West Side Rag » Majority of City Council Wants City to Stop…


Posted on June 6, 2018 at 12:18 pm by West Sider


Construction workers have been preparing to build a tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue, but how high will it rise? Photo by Stephen Harmon.

By Carol Tannenhauser

For the second time, the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) has postponed deciding whether or not to revoke the building permit for 200 Amsterdam Avenue, the proposed 668-foot residential tower at 69th Street. After a lengthy hearing on Tuesday, the matter did not even come to a vote. Instead, more papers will be filed before a decision is reached on July 17th — unless the case is “reopened,” a representative of the BSA added.

The first two hours of the hearing, held in Spector Hall, at 22 Reade Street, were a barrage of legalese, peppered with recurring, recognizable words, like “tax lots,” “gerrymandering,” “zoning lots,” “lots of record,” and “open space.” There was much explanation, discussion and disagreement about the meaning of these terms and how they apply — or are misapplied — in the case of 200 Amsterdam.


Olive Freud, president of the nonprofit Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, a group opposing the current plans.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal — who hasn’t missed a meeting on this issue — came armed with a letter written by her and signed by 27 Council Members, from all five boroughs.

“The stakes are greater than one neighborhood or one building,” Rosenthal testified. “The use of gerrymandered zoning lots has the potential to negatively impact the land-use process for the entire city. It is with that citywide lens that I present this letter, signed by a majority of my colleagues.”

Rosenthal was followed by many eloquent and ardent opponents of the building: community-board members, Upper West Side residents, representatives of block associations and nonprofit organizations. The best line of the day goes to Page Cowely, co-chair of Community Board 7’s Land-Use Committee, who said, “Two wrongs don’t make as of right.”

On the opposing side were union members, touting the construction and retail jobs the building would create, and architects. John Cetra of CetraRuddy, which designed the interiors of 200 Amsterdam, said “the zoning was based on four decades of interpretation by the Department of Buildings, and to retroactively change the rules after construction has begun would be a huge detriment to architects and other professionals who depend on the consistency of the zoning laws that have existed for so long.”

SJP Properties, the developer, issued the following statement:

“As we’ve previously stated, we purchased the 200 Amsterdam site as of right in 2015 with the approved zoning already in place. This building was meticulously designed according to the NYC zoning code, with an aesthetic that is contextual to its Lincoln Square neighborhood. Our application for 200 Amsterdam went through an exhaustive review and subsequent audit by the Department of Buildings (DOB), a process that lasted approximately one year, which reaffirmed that the zoning and building design are in compliance. DOB’s decision was based on its recognition that, for close to 40 years, it had consistently interpreted the Zoning Resolution in a way that permitted the kind of zoning lot on which 200 Amsterdam is based.

“Upon receipt of all building permits, we commenced construction on 200 Amsterdam in September 2017. We have the utmost confidence that the DOB’s carefully rendered decision to grant the building permit for 200 Amsterdam will be upheld.”

We’ll find out on July 17th — maybe.

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