50 West 66th Street Approved To Proceed

Onward and upward for the skyscraper slated to be built at 50 West 66th Street. As a result of a Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) decision, the developer, Extell, has been approved to continue work on their luxury skyscraper.

According to the developer, 50 West 66th Street “will be one of Manhattan’s most prominent addresses. Located in one of the most sought after enclaves of The Upper West Side.” The views include Central Park, the Hudson River, and the Midtown skyline. It will be the tallest building on the UWS, even taller than 200 Amsterdam Ave, which stands about 670 feet tall.

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Taking a look back at the contentious history between Extell and those who’ve opposed the development, it is clear why this decision brings out a lot of passion from those involved.  Below is a brief recap of recent events.

In September 2019, Extell obtained permits to resume work on the new development and use large spaces as dedicated mechanical floors, with the caveat that city building inspectors would do a floor by floor check to make sure the space was being used properly.

Landmark West argued that, “Back in 2017 when Extell filed its plans, developers were permitted to exploit a loophole in the regulations that allowed them to use a peculiar height-boosting trick: dedicating several tall floors for mechanical equipment only. Buildings in New York City are limited by maximum floor area requirements, which measures the usable floor space, but mechanical space had been exempted from that rule, leaving no cap on their size.”

In November, lawsuits ensued. First, The City Club sued Extell and the BSA seeking to block any further construction. In December, Extell sued City Club for breaking their agreement to stop the opposition as Extell claimed had been agreed upon in a settlement.

The City Council approved legislation addressing the “mechanical void loophole.” The new legislation limits mechanical floors to 25 feet in height. Extell had already received their approval to use close to 200 feet in height.

Opposing parties came back to the DOB with an appeal to halt construction based on the new legislation. The reason the appeal was allowed was to make sure the space was being used as stated it would be – for mechanical use only. Landmark West stated that “while the DOB admitted that they never actually reviewed the spaces at all, Landmark West hired an expert to diagram the four mid-building mechanical floors and prove that only 22% of use was mechanical. The developer still fully deducted all the space from floor area.”

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The BSA reviewed the case and denied the appeal. There are five members on the committee, but only four voted. Commissioner Dara Ottley-Brown recused herself. There was a tie: two voted for, and two voted against the appeal. In cases of a tie, the appeal is denied.

Landmark West is disappointed with the outcome and states that they were failed by the DOB on multiple accounts. They sated that “they failed by denying the community’s initial challenge. They failed when they reinstated permits after their own Notice Intent to Revoke.  And the DOB failed in their mandate to simply look at the building plans, stating on the record that they ‘check for code, but not for use.’”

Extell is ready to get back to work. They state that “this new neighborhood landmark building will feature 127 condominiums that will embrace the refinement of the Upper West Side while fusing a contemporary elegance.”

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