Extell’s proposal for the Upper West Side’s tallest tower faces backlash from the community

December 11, 2017

Architecture firm Snøhetta revealed last month their design for a 775-foot condominium tower at 50 West 66th Street, slated to be the tallest building on the Upper West Side. Developed by Extell, the condo will rise 69 stories and contain 127 units, featuring series of “sculptural excavations” that are “evocative of the chiseled stone of Manhattan’s geologic legacy,” according to the architects. As the New York Times reported, critics of the project from the UWS community say the tower would violate zoning restrictions in the area. Local advocate groups, joined by Council Member Helen Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, are pushing back against the construction of Extell’s ultra-luxury tower. In a statement, Rosenthal said, “We will fight this project with every tool at our disposal.”

snohetta, 50 west 66th street, upper west side

Extell released renderings in February for a new condo near Central Park West at 36 West 66th, which the group purchased for $85 million in 2015. Gary Barnett, the founder and president of Extell, initially filed plans with the Buildings Department for a 25-story building. Opponents of the project claim Barnett used a “bait-and-switch” tactic, as the building’s new height is three times what Extell had first reported.

“Based on these new renderings, it is clear that Extell did not present neighbors or the Department of Buildings (DOB) with a truthful description of their plans,” Rosenthal said in a statement. “Without the complete plans, DOB granted permits to excavate a foundation that would support a 25-story building– one-third of Extell’s intended building. This raises serious process concerns.”

Despite resistance from the neighborhood, Barnett told the Times he’s confident his proposed tower will be approved by the city. He’s hired a zoning lawyer who formerly worked for the city’s Department of City Planning and who argues that current zoning laws allow for a skinny tower of unrestricted hight as long as the bulk of the building is in a podium that does not exceed 150 feet tall.

snohetta, 50 west 66th street, upper west side

The renderings released by Snøhetta in November show an outdoor terrace on the tower’s 16th floor which will be used as a shared amenity space. It will include a pool, seating areas and greenery, split over two levels to fit the building’s angular design.  As the building rises above the terrace, the design becomes more slender and the building’s opposing corners are sliced away, making space for the planned balconies.

Extell has yet to file any plans with the city, but if approved, expects the building to be ready for occupancy in three years. If completed, the tower will become the tallest building on the Upper West Side, passing in height the 668-foot tall tower proposed for 200 Amsterdam Avenue.

[Via NY Times]


All renderings courtesy of Binyan Studios/ Snøhetta

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