Review of mechanical space use continues at Extell’s Upper West Side tower

September 18, 2019

Rendering of 50 West 66th Street courtesy of Binyan Studios/Snøhetta

Extell’s Snøhetta-designed Upper West Side tower at 50 West 66th Street has cleared one set of legal challenges but the building’s contested use of mechanical spaces remains an issue. As Crain’s reported on Tuesday, the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals voted down challenges to the building’s split zoning lots—upholding the Department of Buildings permits for the project—but voted to further scrutinize the tower’s use of mechanical floor spaces by initiating a review of whether Extell is “appropriately occupying” those spaces.

mechanical void, city planning, zoning amendment

Via NYC Planning

Earlier this year, the Department of City Planning released a study showing how current zoning regulations exclude mechanical floors from zoning floor area calculations. Because there were no height limits set on the mechanical floors, some developers were able to build tall buildings with more apartments on higher levels.

In May, the New York City Council voted to close down the so-called mechanical void loophole with an amendment that counts mechanical voids taller than 25 feet as zoning floor area. The law passed after Extell’s original plans—which included a mechanical space on the 18th floor of the building that was 160 feet tall—were approved. The DOB and the New York Fire Department required Extell to submit new plans, which reduced the mechanical space and spread it across four floors.

Even after the revised plans were approved, the height of the mechanical spaces at 50 West 66th Street remained a point of contention. Non-profit organization City Club sued after the DOB signed off on Extell’s new plans, saying “there is no mechanical equipment yet imagined by humans” that would require so much space.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the board agreed to open a separate review investigating how Extell is using that mechanical space. “The question before us is: when you look at the planning of each mechanical floor, is the amount of mechanical equipment shown on the drawing the amount that you would associate with a building this size?” board chair Margery Perlmutter said.

“The BSA resoundingly rejected our opponent’s principal arguments regarding the legality of the building at 50 West 66th Street, which they have been pursuing for the last 12 months,” a spokesperson for Extell Development Company told 6sqft via email.  “This is another frivolous attempt by politicians and opponents to undermine progress and push a political agenda against new developments which generate significant employment and substantial tax revenue.”

This latest evolution in the four-year saga against the apartment building might hold the project in limbo through the end of the year—at least. The DOB has to submit floor plans for review by October 16 and a hearing has been scheduled for December 17.

As planned, the building would become the tallest on the Upper West Side.

[Via Crain’s]


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