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Court Stymies SJP Properties & Matsui’s Plans to Build UWS Condo Tower

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The developers have already started putting up the nearly 670-foot tall structure at 200 Amsterdam Ave., but the New York State Supreme Court ruling basically told New York’s Board of Standards and Appeals to “re-evaluate” its decision. Photo Credit: newyorkyimby.com

A court decision has created a setback for developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan’s plan to build an Upper West Side condominium tower.

By: David Augenbaum

On Thursday, New York City’s decision to permit construction of the project – which has stirred ire among many in the area, including some lawmakers – was overruled.

The developers have already started putting up the nearly 670-foot tall structure at 200 Amsterdam Ave., but the New York State Supreme Court ruling basically told New York’s Board of Standards and Appeals to “re-evaluate” its decision. The core issue is said to be the size of the spire and the way the developers got plans for it approved.

“This is a major victory,” said Richard Emery, the attorney for the Municipal Art Society and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, the plaintiffs who challenged the project, to Crain’s New York Business. “A development site where a developer wants to build can’t just get around the zoning codes.”

Opposing voices in the community were raised regarding what Crain’s called “the unorthodox way in which the builders cobbled together the development rights for the project from several neighboring properties.

Critics of the tower likened the technique to gerrymandering—creating octopus-like tendrils that grabbed air rights and easements that normally would have been out of reach for the site. The result was that the developers could concentrate that bulk on the relatively small land parcel where the tower was to rise, permitting them to build a soaring spire.”

“The Board of Standards and Appeals had somehow determined that the zoning lot here—a 39-sided ‘Frankenstein’ lot, stitched together from bits and pieces of various tax lots—was ‘unsubdivided,’ allowing the 668-foot-tall tower to go forward at the expense of the Upper West Side community,” noted Olive Freud, president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, in a prepared statement.

Not surprisingly, other prepared statements were quick in coming. City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said that “Communities are being bombarded by projects that are supposedly ‘as of right,’ but they are often drastically out of context, do not actually comply with the spirit of special district and other local protections, and are not helping to address our affordable housing crisis.”

A spokesperson for SJP Properties said in a statement that the firm “followed the law completely and continues to make construction progress… We respectfully disagree with some of the judge’s ruling, which calls into question the validity of the Certificate of Occupancy of several completed and fully occupied residential buildings. 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. Following thorough analysis and public testimony, both agencies determined that the building fully conforms with the city’s zoning laws.”

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