On Tuesday, August 6th neighbors, friends, electeds and lawyers from across the Upper West Side gathered on all too familiar ground–the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). The goal? To decipher whether or not 36 West 66th Street (aka 50 West 66th Street) complies with zoning.
To reach a decision in such a scenario, one surprisingly does NOT enjoin the relevant party! In fact, the Department of City Planning (DCP), the entity responsible for the Zoning Resolution – and which has called the 50 W. 66th Street development “obscene” – was not even present.
As well, DCP’s voluminous records that document their deliberations and intent in 1993 to update and supposedly strengthen the Lincoln Square Special District Zoning were also deemed immaterial.
Instead, the Department of Buildings (DOB) defended their interpretation of DCP’s rules and the BSA considered their interpretation of the DOB’s defense. The community, who has challenged this development in various forms since early 2015 was represented by LW’s lawyers, Klein Slowik PLLC, before three of the five sitting commissioners of the BSA. This was the first public hearing on this “as-of-right” development since they switched their plans from a 291-foot building to a 775-foot Supertall.
All were there to determine whether the plain language of the Zoning covenants has led to absurd results.
By definition, something is absurd if it is “wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate“. We would consider a building twice as tall as anything on its surrounding block, taller than anything else on the island of Manhattan north of 60th Street, absurd. We would consider building it as-of-right with no public nor community board input absurd. We would consider its density–a mere 127 residential units–absurd. We would consider its 239 vertical feet of empty rise, aka VOID (over 30% of the overall height) absurd.
Chair Perlmutter admitted in the Executive Session that no one could have foreseen buildings this size (Supertalls) rising on such small floor plates, yet the Zoning Resolution has remained largely stagnant since these buildings began appearing for residential uses in 2005. In two immediate precedent-setting Upper West Side cases, City Planning has allowed out-of-state developers to decide what the Zoning Resolution means, completely silencing the public.
Reform is needed, and LANDMARK WEST! is pushing hard to make the rules work as designed. In place of this absurd reality, we want a city with predictable zoning, which follows the clear intent of the rules and where the public interest is held paramount to singular interests of developers. The absurd capper yesterday? That the Commission repeatedly warned that in the instance of ambiguity, or a tie, the BSA always sides with the interests of the landowner (the developer) over the community.
WE THANK OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS:
City Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal, and Ben Kallos,
Community Board 7, New Yorkers for a Human Scale City,
Committee for Environmentally Sound Development,
West 64-67th Streets Block Association, and the West End Preservation Society
for their heartfelt testimony and continued support!
THE FIGHT CONTINUES:
Mark your calendars for Tuesday September 10th
when this resumes at the BSA
IN THE MEANTIME:
Catch up on our full BSA FILING &
And follow the fight against the SUPERTALLS at: