Wednesday: Two Court Hearings for Contentious Development Projects

200 Amsterdam Avenue is the building in the center. Photo by Stephen Harmon.

Two development projects that have drawn criticism from neighbors are scheduled to have court hearings this week.

The 52-story apartment building at 200 Amsterdam Avenue (69th Street), which is the tallest in the neighborhood, will go before an appeals court on Wednesday to determine whether the developers violated zoning rules. A state supreme court judge ruled earlier this year that the city should revoke its building permit and that the developers should reduce its height by 20 stories. The hearing is at 2 p.m. and will be streamed on the court’s website.

And a 20-story nursing home project that was rejected by a state appeals court is scheduled to go before the Court of Appeals in Albany for another hearing on Wednesday. In October 2018, the court ruled against The New Jewish Home’s plans to build the nursing home (rendering at right) on West 97th Street in a parking lot next to PS 163. New Jewish Home is now 106th Street, but it had planned to swap its current building with a developer who owned the 97th Street lot. Neighbors and parents fought the decision, while the city sided with the nursing home. The neighbors’ group, “No JHL at PWV”, said in an email that the nursing home appears to have backed away from its plans, but that its intentions now aren’t clear.

As we informed the community in November 2019, the brief filed by the nursing home in the Court of Appeals stated in a footnote that because certain amendments to the Zoning Resolution in 2016 regarding bulk regulations required design changes of its permit application to the New York City Department of Buildings, the nursing home “…has determined that it no longer intends to proceed with the Proposed Facility, as originally designed, and is considering other options for a facility that would serve older adults at this site, but has not yet determined whether it would proceed to construct such a facility.”

This confusing statement sows doubt about whether the nursing home intends to build on the site at all. To date, neither the nursing home nor the property owner have made public statements on future proposals for the West 97th Street parking lot.

New Jewish Home declined to comment.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 29 comments | permalink
    1. Isaac says:

      Anything they build would be better than the parking lot currently on the W 97th site

    2. denton says:

      “drawn criticism from neighbors” should be “SOME neighbors”.

    3. AC57 says:

      Everyone here should read Esther Sperber’s March 9th Archinect Op-Ed about 200 Amsterdam.

      If we really want to do the right thing if SJP loses, repurpose the floors for affordable housing, don’t chop them down. If this is really about affordable housing, this should be a no brainer.

      • pjcpw says:

        I couldn’t agree more, AC57. Those 20 stories could most usefully be designated for desperately needed affordable housing. This can be a win-win-win for people in need of such housing, nearby neighbors who wouldn’t have to suffer untold months of noise, filth and danger from destroying 20 floors, and for the developer, who wouldn’t have to finance the destruction. Please, people, use common sense and make this a win-win-win for the UWS.

        • Frank Lingua says:

          Why use the euphemism “affordable housing”?

          Why not accurately describe the situation as taxpayer subsidized housing?

          Better yet, why not move all of those poor substance dependent men out of semi-luxury tourist hotesl and into luxury apartment skyscrapers and call them..oh..I don’t know…..”vertically enahanced rehabiliation facilities”? i

          • AC57 says:

            In this scenario, Sperber suggests that the city or a non-profit reclaim the equivalent square footage at the bottom, not tax incentives or giveaways. If SJP loses their case, they lose control of that part of the building in this better scenario. The aspect of the compromise is that they wouldn’t have to tear down the building. BUt they would get no tax break for the affordable housing, because it wouldn’t be theirs.

            You also avoid the headache of an “architectural decapitation”

            And again, I’m only suggesting this like Sperber did if the project is in fact deemed too large and SJP loses their appeal. If the only argument against this proposal is the context in this case

            • Boris says:

              That’s not an equitable solution. If SJP loses, why shouldn’t they be entitled to any tax incentives that would have applied if affordable units had been included in the original plan thus allowing increased height. This case has dragged on with opponents screaming about the height. Now, they’re ok with the height as long as the building has affordable units. How can opponents flip flop like that if they’re genuinely concerned about height? The answer is that they’re not and all they’re opposed to is new construction for people wealthier than they are. Especially those in Lincoln Towers who are losing their views. It’s mind-numbing that people in Lincoln Towers would also complain about architectural beauty and neighborhood conformity.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          Affordable housing at that site is not “subsidized by the taxpayer”, if you understand economics. a repurposing of 20 stories to affordable housing will change the composition of the economic gain, shifting a portion of it away from the rich developer and towards working class and senior tenants.

          but if you want to talk about taxpayer subsidies, you should be looking at the upper class people buying these high end condos. They will get the Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction, the largest taxpayer subsidy of housing in the US, and it’s tilted towards the rich and upper middle classes.

          And i don’t want to guess at how many tax subsidies the developer is getting.

          • Otis says:

            The developer has received exactly zero dollars in tax subsidies.

            This building is a condo, not a rental. These tax subsidies (421-A) you are referring to apply when a developer promises below market rental units.

            As this building has no rental units there are no tax subsidies.

            Don’t play fast and loose when you don’t understand the facts.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              reply to Otis:

              i notice you didn’t challenge my basic arguments: 1) that the affordable housing units are not subsidized by the government, at least not in the case mentioned; 2) that the mortgage interest deduction is the largest government housing subsidy in the US, by far.

              We have seen via Trump’s tax returns that real estate development subsidies go far beyond 421A exemptions. i don’t claim to know all of them, but i’ll bet you a dollar to a donut that there are some.

          • Boris says:

            Your argument falls apart if the buyers pay cash and don’t get mortgages. Many buyers are able to do that.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              reply to Boris:

              Sure, if you have $2 million in cash to buy a condo, you are not getting that particular subsidy. Be that as it may, the Mortgage Interest Deduction is the largest government housing subsidy in the US, and it is regressive, in that it is weighted more towards upper income people.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              reply to Boris:

              It’s a relief we’re not subsidizing rich people who can pay $2 million cash for a condo. Be thankful for small favors!

              Are you aware of the vanishingly small percentage of the American public who can afford to do that? Probably much less than 1%.

            • Boris says:

              The percentage of Americans who can pay cash is a useless statistic for purposes of this discussion. What’s relevant is the percentage of buyers who pay cash and that number is pretty high.

    4. Otis says:

      This is ridiculous. With all the problems facing the city we are wasting our time and energy squabbling over this building because of a handful of kvetchers with big mouths and deep pockets.

      If twenty floors are to be removed it will be a massive undertaking and this will disrupt the neighborhood for years.

      Let the building be completed once and for all and let’s move forward. With so many people fleeing the city I don’t see how these apartments will be sold in any case but let’s just get this over with.

      • Jay says:

        This is a complete waste of time and money. That we are all paying for just because some NIMBYs want to live in a museum.

        Fortunately, I don’t see these judges concurring with the lower courts decision. Folks will finally be able to move into the building, as is, soon and life will go on.

      • Brandon says:

        Like with small children, we can’t allow the developers to get away with breaking the rules or they will think they can always get away with it. They were told 20 stories ago that they were continuing at their own risk. They went ahead thinking no judge would make them take down completed floors. If there is no negative consequences what will stop them or other developers from over building any available lot and then saying “well, it’s already up. Nothing can be done now”

        • Otis says:

          Please get your facts straight.

          The developer did not “break the rules”. There were numerous decisions that stated they were in compliance with the law.

          Some malcontents are splitting hairs and having esoteric debates over “zoning lots” to argue the developer is not in compliance with the law. As stated, this argument has been reviewed many times and always rejected.

          • Brandon says:

            It will be decided if they broke the rules. That is precisely what this article is about. “will go before an appeals court on Wednesday to determine whether the developers violated zoning rules”

        • Josh P. says:

          They did not break the rules when they started construction. The rules were changed in the middle of construction by people who don’t like tall buildings. The bad actors here are the people who sue to stop every new project, fling legal theories against the wall to see what sticks, and never face any consequences for slowing down the construction of desperately needed new homes in the middle of a housing crisis.

        • Paul says:

          The land swap deal was done in 2006. The fact that the resulting building could go over 600 feet was announced then. It was noted in the quarterly report of the Coalition for a Livable West Side, the NIMBY group that was run by the same people who are suing now.
          The owners went ahead with planning and commitments based on understandings reached over 10 years before construction started.

    5. Ivan Stoler says:

      The nursing home isnt the best neighbor. The ambulettes double and triple park on 106 st, in blind spots. How will they accommodate all the crosstown traffic and NOT block this major thoroughfare if they are allowed to build on 97 st? There’s enough land for them to build over a waiting area for their vehicles so as to not to either block the sidewalk or the street. Will they do that?

    6. EGF says:

      These kinds of problems are so overshadowed by our current situation that anyone who spends an ounce of time on them only illustrates how out of touch they really are.

    7. Jean Luke says:

      The 69th St. building looks great and is the nicest new building in that area in many years. The height and setbacks gives it a classic 1930’s grandeur. Amazing with all the ugly buildings built in the 1950’s – 1980”s on UWS that “some” people are complaining about height just for heights sake.

      I also have been noticing the few new developments on UWS usually bring nicer sidewalks and safer well lit areas in front of the buildings.

    8. Chrigid says:

      The Jewish Home on 106th Street has a wonderful, well-deserved reputation and a wide 2-way street out front that lets residents quickly access any hospital in the city.

      I would not want anyone I love to wind up on the corner of 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, both 1-way and both constantly clogged with traffic and deliveries, and now Amsterdam narrowed by a bike lane.

      I keep imagining people dying in ambulances stuck in traffic.

    9. UpperWest says:

      Looking south from Broadway in the upper 70s, I actually think that building frames the street well, if that makes sense. Broadway’s curve makes it one of the few avenues where you can look down the block and have a building facing back, and this building does that pretty well, IMHO.

      I have no view on how they secured the air rights, but the notion of asking them to change it after it was built (and had been approved) seems unnecessarily punitive. If there are issues, fix them going forward.

    10. Ian Alterman says:

      It is funny that we have NIMBYs calling each other NIMBYs. You are NIMBY is you don’t want poor people in your neighborhood, and you are NIMBY if you don’t want rich people in your neighborhood. And it is the middle class NIMBYs making these comments. Hysterical.

    11. JS says:

      I have always thought the parking lot would be a great site for a natatorium. The West Side needs one badly. Children would be the greatest beneficiaries but old fogies like me could use it, too.

    12. Crawdad says:

      It’s really sad that nothing can be built in this neighborhood without endless lawsuits from wealthy, selfish NIMBYs. The UWS has a declining population and massive housing shortage, both due to lack of new housing. Yet practically every new development gets tied up in crazy litigation.