Ever since designs for 200 Amsterdam Avenue were first released, the 52-story luxury condo has been hotly contested. The building’s zoning plans have been passed back and forth between the Department of Buildings, the Board of Standards and Appeals, the state Supreme Court, and community activists opposed to the project. After years of repeated roadblocks, 200 Amsterdam Avenue currently stands at its full height and the newly built Upper West Side apartments have begun to sell.
Despite strong opposition from the building’s neighbors, its developer now states that “the bulk of buyers are locals, specifically buyers from the Upper West Side.” Steve Pozycki, the CEO of SJP Properties, says that local buyers likely are fueled by “the lack of new residential development of this caliber in the area.” The building’s numerous amenities, including a 75-foot saltwater pool, and its close proximity to Lincoln Center further add to its appeal.
Not everyone buys into Pozycki’s claim, however. As local resident Olive Freud says, “I don’t know of anyone who wants to move into that building, and I’m certainly in touch with an awful lot of people.” Wherever the building’s new residents come from, nobody is arguing about their ability to spend significant amounts of money for an apartment at 200 Amsterdam Avenue. In August, we reported that the building’s two penthouses were listed for around $40 million each. One bedroom apartments have a starting price of just under $3 million.
Throughout the planning and construction of 200 Amsterdam Avenue, controversy surrounded the site. Groups such as the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and Landmark West! have long argued that unlawful zoning practices have allowed the building’s developers to reach a height of 668 feet. The heart of the issues lies within the complicated New York City air rights laws and zoning laws. The previous owners of the 200 Amsterdam Avenue lot were able to buy up neighboring air rights, transferring unused airspace onto their site. According to CFESD, the final lot is “gerrymandered” together and although the building’s footprint is only 10,000 square feet, its zoning lot is 110,000 square feet. This allowed developers to gain approval for a much larger structure from the NYC Department of Buildings.
To further complicate matters, critics state that the basis for the DOB’s approval of of the new development was wording in a 1978 memo that reportedly misinterpreted the DOB’s own guidelines. Work was stopped on the site while the DOB reviewed the case, yet they ultimately concluded that while there may have been some truth to the argument, the 1978 memo had been relied on in the planning of numerous nearby buildings and was still valid. The zoning plans were also approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals in both 2018 and 2019, yet new rounds of opposition continue to arise.
Despite an existence fraught with controversy and ongoing lawsuits, construction and sales at 200 Amsterdam Avenue have marched ahead. Both the developers and their critics are highly determined and it is unlikely that either side will give ground any time soon.