FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is this all about?
Co-applicants, Landmark West! and Manhattan Community Board 7, seek a Zoning Map Amendment and a Zoning Text Amendment to expand the Special Lincoln Square District (SLSD)
A Zoning Map Amendment: entails changing the zoning designation on the zoning map
A Zoning Text Amendment: involves introducing new text or amending existing text in the Zoning Resolution
The application seeks to expand the Special Lincoln Square District to cover the ABC site, so that towers developed on that site will follow the same rules as other towers in the area.
The Special Lincoln Square District is among the first Special Zoning Districts. It was established on April 24, 1969, to “preserve and enhance the area surrounding Lincoln Center as an international center for the performing arts.” Special Purpose Districts exist to “achieve specific planning and urban design objectives in defined areas with unique characteristics. Special districts respond to specific conditions; each special district designated by the Commission stipulates zoning requirements and/or zoning incentives tailored to distinctive qualities that may not lend themselves to generalized zoning and standard development.”
Who prepared the application?
LW! and CB7 worked with Urban Planner George Janes of George M. Janes & Associates.
What do the changes mean?
The change being sought would bring the bulk controls of the SLSD to this small to this footprint. These portions were originally left out of the SLSD to provide the main occupant of the block, the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), more flexibility in the form of the buildings that make up their campus. In 2018 ABC sold its holdings on this block and plans to relocate to Hudson Square. The expansion of the SLSD to this site brings the bulk controls that govern adjacent C4-7 districts to this block.
Those buildings don’t look that old; why can’t they be reused?
The buildings are not that old! However, most of them, save for the adaptively reused Durland Riding Academy, were purpose-built for ABC. With the decline of broadcast television, it is unlikely that another flagship television station will seek this space. Built as an office headquarters and studios, these buildings do not lend themselves to efficient reuse as housing, which happens to be the first and best use for investment return in today’s economy.
But can’t they just build housing now? Why do you seek the SLSD Extension?
Yes, once the site is cleared, a developer can build housing, but there are few restrictions on their form. Given the existing underlying zoning, a laissez-faire approach could yield at least two supertalls on this 2.4-acre site. These would bring the scale of Billionaire’s Row further north, and not only impede our namesake Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District but the National Register Listed Artists’ Colony Block, and significantly impact one’s experience within Scenic Landmark Central Park. The following shows the two supertalls that could be developed at this site under current zoning. They would add acres of new shadow to Central Park in the afternoons, especially in the summer.
You say you’re asking for a zoning text amendment. How are you proposing to change the zoning text?
The only change to the zoning text relates to the map that appears in the appendix of the Special Lincoln Square District. Since the map appears in the Zoning Resolution, the change we request is also technically a text amendment, even though only a map is being changed. All other text of the Special District and the Zoning Resolution remains unchanged.
So it passes, then what?
If the SLSD extension is approved, the new zoning would limit the form of towers constructed on the site to those that are similar to other post-1993 towers in the Lincoln Square area. This change would prevent the development of supertalls on the block. There would still be high-density towers on the site, but their form would be more predictable, and the resulting buildings would have housing and amenities for residents without the gimmicks like excessive ceiling heights, unwarranted mechanical spaces, and intermittent voids.
I don’t like noise. Construction is invasive.
Construction is inevitable. In any realistic sense, the non-landmarked buildings of the ABC site will all be demolished. These include:
7 Lincoln Square (South East Corner of 67th and Columbus)
147 Columbus Avenue (North East Corner of 66th and Columbus)
77 West 66th Street (Through block, 66th-67th Streets) and
47 West 66th Street (midblock, between Columbus and Central Park West)
Contractors can make construction noise on weekdays from 7 am until 6 pm within certain decibel levels. If and when construction occurs, we will continue working with neighbors to ensure compliance.
What happens next?
We expect to hear back from City Planning with further instructions by the end of June.
LANDMARK WEST! Proposed Zoning Map Change
On Wednesday April 21st, 2021 LANDMARK WEST! publicly released its proposal for a Zoning Map Change during a presentation to Manhattan Community Board 7’s Land Use Committee.
Our proposal involves extending the boundary of the existing Lincoln Square Special District (LSSD), as shown in the progression below.
preserve and enhance the area surrounding Lincoln Center as an international center for the performing arts. In order to encourage desirable urban design, buildings along Broadway must be set at the street line although arcades are permitted. To attract a balanced cluster of activities, the district also regulates the types of street level uses and limits commercial development. Floor area bonuses are available by special permit from the City Planning Commission for developments that include subway improvements or affordable housing as set forth in the Inclusionary Housing R10 Program.
LANDMARK WEST! examined the history of the LSSD, its history and intent. Conspicuously, block 1119 in Manhattan, largely occupied by the American Broadcasting Company’s Corporate Headquarters and studio buildings was omitted from the LSSD in order to give them flexibility in their operations. Given their presence on the block from the nascent days of television starting as early as 1948, this was a reasonable zoning choice. Now that the purpose for this decision (ABC) is vacating, we believe that the underlying zoning should conform to the immediate adjacent neighborhood, and not simply run with the land. This is a proactive effort to reintegrate this block into the community.
Landmark West! engaged Zoning Expert George Janes after the sale of the 2.4 acres owned by ABC at their Manhattan corporate campus. Exploring options, we were advised to pursue a Zoning Map Change. In order to do this, LW! is responsible for applying to the City Planning Commission to consider extending the Lincoln Square Special District to incorporate the vacated campus.
Several lots in this campus are already protected from within the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District.
For the purposes of this application, these were considered existing and to remain as-is with the four other sites, all designed by Kohn Pederson Fox Architects, deemed fungible.
The image at left shows these fungible sites replaced with a series of four tower-on base constructions as a reasonable scenario “with action” if our proposal is adopted.
It is important to note that this is not a rendering nor intended to be an architectural representation but rather a massing study of what could be possible should the extension of the special district be adopted.
This tower-on-base scenario rises above an 85-foot tall, 8-story base to an ultimate bulkhead height of 421′ but rises 33 livable stories which set the main height of the occupiable volume at 381-feet tall. For reference, this is akin to the Mormon Church tower, 22 West 66th Street or 10 West 66th Street due south.
Pursuing this scenario yields significant construction, but would still buffer the landmark blocks of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District from the more mixed use Lincoln Square neighborhood.
What does this mean? Likely more neighbors, and more contextual buildings than if we take no action.
The existing underlying zoning of the site is for standard towers. Modelling our scenario after typical recent residential constructions in standard tower districts, George Janes & Associates created a potential scenario of what could be built as-of-right with no special permit nor community involvement.
The 75’x90′ floor plates mimic similar towers recently completed or under construction such as 111 West 57th Street and 432 Park Avenue, and envision full floor, 360-degree views for each unit. The two tower scheme will allow for oblique views of the park from both towers.
Envisioned in two phases, the “east” tower would cap out at the engineering limits of construction and elevator technology rising over 1600-feet with 14-foot standard floor to floor heights, and the “west” tower would cap out at over 1200-feet tall, with the same 14-foot standard floor to floor heights. For reference, the tallest building currently constructed on the Upper West Side (as of April 2021) is 200 Amsterdam Avenue capped at 668-feet tall. This would mean each tower could be nearly twice as tall.
In the diagram, yellow represents residential floors, and gray are presumed mechanical floors. These are represented as 25′ voids which complies with the current zoned limit but repeats them at 20-floor intervals. Should a developer wish, these could repeat every 75-feet of occupiable space, or with 14-foot tall floors, every 5-6 floors rather than every 20.
As with the earlier “with action” scenario above, this is our “Reasonable Worst Case Development Scenario” (RWCDS) without action. Again, it is important to note that this is not a rendering nor intended to be an architectural representation but rather a massing study of what could be possible should no extension of the special district be adopted.
In both scenarios the developer retains all available Floor Area Ratio and does not loose a square inch of development potential. This action would only further direct the form of the building complying with similar neighborhood tower-on-base buildings such as 1965 Broadway (The Raymour & Flanigan/Pottery Barn building) or 1930 Broadway (The Bed, Bath & Beyond/Lululemon building). These scenarios require a specific percentage of floor area be realized below a height of 150-feet. This action still DOES NOT set a height limit.
- March 29, 2022: $931M sale to Extell is complete. ABC’s five year sale/lease-back agreement continues.
- February 24, 2022: Silverstein sells interest in assembly to Extell Development.
- April 21, 2021: LW! and George Janes & Associates present before CB7 Land Use Committee. They vote 8 in favor, 0 opposed, 2 abstaining with cause in favor of joining LW! as a co-applicant. CB7 Land Use will draft a resolution for the Community Board 7 Full Board Meeting in May.
- George Janes & Associates completes application to the department of City Planning for a Zoning Map Change. This includes Reasonable Worst Case Scenarios “With Action” (our proposal) and “Without Action” (existing zoning if nothing is done)
American Broadcasting Company Sells UWS Campus to Developer Silverstein Properties
The $1.2 billion purchase closed the week of July 9, 2018 per the COMMERCIAL OBSERVER
UPDATE! TACONIC INVESTMENT PARTNERS per THE NEW YORK TIMES article, plans life sciences hub, conversion to begin January 2021 for 2023 occupancy.
UPDATE! Silverstein flips WEST END AVENUE CAMPUS to TACONIC INVESTMENT PARTNERS per COMMERCIAL OBSERVER article, the sale closed August 19, 2019.
Says Larry Silverstein: “I knew it was a magnificent piece of real estate that was worth buying for future development. [ABC] will stay in possession of the main campus—at 66th to 67th Streets on Columbus Avenue—for five years. At the end of those five years they will vacate and we can demolish the real estate and build a residential property. They have additional buildings that we’re also getting on West End Avenue at 65th to 67th Streets. The West End Avenue properties are different from the campus, and that real estate they will probably stay in possession of for three years. There we will develop in 2020 to 2021 and by 2024 we’ll have the residential buildings complete. The redevelopment of the main campus will take longer. We’re thinking multiple towers.”
Background: On April 6th, 2018, after 70 years in television, and nearly 40 headquartered on the Upper West Side, the COMMERCIAL OBSERVER and THE REAL DEAL reported that as part of the ABC-21st Century Fox merger, ABC parent company, the Walt Disney Company, solicited bids and Silverstein Properties is in contract to acquire their UWS campus. The deal, reportedly in excess of $1 Billion, will leave many building sites in play on the Upper West Side. On April 9th, 2018 GLOBE STREET reported that the sale includes 77 W. 66th Street and 47 W. 66th Street (see map and details below). According to the New York Post, their intent appears to be to relocate to 4 Hudson Square. Read more in THE NEW YORK TIMES.
The sale includes the buildings on the West 66th-West 67th Street blocks, but leaves out the First Battery Armory “ESPN” building on the south side of West 66th Street.
History: The American Broadcasting Company began as “NBC Blue”–an experimental subset of “NBC Red”–and went independent as a radio station in 1943 by government order. ABC began television productions in 1948, and perennially ranked third out of the “Big Three” networks behind both Columbia Broadcasting System’s CBS and the National Broadcast Corporation’s NBC. In 1966, ABC set its headquarters at 1330 Avenue of the Americas, between 53rd and 54th Streets in an Emery Roth and Sons building. After finally ascending to the top spot in the Nielsen Prime Time Rankings in 1976-77, ABC executives began plans to develop an Upper West Side campus. ABC finally consolidated its headquarters on the UWS in 1989 with the opening of the 22-story L-shaped building at 77 West 66th Street. Read ABC’s own take on the evolution of their UWS footprint from their November 1986 employee newsletter, CAPITAL CITIES/ABC INK.
COLUMBUS AVENUE CAMPUS
7 West 66th Street, 24 West 67th Street, and 30 West 67th Street, built as ABC’s “Broadcasting, Operations & Engineering Building”. 30 West 67th Street has realized its full FAR potential and cannot develop further with a zoning lot merger or easement.
Buildings within Historic Districts may be altered under certain circumstances within the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Rules. For example, often times a rooftop or rear yard addition is allowed, but with restrictions. Demolitions within historic districts are very rare. Demolition of Individual Landmarks that have not been structurally compromised are nearly unheard of. Thus, the aforementioned addresses should be protected under the law.
The buildings owned by ABC which do not fall within the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District and are not individual landmarks are:
- 47 West 66th Street, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1985 (television studios aka the Barbara Walters Building); 14 stories.
- 77 West 66th Street, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1986-1989 (ABC Inc. Headquarters); 22 stories. This building has realized its full FAR potential and cannot develop further without a zoning lot merger or easement.
- 147 Columbus Avenue (NE Corner at W. 66th), Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1990-1992 (ABC Building); 10 stories.
- 149-155 Columbus Avenue (SE Corner at W. 67th), Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1981 (WABC Channel 7 Building aka 7 Lincoln Square); 6 stories.
Thus far, no plans have been filed. In addition to the ABC corporate headquarters, local affiliate WABC7 is onsite with all of its operations and Eyewitness News Broadcasts. World News with David Muir, LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, The View and some soap operas are also filmed on this block. Relocating these productions will take time and planning. Variety reports that ABC may be in a lease-back scenario for up to five years.
This block falls within the C4-7 zoning district which has an R-10 equivalent, and there are no contextual zoning height limitations which means there is potential for large-scale residential development. This varies between side streets and avenue exposure.
Skip to the bottom of the page, past the WEST END AVENUE Campus to read through our blog updates below for more history on this critical zoning matter.
WEST END AVENUE CAMPUS
Directly south of the studio buildings is a vacant lot listed as “Contiguous Development Site”. This lot was held by Tishman Speyer, but a filing on 10/17/2018 indicates that this lot has transferred to Silverstein Galaxy Property Owner. This lot is zoned C4-2F and has a potential for 165,172 square feet of development rights. As of August 2019, this has been sold to Taconic Investment Partners.
The Upper West Side has many zoning protections that apply depending on Historic District designation, Individual Landmark designation, contextual zoning and Special Purpose District. None of these apply to these properties.
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The buildings owned by ABC are:
- 121 West End Avenue, Unknown 1929; altered by Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1989 (Office Building); 7 stories.
- 320 West 66th Street, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, 1989 (ABC Offices and Studios); 2 stories.
Combined, these sites have more than 588,000 square feet of available development rights. Thus far, no plans have been filed. Although ABC has a deal to lease-back its properties from Silverstein (now, Taconic) for up to five years, it is expected that the West End Avenue campus will be decanted first for re-development. Since the initial sale to Silverstein went through, the footprint has expanded. The map below outlines the areas now under Taconic Investment Partners Ownership. See what the building at West End Avenue and 65th Street is envisioned to be HERE.
This block falls within the C4-7 zoning district which has a R-10 equivalent, (along West End Avenue) as well as the C4-2F zoning district which has a R-6 equivalent, (along West 66th Street). There are no contextual zoning height limitations which means there is potential for large-scale residential development.
LANDMARK WEST! will keep this page updated with developments and additional information, as it becomes available.
Read through our blog updates below for more history on this critical zoning matter.
Reporter Michael Garofalo reports on the DOB CHALLENGE against 36 West 66th Street in the September 20-26 issue of the West Side Spirit. FULL ARTICLE HERE. Jointly filed by LANDMARK WEST! and neighbors of the 10 West 66th Street Corporation, the challenge was...
New York City's Department of City Planning, Manhattan division met with neighbors and LANDMARK WEST! this week to address mounting concerns over zoning abuses not only on the Upper West Side, but city-wide. Oft-voiced concerns pertain to unnecessary void spaces...
Several council members have signed onto a letter penned by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Among them, Upper West Side Corey Johnson, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine and Bill Perkins, all in support of the need to "fix...
As noted by many neighbors, it got a lot more difficult to park on the block recently. Due to construction staging on 66th Street, ABC's press parking was relocated to the 67th street side of their recently sold campus, joining their many curb cuts for loading docks...
This past Sunday, the New York Post's exclusive cover story, "City Hall finally discloses lobbyist meetings -- and the results are eye-opening" touches upon some of the 136 meetings that the Mayor's nearest and dearest held with lobbyists during a three month window...