City to revoke permits for Extell’s Kazakh-backed tower at 50 West 66th Street

150 feet of empty space to push penthouses higher in the sky violates zoning laws, DOB says; 15 days to amend

Jan.January 17, 2019 12:15 PM

From left: Helen Rosenthal, a Map of Kazakhstan, Sauat Mynbayev, Gary Barnett, Nurzhan Subkhanberdin (Credit: Getty Images)

The city’s Department of Buildings plans to strip Extell Development of permits to build a 775-foot skyscraper at 50 West 66th Street, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced Wednesday.

50 West 66th Street

The move is a reversal by DOB on this project, a development that has long been contested by area residents and their City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal. As recently as December, DOB rejected Rosenthal and others’ contention that a planned 150-feet of height containing only empty space (a “mechanical void”) — built in so penthouses can sit higher — would violate zoning laws. But Wednesday’s decision by the building department could have ramifications for other new development projects employing similar penthouse-perching construction features.

Extell has 15 days to make changes to its plans, a representative from Councilmember Rosenthal’s office told The Real Deal.

“This is a victory not only for the Upper West Side, but for communities all over the city that find themselves outgunned by developers who try to bend or break zoning rules for massive private profit,” Brewer said in a statement. A representative for Extell did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did a representative for the DOB.

The news was first reported by NY1.

Apart from the mechanical void, Extell was previously accused of a bait-and-switch to mislead the public about how tall its tower would be. In 2015, the company filed building plans for a structure just 262 feet tall, but Rosenthal and area residents speculated that Extell was really intending to build something much larger. They were proven correct two years later, when Extell and partner Megalith Capital unveiled a rendering for a 775-foot tower.

Extell has purchased more than $200 million in air rights for the project and in 2017 brought in the Kazakh oligarch-packed private equity firm Meridian Capital Limited by selling it a $127 million stake in the development.

On Monday, Extell announced it was bringing on former Westbrook COO Sush Torgalkar as president and CEO. Barnett will remain the company’s chairman.

Correction: The story was updated to reflect DOB’s “intent” to revoke Extell’s permits if it does not address zoning issues. 

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