As Cantilevered Building Rises on Broadway, Some Neighbors Decry the Noise and Aesthetics

By Carol Tannenhauser

A 19-story cantilevered building is going up fast on the northwest corner of 91st and Broadway, but the construction schedule has left at least one neighbor sleepless.

“You can’t imagine what they were doing just minutes ago,” Jamie Leo, an artist and writer from West 92nd Street, emailed WSR at 3:50 a.m. on Thursday. “Between groups of men shouting and explosive jackhammers and giant steel girders slamming…it’s really beyond belief.”

But not illegal. The owner and contractor received what is known as an After Hours Work Variance (AHV) Permit from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), allowing construction for 61 hours straight, from Monday, January 4th at 6 p.m. through Thursday, January 7th at 7 a.m.

“After-hours variances are granted primarily when it’s safer or less disruptive to a neighborhood to perform the work at night or on weekends,” explained Andrew Rudansky, Press Secretary of the DOB. “For example, variances are granted for work done near schools or public spaces, for heavy construction work that might require sidewalks to be closed to protect pedestrians, or for work that would cause traffic gridlock if it’s done during the day. Certain types of work such as concrete pours and adjustments to cranes need to be performed when there is minimal pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area, or when stopping extended operations midstream may pose a hazard to workers and the public.”

What about the hazards of sleep disruption and deprivation?

“As a 66-year-old working person I can tell you that losing sleep every night this week to ALL NIGHT construction is taking a toll,” Leo wrote. “It really could be the death of me.” He’s also critical of the design, calling it a “cantilevered monstrosity.”

Some other neighbors have also been up in arms about the cantilevered design since it was revealed in December 2019. Developed by Hampshire Properties and Adam America Real Estate, with financing affiliated with computer magnate Michael Dell, it was made possible by the purchase of air rights from 2465 Broadway—the low-rise building next door, housing an Equinox gym.

Calling the proposed building “ugly” and “out of context with the neighborhood,” neighbors formed the West 91st & Broadway Cantilever Opposition Group (C.O.G.), hiring urban planner George Janes to mount a zoning challenge. “I wrote the zoning challenge back in April,” Janes emailed WSR. “It was partially accepted and required new plans. The cantilever, however, was allowed to go ahead despite neighbors’ objections to it.

“There is no legal limit as to the size of a cantilever, though there are practical limits,” Janes added. “This one is approaching those limits and so looks huge.”

A rendering by George Janes from the zoning challenge. The roof and bulkhead were subsequently changed, he said.

Chances are the overnight construction will reoccur; they have only reached the 11th floor. “It happened in September, October, November, December, and now,” Leo said. The future seems predictable…and, to him, puzzling.

“As every other business on Broadway’s UWS is closing, the fact that these Broadway skyscrapers are going up (a year into us being bunkered-down in our apartments due to Covid), it’s just a sick torture that’s hard to fathom,” he said. “But I am very aware that the problems I’ve been facing are very small compared to all the people in all of the closed businesses along Broadway (as in so many places) who have had no work for almost a year. Now, I’m going to do my best to try to salvage the rest of a night’s sleep.”

Here’s what Rudansky explained about noise and construction complaints in general: “When someone submits a noise complaints to 311, the complaints are routed to the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the NYPD. They enforce the Noise Code. If someone submits a complaint of illegal overnight building construction (without an AHV) to 311, the complaints are routed to DOB. We enforce the Construction Codes.”

WSR called Adam America Real Estate and the general contractor several times for comments on this story, but were unable to reach anyone. We have also not yet received responses to emails. We’ll update if we do.

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

      Real estate developers uglified and destroyed NYC with their greed. One of the many reasons ao many are leaving. And city government let them.

      • Ian Alterman says:

        You can primarily blame Bloomberg for this (though deBlahsio has not exactly helped). Bloomberg gave free run to the real estate industry- including allowing those monstrosities on 57th Street – during all 12 years of his mayoralty. And deBlahsio has not done much to rein it in. Just look at 200 Amsterdam, a building so out of context with the neighborhood that it might as well be in Dubai.

        • Jay says:

          Tall buildings in Manhattan! Excuse me while I go find some pearls to clutch.

          • NativeNYCer says:

            Well Jay that’s the type of thinking that led to the demolition of Penn Station. One of the greatest buildings in NYC. This is what motivated the founding of The Landmarks Preservation movement. Plans for mega skyscrapers were also greatly reduced at Columbus circle in a famous fight led by Jackie Onassis because they would cast a long shadow on Central Park.

            So while yes NYC is home to skyscrapers it has a history of limiting building that is out of character with the neighborhood and the rich and powerful here used to support that.

            • Jay says:

              I can tell you for a fact that the building this construction replaced was no Penn Station. It was pretty similar to other buildings one or two blocks away.

              Let’s just be honest here… this development is completely within the context of the Upper West Side. There are modern 20+ story buildings all along Broadway.

              You may not personally like the look of this new building, but luckily you don’t get to personally veto any construction in the neighborhood (and neither do I).

          • Lester S Long says:

            Not just tall. Ugly, uncontextual, and with this building, dangerous.

        • nemo paradise says:

          Has it occured to you that if we only allowed new buildings that fit “the context of the neighborhood” we’d all still be living in wigwams and mud huts?

      • Urbanite says:

        Re: “…uglified NYC….”
        REALLY?
        The various Hudson Yards buildings in the W. 30’s are ugly?
        The VIA building on W. 57th is ugly??
        The Waterline Square and Riverside Boulevard buildings are ugly???
        Maybe to those who pine for soot-stained six-story red-brick walk-up tenements or for soul-deadening NYCHA projects.
        One of the wonders of Manhattan is its incredible visual diversity, created NOT by unimaginative municipal bureaucrats but by visionary developers willing to risk-it-all by being creative.

    2. Mark Moore says:

      That is one ugly monstrosity. Didn’t realize there were more cantilevers to come. It already blocked the more narrow of the two views I have of the river from my apartment.

      • Isaac says:

        I actually think the design looks great and we desperately need more housing built. Sorry about your view…

    3. Exhausted from the Noise says:

      Between Con-Ed jackhammering all day every weekday for the last month on West End Avenue and the asinine construction at 2461 Broadway — the booming of steel hitting steel echoing through the neighborhood like bombs going off at 2am … 3am… 4am…. on and on and on. And this is legal and city-sanctioned??? It’s like living in a war-zone. This kind of non-stop noise pollution is a proven to cause mental and physical health deterioration. Neither I nor any of my neighbors with whom I spoke were able to get a single night’s sleep this week because of that construction. We’re all stuck at home during a pandemic and whoever *sold off* this 61-hour non-stop construction permit —probably to line their own pockets — should be fired and we should be assured by Helen Rosenthal that it won’t happen again. It’s been horrific. One day soon the mayor and City council are going to wake up and realize the middle class has left because no one wants to be paying ridiculously high property and income taxes for such crappy quality of life and to be so disregarded on basic levels — and they’re going to wonder where the money is going to come for their paychecks when the only people left are the homeless, rent-controlled and real estate developers.

      • Boris says:

        Why is it always asserted that someone lined their pockets? After-hours work variances are not a 100-year event. There’s a procedure for filing for them that is pretty transparent and not subject to the whim of an individual who can profit off this process.

      • UWSdr says:

        I am so sorry that this is so disruptive for you. Having a week of every month with 24 hour noise seems excessive to me. We live in a big city and things need to get built, but this situation seems a bit out of whack. Hope you get some rest soon.

    4. Julie says:

      When I contacted Helen Rosenthal’s office to complain about excessive noise and the mess around the construction site, I was told that “this is NYC, and we must learn to tolerate these things”. Now we see many workers not even wearing masks. You probably know what is like if we try to make any renovations.

      • Graham says:

        I complained to her office, too. It was the same response. It’s very frustrating, ugly or not. There should be a shorter period of time – 3:00 in the morning is sheer madness.

    5. Not Bruce says:

      Tall buildings in Manhattan is what makes Manhattan Manhattan
      Grow up and accept this simple fact.

      • Helane says:

        How would you like to be woken at 2, 3 & 4 o’clock in the morning 3 days this past week? Sleep interruptions like this are detrimental to one’s health. Although the design of this building is awful and has no esthetic qualities, we understand that NYC is built on moving forward and upward. Give us sleep and a building that adds to the ambiance of the UWS.

    6. Crankypants says:

      The construction disruption is aggravating but an unfortunate fact of city life. As for the architecture/design, I think it will be a beautiful and welcome addition to the neighborhood. Not everythinf has to conform to a single style. This is NYC!

      • Boris says:

        Agreed. I don’t see such beautiful architecture worth ‘blending in’ with in that surrounding area. In fact, a lot of it is pretty crappy.

    7. NY NIMBY says:

      Shame on the Heller Organization, the owner of the Equinox building. Selling out to receive a hefty paycheck against the will of the neighborhood. No wonder their retail condo at 75th and Amsterdam is always empty (the tenants they attempt to place there are lacking).

      • Jay says:

        Congrats on being hired as the official neighborhood spokesperson. Who hired you to that position, again?

        • Giulia says:

          Sorry but like…what a dumb thing to say. This is a comment section. Are you going to accuse every commenter who says something you disagree with of appointing themselves “official neighborhood spokesperson”? I could say the same of you “Jay” if that is your real name.

          • Jay says:

            NY NIMBY said this building is being built “against the will of the neighborhood”. Therefore they are trying to act as though they are speaking for the neighborhood.

            I have never suggested I speak for anyone but myself, whereas other are posting as though they do. The UWS is a lot of people and thoughts. To suggest that one person gets to define the “context” or the “will” of the neighborhood is laughable.

      • Isaac says:

        Cheers to the Heller Org for not caving to NIBMY pressure!

    8. Julie says:

      The lights are also on all night, with a straight shot into my bedroom. I filled a 311 but couldn’t tell if this is actually a violation. Anyone now?

    9. Alan L says:

      They continually block 91 street.
      Sanitation trucks cannot clean the streets,
      The least they can do is send a crew out to sweep on Thursday’s and Friday’s.

    10. UWS78 says:

      I can’t imagine being so unabashedly NIMBY that you’re without shame opposing new construction housing in an area that so obviously needs it. It’s such an embarrassing and shameful point of view. Welcome to Manhattan, tall buildings are part of the deal.

      • Giulia says:

        The idea that a newly constructed building that is obviously going to charge outrageous prices for apartments is somehow a selfless attempt at “lowering housing prices” in an absurdly expensive neighborhood is just hilarious!

    11. Kevin says:

      I approve of this building, just wish it was taller. Housing prices are still too high – clearly Covid has shown prices can and do go down with less demand. More supply would help slow the growth of housing prices.

      • Isaac says:

        I couldn’t agree more! I wish they’d have been able to redevelop the shorter building as well, which would render the cantilever design unnecessary.

    12. your_neighbor says:

      Sorry Leo but the reason for the variance is in the article – to protect people in the neighborhood who use the sidewalks and streets. Change is something that we need to live with if we are going to live in Manhattan.

      Personally I think the building is going to look great and a nice change from what is there now – perhaps it will help reinvigorate the 90’s and get some pedestrian traffic into the neighborhood.

    13. Frances Aronson says:

      To the person below who said housing prices are too high as a defense of this building being built–these will be super luxury, many floor-through apartments. I think there is 1 slated as “affordable” though I can’t imagine how small or how expensive it will be. Most of us are objecting to the outrageous amount of noise both overnight and during the day, lights shining into apartment windows, access to streets and bus stops blocked and general disregard for nearby residents. I’m not too fond of the proposed look and am concerned about commercial loading and foot traffic noise on what is usually a quiet residential block and the fact that the building seems to require access to one of its walls through our building. There is debris all over our small back yard and the roof, over which they have put some supports for their loading structures and street sheds. There are a number of large buildings being constructed in the area, and many many more residents will be affected by these things. According to the PR group representing the construction team, there will be concrete pouring all this coming week and another 5 days of overnight work sometime in Feb. Their contact email is 2461Broadway@kasirer.nyc, though their work notices are usually post- rather than pre-work, and they can also be reached at 646-475-2318. Very little can be done, but it can’t hurt to have your voices heard.

    14. UpperWestSad says:

      I don’t have a problem with construction or variances in general – the issue is we are still effectively stuck in lockdown. In this area there are at least 3 separate construction projects going on that I hear, between ConEd, this project, and local work.
      I wish there was a way for these projects to either align or coordinate so that we don’t end up with 24hour round the clock noise. For my part, I wake up to 1. 7am construction noise out one window, 2. then ConEd chimes in throughout the morning/afternoon while I’m stuck WFH, then 3. I have trouble falling asleep and wake up in the middle of the night as this building slams metal and jackhammers until 2-3am. If I was allowed to go onsite to work or have a regular day out there would be a little bit of variation or choice, but there’s no relief while we are required to stay home or in our walkable radius.
      Thanks to this round the clock construction, I have also seen mice in my place for the first time, and even during the day. During any other time but COVID I would say this is city life, get used to it, but honestly it feels more and more like I’m paying for a form of torture.

    15. Michael B Davis says:

      All business entities associated with Hampshire Propeties, Adam America Real Estate, Michael Dell, and the NYC Comissioner of Buildings should be boycotted immediately.

    16. robert says:

      Part I
      Variances like this are regularly given, in this case it was to allow the construction to be done safely, for the crew and neighbors.
      For those complaining about the Con Ed etc. noise At least it cooler out and you can close your window, we up on the real UWS in the 90’s had this all summer/fall They are working late hours because they were forced to stop, after Gale and our local electeds complained people were bothered by the noise during the day during C19 and had the city shut down construction.

    17. robert says:

      Part II
      They are rushing because the city and state passed a law that required builds to stop using heating oil. Con Edison is also offering rebates to those that converted to Natural Gas for heat and hot water. That is why they are replacing the gas mains all over the city with larger pies and newer connections to buildings. They are over a year behind in their work, and the elcteds will and pressure groups will not allow any extensions.

    18. robert says:

      Part III
      1. For residual oil (#6 oil). Any boiler in NYC must stop burning residual fuel oil on or before 01/01/2020.
      2. For fuel oil grade #4. Any boiler in NYC must stop burning fuel oil #4 by 01/01/2030, except boilers used to generate electricity and/or steam in an electric, steam or combined electric/steam generating facility, which must stop using fuel oil #4 on or before 01/01/2025.

    19. robert says:

      Part IV
      However the NYCDEP gives the owner/operator of a boiler used to generate electricity and/or steam in an electric, steam or combined electric/steam generating facility, options to continue burning residual fuel oil #6 until 12/31/2021 if the following two conditions are met.

    20. robert says:

      EADLINES:
      Part V
      ONDITIONS:
      1. The owner/operator of such boiler shall notify the NYCDEP on or before 06/30/2019 of the intention to burn residual fuel oil until 12/31/2021, and
      2. Such boiler must not use residual fuel oil or fuel oil grade #4, on and after 01/01/2022 (i.e. boiler must be converted from residual oil to fuel oil grade #2).

    21. Pcnyc says:

      200 Amsterdam really is jarring and conspicuously ugly. The aesthetics of cantilevered buildings are hard to get right with visually balancing it pleasingly; they’re usually awkward chunky blocks. This construction 91st Street does not appear to be an exception.
      My sympathies to those suffering through all-night construction noise. It’s a cramped area to be avoided on my walks.

    22. Julia says:

      I don’t understand why someone who already has billions of dollars (Michael Dell) needs to have a company (MSD Capital) to invest his extra money so he can make more money, unless he plans to give it away to those who need it more. I will never buy another Dell computer again.

      • Boris says:

        What do you expect him to do with the money since you’ve decided there’s an arbitrary point to stop earning more? Are there any other types of income-producers that should do the same? Maybe wealthy artists should stop making art for money. Or highly-paid actors should stop performing. It’s almost comical to hear the thoughts of someone who wants to suppress another person’s creation of a product that’s available to all.

      • robert says:

        True he is making money, but being an UWSider
        are you proud of all the high paying UNION construction jobs he and other developers are providing??

    23. Gigi says:

      Re construction site on the northeast corner of Broadway at 91st Street: On Saturday 1/2/21, the sidewalk on Broadway was flooded with pools of water & there was no way to get through without walking in inches-deep water; not just wet surfaces, but puddles. Walking in the street was not an option as the construction fencing already extends into Broadway. Could they be required to correct these surfaces? To grade them for runoff, especially to avoid puddles now and later frozen, iced sidewalks?

    24. Therese Harris says:

      Helen Rosenthal’s office was very responsive and quickly returned my call. When we spoke, I had suggested that multi-day After Hours Work Variance (AHF) Permits come with a stipulation of a min of 12 hour (noise) construction break in between for quality of life purposes. Last week we were subjected to steel construction until 4AM that then resumed promptly again at 7AM for four days straight. I understand that the work must be done “after hours” for the greater public safety. But when this must be done, the developer must adjust the day schedule to accommodate/support the community’s health and wellbeing. Compromise