2.13.2020: Community WINS in Court!
State Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry orders that the Department of Buildings revoke the building permit for the tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue and remove all floors that exceed the zoning limit.
“The directive to partially demolish the building is appropriate given the willingness of the developer to ignore every sign that their project was inappropriately scaled for the neighborhood and based on a radical and wildly inaccurate interpretation of the Zoning Resolution,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society, one of two groups that brought the suit.
8.15.2019: CURBED reported that 200 Amsterdam topped out at 52 stories
6.25.2019: Board of Standards & Appeals re-confirmed permits for 200 Amsterdam after court-mandated review. CLICK to read BSA resolution denying appeal.
3.15.2019: State Supreme Court vacates and annuls Board of Standards and Appeals prior ruling as unreasonable and inconsistent with the plain reading of the Zoning Resolution and sends the building permit for 200 Amsterdam Avenue back to the BSA for review.
“200 Amsterdam is an affront to the Zoning Resolution and I am extremely disappointed that the BSA voted to uphold their support for the project. The reluctance to follow the letter of the zoning is astounding, especially when the DOB has acknowledged that the zoning lot is problematic.” - Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer MORE
Background: Gerrymandered Lot Leads to Tallest Building North of 59th Street
200 Amsterdam Avenue is a unique development scenario. Developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America planned a 52-story residential development of 668 feet--the equivalent of a 66-story midtown office tower--at the intersection of Amsterdam Avenue and 69th Street. The site was formerly home to the Lincoln Square Synagogue, which relocated further south in a land swap. Availing themselves of the mid-century urban renewal superblock site, the developers ignored zoning and gerrymandered a zoning lot across several tax lots to assemble air rights for additional FAR to create what would be not only the tallest building in the neighborhood, but also the tallest building north of 59th street on the island of Manhattan. Despite a 2017 Zoning Challenge and an appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), construction work continued, although the developers acknowledged that they were choosing to continue building at their own risk as the lawsuit against them made its way to NY State Supreme Court.
Since initially granting this building a permit, the Department of Buildings (DOB) has revised their protocol, issuing a statement that this lot and building height should have not been allowed. (See graphic at left showing the red-outline of the gerrymandered lot, cobbled together from portions of tax lots, that supposedly supports the small blue building lot). The DOB has also prepared a bulletin to clarify zoning intent so that this never happens again.
Yet, the DOB would not revoke the building permit, leaving the community with this monstrously tall building. The Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) has the authority and oversight mandate to overturn this decision and instruct the DOB to revoke the permit. View a key exchange, led by BSA Commissioner Dara Ottley-Brown, questioning DOB counsel Michael Zoltan (queued up here; click the play button):
…but isn’t that the equivalent of situations where Department of Buildings has a practice- ongoing- does not hold that practice, and then the BSA says that "this is the wrong interpretation and DOB must stop"? It is a similar situation, in that DOB, up until the BSA ruling, is still practicing according to its current interpretation. So why is this different?
A follow-up hearing of the BSA was scheduled for Tuesday, June 5, 2018. At that hearing, further testimony was given, and the hearing was closed. Lawyers for the Appellant, the Developer, the Department of Buildings and a representative for 170 West End Avenue now were given until June 24th to submit up to 6 additional pages of documentation. The decision hearing of the BSA on this item was scheduled for Tuesday, July 17, 2018 and the vote took place. In a vote of 3 to 1, the BSA sided with the developer and denied the community's appeal.
Previously, Council Member Helen Rosenthal organized 27 of the 51 City Council Members to close a loophole by asking the BSA to refuse to allow gerrymandered lots. Read the full letter to see if your CM signed on!
Read LW! blog posts below for more history on this critical zoning matter.
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