The up and down see-saw battle between Landmark West’s ‘Article 78’ filing against the height of Extell Development’s 50 West 66th Street mega-tower has just leveled out. It’s heading to the New York State Supreme Court after NYC’s Board of Standards (BSA) voted 2-2 on LW’s appeal of the 775-foot tall, 39 story building with ‘excessive’ mechanical voids. The building would be the tallest on the Upper West Side if approved.
Landmark West’s Executive Director, Sean Khorsandi, stated that “Although this building is ‘only’ 39-stories (masquerading as a building equivalent to a 77-story office tower) it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that 39 is greater than 32. The Department of Buildings (DOB) and Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the realities of the zoning intent.”
The decision by the BSA was made on January 28, 2020, with the results just being made public over the weekend. Landmark West now has 30 days to file this ‘Article 78’ with the NYS Supreme Court in order to maintain legal standing.
Article 78 proceedings are used by petitioners (in this case, Landmark West) to appeal decisions by a New York State or local agency (in this case, the Board of Standards and Appeals [BSA] and the Department of Buildings [DOB]).
In an email sent out on November 22, Landmark West stated that they “Need to file so that [their] arguments can be considered by an impartial judge, not mayoral-appointed commissioners.”
Construction of 50 West 66th Street first began in July 2018 but was soon halted, with the city revoking the permit in an unexpected reversal in January 2019. The DOB had ruled that Extell Development’s plan violated zoning laws.
At the time, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said “This is a victory not only for the Upper West Side, but for communities all over the city that find themselves outgunned by developers who try to bend or break zoning rules.”
Two weeks later, though, Extell was approved to proceed with work on the project, with the developer saying it “will be one of Manhattan’s most prominent addresses, located in one of the most sought-after enclaves of the Upper West Side.” The developer also stated that most of the people who had purchased apartments in the building, at that point, had been locals, perhaps with the goal of garnering more support from Upper West Siders undecided on the issue.
As of writing, 50 West 66th Street is still a hole in the ground, unlike another controversial building in the area, 200 Amsterdam Avenue, which has already been erected but may have to deconstruct 20 floors after a judge ordered the city to revoke the building permit.
Landmark West’s Sean Khorsandi further stated that “This building has become the poster child for developers exploiting loopholes to their benefit at the detriment of the Community. Working with our elected officials, we have pressed back and City Planning has amended the rules so nothing like this happens again, but they stopped short of saying these permits should be revoked. LANDMARK WEST! is continuing to work with our electeds and State Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal has a bill that would help close further loopholes as well. We fully expect a building to rise at 50 West 66th Street, but we want one that complies with zoning and follows the rules the rest of us abide by.”