Condo Fatigue on the Upper West Side

Chris Giordano, president of the West 64th-67th Street Block Association, called it a bait-and-switch. “Even if you take away the issue of shadows on your neighborhood and a skyline scarred by a building that’s too tall,” he said, “we still find it to be immoral. We want there to be reasonable development, but that’s not what they’re doing.”

Two groups, Landmark West and the City Club of New York, a nonprofit focused on smart urban development, filed challenges with the Board of Standards and Appeals, opposing the voids and arguing that the building’s height presented a hazard for the city’s fire department. Each challenge moved on to the state Supreme Court, where City Club argued and won its case (which Extell is now trying to appeal) and Landmark West is awaiting a court date to argue its latest appeal.

When the city’s Department of Buildings asked Extell to amend its design in the spring of 2019, the developer came back with a proposal that still includes three mechanical spaces that together reduce the total height for mechanical spaces by just 16 feet, from 192 to 176 feet.

The opposition groups are claiming at least a partial victory out of this continuing saga: In 2019, the New York City Council voted to close the zoning loophole that allowed excessive voids.

“This isn’t nipping it in the bud, but it is making it a little more difficult,” Mr. Khorsandi said. “Billionaire’s Row is 15 years old now, and people are just now starting to wise up to what’s happening there,” he said. “They’re bogarting the sky and pushing away the public.”

At 200 Amsterdam, a 52-story condominium on 69th Street, the developers purchased unused development rights not just from adjacent buildings but from multiple neighboring lots, creating a 39-sided zoning lot that critics described as “gerrymandered” to get the 668-foot height they wanted.

SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America have spent the last two years in court and appear to have won out. The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and the Municipal Arts Society of New York, which filed the original lawsuit in 2018, claimed that the building should be scaled down since the original zoning lot wouldn’t allow such a tall building. In February 2020, a State Supreme Court judge sided with the community organizations and ordered the developer to remove the top 20 floors.

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