Opponents Win Victory Over Apartment Tower on 69th Street, Putting Project in Jeopardy

The building on 69th and Amsterdam has been rising quickly. Here’s how it looked on Monday.

By Carol Tannenhauser

In a stunning decision, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled Thursday in favor of the opponents of the skyscraper rising at 200 Amsterdam Avenue (69th Street), sending the case back to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) with instructions, essentially, to get it right this time.

“We won!!” Frank E. Chaney, attorney for the plaintiffs, emailed WSR. “The court agreed with every argument we made and annulled and vacated the BSA’s denial of our appeal.”

He was referring to a July 2018 decision by the BSA to uphold the Department of Building’s issuance of a building permit to SJP Properties, the developer of 200 Amsterdam. The appeal was brought by two local nonprofits, the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, headed by opposition leader Olive Freud, and the Municipal Art Society of New York. The building is set to rise 668 feet, which would make it the tallest building in the neighborhood.

“From the first BSA Review Session, even before there had been any public testimony, and the BSA Vice Chair spent half an hour reading a prepared statement as to why we and the DOB were both wrong and the developer was right, it was evident we weren’t going to get a fair hearing,” Chaney wrote. “Throughout, the Vice Chair and her allies on the Board simply ignored our arguments. So having the court acknowledge that and call them out on it feels like some vindication.”

The judge stopped short of ordering SJP to halt construction, or of ordering the DOB to revoke the building permit. Instead, he remanded the matter to the BSA, directing the agency “to review DOB’s approval of the building permit application in accordance with the plain language of the Zoning Resolution” and his 21-page ruling. At issue is what constitutes a legal zoning lot, which impacts the allowable height of a building.

Construction at 200 Amsterdam has already reached nearly half of its planned 668’. However, due to a provision won by opponents, all building that has been completed since May 1, 2018 has been done at the developer’s own risk and cannot be used as a rationale for allowing the project to proceed.

SJP Properties sent WSR the following statement:

The development team for 200 Amsterdam has followed the law completely and continues to make construction progress. We respectfully disagree with some of the judge’s ruling, which calls into question the validity of the Certificate of Occupancy of several completed and fully occupied residential buildings. 200 Amsterdam’s zoning permits were exhaustively reviewed by both the Department of Buildings and the BSA, the two city agencies with the primary responsibility for interpreting NYC’s zoning codes. Following thorough analysis and public testimony, both agencies determined that the building fully conforms with the city’s zoning laws.

We look forward to delivering a building that will significantly benefit the neighborhood and New York City at large by generating millions of dollars in annual tax revenue, creating a significant number of jobs, and enhancing the great Upper West Side community. We will continue to collaborate with the city agencies to complete this great project.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 42 comments | permalink
    1. Reg Lincoln says:

      A major step toward downsizing this building to something legal and proportionate! The developers knew their gerrymandered, partial tax lots were questionable, so they agreed that nothing built after May 1 2018 will be claimed a sunk cost!
      We welcome their revised, proportionate building to the neighborhood!

      • Ground COntrol says:

        Ask any good land use attorney and he will tell you that you it’s illegal to gerrymander/connect partial tax lots. But for a developer the city will ignore the zoning law and does so frequently. This is most definitely a major step in assuring that the zoning law is followed!

    2. Jim Silver says:

      An important victory for neighbors and other New Yorkers who play by the rules and expect developers and regulators to do the same. The fight is not over, and the cause will need additional financial and personal support…

    3. Christina says:

      Really?! That’s all fine and good but I just want this done and over with! It’s really a pain to walk around and through. I have friends who live right there and says the construction is beyond annoying noise and otherwise! So hoping this doesn’t prolong it being finished however high it is! Get it done!

    4. Yimby says:

      According to Crains NY, SJP is going to appeal and the bar for proceeding isn’t that sky high.

      • Cato says:

        — “…and the bar for proceeding isn’t that sky high”

        Unlike the building itself, right?

    5. Pedestrian says:

      Congratulations to Olive Frued and MAS. The judge applied the law and that’s great. But as the opinion makes clear, the BSA and the DOB really dropped the ball here.

      Citizens should have to hire lawyers and to to court to force City Agencies to do their jobs. It is time for the City Council to initiate oversight hearings fo determine why this is happening. Is it incompetence or corruption.

    6. Manny Marko says:

      Would you want to live in a building that went up at such speed?

    7. Wendy says:

      The building height is a monstrosity and the Developers should not be allowed to continue building. There is not enough infrastructure to support a building of that height in that neighborhood. It is absolutely the wrong move to construct skyscrapers in what is essentially a residential area of the Upper West Side. It’s awful.

    8. Kayson212 says:

      Thanks for the well-reported update. Question: If the building rapidly proceeds to full height at the developer’s own risk, what’s the potential penalty down the road?

    9. BJK says:

      I wish the activists would stop this already—their constant delaying tactics has turned my immediate neighborhood into a perpetual construction site. I’m tired of walking through and around the mess. Let the developer finish the building already without the harassing tactics so that we can have our street, sidewalks and neighborhood back.

    10. michael says:

      Good news for the residents of the UWS! A terrific example of how sensible people prevail in a system that is intended to protect the community. In comparison to the absurd obstructionist actions of those against the extension of The Gilder Center, the building at 200 Amsterdam was indeed something that required judicial intervention. In today’s world it seems that the system rarely works in favor of the “small man” and while I feel for the developers and their investors, that the system worked is legitimately something to be happy about.

    11. Rob G. says:

      This building is flanked by some of the ugliest architecture on the Upper West Side. It’s amazing that’s what this crazy band of activists would rather look at.

      • Madd Donna says:

        Find your comment quite amusing since this new building is the ugliest thing I have ever seen!! Absolutely no character or style. Just another glass tower with multi-million dollar apartments being sold to foreigners who don’t live in them!! How is this good for the neighborhood??

        • Rob G. says:

          Do you honestly think this building is uglier than Lincoln Towers, The Nevada, The Dorchester, and Sherman Square, and the Amsterdam Houses for example? Aesthetically speaking, at the very least it’s good for the neighborhood because it goes a long way in apologizing for those mistakes!

          • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

            the Lincoln Towers actually provided affordable housing. 200 Amsterdam will not. It is simply a bunch of pied-a-terres for the ultra rich.

            • Rob G. says:

              So what? That doesn’t excuse its Soviet-era apartment block streetscape-killing ugliness.

            • AC57 says:

              But both towers could’ve been beneficial to the neighborhood if we considered what could’ve been changed about the interiors.

              I always say work with what goes in, and this is an instance where that can be done. Even on a lot this size, 2.24 apartments per floor is ridiculous. (Omitting the lobby of course.) 153 apartments should be able to fit, and those 41 extras could’ve all been affordable. With Extell’s project, that void could’ve turned into 50 apartments, easily. If those were the numbers, would you take the two towers then? Or what if they were exclusively affordable? I know I would, I would even go taller if it were all affordable apartments. We need to look for every opportunity we can to negotiate and squeeze in some affordable housing, and both this project and 50 West 66th Street were instances where we could’ve flexed that muscle and talked with the developer.

              Also, Lincoln Towers sells for 6 or 7 figures now, bottoming our at $600K, which for the neighborhood is decent, but I wouldn’t call that affordable.

    12. AC57 says:

      Losing another striking tower to the neighborhood is a loss, and I would expect the starting price to spike, but I will commend their efforts, as much as I disagree with them. I would’ve liked it if they actually negotiated with the developers and talk to them, instead of making an enemy out of an ally. That’s a mistake I’ve seen far too many times

      However, I will say this. A reasonable height still allows them to reach 450 feet. Where it is now actually still makes it short.

    13. Viviane Topp says:

      This is not a true victory because they are still building. I live on the 29th floor and I can see them working clearly.

      I want know the name of the judge!!! So this is not a victory. After they build 51 floors the judge is going to tell them to tear it down. I want to press the judge to holt building.

      Lets have a real victory –

    14. Viviane Topp says:

      It is not a true victory until the work is stopped!! when it is 50 stories high then the judge will tell them to tear it down.?????

    15. Jen says:

      Finally! I’m very happy to hear that. Enough of cheating greedy developers ruining our city.

      • Sherman says:

        There is a shortage of housing in this city.

        Developers are building housing.

        How exactly is this greedy?

    16. Kathleen says:


    17. Tom Olmstead says:

      Make them follow the law like everyone else. stop the super high rise….

    18. Susan says:

      David beat Goliath….yippee

      • Sherman says:

        David also beat Goliath in LIC when a bunch of lefty politicians and activists chased away Amazon – and the thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenue Amazon would have provided (not to mention revitalization of a delapidated area).

        Yeah, this is a great victory for the UWS.

        I much prefer the current empty shell of a building to a gleaming new modern and lively tower.

    19. Beth Bergman says:

      Monster building not appropriate for the neighborhood. also will impact migrating birds badly. Even the construction is impeding pedestrian and vehicular traffic in this heavy-use zone. Very dangerous.

    20. MahlerLives says:

      Congrats to the opponents. Seriously, how can the developer with a straight face say that this proposed outsized monstrosity will add anything of merit to the UWS? Take your marbles and go build your eyesore in NJ.

    21. William Raudenbush says:

      Some gems from the decision so that you may have context as to just how dubious this planned building was in regards to the law:

      “In other words, BSA found that the Subject Zoning Lot is “unsubdivided,” within the zoning resolution simply because Developer has declared it to be so.”

      “Indeed, by publicly correcting its interpretation of ZR Section 12-10 (d) during the Appeal, DOB undermined the statutory basis for its issuance of the Permit in the first instance”

      “the BSA’s Resolution as unreasonable and inconsistent with the plain language of the governing statute.

      Accordingly, it is hereby
      ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the Petition is granted, to the extent of nullifying and vacating the BSA’s Resolution dated September 7, 2018, which affirmed the decision of DOB to issue Building Permit No 122887224-01-NB, and is otherwise denied”

      We have rules and laws for a reason, and whatever Trumpian claims the developers’ hand maidens want to make on this forum, just remember that they are defending and often even advocating for illegality. Shame on them.

      It has been a great honor and privilege doing working with Olive Freud, she’s the Jane Jacobs of the UWS.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        well said, William.

        And i like the way you resurrected the ghost of Jane Jacobs, something we progressives should be doing a lot more. Jane Jacobs would be appalled by these extravagant and gigantic shells for rich people, they contradict everything she taught us about making urban areas work.

        I also agree with you about Olive Freud.

    22. Cassandra says:

      This dumb building is already blocking my light and view, and it’s only halfway done! F-you developers who take advantage of loopholes and to politicians who allow them. PS Glass buildings are U-G-L-Y!

    23. Candace Clements says:

      Nothing these pandering to the rich monsters can say will ease the sadness I will endure with my home, my neighborhood plunged into darkness.

    24. Barry says:

      I hope this keeps the building on west 66th between broadway and cpw from going up to 75 stories instead of the 22 stories that were originally planned

    25. I. Shifrin says:

      It’s going right back to the same Board that showed bias on the side of the developers in the first place. In its haste to outrun legal proceedings, the developers have been issued several partial stop work orders and one complete stop work order for failing to construct a side walk shed, a very serious safety violation. I went past the site on a Sunday & was barred b/c there was dangerous rigging work going on w/o a permit on a Sunday with no DOB oversight. The FDNY has expressed concerns about the safety of void spaces & it concerns have been ignored. A disaster in the making.

      • Woody says:

        Your comments about stop work orders, Sunday work, and DOB oversight suggest that your knowledge of construction practices in NY is very limited. Making up your own reality doesn’t get you satisfaction in the end when these buildings are finished.

    26. Jon Ramea says:

      I still see them building as of today in direct violation of the courts order! Why aren’t those horrible workers arrested? We don’t want these types hanging around our neighborhood.

      • Jay says:

        You don’t want construction workers in our neighborhood? You’re a peach.

        There’s no court order to stop work. Nor should they. This will get reversed.

    27. Che says:

      I attended the July 2018 BSA hearing, sensed that the final decision could go in the defendants’ favor, knew the BSA might move in the direction of opinion as outcome of defendant will and testimony, sacrificing the spirit of the law to a misguided interpretaton of the letter of the law (“the plain language of the Zoning Resolution”).