Construction Continues on 200 Amsterdam Avenue; ‘It’s the Height of Arrogance’ Says Opponent

200 Amsterdam, center.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Construction continues on residential buildings on the Upper West Side even as most other activity has stopped due to coronavirus-related rules.

Among the projects where work continues is 200 Amsterdam Avenue, a 668-foot-tall tower — the tallest building on the Upper West Side — at 69th Street, being developed by SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America.

“Everything is quiet on the Upper West Side, except at 200 Amsterdam Avenue the elevator is going up and down!” said long-time building opponent Olive Freud. “It’s the height of arrogance.”

Last month, the developers continued building after a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that their zoning lot is illegal and they must take down an unspecified number of already-constructed floors. Before the coronavirus hit, they were appealing that decision and it was reported they were working on the building’s crown.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “New York State on PAUSE” executive order went into effect on Sunday at 8 p.m, closing all “non-essential” businesses statewide, in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Two days before, the New York State Department of Economic Development issued guidance to assist businesses in determining whether they are essential, and for filing to attain that designation.

In the category of construction, the guidelines listed as essential are: “skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers, other related construction firms and professionals for essential infrastructure or for emergency repair and safety purposes.”

“Essential Infrastructure” is said to include: “power generation, fuel supply and transmission; public water and wastewater; telecommunications and data centers; airports/airlines; transportation infrastructure such as bus, rail, or for-hire vehicles, garages, hotels, and places of accommodation.”

“Building a luxury condominium is not essential at this time,” Freud insisted. Politicians have also expressed frustration that some construction has not stopped.

The mayor’s office says they won’t even shut down construction sites where someone has tested positive for the virus, according to The City news site.

“We’re not shutting locations with positive cases,” Julia Arredondo, a de Blasio spokesperson, wrote in an email. “We’ve provided guidance on how to keep people safe and sites should follow that guidance.”

SJP Properties sent the statement below, but declined to comment on the question of continued construction, referring us to the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). REBNY has not yet responded.

SJP’s statement: “We are carefully following New York State and City guidelines and will continue to prioritize health and safety precautions on site while construction work is permitted in New York City. We deeply empathize with all workers and their families as we deal with this rapidly evolving global pandemic.”

Work on other projects has also irked local residents.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 41 comments | permalink
    1. WB says:

      Given the financial devastation that is coming (or already here) at a local and statewide level, are opponents of this project still suggesting we should tear it down and forego the transfer taxes, mansion taxes, real estate taxes and sales tax (from local retailers)?

      We are going to need to add density going forward so that we can generate additional income to refill the municipal coffers. Adding new taxes will not be palatable after everyone has taken a 30-40% hit on their household wealth.

      • Danielle B says:

        The problem is by those workers continuing their construction…non-essential construction, they are putting everyone they come in contact with in jeopardy especially since the mayor isn’t shutting down sites where a worker has tested positive.

        We all know there will be an economy crisis following this but that does not mean we have the right to keep our economy going at the risk of infecting other people.

    2. Paul says:

      “Height of Arrogance.”
      I appreciate the pun.

    3. Will says:

      I don’t understand how they could be building anything in the city right now with the risk of spreading the virus even further. Are the workers that expendable?

    4. Rob G. says:

      Happy about this! We need to keep moving forward with some positive news during this crazy time.

    5. Finish 200 !!! says:

      Re: “It’s the height of arrogance.”

      Welcome to The Heights, Ms. Freud
      You said, ““Building a luxury condominium is not essential at this time”

      Sorry, but it IS essential for ONE Very Important Reason…it’s keeping these workers EMPLOYED, unlike thousands of others who are suddenly without a paycheck.

      Being employed and providing for her/his family is very important to any worker…and much better than waiting for a skimpy unemployment check.

      So what if they’re building a “luxury building”…it’s not as if they’re building weapons, poisons, etc.

      • Arlene says:

        Employed and sick! And spreading whatever germs they pick up to their families. Where is their union in all of this?

        • Union-Proud says:

          Re: “Where is their union in all of this?”

          Doing what elected union leadership DOES…protecting the financial well-being, and thus the mental well-being, of the members.

          Unions once built the middle-class in this country; and they did it RESPONSIBLY, without causing wide-spread disruption as in France recently.

      • Keith says:

        they could be employed in taking it back to its legal height

    6. Sherman says:

      If these construction workers are properly protected then it’s a great thing that the construction hasn’t been suspended.

      I’m able to work from my apartment but not everyone is able to do this. Does Ms Freud and all these other self-appointed community leaders believe the city would be better off if these construction workers went on unemployment?

      And as far as her complaints that the neighborhood should be “quiet” that’s too bad. The neighborhood is so quiet it’s depressing. I personally welcome some the noise of people working.

    7. HARRIET says:

      That’s a tough call. I’m out of the City for now in a condominium complex in CT. The complex is in the middle of installing new roofs. The workers are thrilled to be employed. They are working outside. No one is in close proximity to another worker. We all know that ultimately that building will be completed. I think that anyone who can safely be employed should continue to work. Construction is one of those jobs that can move forward. Those fighting this are just making it more expensive for the developers.
      In fact,I think the building is very nice looking, and fits the area. I don’t know how anyone can complain about a graceful building going up in the shadow of the forever hideous Lincoln Towers.

      • Urbanite says:

        Lincoln Towers “HIDEOUS” ?!!

        So is a lobster…not-so-pretty on the outside but delicious on the inside.
        So my 2BR/2BTH/Terraced “lobster” offers:
        1. spacious apartments;
        2. excellent and professional staff;
        3. fascinating, clever, and, most important, friendly neighbors.

        Remember that thing about book and cover?

        • Mike M says:

          Me Too! Two years since we moved to a 2B 2Ba Terrace in Lincoln Towers from The Alden on Central Park West. Love our new neighborhood and our neighbors. Great place, great people.

        • Harriet says:

          I never said it wasn’t an excellent place to live. It started out as middle class rental housing when it was new, and now is just another high end place. I live within 4 blocks of it and have many friends who call it home. However, my in-laws, who were original tenants always said it looked just like a “Midwestern prison complex.”

    8. Rob says:

      Not sure how this is any different from the other “non-essential” jobs that our governor has made the mistake of eliminating.

    9. Mari Marasu says:

      Much of these comments sound like they’re coming from the real estate company themselves.

      The bottom line is, businesses are being deemed essential vs non-essential for a REASON. That reason is to prevent the spread. The idea that these construction workers still working is being seen as a “good thing for their families” is missing the point entirely!

      Everyone who is outside right now is putting not only themselves at risk, but is also a risk to their families, not to mention the risk they’re putting everyone else in by potentially spreading the virus. It’s selfish, irresponsible, and certainly doesn’t fall into any guidelines.

      It sucks to not be at work and not be able to make a paycheck if you cannot work from home, but every day that idiots like these are outside, is only furthering how long these troubled times will last overall.

      • Woody says:

        Your comments are misinformed. Just being outside doesn’t increase the risk to anyone. It’s being in close contact with other people that increases the spread. Plenty of construction work can be performed without being in groups.

    10. Jeff says:

      Also continuing to work at AMNH. Same hours, 7 am to 6 pm weekdays plus Saturdays. Doesn’t seem fair to those of us stuck at home all day.

    11. What may seem non-essential may not be the case. Leaving any construction site unattended for days or even weeks can become a dangerous safety hazard.

      Some construction operations cannot be stopped without serious consequences due to unfinished work. Running temporary elevators may be needed until permanent ones are operational.

      At minimum, security personnel are required to secure and patrol a site. Guards may not have the expertise in handling problems that may appear. Calling NYPD or FDNY are not the answer to fixing an issue or adding security.

      Laying off workers and putting remaining personnel on overtime is a serious safety risk. Tired workers are prone to making mistakes that can cause serious injuries to all involved.

    12. Yimby says:

      And now we’ve reached the Nadir of Nimbys!

    13. Joy Franjola says:

      Non-essential construction is taking place across the city, endangering the health of workers and their communities. Unions, contractors and our politicians have done nothing to stop this threat to the safety of the city.

      • Samantha French says:

        Wait… totally off topic but are you Joy Franjola like my 4th grade teacher Joy Franjola?!

    14. Suz says:

      How do we report them?

    15. Suz says:

      How do we report them for violating PAUSE.

    16. Joan says:

      Is there no common sense left? Shut the damn blg. down and please put the person(s) responsible in jail!
      This next comment is not a pressing public matter, but my nice south facing view, along with the other obnoxious blgs.near C.P. south, has been ruined.

    17. Anne says:

      The fact that the workers are not taking DOWN the building is what is outrageous.

    18. Sara says:

      Does anyone know if all the workers have tested negative for the virus — as any of them having the virus would increase the risk to those in the immediate area (i.e.the nearby Lincoln Towers buildings) which houses many elderly who are deemed to be higher risk?

    19. DASSI says:

      Construction also continues without any apparent abatement at the sight of the former Collegiate School on 78th Street between WEA and 78th St.

      IT IS AN OUTRAGE. There is no structure at this sight, so it is hardly an essential infrastructure activity (like a leaking roof) When so many people have lost their jobs ……….. and are forced into social isolation … that our City and States allows these developers to continue to develop luxury properties is an outrage that our officials allow this to continue.

      I’ve reached out to my local politicians and advise everyone else to do so.

      • Ye Olde Englishe Teachere says:

        Re: “at the SIGHT of the former Collegiate School”…”There is no structure at this SIGHT,”

        AAARRRGGHHH…it’s SITE, not SIGHT.

        To adapt the wonderful line sung by Professor Henry Higgins (“My Fair Lady”), ‘why cahn’t New York-ers…learn…to…SPELL’

        Why, indeed!!

    20. Kurt says:

      Jackhammering has been still going on on broadway between 93-94 from 715 Am to 6 PM. They’ve also requested a permit to pour concrete from 6 – 10p PM….

    21. J says:

      Have seen a number of construction sites continuing work. Was surprised since it is not essential work!

    22. DD says:

      I’s outrageous what these aggressively greedy builders of 200 Amsterdam are doing to our neighborhood. Even in the middle of a killer virus! Merciful God take it down!!!!!!!

    23. SD says:

      Down with the 200 Amsterdam Ave. building!!!!!! Shame on them.

    24. P Marks says:

      The construction on Broadway between 93/94 is also ongoing. It is an insane reading of the new regs to allow all this to go forward. EVERYBODY SHOULD COMPLAIN! Though it is not easy to find out where/how. NYC, NYS and 24th Precinct. Any lawyers out there should take this on as a project! Look at def of “Essential Services” which specifically excludes constructiin. It cannot be that the exception elsewhere includes new constructon of non-emergency buildings. But if construction industry takes a unified stand that it does….unfortunately, people and entities like bldg managers just accept it.

    25. rubydoo says:

      This decision is not just impacting large construction projects or construction workers who are “out in the open”. Every single unionized contractor in the city has been forced to keep their doors open this week, regardless of the size of the company or the nature of work that they do. And since many of these are small businesses who aren’t equipped to work remotely, they’ve needed staff to continue to cram into small offices across the city to support them.

      This hits close to home for me because my sister is one of those individuals who’s had to continue working even though her company’s primary business is painting private office spaces. I understand there’s a pressing need for construction of emergency medical facilities and hospitals right now but it’s difficult to understand how a small commercial painting company — or any construction project not related to crucial infrastructure, emergency repair or construction of healthcare facilities — can be considered essential at this time.

      As union officials, developers, contractors and other business owners (as well as most of you commenting on this thread) work safely from the comfort of home, these non-essential workers are being forced to go to work, even if sick. Most of them take public transportation to and from work which creates an even greater risk of them spreading the virus and carrying it back to family members when they return home. And in the event of an accident or construction site injury they would take much needed resources away from an already overburdened healthcare system.

      The real estate and construction industries have justified this by saying they’re at risk of losing billions of dollars if they shut it down. Almost every other industry on the planet is equally at risk and yet most have made the difficult choice to put people’s safety and health above $.

    26. PLR says:

      So many issues are being conflated in these comments. Nobody wants to maximize the number of unemployed people or the financial hardships so many are suffering on a personal level, or citywide and statewide for that matter. There are no easy choices at present. I live at the site of condo construction on West 96th Street. I see the workers outside my window, clustered together at times and without masks. Nobody is monitoring those situations. Plus, the thousands who are quarantined and living right next to/nearby these sites are suffering in a different way. We’re trapped in our apartments with near-deafening noise levels for up to ten hours/day. Where is the sanity in that?

    27. Al says:

      The construction at 15 W 96th St is UNBEARABLE. Sounds like a war zone all day – completely disruptive to the community working/studying from home and endangering the workers. NON-ESSENTIAL construction is putting workers at risk and ruining life for families trapped at home all day. The government needs to SHUT IT DOWN.

    28. Michel Corbeil says:

      At 200 Amsterdam Avenue, not only does the elevator go up and down all day, there are also a few garbage trucks that make a deafening noise for hours and hours. We still have to wear construction earmuffs to block out some of the noise, but not all of it, unfortunately. We have been complaining about 200 Amsterdam Avenue forever. Not a good situation for our health. Yes, we have called 311 repeatedly, but the City doesn’t care.

    29. Ilse Melamid says:

      On Sunday a van load of workers gathered near 200 Amsterdam ave, where work using elevators was continuing despite court judgement to stop the illegal construction.

      • James says:

        There was NO court order to stop construction on this perfectly legal building. The city issued a city-wide moratorium on non-essential building projects.