Developers Prevail: 200 Amsterdam Will Remain the Tallest Building on the UWS


The entrance to 200 Amsterdam Avenue, as of about a month ago. Photos by Stephen Harmon.

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.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 86 comments | permalink
    1. Crankypants says:

      Great news for Progress and the 21st Century. Bravo!

      • LincTowers says:

        your just a shill for the developers and don’t give a hoot about the community.

      • Bob says:

        Great news for The Rich in the 21st Century. Bravo!

      • BOO for living in the shadows… plus, don’t forget the REALLY REALLY UGLY factor.

        • EGF says:

          I live across the street from this stunningly beautiful addition to the neighborhood and have never has an issue with either the design or the construction process. The grand entrance was revealed recently from behind the construction wall and I was so impressed by its presentation and sophistication. I walk to and from work every day and this building does not stand out in any way in the local skyline. In fact, there are many truly ugly buildings that dominate the neighborhoods skyline which you must find beautiful according to your taste. I support the issues of affordable housing and neighborhood preservation but folks, why don’t you try getting AHEAD of the problem BEFORE a building breaks ground. I hope you learned your lesson about that. Stay well!

          • Marco says:

            EGF-That’s hysterical! FYI-at every single juncture from before ground was broken the community, its political leaders and these two groups have done everything legally and ethically possible to stop this development from proceeding with an illegal zoning lot and as a result too tall building. You obviously don’t know how things work in this city. The developers with a team of highly paid lawyers did everything they could to get around the zoning law-in other words flout the law and pretend it didn’t exist. They were opposed by the community board, the city council representative, the comptroller, our Congressman, the Municipal Arts Society, Landmark West, etc. They continued to build when they were stopped from doing so by a Judge. Developers follow the laws with a wink and a nod. In other words they don’t. The only thing they care about is that they win. They could care less about the community. They only care about profit. We’ll see how this works out. I’m sure it will be appealed again.

            • Upper West Side Parent says:

              People continue to say over and over again that this was an “illegal” zoning lot and a resulting too tall building. This is simply not the case. The laws, as currently drafted, provide developers the right and ability to aggregate zoning lots and/or tax lots, in whatever configurations that they can come-up with. Is it crazy? Perhaps. Is it illegal? No. The developers aren’t flouting the laws or doing anything illegal.
              They know exactly what they can do and are doing it!

              If we want to change anything, it’s not through lawsuits like this. The change has to come through our representatives changing the zoning laws.

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        How is this “progress”?

      • John Charels says:

        really what a silly, knee jerk, and quite over the top statement. As if this abomination that is clearly out of place in this particular spot, and has enough community opposition to warrant changing the plan, to say that this is someone progress is nonsense, it is an insult and another victory for real estate lobby in NYC over the community good.

      • Jack says:

        Really? Why does this building represent progress and the 21st Century? Because it is tall and out of scale? Or perhaps it yet again represents that if one has enough money one can use the courts to prevail. The fact that the plaintiffs were unable to seek expensive injunctive relief as a reason to vote in the favor of the defendant is an example.

      • Phoebe says:

        I’m curious how you see this as progress; Maybe I’ll learn something.

        • NewYorker says:

          Here’s my take: NYC currently creates 1 unit of housing for every 5 new jobs. I think we all agree jobs are good for NYC, but if we don’t build housing to keep up with job creation we end up with much higher housing costs because we have more people chasing the same number of housing units. Every new unit of housing helps combat that issue. Therefore, this ruling helps ease the city’s housing crisis. It’s fantastic news for immigrants and others coming to the city for jobs and opportunity!

          • Boris says:

            There’s not much science behind your reasoning if you’re making a blanket statement about job creation & housing throughout the entirety of the NYC metropolitan area. The jobs aren’t necessarily created in the same micro location as the housing and vice versa. There is plenty of housing availability within a reasonable commuting distance.

            • NewYorker says:

              All due respect, but there are literally dozens of academic, peer-reviewed research papers supporting my argument. New York City doesn’t operate within “micro locations.” We have a city-wide chronic housing shortage, and basically every expert agrees. Every new unit of housing helps alleviate that issue.

            • Boris says:

              @NewYorker – then cite 2-3 examples of this research if it’s so readily available. I’d like to read it and I’m sure others would, too.

            • NewYorker says:

              Sure, here are a few that you can google. I think most, if not all, are publicly available.

              Kate Pennington (2001): Does Building New Housing Cause Displacement?

              Xiaodi Li (2016): Do New Housing Units in Your Backyard Raise Your Rents?

              Asquith, Mast, Reed (2019): Supply Shock Versus Demand Shock: The Local Effects of New Housing in Low-Income Areas

              Mast (2019): The Effect of New Market-Rate Housing Construction on the Low-Income Housing Market

              This is also a good link that you can copy and paste in to your browser: https://www.urbandisplacement.org/sites/default/files/images/udp_research_brief_052316.pdf

              Hope you enjoy! I think they’re all very informative pieces and will hopefully illuminate how more housing of any type reduces prices/rents across the board.

            • Ted says:

              Sorry @NewYorker the two most current papers you cite are working papers not peer reviewed journal articles. Big difference and that’s not even digging into what the predispositions of the Upjohn Institute.

              “Upjohn Institute working papers are meant to stimulate discussion and criticism among the policy research community.
              Content and opinions are the sole responsibility of the authors.”

          • Will says:

            Immigrants and low income folks aren’t the ones living in these new buildings though. So they build the condos but have fewer and fewer places for them to go.

            • Otis says:

              @ Will

              A lot of immigrants are wealthy. If they ever start to return to NYC they might move into this building.

          • David Zelman says:

            you’re missing the point, more jobs are required to knock it down, and then rebuild it 1/2 the size.
            Better yet, tear it down and build something architecturally significant that tourists will come to visit thereby creating jobs outside of the building trades.

            • NewYorker says:

              No, my friend, I think you’re missing the point. New York has no problem creating jobs. We have difficulty creating places for those workers to live. Jobs are great, but without building homes as well, we’ll increase the cost-of-living burden on everyone who lives here, especially the less-fortunate. Rejecting new housing is unfair to them most of all.

      • soldier says:

        Exactly. The “community” (aka a litigious $$$ group) somehow believes that it has more rights than other taxpayers (developers included) to decide what is built in the city. Luckily that’s not so. Good for the builders, good for the city.

    2. GoldenGoose says:

      Amazing, that logic, precedent and rule of law ultimately prevailed. Unfortunately however, rogue radical liberal judges such as Franc Perry are all too common. How could Perry get his ruling so wrong? The decision was unanimous! One must wonder if there are nefarious tactics utilized by anti development folks such as paying off of judges, currying political favor etc., as Franc Perry’s decision was suspect.

      • Bob says:

        Disagreeing with a judge is not sufficient reason to suggest that the judge was bribed. If you want to go down that road, why stop with one judge? Developers could surely bribe three judges, right? But I’m confident in saying that they didn’t — and the same is true with respect to the judge with whom you appear to so vehemently disagree. There are plenty of reasonable positions on this issue; this isn’t one of them.

    3. Paul says:

      Opponents knew this site could support a 600 foot building as early as 2006, which is why developers bought the site to begin with. CFESD‘S predecessor noted this in real time. (Coalition for a Livable West Side)

      So the court noting the failure to seek injunctions at every stage of the litigation really is more than makeweight.

      The building? Ugly. And a monstrosity.
      But the decision was correct.

      • Isaac says:

        Eh I disagree, think it’s quite a cool design. Regardless, I don’t think subjective opinions on building style should determine whether we build more housing in NYC.

    4. Stef Lev says:

      watched the last hearing and big surprise, the developers lied. They talked about concerned for the surrounding neighborhood. Bull, at first they didn’t install secure pedestrian barriers and didn’t add scaffolding near the school yard and Lincoln Towers driveway/sidewalk until after several debris related accidents.

    5. Otis says:

      This is great news for the UWS. The developer was 100% within its right to construct this building.

      Can anyone imagine the inconvenience and safety concerns this would have caused had the courts decreed that a few floors had to be lopped off?

      The biggest beneficiary of this nonsense is Richard Emery, the lawyer who made a bundle filing these frivolous lawsuits on behalf of self-appointed community leaders.

      The folks who donated to the organizations that paid his fees should have done something more productive with their money.

    6. adgy says:

      DeBlasio’s greasy palms are all over this. Sad. I hope it still comes down.

    7. babrarus says:

      Finally the sane voice of justice has prevailed.
      And to all who opposed this building –
      get a life.

      • Sandra Martin says:

        It is okay to have high rise buildings…. If you can Afford the Rent then ….please ….you don’t have to live in a 6 Story rat infested tenement building. If you can do better for your Self

        • Isabella says:

          There are over 30,000 empty rental apartments in New York City right now. The buildings being built including this one are for very wealthy people. Many of them don’t live here. They buy to invest. As for your fantasies about a housing shortage-almost nothing has been built which a middle class or working class person could possibly afford. So all those REBNY folks on this Comment line-that’s the Real Estate Board of New York really need to come up with a new line. This one’s so stale. And for those who believe this oversized building built on an illegal zoning lot will help NY’s housing shortage-I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you real cheap.

    8. Concerned Small Business Owner says:

      Thank heavens, there are so many more important things to worry about in our neighborhood. Focus on the mentally ill and drug addicted walking all over the UWS. The social programs we keep throwing money at are not working. Talk about the laws and what really will help, not if a new building is too high. This was a ridiculous waste of time and money when Hell is breaking loose all of the UWS.

      • Brandon says:

        Hell is breaking out all over the UWS? What world do you live in?

        The person(s) on here who comment under “Concerned” usernames seem to have an unusually strong interest in misrepresenting the UWS as some sort of “Mad Max”-style post-apocalyptic urban war zone.

    9. AC57 says:

      IF MAS and CFESD do pursue future litigation, it would be incredibly selfish

      Dismantling the floors was a bad argument while the building was still under construction last year, but now that it’s virtually complete, pursuing that same outcome is asinine. It’s environmentally destructive, and it prolongs the very dangerous headache for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists that the pathway creates

      Not to mention that architects have proposed retrofitting the equivalent square footage into affordable housing, and deducting the profits, which is far better for the neighborhood. And with that option on the table, if that’s not pursued, can you really say you care about affordability? If you don’t at least consider that option, you have to question the nature of the intentions

      • Carolyn says:

        New York needs what Tokyo has, a law requiring people and buildings deprived of sunshine by new construction to be compensated for the hours of sunshine lost each year. Calculating this is good science, and parks and public gathering spots losing sunshine should be compensated at double the price per hour. The “affordable housing” scam must be exposed for what it is.

    10. good humor says:

      Yay! NYC needs more people generally, and specifically using our existing pristine infrastructure. Fortunately this will provide affordable housing for low and middle income NYC families.

    11. Sarah says:

      Well, this is the appellate division. In theory, they can take an appeal to the Court of Appeals (the highest court in New York).

      • Jay says:

        If they do, they will lose again. I know the developers won’t ask the NIMBYs to pay the legal bills, but they should to hopefully stop these frivolous lawsuits.

    12. John Charles says:

      Was there really a doubt in anyones mind? Just imagine if the developer said, “you know its big enough, I hear the complaints of the community, and this building may be out of place in this particular spot at the size I had planned, so I will relent and so the right thing because I have enough to do just that”

    13. Upper Jes Side says:

      This is fantastic. Progressives need to beat back these NIMBYs and build more housing, everywhere. I have no love of luxury housing like this but make no mistake these tactics are also used to stop the construction of affordable housing our city desperately needs. Let’s hope these NIMBYs learned their lesson.

      • js says:

        Upper Jes
        Folks against this luxury development are politically liberal/progressive. In this instance, they are against additional luxury housing – luxury real estate is the tsunami of hyper-gentrification and neighborhood destruction.
        I think it is erroneous to categorize people opposed to the building as “not progressive.”
        Check out the book “Vanishing New York”

    14. Rob G. says:

      Wonderful news. Hopefully this ruling will put an end the silly opposition to this building once and for all.

    15. Nj says:

      So sad to read this and I do hope that there is something they can further do . I hate the corruption that continues .

    16. AC says:

      Funny how people were actually led to believe that the developers would be forced to cut 20 floors off???

    17. Pcnyc says:

      The fugly, lopsided Pez dispenser that is 200 Amsterdam should never have been built to this height. It looks like hell in its surroundings.
      BSA erred grievously in judging the allowable hieght zoning law. For shame!

      • Peter says:

        Yeah, totally ugly. Nothing like the gorgeously grimy, beautiful low-ceiling, uniformly radiant 1960s Stalinist monoliths called Lincoln Towers near-by.

        • SNY says:

          @peter
          Those “Stalinist” buildings you refer to are Lincoln Towers…that were originally built to provide very decent, AFFORDABLE housing in the 1960’s for middle income dwellers.
          Today many early tenants and subsequent investors of these apartments are sitting on a gold mine. Very lucky indeed!

    18. Phoebe says:

      I also don’t get why anyone thinks this is good news.

      • Boris says:

        I think the best news to come out of this is confirmation that the average opponent knows very little about the complex laws governing real estate. Yet they continued to pontificate as if they were suddenly legal experts. The opponents’ lawyers were big winners because they had clients willing to pay for such insanity.

        • Ground Control says:

          There were major legal experts who worked on this case-and zoning experts paid for by the community who fought against the developer illegally scamming the zoning for this particular area. Might be good if you made informed comments. Perhaps people here feel that the laws which govern our city are frivolous and should not be obeyed.

          • Jay says:

            Those “experts” were wrong and everyone knew it. The zoning has been legal since 2006.

    19. realist says:

      It doesn’t matter, the post pandemic city will see a lot people move out from the city, if not already. All the money they spent developing “the tallest building on the UWS” will be at a loss, and the building itself will remain mostly vacant. You heard it hear first folks.

      • Jan says:

        i think the bldg looks great. Not ugly at all like some other bldgs in the area.
        Yes the UWS and the city in general is under seige
        yet nothing has been done. There are known solutions
        but none of them have been explored; no plan has been
        devised. How sad. We are better than that!!

    20. Alexander Schwarz says:

      Now watch the lawyers who received millions from UWS NIMBYS for the frivolous lawsuits use their gains to buy condos in 200 Amsterdam. Would be poetic justice.

    21. Joyce Weidenaar says:

      The developers will get their comeuppance. The market was overbuilt when they started construction and now the market shows record softness. The construction story may be over but the financial story is just beginning. This project was poorly conceived as well as illegally conceived. A hot market won’t bail them out.

    22. Steven says:

      Unfortunate news. I hope they appeal. Between this and ‘helicopter highways’ it is definitely time to leave the Upper West Side.

    23. your_neighbor says:

      I can’t believe that in this instance sanity actually prevailed on the uws. The activists against the building should really focus their energies on more widespread problems in the neighborhood rather than a single building blocking their view.

    24. NewYorker says:

      Great news for New York! One more step towards solving the city’s housing crisis!

      • Frank Grimes says:

        Indeed, luxury new construction is exactly what this city has been lacking!! Build a few more of these, and homelessness should be eradicated entirely.

        Would also be nice if Per Se opened a sister restaurant to help fight the hunger crisis in NYC.

      • rs says:

        You can’t actually believe that luxury high-end condos have anything to do with solving the housing crisis. The current New Yorker has a piece describing many of these buildings as 99% vacant–the units aren’t really even housing, just money laundering, and in any case are not exactly priced in the budgets of working-class families. These expensive buildings make the housing crisis worse by making it more tempting for landowners to build more of them.

    25. arlene says:

      hello all on UWS…this is a huge display of disregard for everyone who “thought” they lived in lovely UWS neighborhoods. Not progress, it’s punch in your stomach. DO NOT FORGET that currently their is no final determination yet on over-all and oversized mechanical space at Extell development on W.65-66th. LW has filed an article 58 froths. ALSO, the ABC campus on W.66-67th & Columbus ave.sold to Silverstein Properties will no doubt take advantage of every court decision being made now and it will create an almost an entire square block monstrosity of inappropriate development in a once beautiful and partially landmarked street and against the will of The Lincoln Center mandates. We are screwed on the UWS!! I suggest that we all get involved in fighting these supertalls as they won’t stop happening.

      • Crawdad says:

        I support the new construction 100%. The NIMBYs are a minority on the UWS, just louder, better organized and better financed. Most of us want more neighborhood housing, and realize you can’t embalm a city in amber, just because a few wealthy NIMBYs don’t want their views blocked.

    26. Michael P Muscaro says:

      Has anyone considered the taxes and jobs generated by development? Has anyone considered that empty storefronts would be occupied by small businesses again?

    27. ST says:

      A blight on the skyline. Am disgusted. New York is a morass of corruption. What will the greedy developers do when no one wants to live here?

      • Boris says:

        How do you explain why a developer is greedy because he invests to earn a profit compared to a restaurant owner who charges $20 for a burger? Who decides what something should be worth?

    28. Katherine says:

      I genuinely don’t have feelings either way. It’s a tall building. Let it go.

      PLENTY of actual quality-of-life problems on our streets to focus on.

    29. DONE! says:

      Re: SJP’s “Today’s unanimous decision is an unequivocal affirmation that 200 Amsterdam’s permit was lawfully issued under the Zoning Resolution.”
      YES! ¡SÍ! OUI! JA! DA! etc…
      Go Away, NIMBYs, you lost!
      Now, SJP, please remove the ugly shed, fence, etc. so people can see 200’s lovely main floor and this part of Amsterdam Ave can return to normal.

    30. UWS Craig says:

      This should never have been built. But it has been, so we should put it to good use. The top 20 floors (the floors that are in violation of regulations) should be converted into housing for our homeless population. Then when we look to the sky and see this building we will not cringe in horror but instead be proud.

      • Jay says:

        If you buy the units in the top 20 floors you can feel free to let whomever you choose to live there.

      • Upper West Side Parent says:

        Why should it “never have been built?” and your statement that the top 20 floors are in violation of regulations is, accordingly to the BSA and now the appellate court, wrong.

      • Frank Grimes says:

        Excellent idea! The homeless should not have to suffer living free in the four and five star hotels in relatively affluent areas. They need permanent upscale $4k/psft housing. Nothing short of that is would be fair.

        The rest of us can stare and wish we could one day afford living on the ground floor of such building.

    31. Martha says:

      I’m not happy that this outsized building is literally in my backyard. But I’m tired of living in a construction zone and just want this to be done. Sorry Olive. Thanks for all your work in trying to fight City Hall.

    32. ben says:

      However disappointing you might find the ruling, it’s the least bit of surprising. No way was the court going to ask the developer to knock out 20 floors of a building that’s already topped off, months ago. Practically it’d be worse than a nightmare. So the best one could hope for, if one’s against the building, is that the developer would be fined a handsome amount or be made responsible for making more units in the building affordable housing. Personally I find the building aesthetically fine and would rather people spend money to fight more urgent problems in the UWS.

    33. Hight or Width says:

      If people want lower height buildings in our neighborhood. Amsterdam Houses are our best potential for change.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam_Houses
      It covers 4 large blocks of prime UWS location.

      We could renovate these large 4 blocks to 20+ floor apartment buildings, including rich and poor, so that city can collect tax from both ends. It would ecologically reduce elevator maintenance, just like Vienna in Austria.

    34. My 2 Cents says:

      This decision is actually the 3rd major case the Appellate Div. overturned from the state Supreme Court. Lower court judges had also halted the Inwood Rezoning in late 2019, and the Two Bridges four towers project in Lower Manhattan with 3,000 planned housing units, which includes affordables.

      If this decision is again appealed, the NIMBYs will have an “supertall” uphill climb, since the decision was unanimous. Importantly, the result of this ruling decrees that New Yorkers can rely on legally sound permits without fear of new retroactively enforced interpretations.

      It’s also a win for thousands of construction workers and other feeder businesses in an unprecedented recession.

    35. click here says:

      Great article. I will be dealing with some of these issues
      as well..

    36. Sieglinde says:

      Another ugly, soul-less building ruining the once beautiful skyline of New York City. These expensive monoliths represent, obviously, the people who created them and those who approved them.

      • Boris says:

        Can anyone explain how a a building has ‘soul’?

        • Sieglinde says:

          Boris, if you can’t tell if a building has a soul or not ….. you must be one of those people. Live in a lego building and be happy.

    37. Boris says:

      With all the focus on the developers’ paying off judges, opponents have missed another instance of corruption. Surely the NYFD was bribed to put a fire hydrant directly in front of the entrance so that access is wide open.

    38. js says:

      Not discussed here – the ability of not-for-profits to benefit from both no taxes and sale of valuable real estate.
      Does not seem fair.

      Recall that the site was sold by Lincoln Square Synagogue, which then built another synagogue.
      LSS has been struggling financially in recent years.

      • My 2 Cents says:

        Exactly. This is the case with churches and synagogues citywide, who suffer from increasingly diminishing parishioners and members to keep them afloat and pay for necessary operations, critical maintenance and costly structural repairs. Just like parking lots and garages, these facilities are often considered a placeholder for future development or air rights acquisitions.