can make a large amount of money doing this.
      Must of the buildings around Lincoln Center have done this over the years. It also means that since they ALREADY own these air rights they can build “as of right”, the city could pass a law tomorrow and it would not effect these sites as they are before the inaction of said possible law. Pls note that this has been done by UWS’ers that want the money. By making it a separate tax lot it makes it obvious that want the. The buildings around the 2 new buildings at 80th & B’way are a good case in point

    10. Roger Wolfe says:

      As real estate interests own our “politicians”, all I can say is that “there goes our sky and light.” That along with the fact that the unique character of the UWS will now have another nail in its coffin.

      • Che says:

        Yes, which is why one must stay vigilant and active about developer issues. The third and possibly final phase of the BSA hearings on 200 Amsterdam is due 17 July. A detail amongst the arguments tells me the outcome (if in our favor) will have effects that go beyond just that one building, 200 Amsterdam Avenue.

        Let’s hope our sound arguments win out over their arguments from emotion.

    11. MJ says:

      I loved having them in the nabe. Prepare for more ugly glass towers.

    12. MJ says:

      A lot of people come in daily for the View and Live with Kelly tapings and then eat & shop in the neighborhood. This will affect business.

    13. Sam says:

      Face of the future for Upper West Side

    14. AC says:

      Every time I hear about new developments in the neighborhood, I can’t help but wonder how our UWS ancestors felt back in the late 1800’s – when 5 and 10 floor apartment structures began replacing the 2-story and 3-story farm houses than lined Bloomingdale Road and the surrounding empty lots.

      Did they fret about the lack of services (water, electrical lines, etc.) or were simply unhappy with the impending changes to the neighborhood?

      As a resident in the UWS for over 50 years, I am unhappy with all of these new buildings. But am I being fair to the future? Could it be that I’m just afraid of change?

      • Harriet F. says:

        Thanks for your astute observation. I am privileged to live in one of those West End Ave buildings in the 70s which are now considered ideal places to live. I’ve been there almost 30 years, since it was on the edges of a “bad neighborhood” in the early 1980s. However, those buildings, which were all put up by the “developers” of the 1920s, were considered to be gigantic interlopers on a “gracious” street of single family homes.
        My favorite quote…”one of the great things about New York City is that they will never finish it.”

    15. Adam says:

      Why are you calling this a ‘potential Extell development on 66th Street’? They’ve already demolished all the buildings and the foundations are being dug. I am looking forward to a more residential neighborhood, albeit a more densely populated one. My question is how will the city adjust to the increased population density on 66th Street in terms of public services. Is any adjustment necessary?

    16. yoyomama says:

      The fact is: the west 60s and 70s is SORELY lacking in things that make it livable and having an influx of 100-400 new homeowners won’t help. There aren’t enough grocery stores as it is. There aren’t enough movie theaters. The gyms are packed. It’s almost impossible to find a seat in a coffee shop in the morning. Nevermind parking and whatever they’ll do with all the sewage. That block already got screwed when the Millennium condos went up on top of what is now Century 21 (which totally killed the light and any river view from that block). It’s a construction project that won’t add value – it will only subtract from the livability of neighborhood. The only people who will benefit are the owners.

    17. UWS Craig says:

      Thousands of years ago, the island of Manhattan, including our beloved Upper West Side, was covered by an enormous glacier. Our neighborhood has become much more livable since then.

    18. Frank says:

      It’s easy to tell when the real estate interests tell their people to comment on here.

      • Jay says:

        You seriously think the real estate companies care what a bunch of NIMBYs think?

        • dannyboy says:

          Are you saying that the real estate companies just don’t care about the community that lives here?

          • Jay says:

            Dan, reading comprehension has never been one of your strengths. Clearly, it’s not getting any better.

            • dannyboy says:

              Jay, insulting me does not obscure your disrespecting our neighbors.

              Why comment on a community blog if all you do is insult and disrespect the your neighbors?

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        Frank: great insight. thanks.

    19. JS says:

      Continued overdevelopment on 66 and 65 streets – the crosstown transverse corridors – means standstill traffic in general and standstill M66 bus service specifically.

      The surrounding area is already overcrowded.
      New buildings will mean more garbage on the street, more vehicles and traffic congestion (service vehicles, ecommerce delivery, Uber), more crowded subways (don’t forget about impact of big development on West End 57-60)

      One can only assume the comments supporting additional development are from people in the real estate industry or people so affluent that they never need to purchase food at a store or do an errand or need to take the subway or bus.

    20. Correction says:

      Dear West Side Rag,

      I would like to point out in error in this article.
      You wrote:

      “ This Historic District is comprised of hundreds of buildings. Three of them are within ABC’s Campus. These include: 7 West 66th Street, 24 West 67th Street, and 30 West 67th Street, Historic District is comprised of hundreds of buildings. Three of them are within ABC’s Campus. These include: 7 West 66th Street, 24 West 67th Street, and 30 West 67th Street.”

      There are at least FIVE (not three) ABC buildings within the Historic District. You omitted the building just west of 7W66 (I think the address is 27W66) and 47W66.

      • West Sider says:

        This is quoted from Landmark West’s analysis and may have just been referring to the buildings shown in the graphic above.

        • correction says:

          Dear West Side Rag,

          Both 47W66 and the building just west of 7W66 (I think the address is 27W66) are shown in the graphic above. And that graphic indicayes that they are both landmarked. And they are both owned by ABC.

    21. MJ says:

      For the record, Mel Wymore opposed exactly this problem as well as the abundant vacancies. But Helen Rosenthal won. Can’t change that now, but maybe Helen voters need to put some pressure on her to do something.

    22. David says:

      This article mentions a “brewing battle”, but no mention of beer…

    23. A.C. says:

      Don’t stop development, influence it. developers are going to fight when they have their plans set in stone, but now, since they are just now making the purchase, and just now filling the permits, that’s your time to act. Schedule sitdowns and hearings with Danny Silverstein and his executives, and give them specific ideas of what you would want to see, instead of fretting about what could come, and waiting until after the permits have been filed to make a fight.

      For example, the new buildings at 1 and 21 West End Avenue are transforming that area. They opened the only Starbucks on West End Avenue, they have a rock-climbing center, a new cafe, a new Kids’ Club, and Hudson Market is going to open up in a matter of weeks, with still one more vacant spot left on the Northwest Corner of 1 West End Avenue, not to mention that the new Waterline Square projects going up, which look prime for ground floor businesses, is if not on schedule, ahead of schedule too. 1865 Broadway is going to have a huge commercial sector in it. But that’s what’s going up/has gone up already, let’s look at what could be done:

      No proposals or permits have been filed just yet, so let’s look at what could happen:

      Let’s start with 125 West End Avenue: You have the first stop to the M66 right across the street and the M57 as well, along with Con Edison across the street and Lincoln Towers too. Now, a supermarket wouldn’t be the wisest idea. Why? Because Gracefully is also right across the street, 110 West End Super as well, and Western Beef 3 blocks down, and if you go two more blocks, you’ll find that the aforementioned Hudson Market is opening up soon. So, no to a supermarket. Also, too close to the Collegiate School, Heschel, LaGuardia, MLK complex, PS199, PS452, and PS191 for a new school, and a community center is right around the corner, so those are out as well, but what can go there instead? Well, going up, a 40 story building, 500 feet or so, 200 units, give or take, that could work out. That building could be solely residential actually, with a couple small businesses, because in the neighboring buildings, there’s actually a whole lot. Gyms, nail salon, bike shop, delis, supermarkets, religious centers, community centers There are two movie theaters within walking distance, and CVS as well. So solely residential could be of service. Nice views of the Hudson River, would be in store since the building behind it is not even 20 stories.

      As for the CPW block, there’s a lot more that could go there. You could have a small restaurant, or a few small restaurants, chains, or small business, either one works. It’s a prime area, with Lincoln Center being so close, people are going to want to eat before and/or after performances at Lincoln Center, before or after a movie, there are a lot of options. Going up, also 30-40 stories, the new building at 1865 Broadway being a base height measurement, so from about 450-550 feet in height would be perfect. That is a perfect area for an affordable housing development project, you got large space, but it’s in a shape where you can’t/shouldn’t really do one building, you can do multiple or a style like TF Cornerstone at 606 West 57th street, that would be nice. But you could install in that area I would say, 3 or 4 separate buildings in that complex, each with about 200-250 units in each, you could get 1000 affordable units in that area. You could even put another designer shop in there. I would love an Adidas or Nike store nearby, even if it’s just an outlet.

      All this is if they even decide to demolish these buildings… which they probably will, especially at West End Avenue, but still…

      See this is what I was alluding to when I asked what people want when it comes to 200 Amsterdam Avenue. Units, height, amenities, commercial spaces. If you tell people what you want, instead of blanketly saying “Don’t build that” real progress can be made.

    24. Dave says:

      ABC no longer being a part of the UWS will be another aspect of us loosing what once was, the true UWS. The soaps that taped there are now gone. Now we’ll loose the news & morning shows, all which have been a staple of this city for as long as I can remember. I remember when they started to build that huge ABC headquarters on 66th street between Columbus & CPW back in the late 80’s. It was a pain, but they built it pretty fast. Now another part of the UWS history is no more.