Chiseled Physique

Snøhetta's Upper West Side skyscraper may have its permits revoked

Rendering of the tower's impact on the skyline, looking west. 50 West 66th Street is all the way to the right. (Courtesy Snøhetta)

New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) has fired a shot across the bow of developer Extell Development over 50 West 66th Street, a Snøhetta-designed 775-foot-tall tower first revealed at the end of 2017.

The 127-unit residential tower, which was first announced as a 262-foot-tall building in 2015, has used a contentious zoning tactic to boost the building’s height, and accordingly, the prices it can command. The middle of the tower includes a 160-foot-tall mechanical void that does not completely count towards the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) defined by the zoning code. While the Department of City Planning had claimed that it would close the loophole in the zoning code responsible for these so-called “towers on stilts” by the end of 2018, that deadline has come and gone. The city now expects to finalize their fix by the summer of 2019.

Rendering of a bronzed tower against Central Park

The tower would be predominately clad in bronze and glass, and sit atop a two-story retail podium with a limestone facade. (Courtesy Snøhetta)

Although the DOB had already greenlit construction at 50 West 66th Street, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced today that Extell has 15 days to go back the drawing board and remove the unnecessary height. If Extell doesn’t, its construction permit would be revoked.

“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 for massive private profit,” wrote Brewer in a statement.

A number of Upper West Side residents and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal have been outspoken opponents of the project, which, if built, would become the tallest building in the neighborhood. It remains to be seen if Brewer’s decision will carry a precedent for similar projects that have gained extra height by stacking their mechanical rooms—a tactic also employed by the piston-like Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed tower at 249 East 62nd Street.

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