UWS supertower put on hold

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Halt to plans for 200 Amsterdam Avenue seen as a win for the community, but developers could get green light after fixes


The Department of Buildings on Tuesday put a significant development project on hold after a zoning challenge was issued by the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development. The proposal by SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America for a 668-foot megatower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue and West 69th Street has caused outrage in the neighborhood because of its height and its large, unusually shaped zoning lot, among other things. The buildings department’s website was updated to read “Job On Hold” and “Audit: Notice to Revoke.”

George M. Janes, who filed the challenge on behalf of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, said this means the DOB “found something potentially serious and the applicant has an opportunity to respond to it.” So while the hold is seen as a win for the community, it is possible that the developers could be given another green light after making a few fixes. “There’s not much activity on the site, so I doubt it’s something like that,” Janes said. “We just don’t know. It’s really unfortunate because we only have these five words to go on.”

Janes’ challenge cites four central issues with the project: its compliance with zoning law, its use of a nearby parking lot, the placement of certain mechanical equipment and its use of and access to open space. “They have an enormous lot and a lot of it is kept open ... but according to the zoning resolution not all of it can count,” Janes said. “And the reason is that it’s used by the Lincoln Towers as parking.”

In the challenge, Janes suggests that the DOB ask developers to provide evidence that residents of Lincoln Towers will be able to use the lot’s open space and demonstrate exactly how they will be able to do so.

According to Sean Khorsandi, advocacy director at Landmark West, the building would be the tallest in Manhattan north of West 60th Street if it is completed as designed. “It’s one thing to have super-scrapers and supertalls on 57th Street, on the Billionaires’ Row corridor,” he said. “This area is in a residential neighborhood. It’s out of scale with the context.” He also cited the location’s past as an urban renewal site, with a mix of different buildings and religious institutions, as a concern. Khorsandi acknowledged the need for more housing in the city, but stressed that what is needed is affordable housing, whereas 200 Amsterdam would be largely luxury apartments. “[The building] is potentially going to provide 112 units ... about two units per floor,” he said. “This is being marketed with Central Park views.”

Plenty of Upper West Siders agree him. At a protest in May, residents rallied to protest the development with signs reading “save our sky” and “don’t let developers alternative facts destroy our city.” Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who represents the area, said she is drafting legislation that would require community boards to be notified of future development rights transfers like the one that made 200 Amsterdam possible. “A significant step in the right direction would be equipping each community board with a trained planner,” she said, adding that she does not think residents have enough tools at their disposal to fight projects they are opposed to. “Ideally, DOB and/or the City would also help facilitate a meaningful discussion between the community and the developer about ways 200 Amsterdam could better reflect the current built environment of the Upper West Side.”

It is unclear when the buildings department will have more information on their audit of the site.

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