Controversial Tower Can Keep Its Top Floors

Appellate court reverses a previous ruling to remove 20 stories, opponents call to appeal decision

| 05 Mar 2021 | 05:01

The controversial high-rise at 200 Amsterdam Ave can keep all 52 of its stories, a state appeals court ruled this week – reversing a lower court’s order that the developer lop off up to 20 of the tower’s floors.

In February 2020, a state Supreme Court determined that the city never should have issued the building permit, saying the tower exceeded the zoning limit. The ruling was in line with the belief among opponents – who have been waging a legal fight against developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America for years – that the design exploited a zoning loophole to create a “gerrymandered,” 39-sided zoning lot in order to build an exceptionally tall building in a neighborhood where 20-story buildings are the norm.

The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled against those opponents Wednesday.

The panel of judges found that the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals did in fact lawfully issue the permit according to the city’s Zoning Resolution. Additionally, since construction is nearly complete, the previous ruling would have required the extraordinary measure of removing already-built floors.

A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department told CNN the administration was pleased with the court’s reversal.

“While the Department of Buildings has changed its policy on zoning-lot formation going forward, the Court correctly recognized that the change was not retroactive and upheld the City’s grant of a permit for this project consistent with previously issued guidance,” the spokesperson said.

SJP Properties took the court’s reversal as a clear victory.

“Today’s unanimous decision is an unequivocal affirmation that 200 Amsterdam’s permit was lawfully issued under the Zoning Resolution,” Steven Pozycki, the company’s Chairman and CEO, told Patch. “We thank the City of New York for their support in the appeal and throughout the development process. This ruling is a crucial victory for the Upper West Side and New York City’s economic recovery.”

“Extremely Disappointed”

Neighborhood activists and politicians were far less pleased with the appeals court’s decision this week.

“This developer is taking advantage of a zoning loophole that even the Dept. of Buildings acknowledged should not exist,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said in a statement. “By gerrymandering zoning lots, the developer is erecting a building that is simply too tall. I am disappointed by the Court’s decision and hope that this case can be heard on appeal.”

City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who represents the district in which the tower resides, told constituents in an email that she “categorically rejects” the court’s decision in that the building contradicts the city’s Zoning Resolution.

“I fully support efforts to appeal this decision,” said Rosenthal.

The Municipal Art Society and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, which brought the initial lawsuit against SJP Properties, are indeed mulling over options to appeal the appellate court’s reversal.

“We are extremely disappointed in this decision. The Appellate Division has given developers carte blanche to tell the City what a zoning lot looks like,” the groups said in a release. “The tactics used to create 200 Amsterdam are unprecedented, but they will become all too common if this decision is left to stand.”

“By gerrymandering zoning lots, the developer is erecting a building that is simply too tall. I am disappointed by the Court’s decision and hope that this case can be heard on appeal.” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer