Court won’t stop work at 200 Amsterdam

Judge declines tower opponents’ request to halt construction pending second BSA ruling

  • Construction on the planned 55-story tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue is ongoing. Photo: Vincent A. Gardino

“Waiting until June makes the building taller. If they have to take it down after that it will be more expensive to take it down.”

Olive Freud, president, Committee for Environmentally Sound Development

The two local nonprofits waging a legal battle against the developers of the 668-foot building under construction at 200 Amsterdam Avenue fear that the controversial tower will be completed in spite of a March court decision that found the city’s approval of the project was “unreasonable and inconsistent with the plain language” of city zoning law.

A state judge last week declined the tower opponents’ request for a preliminary injunction halting work on the project until the city completes its court-ordered reexamination of the building’s legality.

Construction has continued at 200 Amsterdam Avenue since the New York County Supreme Court’s March 14 ruling, which vacated and annulled the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals’ earlier decision allowing the project to proceed, but stopped short of ordering an immediate halt to construction. The court’s ruling instead directed the BSA to reevaluate the case under new criteria that the plaintiffs believe will require the city zoning appeals agency to rule that the project’s zoning lot is illegal and that the site cannot support such a tall building.

But the BSA is unlikely to hold a new hearing on the matter until June, and its decision could still be months away. In the meantime, work has continued on the planned 55-floor building, which now rises nearly 30 stories over Amsterdam Avenue.

Without a court order to stop work on the project, the plaintiffs claimed in a court filing requesting the injunction, “it is a near-certainty that the building will be finished” before the BSA issues its second ruling.

Olive Freud, the president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit, described the ruling as “quite disappointing,” but reiterated the plaintiffs’ contention that the developers should be forced to remove floors from the building if the BSA later finds that it exceeds its permissible height. “Waiting until June makes the building taller,” she said. “If they have to take it down after that it will be more expensive to take it down.”

A spokesperson for SJP Properties, which is developing the project in partnership with Mitsui Fudosan, declined to address the building’s expected date of completion. The spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement that the company is “pleased that the court has dismissed the request” to issue a preliminary injunction.

“We remain focused on making continued progress on construction to deliver this exceptional building to the neighborhood,” the statement continued.

The Department of Buildings has ignored calls to revoke the project’s permits from local advocacy groups and elected officials, including Council Member Helen Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

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