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DECEMBER 7-13,2017

Chelsea News|Chelsea Clinton News



DEVELOPMENT Rosenthal questions zoning justification for 775-foot condo building on West 66th Street BY MICHAEL GAROFALO

Mid-block on West 66th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, work has been under way for months to clear a series of adjacent lots that formerly held a synagogue and several other small buildings and prepare the site for a new project. Plans posted on the construction fence indicate that the structure in the works is a relatively unremarkable 25-story building with a nondescript glass façade — little to raise any eyebrows in an area that already has a number of buildings similar in size and style. But newly released renderings show that those plans have changed — just as local officials and land use advocates long suspected. The site’s developer now has much grander plans for the site: a 775-foot residential tower that would be the tallest building on the Upper West Side and the tallest building in Manhattan north of 59th Street. The tower, marketed by Extell Development under the moniker 50 West 66th Street and as featuring 127 units of luxury housing, would top the 668foot residential complex being built at nearby 200 Amsterdam Avenue by just over 100 feet. Extell had previously secured excavation permits from the Department of Buildings for the more modest 25-story, 292-foot-tall building still featured in renderings at the site. “They had no intention of completing a 25-story building, obviously,â€? said Helen Rosenthal, the City Council member who represents the area. Rosenthal said that Extell’s change in plans amounts to a “procedural bait-and-switch.â€? The sited was already been on Rosenthal’s radar and that of other local leaders, who suspected that, despite that 25-story plans, a much larger building was in development. Last June, Rosenthal, state Senator Brad Hoylman and As-

KARPOFF AFFILIATES JTZPVSTJOHMFTUPQGPS TFOJPSMJGFUSBOTJUJPOTBOESFBMFTUBUFCSPLFSBHF OFFET A newly released rendering (left) shows plans for a 775-foot tower on West 66th Street. Extell Development previously secured approvals for a more modest 25-story building at the site (right) before changing course, prompting Council Member Helen Rosenthal to call the move a “procedural bait-and-switch.â€? (Left: Snøhetta; Right: DOB notice at worksite) sembly Member Dick Gottfried sent a letter to Extell’s president, Gary Barnett, requesting that the developer “clearly explain to the neighborhood its plans for the site.â€? The letter further stated that “neither neighbors nor our offices have ever had reason to feel confident that the building plans on record truly reect the developer’s plans.â€? Officials’ concerns were based on the pattern of acquisition of parcels on the block — which now include air rights from the Lighthouse Guild site on West 65th Street — and reports from real estate industry trade publications, along with Extell’s portfolio of supertall projects, which includes the 57th Street residential skyscrapers One57 and the in-progress Central Park Tower, which will be the second-tallest building in the United States when it’s finished. “Gary [Barnett] is in the business of building big buildings,â€? said Sean Khorsandi, executive director of the land use and preservation nonprofit Landmark West. “That’s just what he does. So we assumed that this would be a big building.â€? The buildings that formerly stood on the West 66th Street site were cleared under the permits issued for the 25-story building. Rosenthal has called on the Department of Buildings to force Extell to “return to square oneâ€? and “not allow Extell to make an end-run around its review process.â€? Extell disputes the charac-

terization of the plan as a “baitand-switch,� and claims that plans for the building evolved over time as the site was assembled and air rights were acquired. “We respectfully disagree with Council Member Rosenthal’s perception of the project and the process,� an Extell spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We have carefully and patiently assembled this site over several years including the Lighthouse site just two weeks ago and some air rights that enabled us to develop this 100 percent as-of-right building,� the statement continued. Aside from her procedural concerns, Rosenthal said she does not believe that the zoning code allows for a building of such substantial height at the location. “Our land use lawyers don’t see a route to a 775-foot tower, according to the zoning law,� Rosenthal said. Landmark West reached a similar conclusion. “From what we understand of what’s been assembled, we don’t see how a 775-foot building is legal,� Khorsandi said. But the details of Extell’s zoning analysis are not yet available, and won’t be made public until the developer has filed and received approvals for updated plans from the Department of Buildings. “Our concern is that this represents the creep of Billionaire’s Row and the sprawl of these supertalls from Midtown into the residential neighborhood of the Upper West Side,� Khorsandi said.



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Chelsea News - December 7, 2017  
Chelsea News - December 7, 2017