By Carol Tannenhauser
A New York State appeals court ruled in favor of the developers of 200 Amsterdam, the 51-story tower on W. 69th Street that a judge had previously said abused zoning laws and might have to remove up to 20 floors.
The ruling secures 200 Amsterdam’s position as the tallest building on the Upper West Side.
The four-judge panel ruled unanimously that the BSA (Board of Standards and Appeals) had “rationally interpreted” the zoning laws, when they allowed the developers to use partial tax lots in the composition of the building’s zoning lot, which determines allowable height.
“Today’s unanimous decision is an unequivocal affirmation that 200 Amsterdam’s permit was lawfully issued under the Zoning Resolution. We thank the City of New York for their support in the appeal and throughout the development process,” said Steven J. Pozycki, Chairman and CEO of SJP Properties, which developed the property together with Mitsui Fudosan America.
The building had reached its full height long before the ruling, as the developers never stopped building through a protracted litigation process that began in 2017, when community activist Olive Freud first saw the plans for 200 Amsterdam and hired urban planner George Janes to determine if they were legal. Since then, there have been a series of suits and countersuits, motions and appeals, with the winning side constantly changing.
The two nonprofits fighting the developers — the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development (CFESD), which is Freud’s organization, and the Municipal Art Society (MAS) — expressed disappointment and outrage at the decision. They disputed a second finding of the court, which held that “this proceeding is moot because the building is substantially completed and petitioners…failed to exercise continued due diligence to halt the project by not seeking injunctive relief at every stage of this protracted litigation.”
“Absurd and unreasonable,” CFESD and MAS responded, in bold letters, in a joint statement. “Over the course of a three-year litigation like this one, filing for an injunction every step of the way would cost plaintiffs hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Beyond the topic of partial tax lots and the dangerous precedent set by this project, we are deeply concerned about what this decision will mean for any community group or non-profit organization seeking to hold rapacious developers accountable to the law.”
So is it over? CFESD and MAS aren’t saying for sure. “The tactics used to create 200 Amsterdam are unprecedented, but they will become all too common if this decision is left to stand. We are evaluating our next steps, including possible action at the New York State Court of Appeals.”
Thanks to Robert Josman for the tip.