After Latest Setback, Opponents Fear ‘Tallest UWS Building’ Will Be Complete Before Hearing


200 Amsterdam is rising fast.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Opponents of a disputed apartment tower lost their latest attempt to force a developer to halt construction while they challenge the legality of the building’s zoning.

A New York State Supreme Court justice denied the request for a preliminary injunction to halt construction at 200 Amsterdam Avenue at 69th Street, while the Bureau of Standards and Appeals (BSA) decides — for the second time — whether the zoning lot of the planned 668-foot tower is legal. SJP Properties sent a statement shortly after the decision:

“We are pleased that the court has dismissed the request for a temporary restraining order at 200 Amsterdam,” the statement read. “This dismissal is consistent with previous decisions in favor of the development by the Department Of Buildings (DOB), the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals, and the Supreme Court of New York. We remain focused on making continued progress on construction to deliver this exceptional building to the neighborhood.”

In their argument, the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and the Municipal Art Society of New York, the two nonprofits that filed for the injunction said that without an injunction the building could hit its top height before a ruling.

“Without an injunction, it is a near-certainty that the building will be finished before the BSA can actually exercise the authority the Court has granted it.”

The BSA is expected to announce its decision at a hearing scheduled for June. The fact that the building may be done by then doesn’t mean that the developer is in the clear. There is precedent for a court forcing a developer to disassemble a building.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 46 comments | permalink
    1. AC57 says:

      The tower is rising fast, but not that fast

      It’s right now at 28 stories, it still has 23 to go, plus that crown. It took 7 months to reach this height since it reached street level around September 24th. Even with the quickened pace, there’s absolutely no way the tower can top out before June or even July. If it passes 40 stories by the end of May, be worried, be VERY worried. Something is not installed correctly if that happens, and a fallen plank will be the least of your problems.

      Topping out in September? Maybe.

      • dannyboy says:

        “Something is not installed correctly” – AC57

        Now you are on to something.

        Assuming that new construction is now safe & sound is a dream that many are under, encouraged by the developers.

    2. jhminnyc says:

      Does this really surprise anyone? When are average people going to understand they really don’t have any power?

      • Ground Control says:

        You are correct! You can be a law-abiding, property owning; property, federal and state tax paying, committed citizen in New York City, and you haven’t an ounce of power. Because the real estate industry runs City Hall and all its appendages. There are few people who have had to contend in just about any matter with City Hall who don’t know that. The Mayor very unfortunately has been nicknamed Pay to Play Bill for a reason. He’s been a great friend to REBNY. But he’s really simply cut from the same cloth as former Mayors who have operated the same way. In what democratic country does the citizen have so little power in his immediate environment. And this now poorly kept secret cuts across all economic classes except for the wealthiest 1%. Those who stand up for their communities like the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and the Municipal Art Society of New York do so at great cost in terms of time and money. Were more to join them perhaps the citizen might at least have a seat at the table.

    3. Jeff says:

      WSR it would helpful if you guys could upload the court ruling, or describe it in greater detail, so we could see the judge’s explanation, if any, for refusing to enjoin construction.

    4. Catty Catherine says:

      Yay! Looking forward to moving in. The higher the floor, the better the view.

      • Pedestrian says:

        Catty, you must be one of the .000001%.

        Talk about a narrow focus. The permit to build was granted inappropriately. Developers should not be permitted to to make millions out of the DOB’s incompetence.

      • Merrill says:

        Do (multi) millionaires read and comment on blogs?

    5. Alex says:

      Finally. Now maybe objectors to this project will start living their lives instead of fetishizing the court appeals process of lawsuits long-ago settled. This building is a fait accompli, as is 50 W. 66th Street.

    6. Bruce Weiner says:

      I thought the new 775-foot-tall skyscraper being built by Extell at 50 West 66th Street will be the tallest UWS building. You keep referring to the monstrosity underway at 70th St and Amsterdam Ave as the tallest. What gives?

    7. Kathleen says:

      In any civilized city this would not be possible.

      • Jen says:

        Completely agree. This is a brazen disregard to all sorts of norm.

      • Sherman says:

        @ Kathleen

        You’re correct. No other city on earth has tall residential buildings.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          Sherman, can you seriously claim not to follow her point? it’s not that hard a point to “get”.

          NYC has something called zoning laws. this building has been declared by a court of law to be in violation of existing zoning laws, in other words, illegal. And yet the developer can keep building it.

    8. James Nussbaum says:

      I am surprised not to hear anything about the falling debris from this project and the closure of the 69th street passage from Amsterdam to West End as a result. This closure to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic has had a major negative impact on the lives of those living in or working in Lincoln Towers, customers and patients of those businesses, some of whom are mobility impaired, people in the surrounding buildings, those attending daily services at Lincoln Square Synagogue, and other local places of worship and commerce.

      • Outraged says:

        This is spot on. The contractor’s obligation is to build without endangering life or property. If it cannot do so, its work should stop. Where is the Department of Buildings on this? Where are our local office-holders? And if the roadway and sidewalk need be closed while construction is going on, at the very least they should be reopened at the end of the work day and on weekend days when there is no construction.

      • ScooterStan says:

        James, You ARE totally correct…BUT the closure of the sidewalk @ W.69th/Amsterdam was NOT done by the builder.

        It was done by the Board of 170, putting their self-interest first, as they were fearful of a lawsuit should something else fall.

        The 170 Board’s pathetic selfishness is affecting many in the Lincoln Towers community, INCLUDING the residents of their building, whose interests they were elected to serve!

        • dbrnyc57 says:

          ScooterStan – I live on 65th/WEA and utilized the sidewalk everyday to get to the 1/2/3 at 72nd. The closure is not a major inconvenience for me as I am not mobility impaired and just walk up to 70th now, but 100% agree that the closure is unacceptable and the DOB should shut the project down until the developer figures out how to stop things from falling off its building. I also happen to have been ~30 feet away when the 9 foot board came crashing down landing in the middle of the driveway. Luckily there were no vehicles driving in when it came crashing down as it definitely could have killed or impaled someone. And it was a relatively calm day so a gust of wind could have easily made it fall on the sidewalk which was packed with people. Based on my conversation with the security guard, 170 closed the driveway and sidewalk because projectiles capable of causing serious injuries or death fell beyond the inadequate fencing onto 170’s property. The developer didn’t care about protecting the public so 170 had to do it. Yeah…they could have gotten sued if they left it open and someone got hurt, but my guess is that the developer had indemnified them. Based on my conversation with the security guard, it’s closed because the DOB isn’t doing their job and 170 doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. Yeah it’s CYA for 170, but would you want to expose the public to the dangerous condition if it was your property? Side point, the cashier at Rite Aid told me today that something fell on Amsterdam yesterday…so maybe the DOB will finally do its job and make these guys do a better job protecting the public

          • Woody says:

            I feel fully informed now that you’ve shared your findings that were gleaned from in-depth discussions with a security guard and cashier. There are no sources more authoritative than such individuals.

    9. Billy Amato says:

      GREAT!!!
      Another win for us!!!

    10. Jorge Vanderbilt says:

      There are winners and there are losers. More often than not those of us in the community that are older, less privileged, disabled are often viewed as disposable. We are not disposable! We will rise like a phoenix from the ashes! We will overcome! We have a dream! Ask not what the DOB can do for you, ask what we can do for the community! We shall overcome and slay the mighty SJP dragon like David crushing Goliath. Join me my friends in this noble cause and above all stay thirsty.

    11. Lis Anderson says:

      What do you expect, when the Mayor is absolutely clueless!!!!!
      P.S. Is he still running for leader of Mexico or running for President of the U.S.? What a joke that bozo is!

    12. Sherman says:

      The other day the NY Post ran a story about how many of the apartments in the new luxury buildings on 57th Street are not selling as fast as anticipated.

      Contrary to popular myth there isn’t a bottomless pit of super wealthy people who can pay or are willing to pay these prices. The developers are lowering prices and offering incentives to sell these apartments.

      This new building @ 200 Amsterdam and the proposed building on West 66th will only add to the glut. There’s also that new building on B’Way and 61st that will be open soon and the massive Waterline Square development on the Hudson in the 60s will is almost complete (I ran by it the other day. It looks really cool).

      If the apartments already on the market aren’t selling these new buildings will also likely have trouble.

      This just proves that the best way to alleviate NYC’s perennial housing affordability issues (besides abolishing rent regulation) is to increase supply.

      Ultimately we all benefit from new construction.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        seriously? you think the best way to alleviate the affordable housing crisis is to create a glut of housing for billionaires and multimillionaires?

        yes, prices for billionaire housing will drop a little. the effect on actual affordable housing: zero.

        if we did away with rent regulation, the effect on affordable housing would be immense, including tens of thousands of people on the UWS losing their homes.

        • B.B. says:

          RC or even RS are *NOT* per se affordable housing. Outside of those lottery apartments there aren’t any legal income guidelines for anyone seeking a RS apartment What there is largely comes from vetting by landlords to ensure prospective tenant earns enough to pay rent (the 40x rent rules).

          RS rents can only go up, not down. People in RS units are paying 1/3, 1/4, 1/2 or more of total monthly income towards rent, how is that “affordable”?

          There is no remedy for such a situation either; if you cannot pay the legal requested rent for a RS unit there are only two options; move or find a way to earn more money.

          Really well below market rate RS apartments are in hands of lifer tenants, and thus not available to anyone else.

          • dannyboy says:

            “RS rents can only go up, not down. People in RS units are paying 1/3, 1/4, 1/2 or more of total monthly income towards rent…

            “There is no remedy for such a situation either; if you cannot pay the legal requested rent for a RS unit there are only two options; move or find a way to earn more money.”

            B.B, I credit you with bringing a wealth of information, generally known to the informed New Yorker (with the obvious exception of some trolls here on wsr).

        • Sherman says:

          Hi Bruce

          “If we did away with rent regulation the effect on affordable housing would be immense”.

          Exactly! Housing would become more affordable for the vast majority of NYC residents.

          No less an authority than Paul Krugman agrees (and he’s not exactly a right wing libertarian extremist).

          I’m glad we’re in agreement!

          Thanks
          Sherm

          • dannyboy says:

            This is about the tenth time you have referenced Paul Krugman’s article and
            cited it as Gospel.

            Do you have your own opinion that you can share in this Comments discussion.

          • B.B. says:

            Study after study going back years reached same conclusions; ending RC would likely lead to increase in rents mostly in Manhattan. When studies were done it was forecast rents would increase mostly below 125th street, but that was before the recent gentrification or whatever of upper Manhattan.

            Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens (Staten Island has very little rental housing and nearly nil RS/RC) are another matter.

            Studies showed what is happening already today; many landlords would be hard pressed to get more rent for their apartments RS/RC or market. Indeed current information from RGB tells that many LLs cannot get tenants to pay higher RS or even market rate rents.

            This points to what is simply called a natural market. That is there are limits to what anyone will pay for an apartment in a certain area.

            This is why state created “preferential leases” for the RS system. That scheme allows landlords to rent a RS apartment for less than the legal rent, but preserve rights to that number should things change in future.

            Right now there is tons of new construction in the outer boroughs, and more is coming down the pike. That has created an almost renters market. Landlords have had to offer concessions or otherwise try to lure tenants because otherwise they go elsewhere.

            Real issue isn’t ending RS per se; but the simple fact NYC does not have nearly enough very low, low and middle income housing.

            Massachusetts ended rent control nearly 25 years ago; and despite claims to contrary rental housing as become *more* expensive than before. Things are so bad some in Boston government are looking to reintroduce RC: https://realestate.boston.com/news/2019/04/11/boston-rent-control/

            Only way NYC is going to get nearly enough low to middle income housing is to repeat the public-private partnerships of past. Things like Mitchell-Lama, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, LeFrak City, etc…

            Battery Park City was supposed to generate revenue used to build affordable/low income housing elsewhere in NYC. Funds are generated but go into the city’s general kitty and thus no one is exactly sure how much if it is spent on intended purpose.

    13. Jo Baldwin says:

      Money talks and bs walks. “The envelope please”.

    14. Bill Ditt says:

      Re: “There is precedent for a court forcing a developer to disassemble a building.”

      Hopefully will never happen, BUT should it happen, here’s a great idea:

      Gather together all the stuff taken down and deliver it to Herr Trumpf, so he can use it to build his wall.

    15. Paul says:

      It’s been known that the site could be used for a building topping 600 feet since 2006.
      Why didn’t the concerned civic groups file for a declaratory judgment before the parties made investments in this project with full knowledge and disclosure of what was coming?

    16. Ben David says:

      Frieends, Keep voting for Bill de Blasio (or other Democrats) and keep getting taller buildings!

    17. Dane says:

      This building’s size and zoning interpretation is an affront to the people who live here.

      • Renter says:

        I live here–it’s not an affront to me.

        We need more housing. We need more housing. We need more housing! Every new unit (even expensive fancy units) contribute a little to bringing down prices for everyone!

        • Jay says:

          Exactly, this is just another tall building in a neighborhood full of tall buildings.

          Just another first-world problem for some…

        • dannyboy says:

          The building of “expensive fancy units” has the effect of RAISING MARKET RENTS, not lowering them. I am sure, Mr “Renter” that you have noticed the dramatic increase in rental prices coinciding with the INCREASE IN “expensive fancy units”. This is because the existing proximite apartment houses become more desirable. In reality YOUR RENT KEEPS INCREASING AS THESE “expensive fancy units” are built.

          I could explain further, but rather than you changing you mind on the basis of this Reply, I suggest that you read the research. Just stop in to your neighborhood Business School Library and search under the “Halo Effect”.

          • B.B. says:

            Thing is those paying market rate can and will move if their LL jacks up rent too high.

            https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-11/nyc-renters-move-in-search-of-sweeter-deals-as-rents-keep-rising

            Noticed last two weeks have seen plenty of moving vans or other signs of households on the move.

            As we all learned in high school economics markets are determined by supply and demand. Currently there isn’t enough market rate housing to meet demand so rents are rising.

            This is reverse from previous year or so when LLs had to offer concessions to get tenants to remain or sign new leases.

            The people that do not move on average are RC/RS tenants, especially those with below market housing. For one thing most cannot afford market rate housing. This and or without the other protections that come with RS/RC they wouldn’t last in a true free market situation.

            • dannyboy says:

              B.B. After all the praise that I heaped on you for having the facts at hand, you really let me down with you misunderstanding of economics and of human beings.

              The two statements that I am referring to are:

              1.”As we all learned in high school economics markets are determined by supply and demand.” I HATE TO DISILLUSION YOU B.B., BUT THOSE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS MISINFORMED YOU AGAIN (BUT NOT AS BADLY AS YOUR HISTORY TEACHERS). IF YOU READ MY COMMENT, JUST ABOVE YOURS, YOU WILL SEE EVIDENCE AND THEORY PROVING THAT THE INCREASED SUPPLY OF PRICY APARTMENTS *INCREASES* THE PRICES OF SURROUNDING HOUSING.

              2.”they wouldn’t last in a true free market situation.” A SECOND *MYTH* THERE IS NO FREE MARKET.

              I think that market behavior and behaviors in markets are not your forte. Stick with the RE stuff, your stronger suit.

    18. Axil says:

      Way to many trumpers on this site.

      • dannyboy says:

        You have identified a sickness that is growing on the UWS.

        It started with the the influx of Those Aspiring to Wealth.

        Now we have Racists demanding segregated schools.

        Ageists demanding that Seniors be kicked to the curb.

        Heartless demonizing the indigent and homeless.

        The list is sickening to me.

    19. Cristopher Cromwell JR. JR (The III) says:

      One of my favorite things is to read commentary by individuals that have no familiarity with zoning law, economics, real estate investment, construction, affordable housing policy or the judicial process all complaining to each other. It’s entertaining that I will give you, however it’s not productive. Educate yourself (for real not by George Jane) and then when you are ready assess where you should allocate capital to protect your precious west side. You have lost this fight, next time pick one that you can win on the merits and not because Helen Rosenthal used it as a platform for her re-election, or because George Jane new he could make a nice fee, or because your lawyer, Emery new he could drag it out and fleece you of your donated funds. Be smart!

      • Lis Anderson says:

        What a know-it-all this guy is. I remember when we formed the Block Associations with the “normal Democrats” leading the way, and made these blocks of lovely, charming houses a great, safe place to live. Too bad those days are long gone.

    20. Larry says:

      Apologies if this has been mentioned here, I’m a new reader. I heard a rumor that the ABC-TV studio on West End and 66th Street has been sold and that a hi-rise will be built on the site in a couple of years. Any truth to that?