Extell triples height of controversial UWS tower with $202M air rights deal

50 West 66th Street will be the area's tallest building at 775 feet

Rendering of 50 West 66th Street (Credit: Binyan Studios)
Rendering of 50 West 66th Street (Credit: Binyan Studios)

In June, City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, State Senator Brad Hoylman and State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried issued a missive to Extell Development, declaring they knew something wasn’t right with the 25-story building the company had filed plans for at 36-40 West 66th Street. Community members had become suspicious of the developer’s intentions and rumors swirled that air rights were in play, which “led to the belief that plans for a much larger building may be in the works,” the elected officials wrote.

It looks like they were right — Extell closed on $202 million in air rights purchases on Monday, $147 million of which were bought from the Jewish Guild for the Blind at 15 West 65th Street, records filed with the city show. Another $55 million were purchased from Disney.

The Real Deal previously reported that Disney and the Jewish Guild for the Blind had nearly 201,000 square feet in available development rights at their 65th and 66th street properties. Extell’s development partner, Megalith Capital, bought three commercial buildings from Disney on 66th Street in 2014.

Architecture firm Snohetta debuted the latest renderings for Extell’s 127-unit condominium project in Wallpaper magazine on Monday, and also revealed the project would stand at 775 feet — nearly three times more than the 262 feet Extell first proposed in 2015. It will be the tallest building on the Upper West Side.

The condo tower will carry the address of 50 West 66th Street, and sits adjacent to four lots that stretch from 36-44 West 66th Street.

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Extell’s plans for the site came as no surprise to Councilmember Rosenthal’s legislative and land use policy director, Sean Fitzgerald. However, he said that there were remaining questions about how rights from the Jewish Guild for the Blind, which come from an R-8 zoning district, could be applied to Extell’s development site, which is under R-10 equivalent zoning.

“We’ve been waiting to see what actually gets filed,” Fitzgerald said.

The developer does not yet appear to have updated its building permits, records with the Department of Buildings show.

In a statement, Extell’s president, Gary Barnett, said that “Snohetta’s vision for this tower will create an elegant new addition to the Upper West Side,” but would not comment on whether the transfer of air rights to the site would require any kind of city approval process.

Megalith Capital began assembling the site in 2014 and joined Extell when it purchased a synagogue at 44 West 66th Street for $45 million the same year. Hong Kong investment company Meridian Capital Limited bought a stake in the development this September.

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