Lawsuit Filed to Stop Construction of Extell’s 66th Street Tower


Photo by Chris Giordano.

By Carol Tannenhauser

The 127-year-old City Club of New York, which once took on Tammany Hall, is now going up against Extell Development and the 775-foot residential skyscraper it is building at 50 West 66th Street.

Together with a co-op next door and several neighbors, the nonprofit, located at 45 West 67th Street, has filed for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop construction on what would be the tallest tower on the Upper West Side.

Its height would result, in part, from the use of four “mechanical voids” — soaring empty spaces purportedly for housing a building’s operating equipment — in the case of 50 West 66th, making up one quarter of the building’s total height.

“Two of these voids are 64 feet high, a third is 48 feet high, and a fourth is 20 feet high,” the lawsuit says. “Together, [they] are 45 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Such enormous spaces might be useful to house machinery from a dystopian science-fiction movie, but here they serve only to boost the apartments above them.”

Chuck Weinstock, who is representing the plaintiffs, sent us the court documents with a note saying, “You’ll see that we have a second argument — about what land-use people call ‘bulk packing’ — that is equally powerful. It’s not as easy to understand, but it may well doom them.”

The suit summarizes the argument, saying, “Extell attempts to evade the Bulk Packing Rule by taking advantage of the fact that its zoning lot straddles two zoning districts…. Extell’s building is hundreds of feet taller than allowed in the Special Lincoln Square District.”

The City Club lawsuit comes only a few weeks after the Department of Buildings (DOB) approved revised plans for 50 West 66th, which had been signed off on by the FDNY. This followed a January threat by the DOB to revoke the building’s permit, unless Extell altered the design of its mechanical voids. The foundation of the building is complete and a crane has been installed.

Meanwhile, the building is also facing a challenge before the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals by another local nonprofit, Landmark West. The challenge was started, then suspended, and now, it is believed, it will be revived, as a result of the DOB approval. Chris Giordano, president of the 64th through 67th Street Block Association, who is working closely with Landmark West, said this of the City Club lawsuit:

“Of course, we support every effort to obstruct the exploitation of the zoning loophole and excessive mechanical voids, which we see as fundamentally immoral. Customarily, administrative remedies are exhausted before going before a court, but there are members of the community who believe these circumstances are extraordinary.”

We have yet to hear back from Extell, and have a Monday call with Sean Khorsandi, executive director of Landmark West, to discuss the organization’s plans. We’ll update this story accordingly.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 40 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      I don’t know what grounds these people have to stop the construction of this tower.

      There is nothing illegal about the mechanical voids. Even if the law is changed today it can’t be retroactively applied.

      The building should go up once and for all.

    2. John says:

      If Trump was building this it would be stopped yesterday. But when a NYC company backed by the Chinese and Saudi Arabia (humane rights violations and big polluters) NY politicians bend over backwards to assist them in building these glass and environmentally unfriendly buildings for the rich.

    3. B.B. says:

      Once again, loser pays (English rule) would put an end to some of this nonsense. If these NIMBY busybodies risked some skin in the game they might think twice about cluttering up court dockets with endless lawsuits.

    4. AC says:

      All this does is slow down the duration of the construction and pro-long the inconveniences.

    5. FP says:

      What kind of perverted logic opines that mechanical voids are “immoral”? What does that even mean? This is the most fatuous and frivolous lawsuit yet. Do neither of these two groups care at all about the congregation of the synagogue that is a part of this new building? How dare they interfere with an approved building and put at risk a house of worship!

      • dannyboy says:

        Nice play with that “Do neither of these two groups care at all about the congregation of the synagogue” and “and put at risk a house of worship!”

        I guess God is on the side of the Might.

        • FP says:

          What would you say to the synagogue’s leaders and congregation about these efforts to detail this project?

          • Jen says:

            It is not @dannyboy or anyone else’s responsibility to say anything to the synagogue leaders or the congregation.

            The synagogue leaders should address the issue with the congregation and explain why they made this decision and what the sale contract entails. It is completely theirs and not anybody else’s responsibility.

            The synagogue leaders themselves should take the issue wih SJP if anything regarding the hosting a synagogue is stated in the sale contract. Again, solely responsibility of SJP in regard to that, and no one else’s.

    6. Judith says:

      The press reported Congregation Habonim received $75,000,000. So it seems they are complicit with the developer.

      • RK says:

        If by “complicit” means “entered into a lawful and binding legal contract whereby Habonim traded their building’s air rights for money which will secure the congregation’s financial future, plus replacement space in the new building to carry on their activities”, leading to what appears to be a win-win, then yes, they’re complicit.

      • Sherman says:

        Show WSR readers proof that Habonim received $75M for this space.

        There were no “press” reports that the synagogue received anywhere close to $75M.

        Please don’t post inflammatory garbage without an iota of evidence.

        • Jen says:

          Do you have to call a commentator post “garbage”, Sherman? Can you, please, be civil with people whose views you don’t agree with?

    7. Judy says:

      Hundreds of feet of void space means ecological waste, no affordable housing, shadows on central park and the neighborhood. Extell is exploiting a loophole against the intention of the city and district’s zoning resolution and taking money out of the community without making any contribution. I would agree with the statement that this is immoral.

      • dannyboy says:

        Extell’s morality ranks on par with another NYC Developer who lacks ethics regarding women, minorities, “s*#thole countries”…

      • Josh says:

        They are building voids instead of apartments because they are legally prohibited from putting homes in that space. If these groups were really concerned about waste, they would be advocating for changes to the laws that would allow additional housing.
        That’s not what these lawsuits are about though. They are concerned solely with stopping all development in their neighborhood and pushing it into gentrifying neighborhoods. They want someone else to be inconvenienced by the costs of new development while enjoying all the benefits. It’s pure greed from housing opponents.

      • Don't Avoid the Void says:

        Re: “Hundreds of feet of void space means ecological waste, no affordable housing,….”

        WAIT-a-MOMENT!! You just solved the Affordable Housing Dilemma !!!

        Why not use the voids for Affordable Housing !!
        It would provide the “indigent, impoverished, impecunious” (and that’s just the i-words) class with almost the same luxuries as the affluent, wealthy, upper-crust.

        Except:
        1. they’d probably have to use the “Poor Door” to enter the building; and
        2. It could get a little breezy up there…but think of the great views!

      • jezbel says:

        I’m with Judy. These artificially enlarged mechanical voids do nothing other than boost the height of the building. That allows apartments to have a better view of the surrounding City, and that allows the owner to charge more for the same apartment, which on a lower floor would be far less expensive. It’s a sham.
        It’s a ploy to get more money. There will be no middle class housing available in these buildings. No Mitchell-Lama or Section 8. This doesn’t help the neighborhood do anything except that it pours more people out onto the street. Floods the neighborhood with cars and increase traffic patterns.
        It’s all a crock. What’s more the height of the building is anathema to this neighborhood. We should be thankful we still have a neighborhood where people feel connected to it & to each other.
        That profile simply doesn’t belong here. This isn’t the Upper Ease Side. Though it is fast starting to take on that shape.

    8. AC57 says:

      Here we go again

      Voids are bad. This tower can work with just a 35-foot void – what’s recommended by engineers. Replace the rest with affordable housing, or just cut the extra 126 feet.

      The tower in and of itself is beautiful, and a great design, but improvements can be made, just like 200 Amsterdam.

    9. Gary says:

      For those people who are in favor of monster condos, I have a question: how many more residents can the UWS absorb? Why would we want already crowded streets, restaurants, shops, and last but not least, subway stations, to become more congested? (and yes, even wealthy people ride the subways). It’s not like every time another building goes up, our infrastructure expands.

      • Jay says:

        The UWS’ population is less than it was 10 years ago, so I’d say there’s plenty of room for more people.

      • Josh says:

        If the roads are too full, we can start by not using half of our road space for free parking. “Too full” businesses and shops sounds like a great “problem” to have. If the subways are full, we should start by reversing the 15% cut in trains per week implemented since the beginning of Andrew Cuomo’s term. The UWS is nowhere near “full” and benefits from the new neighbors that additional housing will bring.

    10. Thomas says:

      Here we go again. Sherman, BB, and the rest come here to argue for the larger buildings on the UWS and disparage anyone who dares disagree with them.
      They are either developers or lawyers for developers, or perhaps don’t live on the UWS at all.
      Well, that is, until a 775-foot skyscraper is built next to their living room windows and then we’re sure to hear lots of not in my backyard! from them.

    11. Judith says:

      Answering Sherman about the reported $75,000,000 deal between Habonim and Extell. It was reported on October 14, 2014 by Bloomberg. “Extell is in advanced talks to buy the Congregation Habonim synagogue at 44 W. 66th St. in a deal valued at $75 million, with plans to build condominiums on the site, according to documents the synagogue filed in New York State Supreme Court seeking permission for a sale.”
      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-10-14/nyc-developer-embraces-religion-in-search-for-condo-sites

      • Sherman says:

        There were numerous parties involved in this deal besides Habonim.

        Habonim did not get the entire $75M.

        Stop spreading misinformation.

        • Jen says:

          Judith just stated what the respectable financial news outlet such as Bloomberg wrote. I definitely trust this source more than your rude comments.

          • Woody says:

            Except that Judith quoted an article that stated nothing about the conclusion of a deal. It said that Extell was still in talks to buy the property She should have quoted an article that reported on the final details of the sale which wasn’t for $75MM.

            • Jen says:

              Was Judith off by 99 cents? Horrible! Why don’t you quote us a source that discloses the complete deal then.

    12. Marcia Kaye says:

      Isn’t it time for a closer look at the DOB? A similar case,including a gerrymandering charge, resulted in a stop work order at 69th and Amsterdam; yet the project continues unabated. A second “temporary” stop work order from DOB related to failure of the Developer to follow DOB requirements requiring protective coveing over the pathway into Lincoln Towers, after a major wooden plank dropped onto the LT path. Amsterdam access remains closed because DOB quickly lifted the stop work order on seeing “a plan” with no completion date presented by the builder. The entrance remains closed 10 days after DOB visited the site after the accident, its tail between its legs. Now 66th Street. DOB is ineffective. And who is its boss? Wouldn’t be the mayor, would it?

      • Jen says:

        The DOB comes across as either very incompetent or very corrupt organization. Or both. In any case, its leadership should be held accountable to the point of replacement. But is it he same deal as with MTA? The 2 agencies with the biggest impact on NYC are totally incompetent and have been functioning in the same manner for decades. What judicial or political body is responsible for its supervision and why they are not changing things is beyond my comprehension.

    13. Robert J Gangi says:

      What about all the men and women out of work

    14. Joe says:

      Stop with all this bull … let the union construction workers work they are making the city look great stop delaying find other stuff to do with your life .. take up golf

    15. Dias says:

      I can believe why anyone don’t do anything about it .
      So many workers is waiting home because all this bull