Zoning Challenge Halts Manhattan Tower for DOB Audit

Rendering of proposed 51-story tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue. Image credit: Elkus Manfredi Architects

City Council Member and community celebrate after the Department of Buildings halt the construction of an Upper West Side tower. In September 2016, developer SJP Properties filed building plans with the Department of Buildings for the construction of a new 51-story building located at 200 Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The plans filed detailed a 642 foot tower containing 583,294 square feet of residential space and 3,016 square feet of floor area on the ground floor for a medical office.

In May 2017, the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, a local organization that represents residents of the Lincoln Towers community and the surrounding area, filed a zoning challenge with Buildings arguing that the project was not compliant with zoning law requirements. Both City Council Member Helen Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer signed onto the challenge.

The main issue raised involved the weirdly-shaped zoning lot that was created to generate enough air-rights for proposed building. The proposed footprint would be a little over 10,000 square feet while the zoning lot is about 100,000 square feet and reaches throughout the city block. The challenge argued that the zoning district, R8, required a substantial amount of Open Space and that the open space provided did not qualify as Open Space under the Zoning Resolution. The complaint also listed rear yard obstructions and mechanical spaces on the top floors as violations of the Zoning Resolution.

On July 11, 2017, Buildings issued a notice of objections and an intent to revoke the permits in order to verify the open space ratio and that the zoning lot was properly formed. The full audit ordered by the agency will halt the current construction of the site.

“From the moment the renderings first popped up in the real estate media over a year ago, I and the City Council Land Use Division have been reviewing the proposal for 200 Amsterdam. I was very pleased to work with the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and support a strong challenge to the project. I believe the zoning challenge shows clearly that the proposal does not add up in terms of open space. This accounting should have been included from the very start,” Council Member Rosenthal stated.

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).

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