By Carol Tannenhauser
New York State Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry ruled on Thursday that the building permits for 200 Amsterdam Avenue, the nearly completed 668-foot building at 69th Street, “should be revoked, and the building reduced to conform with zoning regulations,” according to Scott Mollen, an attorney for the developers, SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America. The number of floors to be removed was not specified.
“Honestly, it’s epochal,” wrote Chuck Weinstock, who represents the two nonprofits that brought the lawsuit, the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and the Municipal Art Society of New York, in an email obtained by WSR. “No judge has ever ordered a developer to take down a building like this, based on a lawsuit by a private party, not the city itself.”
The developers had previously won other rulings in the case, but had been told they were building the additional floors at their own risk while challenges proceeded. They have already been marketing units to buyers.
The zoning lot for 200 Amsterdam was cobbled together from a large number of surrounding lots, a tactic that opponents said was an abuse of the process.
Opponents showed the cobbled-together zoning lot at a recent protest.
Mollen said “We believe the ruling is absolutely incorrect in numerous ways, and we intend to promptly appeal.” He said the city may also appeal.
This is a breaking story. We will update as details come in.
Update, 1:50 a.m.: A spokesperson for the Municipal Art Society of New York emailed WSR the following:
Justice Perry ruled in our favor in the Article 78 lawsuit brought by the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, invalidating the building’s gerrymandered zoning lot and ordering the owners of 200 Amsterdam to remove approximately 20 floors from the 668-foot tower to bring it into compliance with the Zoning Resolution.
Read about the woman who spearheaded the community opposition to 200 Amsterdam here.
Very interesting story. So glad decisions like this are being made in this city. Thanks for the info.
This building should be torn down and replaced by a 30 story parking garage to house all the cars that may no longer park on the street.
Remember all the parking garages in the neighborhood that were torn down and replaced by high-rise apartment buildings? Now is the time to make amends.
I’m with you!
While I’m glad we both are pleased that the building has to have twenty floors removed, I disagree that it should be replaced with a parking garage
I think that in addition to better regulating new buildings being built, New York City should also be decreasing the amount of cars and traffic. The city would make far better amends to the large amount of cyclists who are killed because of unsafe bike Lanes
Perhaps the city should be making amends to all the pedestrians who were hit by bikers in bike lanes who were injured by bikers going the wrong way on 1 way streets, speeding, and ignoring red lights
I agree with you.
You have no idea why some people need cars. Forget about wanting one. My car video tells a very different story regarding bicyclist and pedestrians. Of course, there are careless drivers. But, they pale in the amount of B & P who absolutely have no regard for the laws of the road. Just the other day, a firefighter over the bullhorn from his truck, on Columbus Ave, repeatedly told a bicyclist to use the left side bike lane. Nope, he stayed in the lane he was in. Before anyone comments, it was a man in a suit on a Citibike, not a delivery person. Also, I thought those battery bikes were not allowed in Manhattan. They’re everywhere. Pedestrians look at a driver as if it’s a challenge to get hit. I’m not talking about anyone who’s distracted. These people know exactly what they’re doing. The amount of cars are out of control, not because of citizens like me, but because too many car service licenses were distributed. Delivery trucks just stop to unload. Several don’t feel the need to pull over to an empty parking space, blocking the flow of traffic. I might as well get one more issue off my chest. I’m sick of people crying about “free” parking spaces. If the law goes through, I’m going to have to insist on a tax return going back 40 years as my taxes include helping public schools. I don’t have children so why should I pay? Oh wait, WE LIVE IN A CITY!!! That’s how it works. I pay for things I don’t use just as my neighbors do. NYC, particularly the Upper West Side, has one goal; get rid of the middle class. It’s been slow and steady but now, it sure seems like the plan has accelerated
The building looks fine. Some people have way too much time on their hands.
I totally agree! Let’s see what we can tear down next. Unbelievable.
You don’t seem to understand what’s happened here at all.
A couple of things: Great reporting on this whole issue by Carol Tannenhauser. Thank you. Secondly: what kind of stress do these supertalls place on the water system and electrical grid? Although the building is not occupied, where does the construction debris go? Into the water system? And what about machinery, work lights, etc., that could place great stress on our old electrical grid? Remember the power outage last summer and the water main breaks around 69th-70th Streets? When these projects are approved, are proper environmental impact studies done? I wonder if any of these things are considered in depth, objectively, and by experts, not just by zoning review boards.
A short building with more units inside would place more “stress” on the water and electrical systems than this one does. And it’s not like this site was empty previously. There was a synagogue there since 1970 hooked up to power and water. Construction debris is carted off site like with any NYC building project.
Debris is not always carted away from the site. Ask tenants like me living next door on the penthouse level and frequently find the outdoor area showered with an oil substances dumped from the construction above!
Yes, Paula, that is the case sometimes. We live next door to a construction site and the debris is often just rinsed off the sidewalk into the drains on the street. This is a small construction site — imagine what could happen (as you say) to a much larger building.
Dan, you’re right. The site was not empty. Never said it was. There was a Woolworth’s, a Reconstructionist synagogue, Lincoln Square Synagogue, and the old branch of the Riverside NYPL. These were low buildings, certainly not beautiful I might add. So how do you equate the potential electrical use/water use of the new high-rise with previous lower usage by buildings that were not even in use 24/7? And about that construction debris being hauled away — is that why, after the recent water main break, NYC said the water was muddy because of debris that had gotten into the lines? Perhaps the process is not as meticulous as one would hope.
You pose interesting question about debris. FYI, Riverside Branch Library moved to Amsterdam Avenue, street level of a high rise. That low building was taken over by and is still currently a beautiful West End Synagogue (Reconstructionist). Lincoln Square which built a big building next to West End sold it’s old site to company now manipulating air rights to build higher up. I’d call it an ‘air grab’.
Hooray – sanity prevails! It’s time to demolish this thing and put up something that fits in better with our neighborhood.
If they only have to remove a few floors, I suggest they remove the bottom floors, the top part is sort of cool looking.
Will it still be sanity when the appellate judge reverses this decision?
Don’t get used to this decision. It will be reversed on appeal.
Here’s the outcome. It’s not going to happen. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed and wants to be a hero. Yeah we know it should have been a shorter building, but what’s done is done. Put your super hero cape away. End of story.
Makes total sense. Just build whatever you want and then say, “Oh, sorry, it’s built now though so too late.”
You are absolutely correct. The city will win its appeal. The fix is likely already in. This will only be historic if they take down 20 stories. Not going to happen. Watch Chinatown again, everyone. If you believe this is going to really happen, then you believe in the tooth fairy.
It happened 50 years ago. My urban planning prof, the late Chester Rapkin told us about it. A building was built 15 stories too tall, someone on the City Planning Commission noticed, and ordered the top 15 stories removed. And so it was. That’s why the article said this is the first time this has happened in response to a private lawsuit. Because the City had so ordered before, and it happened.
We have been living with construction mess on this block for years thanks to the “environmentalist” fanatics who keep delaying this building’s construction. WSR has reported on the sidewalk diversions, noise, criminal incidents in the scaffolding tunnel that pedestrians are forced to use, etc. For God’s sake, just let them complete this building already so that the neighborhood can get back to normal! Yet another case when purported do-gooders are making life harder for the regular people who actually live here.
Yea we know he shouldn’t have run over that person but what’s done is done. Yea we know He shouldn’t have punched that student but what’s done is done and she’s back in school so put your super hero cape away! Wrong is wrong before during and after. Let’s not water down when rules are not followed.
That horrible construction shed will now be there for months…years??
Also, WHY is the building’s HEIGHT such a problem?? New Yorkers NEVER stare up at tall buildings, lest they be mistaken for tourists. Besides, younger folk stare down at their cellphone screens and seniors at the pavement beneath, fearful of tripping.
As for the Case of Air-Rights Juggling:
GET OVER IT! This is The City of New York, where minor corruption is as common as Dollar Pizza shops. Here, from the NYT:
“An article … in 1871 declared, “Disgraceful Corruption in the Department of Buildings.” Nearly a century later, in 1966, the buildings commissioner proposed that inspectors wear uniforms without pockets. The inspectors union fought it, the City Council was against it and the buildings commissioner quit.”
“…a wholesaler testified in the 1920s that he had to pay $2,000 to a bagman in order to secure the return of 56 cans of cream that had been seized”
YES! It’s a shame that you have to live through this.
Holding up the building process and appeals will go on for at least another year and the building will get its way and unfortunately you’re going to have to live through it and “they” will too!
What a mess that area will be.
The building will win at the end as they should.
The building that had to be lowered at 108 East 96 street back in the late 80s took almost 4 years in court litigation and another 4 years dismantling 12 floors.
The west side neighborhood is in for a long run in todays courts of litigation before you see the light of day.
I can’t imagine the disruption of life that they’re going to go through for the next 10 years or more if the contractors lose out.
No one wins…But a lot of aggravation, noise and dirt for the neighborhood.
108 East 96th was different in that city from the start said building violated zoning. Here city said and did opposite, gave its blessing several times to a project including BSA approval.
Yeah, just when the end was in sight, if this decision stands, we can look forward to another year of chaos as the demo guys return with a crane, plasma cutters, and a long line of garbage trucks from 7am to 7pm six days a week.
Good for Justice Perry. These super sky-risers aren’t built for tenants, they’re built to squeeze as many people into cookie-cutter apartments,with low ceilings and thin walls so the developers can walk away with a huge amount of money. Perspective buyers: caveat emptor.
Thank you to all who helped with this effort. It was not always easy, but when you see avarice and illegality, sometimes you have to stand and fight.
Congratulations UWS, this victory will have lasting benefits to the future of the NYC skyline as partial tax lots will no longer be able to be used to make zoning lots. (a practice unique to NYC because of a now proven illegal interpretation by developers.)
There’s legal and illegal. The claim that this building is legal has been utterly repudiated. Great news for the rule of law and good sense.
It ain’t over until it’s over. There is still the appeal process which developer and city are most certain to do.
Furthermore city could simply change zoning laws/rules to make legal what this judge called “illegal”.
Like that old song says; one monkey don’t stop no show.
Agree — legal is legal. Let’s stick to the law and to the facts.
Don’t be ridiculous. it’s not over yet and you sincerely believe this is going to happen, in your dreams.
No victory here except for the building that will remain as is.
No matter what you and I think of this building as it stands (and frankly, I like it, a lot—i admire the knife blade setbacks way up high), this Trumpian time is an important time to be reminded—and to practice—that rules and laws are put in place to be followed.
This case seems agonizing but it shouldn’t be that way. Rules were violated.
This Is happening a lot, politically. and now we realize that some people openly call for this kind of invalidation/reversal of common practice, rules and laws for personal and political gain. When standards slip, s**t happens, big time.
So now the developer will appeal. Will this go on and on and on? My daughter lives next door and her lease is up soon. I’ll be advising her to move.
While I sympathize with the neighbors who have been enduring endless construction, the sentiment of “it’s already built, so it’s too late” is exactly what the developers wanted.
The developers were warned that this was at their own risk. Just because they did it and the overall building looks OK doesn’t mean it was right or LEGAL.
I’m all for new development, new retail, and new energy in the UWS, but that doesn’t mean that developers should utilize loopholes and illegal means to do what they want.
I agree with Tim. This “it’s been built, so get over it” mentality is the same thing developers said in the past after they tore down buildings without proper review and then said, “oops, it’s done now … no going back.” What I was advocating was proper review, not jumping through loopholes. Legal process should be followed. I’m not against progress — many new buildings fit the skyline and the neighborhood. This one doesn’t.
Hooray! I am so happy for floor removal! The developer went ahead at own risk. This ruling sets important precedent.
The legal battles concerning this building is not helping our neighborhood at all. Those of you who are pretending to help are actually causing more harm than good. If this building is not successful, what will happen to it? Do you want it to be sold to the city so it can become a homeless shelter or a drug addict facility or low income housing? Or just a big vacant mess?
Stop the nonsense and realize that you can’t always have everything exactly the way you want it. Other people live here too. The world does not revolve around you and your wishes and desires.
LONG LIVE JUDGE PERRY! And down with this EYESORE of a building!!!!!!!!!! It was bad luck from the beginning…….. It belongs midtown or downtown Manahattan, NOT in our, historic and beautiful neighborhood!
Shocked to hear this but it’s about time the courts stopped these developers’ overreach. I hope the first of many.
Bravo to all those involved who worked so diligently on this for do long, especially the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, a local volunteer group. Hopefully you’ll prevail in their inevitable appeal.
FINALLY! Following the zoning code is being enforced. This is a great day for neighborhood advocates and New Yorkers that care about open spaces, air and light!
I would think that the builder had some alternate plans in the event that the permit for the full height of the building wasn’t issued or was revoked. Or … Just In Case.
If the building is reduced by court order by 10 or 20 floors, it would still leave a 42-story or 32-story building. The 32-story version would seem more viable in comparison with surrounding buildings, esp. in the Lincoln Center area. The 42-story version would look like a toothpick in the sky. The 52-story design is pretty crappy and would simply entice other developers to do the same or go even higher. Then what?
This is just a waste of time and money. The building will be built exactly as planned, as it should.
This is a wonderful ruling and right on the law. Unfortunately, this is what the BSA should have done in the firsts instance instead of forcing residents and grass roots organizations to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get them to do their job!
It is likely the developer will appeal and the entire dance begins again. The City and it’s agencies need to start following the law and do their job controlling development and protect our environment, our neighborhoods, infrastructure and public assets instead of enabling developers!
Correct, but now the circus leaves City Hall and enters the NYS Court system. First stop will be the Appellate Division, 1st Department. Then on to the Court of Appeals in Albany. This is at least two years away from resolution. In the meantime the developer can continue to pay tax on the lot and keep a construction crew on call. One fun part will be the malpractice claims by the developer against the architect now. Discovery in that lawsuit will really demonstrate the depth of corruption and payoffs of all concerned.
This is totally insane, like putting the cart before the horse, or under the horse. What if removing the top stories destabilizes and/or compromises the building structure either now or in the future? Then who is to blame if someone gets injured or killed! The judge?
Seriously, yimby?? Architects and engineers can figure this out. The point is that the developer was under notice that this was a potential outcome. They chose to continue.
I’m not sure how they can continue selling apartments with the appeals process ongoing.
Whether you like the building or not shouldn’t enter into whether you believe proper zoning was followed.
This is a very good ruling for our neighborhood and in fact the city as a whole.
This developer clearly knew they were breaking the law and though that once they put it up they could just say screw the zoning and best interests of our neighborhood.
It’s about time the laws around building and zoning law are enforced.
As this is the lowest trial court there will be several levels of appeals courts and years of litigation to come. By the time this is settled the building will be complete and people will be living in the apts the purchased. The worst case is the developer will pay a fine, or more likely agree to include a new school/firehouse, affordable apts in their next deployment. Two, this judge was elected after being chairman of CB10 in upper Manhattan in 2011. This is not the first case like this that has been pushed like this in the courts ALL of which have been lost by the NIMBY folks. Various groups and elected have used this building as a rallying point and fund raising tool. At the same time everybody has been told to look at the bright shiny object there are a number of other projects that have been approved
Unbelievable the number of comments here that basically say:
“They intentionally broke the law, but who cares“Hey they’re rich! and they knowingly broke the law, illegally put it up, but they’re entitled! Who cares, what’s done is done, get over it!”
This is exactly the problem right now in this country and the undermining of our rule of law.
Well I for one don’t think the courts should “get over it”
The floors need to come down.
Amen. And go, Olive!!!
David beat Goliath
The little people win
Before anyone gets too excited, I believe the ruling was to remove FLOORS not HEIGHT … they are NOT the same thing. The zoning is all about the floor-area-ratio. Conceivably they could remove every other slab to create palatial (and lucrative) residences with magnificently high ceilings and come into compliance. It would be fewer residences but the higher ones would command spectacular views and spectacular prices.
This has been done several times in Manhattan.
That is fantastic. So sick of needless huge buildings on the upper west side. Did not want this one to begin with. There are too many people and not enough room on subways or buses.
Justice is finally done. Thank You chords And all the people that fought so hard for this.
Hope this survives on appeal! STill mystified how Building was approved in 1st place; either we need new laws/reg or somebody cut (massively) paid off. Maybe both!
GREAT. WE HAVE LAWS AND RULES!!
My concern is that if this issue reaches the United States Supreme Court and the Supremes decide to hear it (fanciful), the Trump – Republican stacked deck will rule for the developer.
Just how many courts are there between the New York State Supreme Court and the Washington, D.C. Supreme Court?
This matter would never be taken up by federal courts, which is where it would have to start before even being considered by SCOTUS.
This involves interpretation of local zoning laws. There is no claim of bias, discrimination or anything else that warrants federal involvement.
If 20 stories are to be removed, logic requires that the oldest floors should go first. Therefore I propose that the bottom 20 floors be removed. For the safe of safety I suggest that no one should be anywhere in the building above the 20th floor while this modest renovation is taking place.
Olive protester and her gang are looking for an obvious solution,
Deblasio will mandate 20 of the floors to low incoming housing or a New Rikers Annex!
This whole city is corrupt.
I can’t comment on the legality of the decision, but I’m looking at the picture of the cobbled-together zoning lot and I have a question. If Justice Perry’s ruling stands, the building has 20 floors removed, and any height allowances therefore return to the properties that were used to cobble together the 200 Amsterdam zone, do we know that using these allowances to build on those properties won’t result in more disruption to the character of the neighborhood than the extra 20 set-back floors at the top of an already tall building?
Bingo. What most complainers don’t understand is that the buildings who sold their air rights had the right to build higher. The total amount of allowable square footage/height didn’t change for all the buildings involved. When people complain about the ‘infrastructure stress’ caused by so many new residents in a tall building, they’re oblivious to the fact that the same number of residents would exist if all the smaller buildings were heightened. IT would really help if people made an attempt to get familiar with how things work before shooting off their mouths.
Umm, yes, but five 15 story buildings is different than one 75 story building in terms of character, look, and feel. That is why there are zoning requirements. Go to municipalities where there are no zoning restrictions and see what that is like.
Did I say anything about look and feel which are totally subjective opinions? I clearly mentioned the constant kvetching about stress on infrastructure due to an increased number of residents which would be the same if all the parcels were built up to their allowed heights.
Win one for the small guys.
Delightful to see a judge actually enforce the law. Developers usually get away with the “It’s already built, so get over it” strategy. I remember only one case, on East 96th Street about 30-some years ago, when a developer was actually compelled to obey the law and take down the excess construction. Hopefully, that will happen here too.
eyup: https://www.cityrealty.com/nyc/carnegie-hill/the-parkview-108-east-96th-street/8005 “This relatively modest, 19-story, midblock building was the subject of one of the city’s fiercest controversies over zoning and widely became known as the “too-tall” building.
The developer had received approval from the city’s Buildings Department to erect a 31-story apartment tower, which was nearing completion when community groups protested that it was too tall for the site’s zoning and would be deleterious to the neighborhood.”
I was initially upset by this building, but I think it turned out to be kind of pretty. Put your efforts into protecting FUTURE potential building disasters. This one probably looks better NOW than if they start hacking up the top. Work to prevent REAL monstrosities like the SalesForce building in San Francisco— now THAT is a blight upon a once- pretty skyline!
The reasonable solution is not to tear down the offending floors, but rather to impose a fine on builders equal to the cost of bringing it into code. This will discourage other builders in the future from attempting a similar fait accompli.
It is conceivable that such a fine would bankrupt the company that owns it, imposing losses on its creditors. This would likewise discourage lenders from enabling such code violations in the future.
Lol who knows if this ruling will stand but the developer absolutely deserves some more headaches and legal fees.
I am outraged at the NIMBYs that are doing everything they can to stop good development in the UWS. The UWS should, just like any neighborhood in NYC, evolve and good development not be impeded to maintain a neighborhood rife with old and outdated buildings. Further, the more we permit taller buildings the more we encourage additional housing that is affordable to others.
DH, by what definition do you consider this to be good development? And how do you get that there will be more affordable options by buildings like this? Have you looked at the prices?
Fabulous news. This building was a scam from the beginning.
Get over it, NIMBYs. This is a beautiful building with lots of visual space around it. The same amount of stress on the infrastructure would result if all those buildings who sold their air rights built to a maximum 12-14 stories. How ugly would that be? Also, don’t residents realize that the UWS has actually shrunk in population over the last 30 years, as lots of tiny apartments have been renovated into fewer larger apartments. I don’t have an opinion as to whether or not this is “morally right” but it’s true. Also, real estate has never cared about morality, going back to the first Manhattan settlement in 1623.
So many commenters seem to be buying in to the whole might makes right argument. Opponents of the building have used lawful and legal recourse available to try and prevent completion of a project they believe makes the UWS less livable. The reason that there is recourse in the law is so that people can oppose things to which they object.
We currently have a president that subscribes to the might makes right argument also. I wonder how many of the commenters here who advocate just letting the building be finished voted for our current president. I wonder how many think of themselves as like minded to the president.
When ordinary people passively accept policy and projects that benefit very few at the expense of the majority, they fail in their civic duty and should neither express protest or surprise when the long term negative consequences of the inaction become evident.
If you just sit back and let it happen, don’t be shocked if the outcome is not to your benefit.
stating the obvious so many times, in so many ways, may not even make a dent in those people who think ‘might makes right’. it is flabbergasting.
Bravo Justice Perry!!!!
Hey fokls in 1991 a developer removed 12 stories from an E. 96th St building. Developers cannot be allowed to flaunt the law. Period. Thank you Helen Rosentha for your support.l
They are NOT required to remove stories, they are required to remove floors … to come into F.A.R. compliance. They can remove slabs, increasing ceiling height, and not take an inch off of the building. This has been done before.
As a resident of the Upper West side for over 50 years, the judge’s decision is ludicrous. Quality of life has gone down over the last 10 years, crime is rising, and we’re concerned about tall buildings? It’s become a joke of a neighborhood.
This building as is has already improved the skyline and desirability of the neighborhood. These short-sighted lunatic fringe groups continue to be the death of the Upper West Side.
At the construction Friday after work drinks meet up,
Bartender: what drink do you want?
Developer: Bloody Mary, Dirty, and absolutely no Olives!!!!!
This story isn’t about the judge it’s about Olive Frued, her group has a history of undoing done deals. Good work, you are a hero.
Crazy. This is how a city becomes like San Francisco. We need more housing, not less.
This matter should be settled by the developer designating the top 20 floors to Section 8 housing