The “gerrymandered” zoning is tough to defend.
On the other hand, the area should be properly upzoned.
The “gerrymandered” zoning is tough to defend.
On the other hand, the area should be properly upzoned.
Upzone? Not clear. Schools are overcrowded in the area. Permitted density levels already are pretty high for a largely residential area. It’s not and probably shouldn’t be like Midtown. In any case getting an upzoning through this neighborhood probably is impossible.
Schools are an easy problem to solve: require buildings of a certain size to include a school. It’s been done before in NYC.
Sadly you’re entirely correct that NIMBYs would fight it tooth and nail, and have the money+connections to succeed.
You’re right about schools. Those originally objecting to this project often said that any new building in the area of this size should provide school space or construction subsidies. And that makes sense both for the UWS and any other similar area. There are tons of kids living around 200 Amsterdam including in my building and PS 199 can’t handle the load.
Nothing has happened here since news of the zoning lot challenge being filed first appeared. I would not be surprised if the site stays inactive until the challenge is resolved. Indeed, I would not be surprised if this project dies and the developer sells out or files for reorganization.
UWS NIMBYs have sued every major building project for decades now. Obviously it will have no impact on construction.
You really think developers don’t research the zoning before building? The building is permitted and a go.
You may be right. I tend not to state conclusions I have no power over in categorical terms. I guess we both will have to wait and see.
I doubt this one will be canceled. This, like Sutton Place (although smaller now) will happen. I construction demo permits are in order for the Sutton Place parcel. Thats one area where NIMBYs were super aggressive. Also in the LES with the Cherry Street towers. But they will fail in the end.
Again, you may be correct. But in the case of 200 Amsterdam the zoning lot challenge was timely filed so the DOB must take a new look at the building (not demo) permit. In addition, the arguments in the challenge are, at a minimum, interesting. (Yes, I’ve read the challenge documents.) I don’t think there has been a case like it before. That augers for something in addition to standard NIMBY stuff. The contest may involve new and far reaching zoning issues that will end up in court. In addition, the politics of the case may be tending in favor of those opposing the building. Yes, the contest may fail, but it also may take quite a bit of time. Can the developers handle the expenses associated with a wait? Will the lenders bail? These sorts of questions can’t be answered now, but I don’t think we should assume that this case will come out the same way most other land use contests have in the past. I, for one, am interested in seeing what happens.
This building will pay property taxes to fund the schools, like any other, and its residents will pay NYC income tax, like the residents of the old buildings (and probably more, on average, since the tenants will be market-rate, while most of the old buildings are rent-regulated). Why should it be required to pay extra over that?
The Upper West Side didn’t have a single school when the Dakota and other buildings were built at the in the 1880s–those developers were turning empty farmland into multi-story apartment towers. Should those buildings not have been built back then because schools didn’t exist?
Maybe these NIMBYs should be focusing their energy on something positive, like lobbying the city to build more schools, instead of spending their $$ blocking much-needed housing. It seems very small-minded and negative.
I agree, unfortunately, that this project could be stalled in court for years, even if they are completely within their rights (zoning lot gymnastics have been common for decades).
But ultimately, something of this magnitude will get built here once the legal hurdles are cleared. The air rights are too valuable not to use.
One more thing: I can’t believe these NIMBYs call themselves the “Committee for Environmentally Sound Development” when their whole agenda is to fight against dense urban development near a mass transit line, which is the most environmentally friendly form of development!
I’ll stop after this one. Yes, schools are needed. Yes, the city’s failure to build schools in a city with what is now the highest population in its history is ridiculous. And yes groups opposing dense urban development near mass transit stops often overstep. The point of my series of comments here goes not to the politics of development opposition but to the contours of land use rules. Zoning lot creativity has been around for some time. But this one (don’t know if you’ve seen the map) is really quite amazing. The air rights transfers for buildings like 432 Park and 56 Leonard were from abutting parcels, the final lots were rationally shaped, and the other regulations for such transfers were followed. This one is spaghetti that wanders and meanders around in the Lincoln Towers complex as well as the newer building at 200 West End (at 70th). There really is no way that required access to the zoning lot can be used by either those in the proposed building or those in the existing buildings. Is it legal? Don’t know. Is it worth taking a look at in order to rationalize development planning? I think so. For the benefit of both citizens and developers, rules should be straightforward, easy to predict, and fair in application. To be honest, I don’t think this one fulfills those goals. That’s why I find the whole thing interesting and worth watching unfold.
Don’t stop, your posts are very informative!
I’ve been reading the complaint you posted, and I find their claims to be interesting. They don’t really base their argument on the fact that the zoning lot is gerrymandered. Instead, they make several more compelling arguments. Here are my thoughts on their arguments one-by-one:
(1) Their first argument is that parking spaces can only count as open space if they’re accessory to the building on the zoning lot. The parking spaces on this zoning lot are for the Lincoln Towers buildings, which are on a different zoning lot, so they don’t meet this criterion. On this, I think they’re right. Where I think their case is seriously misleading and not as strong, is that they also assume the driveway space doesn’t count as open space under the Zoning Resolution because it’s not accessory to the building either. But while the Zoning Resolution is very clear that the parking spaces must be accessory to the building, it does not say that driveways must be accessory:
Driveways, private streets, open #accessory# off-
street parking spaces, unenclosed #accessory# bicycle
parking spaces or open #accessory# off-street loading
berths [count toward the required open space],
provided that the total area occupied by all
these items does not exceed [50% of the required open
Most of the land that they claim doesn’t count toward the open space is, in fact, driveways, not parking spaces. The zoning resolution does not define ‘parking spaces,’ but in several sections of the code it does contrast ‘parking spaces’ vs ‘driveways.’
Obviously, that’s just my interpretation, and it’s up to the judge to resolve, but I think this seriously weakens their case on this point. It becomes a matter of how ‘driveway’ vs ‘parking space’ is defined.
(2) Their next argument is that the open space is not accessible. I’m less certain about this one, but it doesn’t hinge on the shape of the zoning lot or the fact that it’s gerrymandered, but on whether the developer has an access easement for this land which is owned by Lincoln Towers.
(3) Their next argument is that the rear yard does not comply with the rear yard regulations because it contains parking spaces for Lincoln Towers. This would be correct, except that since the zoning lot is a through lot, a rear yard is not required–instead under section 23-532 of the Zoning Resolution, you can provide instead
an open area with a minimum depth of 60 feet, midway (or within
five feet of being midway) between the two #street lines# upon
which such #through lot# fronts;
which, if you look at the zoning diagram, the developer does provide.
(4) Their final argument, about the sky exposure plane, seems like it could be easily fixed without making the building unbuildable.
Conclusion: If they win on point (1), the project would probably have to be smaller. If they win on point (2), this lot might be unbuildable under current zoning.
Thanks and thanks–one for the pat on the back and the other for your interpretation of the claims. It should be an interesting, if not a long, process to watch unfold.
According to the West Side Rag, construction on 200 Amsterdam is on hold because of a DOB freeze placed on issuance of any new building permits until the zoning challenge is resolved. See http://www.westsiderag.com/2017/06/10/plans-for-upper-west-sides-tallest-building-on-hold-as-city-reviews-challenge-by-neighbors
Further hold on the project recently issued according to the West Side Rag. http://www.westsiderag.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/200-amsterdam5.png
The zoning application for 200 Amsterdam has been found to be flawed on various grounds. The project has been halted by DOB until a fully valid application is submitted. The extent of plan
modifications that will be required is unclear. But for the foreseeable future this project is a No-Go. See these articles for more information: https://patch.com/new-york/upper-west-side-nyc/city-halts-upper-west-sides-planned-largest-development and http://www.westsiderag.com/2017/07/12/zoning-challenge-succeeds-in-halting-upper-west-sides-tallest-building-for-now.
Thanks. So the DOB ruled in the NIMBYs’ favor on point (2) from my post above: that the open space isn’t accessible. I said at the time that this was the most likely of the NIMBY arguments to cause trouble for the developer and would be hard to fix, and now that the DOB agrees that the open space isn’t accessible, I think this project really is in major trouble.
Basically they’d need to buy an access easement from the surrounding owners (the co-op). But the co-op residents are against this development…
Right. You nailed it. Confirms for me that this was not a standard NIMBY case. It is clear that this site will be developed at some point. And I think most in the neighborhood understand that. The issues here were about whether the extant rules were being inappropriately used. It may turn out that the investors overpaid for the site and will have to bite the economic costs of taking risks that didn’t pan out–either by selling to another developer or biting the bullet and putting up a smaller structure. The last chapter is yet to be written.