Latest court ruling against 200 Amsterdam Avenue could result in the removal of 20 floors

February 18, 2020

Rendering courtesy of Binyan Studios

The Upper West Side’s tallest tower north of 61st Street may soon be getting a major trim, the New York Times reports. In a dramatic ruling last week, State Supreme Court Judge W. Franc Perry ordered the city to revoke 200 Amsterdam Avenue‘s building permit and decided the developers will have to remove floors from the top of the building to fall in line with zoning limits. It’s not yet been decided how many floors will need to be removed from the nearly-complete 52-story tower, but it could be as many as 20. Co-developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America are expected to “vigorously” appeal the decision, according to their lawyer.

Photo of the project in August, taken by 6sqft

The project has been disputed by community groups and elected officials because of its oddly-shaped, “gerrymandered” lot. Opponents argue that the building extends beyond the building site, which is prohibited by the city’s zoning code. After city regulators approved the developers’ right to build the tower last June, the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development (CFESD) jointly filed a new Article 78 petition against the project in late July.

Despite the ongoing legal challenges, the developers continued to build and the tower topped out at 668 feet in August 2019. A big push was also put into marketing and an official sales launch in September, including two $40 million penthouses that will be deconstructed if the current decision is upheld.

“We are very gratified that after a long fight, the gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam has been declared illegal. This groundbreaking decision averts a dangerous precedent that would have ultimately affected every corner of the city,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS). “The directive to partially demolish the building is appropriate given the willingness of the developer to ignore every sign that their project was inappropriately scaled for the neighborhood and based on a radical and wildly inaccurate interpretation of the Zoning Resolution.”

The developers’ lawyer, Scott Mollen, argued that his clients followed long-standing interpretations of the zoning code. “Buildings all over the city have been built using partial tax lots and based on this decision there are now issues with respect to their certificates of occupancy,” Mollen told the Post.

It’s unclear exactly what the next steps will be. “I think this is barely charted territory,” Goldstein told the Times. An assessment of the current zoning lot will have to take place and that will determine the legal height of the building, but continuing litigation could postpone the impending deconstruction for a long time.

Last week’s ruling might impact the rise of other controversial towers, and it’s already starting to have an effect. The Post reports that Councilman Ben Kallos hopes to use the ruling as a precedent to cut down on the 847-foot tower at 430 East 58th Street. “We’re relying on the judiciary to enforce the law even if the Department of Buildings or the developers don’t think it applies to them,” Kallos said.

[Via The New York Times]


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