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Contentious Upper West Side skyscraper hits roadblock after legal challenge

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The zoning behind 200 Amsterdam Avenue will be re-examined by the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals

A digital rendering of a stone and glass tower in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
The tower has attracted controvery since it was announced in 2016.
© Elkus Manfredi Architects/Seventh Art

One of the Upper West Side’s forthcoming tallest towers may be stopped short after a court ruled this week against an earlier decision that signed off on the seemingly unconventional means by which the site’s developers amassed the zoning needed to construct a nearly 670-foot building.

A State Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to vacate and annul a prior ruling made last July by the Board of Standards and Appeals that said the project at 200 Amsterdam Avenue at West 69th Street was compliant with existing zoning laws. Thursday’s ruling will require the BSA to re-evaluate the tower with a new method that Crain’s says “appears to disallow the method that the developers used to justify its extraordinary size.”

The project has been fraught from the start, with local opponents including City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, and the Municipal Arts Society, the latter of which helped galvanize the latest ruling after filing a request for the court to nullify the BSA’s ruling last October.

After the project was announced in 2016, those opponents made short work of trying to stop the skyscraper from rising, filing building challenges and alleging that the developers abused zoning rules. Much of the criticism against the tower and developer SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan remains the same.

The development team, of course, maintains that it has followed the law completely. In a statement, the companies say they respectfully disagree with the judge’s ruling. “200 Amsterdam’s zoning permits were exhaustively reviewed by both the Department of Buildings and the BSA, the two city agencies with the primary responsibility for interpreting NYC’s zoning codes,” the statement reads in part.

The tower currently stands at 17 of a proposed 51 stories, and could see a reduced height if the developers are not allowed to use all of the air rights that have been acquired to create the development.

“This decision strikes a blow at developers’ creative manipulation of loopholes in the Zoning Resolution and is a win for all New York City neighborhoods,” said Olive Freud, President of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development.