FDNY signs off on West 66th St. tower void


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Design changes to building’s controversial mechanical void space assuage Fire Department safety concerns; developer must submit new plans to DOB for review


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  • Extell Development’s proposed 775-foot tower at 36 West 66th St. includes a 161-foot mechanical void in its middle section, shown in grey in the rendering at right. Left: Snøhetta; Right: George M. Janes & Associates




Extell Development’s planned condominium tower at 36 West 66th St. is a step closer to becoming the tallest structure on the Upper West Side after receiving approval from the New York City Fire Department for the large void space in the building’s middle section.

The Department of Buildings had notified the developer in January of its intent to revoke previously issued approvals for the project unless the developer could resolve objections regarding the 161-foot mechanical void on the building’s 18th floor, which the DOB noted is of a height “not customarily found in connection with residential uses.” Among the DOB’s requirements was written approval from FDNY regarding emergency access plans for the void space, which the developer has now received.

“We have approved plans because alterations to their design were made to improve safety in the event the Department would need to respond to a fire,” an FDNY spokesperson said.

Among the changes, the spokesperson said, were “corridors and space at every level in the void” for firefighters to operate and remove people in the event of a fire, as well as “access doors on every level in the void to assist with evacuation by elevators if necessary.” The plans approved by FDNY also include a new catwalk along the perimeter of the void’s upper level.

The proposed 775-foot tower has become a flashpoint in an ongoing debate over the development practice of artificially inflating building heights through the excessive use of mechanical void spaces, which do not count toward floor area calculations that govern maximum heights in many zoning districts. The City Planning Commission is currently considering public input on a proposed zoning text amendment that would place new limits on the use of voids, but which some reformers believe does not go far enough in addressing the issue.

In order to move forward with the project at 36 West 66th St., the developer will now need to submit revised building plans to the DOB reflecting these changes and satisfying DOB’s other objections to the mechanical space. According to a DOB spokesperson, the developer has yet to file amended plans.





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