Rendering of 50 West 66th Street by architecture firm Snøhetta
Rendering of 50 West 66th Street by architecture firm Snøhetta
In a challenge that could affect future applications for luxury skyscrapers in New York City, an Upper West Side preservation group is arguing that plans by Billionaires’ Row developer Extell to incorporate a “void” — entire floors intended to house mechanical equipment — illegally takes up swaths of empty and usable space that should be counted toward the city’s calculation of maximum allowable floor area for a building.

According to an engineering analysis commissioned by Landmark West, a group that earlier this year filed a zoning challenge with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), less than 22 percent of the void designed for the 775-feet-tall condo project at 50 West 66th Street is actually occupied by mechanical equipment.

“This is an overreach,” said Sean Khorsandi, the executive director of Landmark West.

Khorsandi said the group’s legal objection will send a message to the development community.

“This will put everyone on notice that you can’t take up entire floors,” he said.

In a letter submitted to the BSA, Gale Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President, has also opposed the project’s void.

“To permit this development to move forward as proposed sets a dangerous message to other developers who will surely seek similarly unjustified mechanical deductions for their buildings,” the statement said.

Back in 2017 when Extell filed its plans, developers were permitted to exploit a loophole in the regulations that allowed them to use a peculiar height-boosting trick: dedicating several tall floors for mechanical equipment. Buildings in New York City are limited by maximum floor area requirements, which measures the usable floor space, but mechanical space had been exempted from that rule, leaving no cap on their size.


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