Neighborhood’s Tallest Tower Gets the Green Light After Zoning Ruling, and Developers Eye Apartment Sales


A rendering of 200 Amsterdam Avenue.

By Carol Tannenhauser

A 668-foot-tall building on 69th Street and Amsterdam Avenue got the green light from a city board on Tuesday, prevailing over community groups and politicians who said the zoning was improper.

The decisive moment in the months-long battle was a bit confusing.

“I want to get the wording right,” said the vice chairman of the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), at the public hearing to determine the fate of the proposed building.

“The vote is to grant the appeal to revoke the building permit,” she clarified, and called the roll:

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“No.”

And it was over. SJP Properties, the developer of 200 Amsterdam, is now set to build the tallest building on the Upper West Side, and is already gearing up to sell the apartments.

“We are pleased that the BSA has upheld the Department of Buildings’ decision to grant the building permit for 200 Amsterdam,” SJP said, in a statement to WSR. “The BSA’s decision today is further validation that this building fully conforms with all requirements. We remain focused on making continued progress on construction…and look forward to launching sales for 200 Amsterdam’s new residences this fall.”

“We lost this battle, but it’s possible we could still, ultimately, win the war,” said Frank E. Chaney, the attorney representing the nonprofit Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, which had filed the appeal. “But it’s down the road a bit and it requires resources and people to keep plugging away at it.”

Chaney explained that the Committee has “an active Article 78” already filed, which was put on hold until there was a decision by the BSA. An Article 78 is a proceeding to appeal the decision of a city agency in court, “essentially, an injunction,” he said. “Now, it will be up to the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and the Municipal Art Society, which was its co-plaintiff in the BSA appeal, whether they want to pursue the litigation. They need to figure out the amount of resources they have, and a tough discussion will have to be had about the likelihood of success and how they want to spend their limited and precious resources.”

Council Member Helen Rosenthal was swift in her response.

“Today’s decision is a setback, but it is not the final word,” she wrote to her constituents. “My office is part of a strong coalition, which includes the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, and State Senator Brad Hoylman. We will review the details of the decision and consider our next steps, including further legal action and potential policy reforms. In recent weeks, we have been joined by a growing number of partners in pushing back against gerrymandered zoning lots and supporting a more transparent and predictable land use process. We are confident that this coalition will win out, and I will continue to update you as we proceed.”

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 70 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      This is awesome news!

      Preventing the construction of this building would have set a very dangerous precedent for the city.

      The UWS needs to move forward and it can’t allow a minority of entitled malcontents to dictate the character of the neighborhood.

      • Pedestrian says:

        A dangerous percedent ? A dangerous precedent has been set in that the permits for this building were illegally granted. They were illegal when granted and the DOB has admitted its mistake of law and it did so because of the community challenge. The BSA has turned the law upside down and has acted against solid legal precedent which holds that there is no vested right…no grandfahtering required, when the permit was illegal/invalid when issued! Even though the DOB has admitted its mistake it has yet to issue a correction in its rules. As a result, it has been rumored that other developers are considering taking advantage of this ruling and the loop hole it has granted before the DOB issues a new and legally correct rule.
        Dangerous precedent indeed!

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          thank you, Pedestrian, for the well-informed legal argument.

          The “Build Build Build” crowd likes to crow about their knowledge of and adherence to the law. So i’m glad to see you set that straight.

          • Sherman says:

            Hi Bruce

            Not only are you an economics expert and a real estate expert but you’re apparently also a legal scholar.

            It seems to me that the only people who got rich over this construction debacle are the developers and Olive Freud’s lawyer.

            Yep, there was solid legal ground to halt construction.

            Sherm

            • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

              you just couldn’t hold yourself back from an ad hominem attack, could you, Sherman?

              I do know something about economics, including housing economics in New York City. I don’t claim to know much about contract and real estate law, but know a strong and well-formed argument when i see one.

              Pedestrian has made such an argument. You have countered with bland, amorphous assertions, as you often do, basically just repeating your opinion instead of drawing on facts and logic, and countering the arguments.

              if you think you can argue with Pedestrian on the effect of this legal precedent, please have at it. i have a feeling he or she will make mince meat out of your claims. but it would be interesting to watch.

        • robert says:

          The only issue that was deemed to be a mistake was paperwork. The DOB had updated their process yet had NOT toll that change out to the public as it was still in the “public comment phase”. During that time the permits etc where issued, to say that changes in the paperwork process, not the granting of the actual permitting process and/or requirements, that have an effective date AFTER the permits where issued should be applied to this building is unreal. As with laws, DOB & other city regulations can not be applied retroactively. All that happened here is they filled out for DOB-1 and it should have been DOB-1A. Yes that is over simplifying it but that basically is what happened

    2. B.B. says:

      Well that’s that.

      Let the whinging begin.

      • Stef Lev says:

        To say opponents are merely whining is condescending and misses the reasons the neighborhood opposes the building.

    3. Nathan says:

      The subways are already packed like sardines…
      Mom and pop businesses are no longer to be found…
      The view of the sky is slowly diminishing…

    4. your_neighbor says:

      These NIMBY people will no doubt continue their losing battle.
      The building will be a handsome addition to the UWS.
      One of the great things about this city is that there are always things changing around us.

      • dannyboy says:

        Change is better when it doesn’t screw a lot of peoples’ lives.

        But I guess we differ in that.

        • Rob G. says:

          After decades of fugly architecture being foisted upon us (Time Warner Center, Lincoln Towers, Park West Village, the Ariels, the Nevada, the Columbia, Trump City (or whatever it’s called now) all Mitchell-Lama towers and NYCHA projects, and yes, Lincoln Center, here’s a pretty awesome building that raises the aesthetic bar. And unlike most of those other buildings, nobody was forced to move out of the way!

          So stop yer bellyaching – we let all that other crap get buildt, let’s enjoy this one.

          • Sherman says:

            I agree there’s a lot of ugly architecture in the neighborhood but I wouldn’t include the Time Warner Center in this category.

            I personally think it’s a beautiful complex and it has clearly enhanced the neighborhood for everyone.

            Funny, many of the same folks who are so virulently opposed to 200 Amsterdam were also against the construction of the TWC for many of the same nonsensical reasons.

            I guess they figured the neighborhood would have been better off had that empty and delapidated coliseum remained (with its homeless encampment).

            • Rob G. says:

              Agreed, TW Center definitely enhanced the neighborhood, but I find it aesthetically booooorrrrriiiiing. For me, it’s okay at ground level, but from afar the top looks lopped off. Also, I’m a sucker for detail and am not a fan of the “glass curtain wall” design.

              That said, I’m happy any time a Robert Moses building gets torn!

              That’s my pompous response for the day!

          • dannyboy says:

            So Rob G.

            If there has been worse we should just accept bad?

            Interesting.

    5. EricaC says:

      That is really too bad. I think it’s time to start advocating for zoning changes. I think additional density is inevitable, and probably necessary, but this is too much, in my view.

    6. A Murphy says:

      This is a positive for the neighborhood. There are so many ugly buildings that were built on the Upper West Side in the 60’s and 70’s that this will the streetscape. Anything that obscure the view to the awful Lincoln Towers building is a nice addition. I can’t understand why people are fighting this building when the design is very nice. Some people never want any change no matter how nice it may be.

      • UWS40 says:

        You must be a transplant.
        You do not know the history of the Upper Westside. Do some research.
        Move to the Financial District where the is no history.

      • Madd Donna says:

        You must be joking!! This building is ugly as sin and has no place on the UPW. Seems those for this monstrosity are not native New Yorkers and could give a crap about preserving the culture and coolness it has always been known for. No better than the traitors in government destroying our democracy! We all know who will be buying these multi-million condos….FOREIGNERS NOT AMERICANS!!

        • Jay says:

          Wow… that’s some serious xenophobia you have there. You should get that checked out.

    7. denton says:

      Great news and I look forward to meeting my new neighbors. Common sense 1, nimby’s zero!

      • dannyboy says:

        Money 100

        People 0

      • Dissident says:

        Denton:

        Do you also look forward to increased crowds, esp. on the subway?

        • Jay says:

          Do you really think the 250 people that will live in this building will make that much more of a crowded subway?

          Subway ridership is down and these people will be paying taxes that a portion will go to the MTA. If the state can’t allocate those funds appropriately, you are complaining about the wrong people.

          • Michael V. says:

            Increased crowds on the subway due to this building? I highly doubt anyone purchasing at 200 Amsterdam Ave would regularly be commuting via public transit simply because of the financial recourses available to this group. Owning a multi-million dollar condo, I’d surmise these individuals would be taking an Uber or Lyft, assuming they don’t have a car parked in the neighborhood.

            Rest easy; I don’t think you need to worry about this increasing subway congestion.

            This building will be embraced and appreciated by the Iooer West Sider’s once it’s been completed, in time. It’s certainly an upgrade from the building that stood there before too!

            • dannyboy says:

              The HELP take the subway.

              Also regarding “This building will be embraced and appreciated by the Iooer West Sider’s once it’s been completed, in time.”

              I won’t be appreciating this building EVER. I hate prefab.

            • Jay says:

              I agree with you Michael. The number of people that use the subway from this building will pale in comparison to the increased taxes that come in from it.

              Also agree that most of the neighborhood will think of it as a positive in the end.

            • dannyboy says:

              Jay, clearly you are all for the Real Estate Investment District, previously known as the Upper West Side.

              And yes, many will think of it as a positive in the end. So many seem to prefer the money upside to the diverse community neighborhood.

    8. Rob says:

      Fmtastic, let them build. The developer is within the law!

      • Pedestrian says:

        No the developer is not within the law! The BSA has turned the law on its head! But the law doesn’t matter in situations like these when money is the only law that is respected.

    9. AC says:

      First thing I learned as a New York City resident , , , City Hall ALWAYS Wins!

    10. Jimbo says:

      Helen Rosenthal her usual effective self I see.

      • robert says:

        There is nothing, based on the NYC laws at the time they started on this project and there still is nothing that she could have done. You can sue all you want but the law is the law.

    11. Wendy says:

      Fie, faugh, fooey, for shame. How much real estate speculation ? Protect good S.R.O.s..

    12. Wendy says:

      Oh no ! Fie also to sanctuary city : N.Y.C..

    13. Jay says:

      Not surprising whatsoever. Let’s all move on to the next development the NIMBYs will irrationally scream about.

    14. jezbel says:

      This building is a disgusting tribute to wretched excess. It is the beginning of the end of the neighborhood feel to the Upper West Side I’ve known and loved for so many years. Soon, we’ll look just like the East Side. And certainly be priced out of our own neighborhood. Sad day in NYC

    15. dannyboy says:

      Clearly demonstrates that the laws governing this development are supportive of developers ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) and antagonistic to community (people).

      That could not be clearer.

    16. Bill D(emm) Tall says:

      YAY!

      Then there’s Rosenthal’s pandering “Today’s decision is a setback, but it is not the final word,…yadda, yadda,…and yadda.”

      Sure, let’s waste more money and time ‘fighting’ the inevitable.

      Hey, here’s a great idea: Let’s wait till the building’s framework is maybe a third-completed, and then let’s file a lawsuit to halt construction.

      That way we would still have our precious shadow-free light-and-air….as well as:

      a)one hideous eye-sore of bare steel beams;

      b)after every snowfall a truly treacherous un-shovelled walkway for the elderly to deal with; and….

      c) dozens of construction-workers without the pay-checks they had been counting upon to get their families through the pricey Christmas holiday season.

      Way to go, NIMBY’s

    17. Jimbo says:

      Will this be an 80/20 building???

      • Pedestrian says:

        No. No affordable housing will be required.

      • B.B. says:

        No, developers are building “as of right”. This means no zoning variances were sought (or needed) that would trigger an “inclusionary bonus”.

        Nor are developers seeking J-51 or other tax breaks which would also trigger inclusionary housing.

        This building is all market rate housing.

    18. BillyNYC says:

      This is wonderful news!!!!! For the City Of New York and the Upper West Side… I am myself is planning to move in when finished.
      Change is good… BIG is wonderful !!!!

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        BillyNYC, you are planning to move in?

        You must be very very rich.

        • Dissident says:

          Bruce E. Bernstein:

          You must be very very rich.

          Would you prefer that the “very very rich” spend their money /elsewhere/ and contribute to /other/ local economies and tax revenues?

          (a) Is there /any/ percentage of “very very rich” individuals that you would allow to reside on the UWS?

          (b) Assuming the number is less than the current and/or projected number, how would you propose making-up for the lost income I enumerated above?

          (Mind you, I am /not/ favorably inclined toward this or other buildings of such scale on the UWS or other areas where crowding and strain on infrastructure, esp. public transit, are already serious concerns.)

        • BillyNYC says:

          I do pretty well, thank you very much. No handouts here for this guy. I’m actually going to look at the blueprints for this building and get first dibs on a penthouse right when I get back. I’m away through August. I’m not in the city now but will be back around Labor Day.

          • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

            re: BillyNYC and his “first dibs” on a penthouse: either you’re being sarcastic, or you’re not “very very rich”: you’re “very very very very rich.” this is a building for rich people (the 1%) and does nothing to impact the NYC housing crisis for the 99%. in fact, by raising prices in proximate buildings, it might make things worse.

            but if you’re not joking, then i hope you enjoy your new home.

            BillyNYC said:

            “I do pretty well, thank you very much. No handouts here for this guy.”

            i know nothing about you, and respect your privacy and anonymity. so the following remark applies to upper-class types in general, not to you in particular.

            i notice that manyrich and near-rich people like to boast that they received “no handouts.” this implies that the poor and working classes are receiving “handouts.”

            in fact, most of the richest people in the country receive various type of subsidies and tax benefits (“handouts”) that dwarf anything that poor and working class people get, by an order of magnitude.

            let’s start with the private equity guys (they’re almost all guys): the hedge funds, venture capitalists, and other private equity types. these are some of the US’s and the world’s richest people.

            they get the “carried interest tax benefit”, which means that their compensation gets taxed at the much lower capital gains rate, even though it is NOT a capital gain on their money. This is a legislative tax benefit that is directed at people whose compensation can be many billions a year.

            then, there are the various “loss carry forward” provisions that are available to real estate barons and many others. We got a glimpse in the last campaign that showed how Trump used this: he took a paper loss of some 900 million one year. that was then used to limit his taxes in all subsequent years.

            there are so many more examples of these types of special benefits, this comment would turn into an essay. A close examination of the finances of almost any multimillionaire will show that he or she was not such an independent success story that they would have you believe.

            extreme wealth in America is sometimes solely the result of individual brilliance. more often, birth and luck play a very large role.

      • jezbel says:

        You’ll never move into that building unless you qualify for Public House rules. With rents starting about about $8000 for a studio who’d live there but Hedge Fund folks? 1BR $9000+ 2 BR $10,000+

        • Sherman says:

          @ jezbel

          If you read the article before you ranted you will see that the developer is planning to “sell” the apartments now that the building can be constructed.

          In other words, the building will be a condo. There are no rentals in the building.

      • dannyboy says:

        You have now abandoned any shred of credibility.

        That was inevitable.

    19. MJ says:

      Why do we lose everything on the UWS? School rezonings, overdevelopment…this would never happen on the UES.

    20. Jeff says:

      Kudos to the locals who fought these scummy developers. You win some, you lose some.

      I wish the project were smaller — it’s really going to block sunlight in winter, when we need it most — but it’s not the end of the world.

      And as a silver lining, I do think the building’s height/look will be impressive, notwithstanding the shadow it casts.

    21. anonymous says:

      This is a monstrosity – the upper west side can barely handle all our needs now and adding this overpriced, oversized, not needed building detracts rather than enhances our neighborhood.

    22. Mary Homan says:

      A huge, ever-encroaching blight upon our neighborhood. I just saw an on-site SJP truck go through a red light from a parked position (W. 70th/Amsterdam). And last week the cranes were still operating at 8:25pm. They do whatever they damn well please whenever they wish. We needed a few hundred more commuters crammed onto our W. 72nd St. subway platform.

      • dannyboy says:

        Yet another area in the neighborhood that I will be avoiding.

        Fortunately for me, I have grown fonder of Natural environments over time.

    23. This ruling is obviously corrupt and biased entirely in favor of the scofflaw construction industry, eager to destroy the Manhattan skyline as well as neighborhood access to sunlight. How the BSA could vote in favor of gerrymandered air rights is inexplicable without the element of backroom payoffs and other forms of illicit influence.

      • Ira Kemp says:

        Why do you think these begotten poor will use the subway

      • dannyboy says:

        If it can’t be explained “without the element of backroom payoffs and other forms of illicit influence”, you are on to something.

    24. Whit says:

      Why do people care so much about a nice new building on the UWS. Screw politics or legal reason- what’s the big deal with having a building? New York is filled with them. Better than an aspestos ridden boarded up old synagogue

    25. Robert says:

      While I always felt the building would be built, as will many others in the next few years, Especially on the B’way corridor.
      Pls note that it is your UWS neighbors doing this not developers. OI say this as over the past 20 or so years must of the smaller coop & condo buildings have split their air rights off as separate tax lots. This is a loud and clear signal to developers to parcels together, netting your neighbors a large windfall. Pls also note that these are DONE DEALS already. BSA, DOB and/or the city council could pass a law tomorrow but it would only effect deals from now on. Not air rights already on the market.

      Just a person note of advice to all on this site:

      Many people, including myself, regularly comment on articles posted on this site. We all have strong opinions about a variety of issues but some of the comments spend more time making personal attacks on the person posting and/or their motivations. You should be able to state your opinion as well commenting on others without resorting to adhominum attacks. And just as an FYI I have lived on the UWS for more than fifty years, except when being deployed overseas, and clearly remember to “bad old days” of the 1970’s on the UWS. And by the way the UWS is not just the Lincoln Center area and the 70’s on WEA. There always has been an UWS up here north of 96th street.

      • Dissident says:

        You should be able to state your opinion as well commenting on others without resorting to adhominum [sic] attacks.

        Indeed one should be able to do that.

        With the disclaimer that I am not referring-to you, Robert, I note the following (an observation that I am surely not the first to make). Those who are the quickest/ loudest/ most frequent to cry foul about what they characterize (with or without justification) as personal attacks, tend to themselves be some of the worst offenders in that very regard. These are individuals who routinely attack the character of others, who hurl nasty epithets with abandon, and are quick to assume and ascribe the worst possible motives to others.

        Just a person note of advice to all on this site:

        Just a non-personal –i.e., with no intention of singling-out any individual in particular– note of advice to all who post anywhere*: A little proofreading can go a long way.

        (*including those who write and edit for the web sites of even the most respected publications; I have found the frequency of glaring typos and egregious errors in spelling and grammar so great that it may now be that it is only for the absence of such instances that an article stands-out.)

        • robert says:

          I agree and normally do “proof” my posts but it was a busy night in the area we were detailed and had to be DECON’ed at the end of a 12+ hour day. Obviously my brain was not I high gear

    26. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      not everyone would agree that the 1970s on the UWS were “the bad old days”.

      Sure, there was more crime. I was stuck up once on the street and several times more working as a cab driver — the latter was much scarier.

      but there also were affordable apartments, a vibrant political life, plenty of movie theaters and bookstores, supermarkets, cheap and delicious restaurants, people of all ethnicities and races in almost every building, and what was still he capital of Black America was right on the other side of Morningside Park.

      The “bad old days” on the UWS were vibrant, not calcified.

    27. Sean says:

      Time to stop calling this location the UWS. It’s Lincon Square. It has been since the 1950’s.

    28. robert says:

      The truth about our elected’s

      Here is a classic example of our elected’s giving the city lip service to how bad developers are, and then……
      https://nypost.com/2018/07/21/landlord-critic-james-raking-in-cash-from-real-estate-interests/
      Landlord critic James raking in cash from real estate interests
      After shaming the city’s “worst landlords” for years, Public Advocate Letitia James is hauling in donations for her state attorney general campaign from developers, management companies and other real estate interests.
      The real estate industry has donated at least $213,655 to James’ AG bid since May, a Post review of state campaign filings shows. That’s nearly one fifth of her total $1.16 million haul though mid-July.
      Sixteen limited liability companies in real estate gave $64,500, including an LLC under big city developer Two Trees. Donors linked to real estate firm and film studio developer Steiner NYC have given $15,100.
      The wife of real estate mogul Gary Barnett gave $10,000. His company, Extell Development, sued the state attorney general’s office in 2010 after then-AG Andrew Cuomo said it had to let condo buyers out of their contracts.
      Eugene Schneur, of development company Omni New York, put up $10,000 for James, while billionaire real estate investor Alexander Rovt gave $5,000. Neighborhood Preservation PAC, a pro-landlord group, donated $5,000.
      The attorney general’s office enforces rules over co-op and condo sales and probes real estate fraud and other violations. The office is part of a tenant harassment task force and has prosecuted property owners like Steven Croman, the so-called “Bernie Madoff of landlords.”
      James touts the passage of City Council legislation forcing landlords to improve conditions on her campaign website. As public advocate, she releases an annual list of the city’s “worst landlords.”
      The campaign said it ensures no donations come from those landlords or other bad actors, particularly in the real estate industry. Tenants PAC, which advocates for tenants, endorsed James in June without a formal announcement.
      Spokeswoman Delaney Kempner said James is supported by a “broad spectrum of New Yorkers” because they know she’ll fight for them.
      James also took in at least $369,815 from unions and other labor interests, and at least $80,650 from the construction industry. Lawyers and law firms put up at least $78,225.