200 Amsterdam opponents lose another round


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A city agency upholds an earlier ruling in favor of the developer as foes of the building vow to fight on


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  • A rendering shows the so-called “gerrymandered” zoning lot used to justify the tower’s 668-foot height. Rendering: Municipal Art Society of New York




The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals has sided with the developer of a controversial Upper West Side tower for the second time in two years, despite major opposition from community groups.

At a public hearing on June 25, the board announced that it would be upholding its initial 2018 ruling to allow construction of a planned 668-foot high-rise at 200 Amsterdam Avenue. In March, State Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry had vacated and annulled that earlier decision, remanding it back to the board for additional review under new criteria.

Local groups and elected officials have been fighting the project for over two years, arguing that the building’s large, irregularly shaped zoning lot — which critics liken to a gerrymandered political district — violates city zoning regulations.

“200 Amsterdam is an affront to the Zoning Resolution and I’m extremely disappointed that the BSA upheld their support for the project,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said in a tweet following the hearing. “The reluctance to follow the letter of the zoning is astounding, especially when the DOB has acknowledged that the zoning lot is problematic.”

Forty Floors and Counting

Olive Freud, the leader of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, who has been a leader in the neighborhood’s fight against the tower, told the many members of the opposition who came to the hearing that they would not give up.

“What they’re doing is wrong,” Freud said. “We’re going to fight this every step of the way.”

Richard Emery, the lawyer representing the groups opposing the tower, said he believes the BSA’s decision conflicts with how Justice Perry interprets the city’s zoning laws and whether a combined zoning lot (a zoning lot containing more than one tax lot) can include partial tax lots.

“So I do think that Justice Perry has made it clear that he doesn’t view partial tax lots as appropriate for zoning lots,” Emery said. He added that he would be filing a suit that the BSA’s decision is “arbitrary and capricious” and against the law.

A spokesperson from SJP Properties hailed BSA’s decision, saying, “The zoning for 200 Amsterdam has been consistently interpreted for more than 40 years. Three completed buildings on the same block have the exact same zoning. While we’re pleased with today’s BSA decision, it’s unconscionable that opposition has continued for this long. NIMBY’s, backed by special interest groups, continue to drain the resources of the DOB and BSA, as well as New York taxpayers.”

Construction at 200 Amsterdam has been ongoing and workers are in the midst of building the 40th floor. The developer expects to top out this summer.

Opponents fear that the building will be finished by the time their suit is taken up with the court, but Emery said the group will keep pursuing a solution no matter what. “We’ve preserved all of our rights to make them take it down. So if we win, ultimately, I think we have a strong claim to have them take it down,” Emery said. “They’re building at their peril.”





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