The Daily Dirt: City Hall joins developers in fight for UWS tower

An analysis of New York's top real estate news

Mar.March 04, 2020 09:00 AM
A rendering of 200 Amsterdam Avenue (Credit: 200 Amsterdam and iStock)

A rendering of 200 Amsterdam Avenue (Credit: 200 Amsterdam and iStock)

Developers have the city on their side in this UWS fight. 

They say you can’t fight City Hall, but in this case, developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America don’t have to. The de Blasio administration is appealing a state judge’s February ruling that could force the developers to remove 20 floors from their 52-story tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue, Sylvia Varnhan O’Regan reports.

Last month, Justice W. Franc Perry ruled that permits for the project should be revoked because the developers used a 39-sided, gerrymandered zoning lot to siphon air rights from various “neighboring” lots.

City Hall’s interjection comes one day after the Department of Buildings issued guidance essentially barring this practice. The agency stipulated that zoning lots can no longer be comprised of partial zoning lots (an issue central to the 200 Amsterdam case). Awkward.

“It’s disappointing and it’s not the right position for the city to take, but we will proceed,” said Richard Emery, the lawyer representing the tower’s opponents, the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and the Municipal Art Society.

Unsurprisingly, the developers were stoked by the city’s appeal. They quickly followed with their own appeal.

Speaking of litigation to block development, an appellate court recently sided with the Rabsky Group.

Back in 2018, Churches United for Fair Housing asked the court to void the rezoning of the former Pfizer site in Brooklyn, where Rabsky planned a residential project that the group alleged would discriminate against people of color.

A few months later, a state judge tossed the lawsuit. Churches United appealed, but late last month, the court upheld the dismissal, Eddie Small reports. In its complaint, the group had also sought to force the city to conduct a racial impact study whenever it rezones. Churches United argued that the project’s market-rate units would mostly go to “wealthy whites” and the affordable units would mostly go to Hasidic tenants.

“The city was not required to perform analysis aimed at forecasting the mix of ethnicities expected to occupy units in the development and the corresponding impact on prevailing area patterns of racial and ethnic concentration,” the decision reads.

Last year, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams proposed a bill that would mandate a racial impact study be conducted any time the city embarked on land-use actions that require an environmental review. That proposal gained traction late last year when a state court nullified the Inwood rezoning on similar grounds.

What we’re thinking about: Do you think legislators will try to get rid of major capital improvements? What did you think of this report released Tuesday? Send a note to [email protected].


Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded Tuesday was for a condo unit at 220 Central Park South, at $28.6 million.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was for a mixed-use building at 49 West 39th Street in Midtown, at $18.5 million.



The largest new building filing of the day was for a 48,500-square-foot residential building at 32 Sylvaton Terrace in Staten Island. Nazim Bashirov filed the permit application.



The priciest residential listing to hit the market was for a condo unit at 3 East 95th Street in Carnegie Hill, at $28.4 million. Sotheby’s International Realty’s Stan Ponte has the listing. — Research by Mary Diduch

A thing we’ve learned…

MERS stands for both Mortgage Electronic Registration System and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Thank you to Kevin Sun for bringing this to our attention.

Elsewhere in New York

— The MTA won’t allow transit workers to wear respiratory masks, Gothamist reports. An operator on the 7 train said he was instructed to take his mask off so as not to incite panic over the coronavirus.

— President Donald Trump told a gathering of local officials that he’s “fighting” New York “very hard” to build a natural gas pipeline in the state, the New York Post reports. He didn’t specify a project.

— First Lady Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC is getting a reboot, the City reports. The mental health initiative will shift its focus to people with serious mental illness, and officials will reduce the number of programs offered under ThriveNYC.

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