Permit for Upper West Side’s ‘Tallest Tower’ Rescinded by Department of Buildings

The 775-foot-tall development planned for 50 West 66th is on hold, and possibly squashed for good, after the Department of Buildings announced it was rescinding the building permit it issued to developer Extell Development in November.

The Buildings Department notice says that the mechanical spaces in the building plans do not comply with zoning regulations. Local and citywide politicians have argued that developers use mechanical spaces unfairly to boost the height of their buildings.

“I applaud today’s decision by the Department of Buildings to revoke the permits for Extell’s proposed supertall tower on West 66th Street,” said Borough President Gale Brewer in a statement. “From the beginning, I have opposed the developer’s decision to use a monstrous 160-foot void to boost the number of condos with views—and boost sale prices—while robbing the community of sunlight and air.”

Neighbors and Landmark West have also challenged the building approval, though now it’s not clear if that challenge will be necessary.

The department is giving the developers 15 days from January 14 to respond to the notice and give the city a reason why the permit should not be revoked. In the meantime the building permit has been rescinded.

Extell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

      i’ve always assumed that in the end, opposition to these kind of shenanigans is futile but i confess now, whether they win or lose, i’m fully impressed by the energy and determination of Neighbors and Landmark West who have been derided, ridiculed and criticized by many UWS readers.

      i hope you win!

      • B.B. says:

        Winning is rather a loose term in this case.

        50 West 65th sits in a R10/C4-7 zoning area, which does *NOT* have high limits on buildings.

        NYC’s zoning code regulates use, bulk and density, *NOT* height per se. So even if Extell is forced to shrink the mechanical void they can still turn around and move things onto the roof and or otherwise increase/leave unit ceiling heights as currently designed.

        As myself and others have continuously pointed out, zoning for this area of Lincoln Square has more in common with midtown (including CPS), than the sacred Upper West Side.

        Also frequently pointed out there are already several buildings nearly tall as 50 West 65th in the immediate area. So it isn’t as if this is something new.

        NIBY’s including Ms. Brewer need to face the fact for it is a fact in some form 50 W65 is going to happen. They *might* succeed in lopping off some of the height, but that will be an end of things.

    2. Sherman says:

      I believe there should be limits on empty spaces in new buildings which are designed simply to increase height. We need to increase the number of actual apartments available – not simply the number of apartment buildings.

      However, in the case of this building on West 66th this appears to be a moot point. The heart of the matter is that certain people don’t want this building constructed at all. Even if Extell was to compromise and agree to reduce these empty spaces these people would still be against the project.

      It’s a shame, as this looks like it will be a beautiful building that would be a great addition to the neighborhood.

      I guess people will be happy with the giant empty pit remaining there indefinitely.

      • MC Barton says:

        Sherman….
        Your innuendos about “certain people”, “these people” and preferring a pit rather than a “beautiful” building show no understanding of the situation…. Not sure of your point…and not convinced, it is worth pursuing.

        • Sherman says:

          I didn’t make any “innuendoes” about “certain people”.

          I believe I was very overt in my comments.

      • Jan says:

        The bldg is UP 10 floors already
        Maybe this is a train that will not stop?

    3. AC57 says:

      I’m not completely mad – It’s surely not the outcome I wished for, but in reality, that void is unnecessary and should’ve either been cut or repurposed. Also, that void is taller than a good proportion of buildings in the neighborhood. But the design was so nice, in my opinion, the best skeleton going up in the neighborhood. And the height was not a problem to me. It was all about the usage of space.

      In the end, it’s being revoked for good reason, not solely on the basis of height, but on the usage of space, and a blank space that does nothing for no one. If Extell were to cut the void or add apartments, I would reapply and come up with something that can better serve the neighborhood, maybe slightly shorter.

      This is kinda what I meant when I kept asking what people want.

    4. Me3 says:

      Craziness! Leave it to Gale Brewer to offer up the neighborhood as a dump site for the city’s homeless & mental patients, but there she is swinging her axe at something that actually might improve things around here. Only on the UWS.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        Gale Brewer is uninfluenced by the developer crowd, and does what is best for the community as a whole. The vast majority of UWSers agree with her on ger approach, which us why she runs up enormous majorities of 8o% and wven 90% in the district.

        • Me3 says:

          My goodness, her “approach” has turned much of the neighborhood into a Brewerville of panhandlers. Judging from some of your comments on the subject, it seems that you lobby for this type of atmosphere so I’m not surprised that you would actually defend her.

          • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

            You’re living in a bubble, surrounded by your right wing cothinkers and most likely mediated by Fox News playing constantly in the background, if you deny that Gale Brewer is one of the most popular politicians in Manhattan, and certainly on the UWS. And for good reason. So throw your tomatoes, but they won’t hit any targets.

            Like many in the right wing thought bubble, you seem to be obsessed with panhandlers. You and your friends grossly exaggerate how many there are. There are far fewer on the UWS than in many other areas of the city. In the area where I live, around 96 and Bway, there are rarely more than 1 per block, and often none in the evening. overly-aggressive panhandlers are few and far between. I think you exaggerate because you want to live in a pristine gated community, and become angry every time you see evidence that you don’t. In any case, blaming panhandling on Gale Brewer is ludicrous. Grow up.

            • Me3 says:

              You know nothing of my political stance, but I can see that you have taken a page from our Bully-In-Chief’s book. I am quite familiar with the area which you live, and your falsehoods about the number of panhandlers won’t fly here.

              As for Gale Brewer, she was CM when the city increased shelters in the area, and presided as the problems that came along with them rose as well.

              Popular or not, she continues to condone this practice as BP, and therefore she gets a good portion of the blame.

            • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

              I’m sorry you have to occasionally encounter a panhandler. That must be very hard on you.

    5. Leon says:

      So if they agreed to turn most of the 160 feet of mechanical spaces into apartments, would they be able to get a permit? Because this wouldn’t really solve the problem much – still a really tall building.

      Or is the plan to get them to reduce the 160 feet to say 20 feet so that the building is 140 feet shorter, which would not be perfect but is definitely a lot better.

      Thanks for the help from those who know more about such things.

      • W 67th St says:

        Zoning laws only allow them to build a certain number of square feet. By adding 160 vertical feet (~16 floors) of void space, they were able to make their building 160 feet higher (thus getting better views at the top) without counting toward the zoning limits. They can presumably still get the building built if they remove the 160 feet of voids. That means that the building would be 615 feet high instead of 775 feet. Same number of apartments, because all that’s been removed is the void.

    6. Josh says:

      People who oppose urban density always talk about buildings “robbing the community of light and air.” One thing nobody has ever been able to explain to me – how does it rob anyone of air? This is a residential building. It’s not a factory. It’s not puffing out clouds of smoke. The modern heating system is going to be much more energy efficient than the ancient boilers that heat UWS low rises. To the extent that people who used to live in less walkable neighborhoods move into this building it will reduce the total number of car trips, which are the real generator of pollution in our city.
      Complaining about “stealing air” is a nice sound bite but it’s nonsensical when you actually think about it. Building up so more people can live in dense, walkable neighborhoods is one of the best things we can do for the environment of our city and our planet.

      • UWSEd says:

        Would you settle for the problem to be called “constricting air flow,” rather than stealing air?

        Yes, the air will not be stolen and will still flow, but the space for that air will be greatly reduced. Air flow through reduced space can be at gale force levels.

        A case in point is the “Trump” buildings – or whatever they’re called now – along the Freedom Place. The air flow through the reduced space the buildings create sometimes makes walking between them nearly impossible.

    7. RBG says:

      What does this mean for the other super tall building, that just resumed construction after multiple DOB violations and a concrete spill, 200 Amsterdam?

      Didn’t Landmark West and other advocacy groups file another lawsuit about 200 Amsterdam? There have been no updates about this.. it feels like they’ve abandoned this cause.

    8. robert says:

      The building will be built. This “not counting mechanical spaces as floors” has been in the code for years. Pls note that DOB didn’t say that extell was wrong just that ” mechanical spaces in the building plans do not comply with zoning regulations”, expect Extell to tweak the design of those spaces a bit and then get approval. But NIMBY folks might still sue, so Extell cuts the building height from 775 to 755 i.e. removes the two offending floors and guess what they are back in the zoning regs, including their air rights.

    9. Joel Assouline says:

      Glad to see that finally DOB is listening to the neighbors.

    10. Amy says:

      Wonderful news! Enough of the sun-blocking, ego-trophy condo-farm takeovers! Congrats Gale, Helen, UWSiders!

    11. George Teebor says:

      what about 200 Amsterdam Avenue?

      • Renie Reiss says:

        Today was court day for 200 Amsterdam. Court room had standing room only due to attendance of concerned citizens. Awaiting decision from the judge.

    12. Roger Wolfe says:

      This building is an example of greed over making an effort to fit into the scale of the neighborhood. Additionally, this building will not bring new services into a neighborhood that is already over populated. Additionally, where are the spaces for housing for the middle class?
      Visually, the building is striking but is out of scale with all of the other buildings in the area.

      • Yes, there is greed involved but not at Extel’s Corporate level. Once a building like this is built its the local real estate agents that are climbing over each other to make there 6% commission on a sale. On a million dollar apartment the real estate agent will get about $60,000 for the sale. Of course Corcoran will take out of this fees for advertising and expenses related to a sale reducing the commission.

        On the corporate side all properties that meet certain criteria are being profiled and monitored. There is a pro forma developed for each of the soft sites in NYC.
        The corporate real estate developers are constantly monitoring the condition for an optimal time when the site will meet their criteria for taking action.

        No actual greed involved.

    13. H S says:

      As someone who works in building operations I was about to voice my support for spacious mechanical rooms. But then I looked at the DOB notice. 160 feet floor-to-floor height, that’s crazy!

    14. Dale says:

      I live across from the construction and it has been brutal. I don’t know who runs the operation but the work day begins PROMPTLY at 7:00 am and doesn’t end until 5:50 pm with 30 minutes for lunch no matter what kind of weather we have. I’m keeping Pfizer in business with my daily dose of Advil. I’d be thrilled for this to NOT happen!! I know, I know you will jump down my throat for sounding like a NIMBY. But, if this does get approved, I will lose close to 100% of my sunlight.

      • Scott says:

        YES! I’m in the same boat. I cannot believe this is allowed to go on at 7am…on MLK DAY! I’ve tried everything but to no avail…unfortunately, I think we’ll still be stuck hearing the noise as they’re still gonna put up this building…

    15. Peter Purdy says:

      The Upper West Side is getting so glutted with high rise apartment buildings (rent condo & co-ops) that one wonders how all these people will be serviced as the landlords raise rents and grocery stores, laundries, barber shops, and markets disappear.

      • Sherman says:

        Your comments make little sense.

        Most neighborhood “grocery stores” have gone out of business not because of landlords raising rents but rather from fierce competition from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and grocery delivery services.

        Small businesses like barber shops and laundromats tend to be located in older buildings, not in modern luxury high rises.

        If anything, the influx of residents from new construction will likely help small businesses in the neighborhood.

      • B.B. says:

        Washing machines and clothes dryers are becoming almost standard amenities for new construction. If they aren’t in unit (or at least the connections), perhaps a central laundry room on each floor. Failing that there is always the “laundry room” somewhere in building.

        Long story short W&D have become like dishwashers, standard appliances persons spending $$$ to rent or purchase a NYC apartment aren’t going to do without.

        Even many older pre-war co-ops and other buildings are getting the message. Either allow upgrades to electrical work and plumbing for W&D, or accept a price chop on unit. With all the new construction older established buildings have to face facts, or units either won’t sell, and or do so at reduced prices.

        The other pressure against laundromats is things seem to be going full circle to back in the day; many simply prefer to send things out. For that there are tons of app/internet based laundry services that will collect and deliver all over the city.

    16. DDay says:

      This is the best news!

    17. EagleEye says:

      I am a capitalist and love the look of this building, BUT Central Park is the crown jewel of New York City and it is disappearing into a deep hole created by the too tall buildings around its periphery. I curse the new buildings to the south every winter day they rob the park of sunshine.

    18. Nancy Kornbluth says:

      200 Amsterdam has a similar plan with mechanicals in the middle to boost the height. They are still going forward. Why?

    19. Robert Sheridan says:

      Walked by and studied site the other day.

      If allowed, will reek havoc on traffic and neighborhood. There is no significant “extra” parking in area and 66th has much traffic westbound exiting the CP transverse. Then at west end of that block it empties into the Lincoln Square/Lincoln Center congestion. Ditto problems with eastbound across park entering at 65th, will back up on 65th. Impossible to find a worse such location.

      Would be a traffic and environmental catastrophe

    20. Bonnie Rice says:

      You will still be able to soak up the sun in Sheep’s Meadow.
      Thank goodness someone has some common sense.

    21. Richard says:

      The Real Estate industry has been running NYC for a long time. No city administration has ever challenged developers to do what is good for the city and not just good for their own pocketbooks. Its not just the loss of sunshine but the dumping of hundreds and hundreds of new people on a neighborhood with no regard for the support services of transportation, schools and creation of affordable housing. At the same time we are losing cherished neighborhood businesses from restaurants, tailors and grocery stores to cinemas, mom and pop stores and clothing outlets – thanks to escalating rents by other greedy landlords with no oversight by the city or community councils. There is no longer any excuse for this kind of degradation of the city and what it used to be.
      200 Amsterdam Avenue and 50 W 66th street are but 2 more examples of a disease afflicting this city that must be fought
      until a vaccine is found to end it.

      • Ground Control says:

        Well said Richard and couldn’t agree more! What the readers of this article may not know is this 775′ tower had been approved by the DOB as a 24 story building-NOT a 775′ building!! And this huge 75 story tower is designed to have just over 100 condos within!! That is really the” height” of hubris. My building is 6 stories and we have 73 apartments! So all those who speak for how density is good because there’s a shortage of housing-that’s called fake news propagated by the real estate industry. The preponderance of these towers are for billionaires and multi-millionaires who likely will hardly be living in them. Extell is in it for the money. They don’t care about our community, our housing shortage, our crumbling infrastructure or the fact that they are putting Central Park into darkness much of the day even though they’re selling the view!

    22. B.B. says:

      Looks like someone at DOB has been got at by Ms. Brewer and others opposed to this building. This long drawn out saga is beginning to resemble Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

      Things city *should have known* via plans submitted ages ago now are an issue all of a sudden. Makes one wonder just what all those well paid commissioners and assistants do at DOB to earn their living.

    23. Wendy says:

      this building would have been a monstrosity in the middle of a residential neighborhood, overloading the neighborhood transportation.

    24. UWS Craig says:

      This is the last thing our neighborhood needs – – we have an excess of affluent people in the neighborhood and private school admissions are competitive enough as it is.

    25. HB says:

      A very wise and appreciated move by Gale Brewer. The Developer was not transparent and the DOB should not have allowed itself to be repetitively hoodwinked (not once but three times upon reasonable objection.)

      Don’t see why the Developer gets a third bite a this apple.