“This ruling is a shocking loss for New York City and its residents. It defies more than 40 years of precedent in the city’s zoning laws. It also ignores the thoughtful decision of the DOB to grant the permit which was upheld by the BSA following exhaustive document review and testimony over a two-year period. Both of those decisions recognized that retroactively applying new interpretations of the city’s zoning to previously approved projects undermines the stability of the regulatory environment needed to support the investment that is critical to New York City’s economy, tax base, housing stock and services. We will appeal this decision vigorously in court and are confident that we, and the City, will prevail on the merits.”While the retroactive trimming of a nearly-finished tower is certainly unusual, it is worth noting that New York has seen this situation before—in 1991, a New York developer was forced to tear down the top 12 floors of a 31-story residential tower at 108 East 96th Street five whole years after it was built. This marked the most severe consequence a New York developer had ever faced for zoning violations; the NYT reporting from 1991 claims that developers of the project repeatedly blamed the violations on an “error in a city map.” The immediate future of 200 Amsterdam remains unclear, but the potential of a partial demolition presents a unique set of challenges, especially with some of the most profitable units located on the upper floors.
Posts tagged with "Upper West Side":
A striking New York State Supreme Court ruling may force the developers of an Upper West Side condo tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue to scale back their soaring design by 20 floors. While developments of this kind are often modified in the planning phase in order to comply with zoning regulations, this case has a twist: Construction of the 668-foot building is nearly complete. Last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry ordered that the New York City Department of Buildings revoke the building permit for the development at 200 Amsterdam as well as demolish all floors that exceed zoning restrictions. The exact number of floors slated for removal remains unclear, but The New York Times reports that it could be 20 or more, depending on the final interpretation of the zoning laws. That’s quite a trim for a 52-story building. 200 Amsterdam, designed by Elkus Manfredi, occupies the lot where the original Lincoln Square Synagogue stood. In 2013, the synagogue moved to an updated building designed by CetraRuddy right next door, and renderings of the luxury condo high-rise first appeared in 2016. UWS community activists have viewed the project with contempt over the past few years, and many celebrated the ruling as a feat for community organizing. “We are very gratified that after a long fight, the gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam has been declared illegal. This groundbreaking decision averts a dangerous precedent that would have ultimately affected every corner of the city,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), in a press statement. In a statement to AN, developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan defended their vision for 200 Amsterdam and indicated plans to appeal the ruling:
Yesterday, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) approved Extell Development’s contentious residential tower on the Upper West Side, according to Gothamist. After years of back and forth over the height, the Snøhetta-designed 50 West 66th Street is set to rise at 776 feet tall—the tallest building in the neighborhood—and will keep its significant mechanical void space at the core of the tower's chiseled frame. The project was under threat as recently as last month, when preservation organization Landmarks West claimed that Extell was inflating the building’s height with its 192-foot-tall mechanical void in order to charge a higher premium for top-level units. As AN has previously reported, the Billionaire’s Row developer has pulled this move before, side-stepping zoning regulations throughout the city and ignoring caps on maximum floor areas. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said the appeal's loss, which occurred in a 2-2 vote tie since one of the BSA members abstained from the process, was major and signals a problem for future similar developments. Opponents have been worried that real estate giants like Extell could use this as a precedent to design large voids in other tower projects in order to boost their overall size. A similar claim was levied against the Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed 249 East 62nd Street when it was first revealed. Back in early 2019, Extell almost lost the project entirely when it was forced to rethink the tower’s 700-plus-foot height (it was originally pitched at 262 feet). Brewer said construction permits would be revoked, despite approval by the Department of Buildings if Extell failed to change the arrangement and height of its mechanical spaces. The outcry, from both public officials and local residents of the Upper West Side, resulted in a study by the Department of City Planning that detailed how, in New York City, mechanical floors had been excluded from the zoning floor area calculation. In late May, the New York City Council voted to prevent developers from further exploiting this loophole by limiting the height of mechanical voids to 25 feet. Because 50 West 66th Street was passed before the amendment was made to the zoning law, Gothamist noted the luxury tower will now hold a mechanical void space that totals 176 feet in height—a 16-foot reduction to appease Brewer’s request, but it will now be split into three sections: two 64-foot-tall mechanical areas and a 48-foot-tall void. Sean Khorsandi, executive director of Landmarks West, told Gothamist that the appeal rejection wasn't as shocking as the way the vote played out. “I think it’s ridiculous that even in the case of a tie, the community loses.” Critics of the project now have the opportunity to file a court appeal as a last-ditch effort to stop it from moving forward. AN has reached out to Snøhetta for comment.
The debate over imposing height restrictions for the Snøhetta-designed tower at 50 West 66th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side continues. The preservation group Landmark West is arguing that Extell, the building developer known for its Billionaire’s Row towers along 57th Street, is continuing to illegally use mechanical void space to circumvent height restrictions according to Gothamist. Such voids are meant to hold mechanical equipment and have been, until recently, exempt from maximum floor area caps according to zoning regulations, giving developers leeway to inflate building heights and charge a premium for boosted units. The life of the now-775-foot tall tower began in 2015 when the project was announced at just 262 feet, but the building had swelled to its current height by the time the first renderings were released in 2017. As previously reported in January, Extell was given a 15-day window to scale the design back after pushback from local politicians and community groups. The current design has a total of 176-feet blocked out for mechanical equipment, which was reduced from the original 192-foot void. A recent amendment to the zoning law, however, which counts any mechanical space over 25-feet toward the maximum floor area, will not affect 50 West 66th Street because it was passed after plans were already approved. Activists and politicians alike are now accusing Extell of keeping the majority of the building’s 176 feet of mechanical floors empty of any equipment. Landmark West claims that only 22 percent of the void space will actually be filled with equipment, meaning that the mechanical rooms are predominantly included to boost the building’s overall height. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal have both opposed 50 West 66th Street, which could potentially become the tallest building on the Upper West Side. “These ‘mechanical floors’ are not being occupied by their purported use. They are more than half filler space that will go unused,” said Brewer in a statement to the Board of Standards and Appeals yesterday. “To permit this development to move forward as proposed sets a dangerous message to other developers who will surely seek similarly unjustified mechanical deductions for their buildings.”
Though he may not have had a household name, few architects have had as lasting an impact on New York City as Rosario Candela. Since they were built almost a century ago, his buildings have come to define several of the city's neighborhoods and have set a standard for classic refinement among the real estate community. The Museum of the City of New York’s Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela is an informative, concise, and accessible exhibition covering the work and life of the prolific early 20th century architect. The exhibition is curated by Donald Albrecht and designed by New York-based architect Peter Pennoyer, with Tsang Seymour overseeing the project’s graphic design. Rosario Candela was born in 1890 in the Sicilian town of Montelepre, immigrating to New York City in approximately 1910. Although he struggled with English, Candela enrolled in Columbia University’s School of Architecture and graduated in 1915. The Sicilian immigrant’s early mastery of design—and self-confidence—was soon evident, as documented by architectural historian Christopher Gray, who described the young Candela cordoning off his drafting table with a velvet rope to prevent competing students from copying his work. Candela began his career as a draftsman for fellow Sicilian-American architect Gaetan Ajello, whose firm designed dozens of Renaissance Revival and Neoclassical residential and commercial properties across Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The young architect established his own firm in 1920, positioning himself to take full advantage of the astronomical wealth of the Jazz Age. For curator Donald Albrecht, one of the challenges of the exhibit was ensuring that the show was less a catalogue of Candela's prolific 75-building body of work, and more a narrative embedding his career within a rapidly changing city. To this end, Candela’s canon is cut down to 13 examples that chart his range of styles and their impact on Manhattan’s streetscape. Photography and digital animation are the primary media for the exhibition, showcasing both exteriors and interiors of Candela’s residential towers. Furnishings and ephemera dating from the era play a supporting, but significant role in bringing the subject’s social narrative to life. At street level, Candela’s architectural design is remarkable in its ability to simultaneously blend with the overarching streetscape whilst establishing a distinguishable individual presence. The exhibition begins with an immense print of the dramatically terraced rooflines of 770 and 778 Park Avenue. In typical Candela fashion, the two Neo-Georgian and Renaissance Revival style buildings are elegant and unassuming, with relatively modest brownish-red brick facades standing on delicately detailed limestone bases. Matching the cornice line of neighboring developments, Candela took advantage of zoning codes that required setbacks to create wildly asymmetrical terraced rooftops, adorned with historicist motifs such as flying buttresses, quoins, urns, and cupola-ensconced water towers. Although Rosario Candela’s work is now located in some of New York City’s most desirable neighborhoods, shifting the city’s wealthy from Victorian and French Renaissance mansions elsewhere to uptown apartment living required some persuasion. In a statement, Albrecht notes that “a key theme of the exhibition focuses on the economic history and ingenious marketing campaigns that convinced the wealthy to give up their private homes and move into apartments designed by Candela.” Featured in the exhibition are a number of brochures stemming from these efforts that promised potential tenants the luxury and exclusivity of a family manor with the comforts of apartment living. Additionally, many of Candela’s project were built as exclusionary residential cooperatives, allowing the city’s elite to segregate themselves from those they deemed less desirable. Completed in 1930 at the onset of the Great Depression, Candela’s limestone-clad Art Deco 740 Park Avenue is seen as the summit of the architect’s career. While the facade announces the upper-class status of the co-op, it is the interior composition that sets it apart from surrounding residences. The building is split between four types of apartments: mansionettes with individual street entrances, a series of duplexes, and full-floor apartments, topped by a luxurious penthouse. Past and current residents read as a register of the nation’s political and economic elite, ranging from Jackie Kennedy to John D. Rockefeller. A centrally-placed digital animation of 960 Fifth Avenue is perhaps the finest curatorial tool in the exhibition, and it highlights Candela’s innovative approach to floorplan layouts and his segmentation of luxury residential properties into a diverse range of units. The videographic, created with Lumion architectural rendering software, effectively displays the division of the building into a western portion composed of single-story and duplex apartments, and an eastern wing made up of one- to two-bedroom rental units for upper-class families who predominantly resided in country estates. Faithful to Albrecht's curatorial mission to break outside the confines of architectural history, Elegance in the Sky also includes the catastrophic impact the Great Depression had on Rosario Candela’s dizzying rise as a top-tier architect, essentially leveling all future prospects of prestigious projects. Consequently, the architect left the profession and turned towards the field of cryptography, ultimately creating an unbreakable encryption method used by the American government during World War II. Candela would go on to write two books on the subject and take up a professorship at Hunter College. Although purely based on Candela family lore, Albrecht notes that the architect’s involvement with the Office of Strategic Services could be a factor behind the near complete lack of original renderings, with the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency seizing documents from Candela’s study following his death in 1953. In a nod to Candela’s apartments' classical interior detailing and the designer's involvement in cryptography, Peter Pennoyer wrapped the entire exhibition space in a decorative frieze featuring mullions, egg-and-dart detailing, fluting, and a band of Morse code spelling out the architect’s full name. In similar fashion, facial profiles of those involved in his career, including longtime collaborators, designer Dorothy Draper, and developers Charles and Joseph Paterno, are colorfully sketched below the decorative frieze. The seismic evolution of New York City’s urban fabric during Rosario Candela’s professional career is startling and alludes to the contemporary state of intense development in the city. However, the continued allure and prestige of Rosario Candela’s body of work, from the Art Deco 740 Park Avenue to the Georgian-Renaissance blend of 770 Park Avenue, raises the question of whether the city’s current development boom will leave the same storied architectural legacy.
Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela The Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Avenue Through October 28, 2018
Keith Haring's kinetic murals grace the handball courts, parks, hospitals, and interstitial public spaces of New York. Now, one of the artist's least-known, best-hidden pieces could be destroyed. In the early 1980s, Haring painted a mural along two flights of stairs at the Grace House, a Catholic youth organization in Morningside Heights. The youth organization has folded, and in 2009 the Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension took over the five-story building on West 108th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. The church has been renting studios with shared bathrooms and kitchens to 16 mostly SRO-dwelling tenants. Now, though, the church is exploring other options to remain financially solvent, and may be looking to sell the building to a developer, DNAinfo reports. Most tenants moved out on August 1, and the mural's future is uncertain. Tenants, mostly artists and students, describe the mural lovingly and doubt that a developer could be bothered to save it. Haring completed the piece, which begins in the lobby with one of his signature vibrating babies, in 1983 or 1984 along with 50 children from the organization. As recent preservation battles in New York, Cincinnati, and Detroit illustrate, saving a non-landmarked mural is an uphill battle. Fortunately, the work is on the radar of the Keith Haring Foundation, the official stewards of Haring's legacy. Haring's pieces explored themes of sexuality, bodies, and AIDS in vivacious, earnest pieces that were commissioned worldwide. The foundation maintains a map and a catalogue of his work, which can be accessed here.
Unbroken bands of window walls sit beyond an exterior concrete structural frame.Completed earlier this year, a new market rate rental building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side by Handel Architects features a striking exposed cast-in-place concrete diagrid “exoskeleton” structure. The system is designed in response to required zoning code setbacks that restrict building area to a mere 35’ wide at times. The project, named after it’s address at 170 Amsterdam, is located two blocks north of Lincoln Center, situated between two greenspaces – Central Park and the Lincoln Tower superblock – via 68th Street. The lobby is a prominent glassy space containing a mix of community programs, formally and programmatically connecting the two sides of the building together, while abstracted tree-like columns punctuate the building envelope. Frank Fusaro, Partner at Handel Architects, says the use of exposed architectural concrete is a contextual response to its location between the muscular buildings of Lower Amsterdam, where Lincoln Center resides, and the heaviness of classic Upper West Side apartment buildings. “LaGuardia High Schools exposed concrete, MLK School’s corten metal and glass skin wrapped around an opaque core, and the heavily ornate Beaux-Arts exterior of the Dorilton with its quoining, ironwork, brackets, cartouches, oriels and other details all share something in common: these are tough, robust and bold buildings.” Aside from the contextual benefits to exposing a concrete system, the architects noted several benefits to a structural exoskeleton system, contributing to the client’s full support from nearly the beginning of the project. The most significant benefits to the building envelope design were seen when interior floor area was able to be maximized. The structural system of the building resembles a shell structure, achieving high stiffness from an exterior diagrid of columns tied together with repetitive structural floor slabs. This stiffness allows for no shear walls to be required in the core of the building and relatively few interior columns. By moving the columns to the outside of the building, the city’s zoning department allowed for the floor area of the building to be measured to the face of the window wall, rather than the face of the structure. This allowed the architects to add an entire extra floor of program to the building. Additionally, the depth of the facade assembly acts as a brise soleil, passively helping to manage a less-than-ideal solar orientation (unavoidable due to the city grid and buildable area on site). Beyond the columns, a continuous band of window units, spanning from floor to ceiling, establishes the building’s thermal envelope. The windows feature a high performance low e coating to allow for high levels of transparency without sacrificing solar performance. Fusaro says the unbroken line of windows in the apartment units was essential: “The studios are sized just over 400 square feet, so having an exterior wall of glass makes the units feel much larger.” An extremely dense mix of concrete allows for the smooth finish and eliminates voids. The use of less rebar permits a pump tube to be placed in the column and minimizes vibration. Slag was added to the mix to make the color of the concrete more like limestone. Installation of the building envelope after the concrete was poured occurred surprisingly quickly, at a rate of about one floor per week, adding value to the system. The design of the diagrid was optimized to reduce the quantity of fabricating costly “X” forms by shifting the grid on a diagonal axis. The success of 170 Amsterdam has led Handel Architects to further work with exposed architectural cast in place concrete. Most notably, in the Upper West Side, another market rate rental building is under construction currently. For Fusaro, the elegance of exposed concrete is activated with an underlying connection to nature: “I love the organic nature of concrete, you can add or subtract a little of this or that and make it into something entirely different.” Handel Architects: Partner in Charge/Design Principal; Frank Fusaro Project Manager; Honyi Wang Design Team; Alan Noah-Navarro, Elga Killinger, Shridhuli Solanki, Rinaldo Perez, Ren Zhong Huang, Jessica Kuo, Jordan Young, Shujian Jian, Hong Min Kim, Ade Herkarisma, Ana Untiveros-Ferrel
As we reported a few weeks ago, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is gearing up to create a huge new historic district on the Upper West Side. Last night, the commission held a meet-and-greet with the neighbors, at which the tentative boundaries for the new district—technically five contiguous extensions to five existing districts—were unveiled. As the map shows, it's quite a lot of real estate, and though smaller than the extant Upper West Side historic district (2,000+ versus 745) it will become, should it be approved, one of the largest in the city. What's most interesting, though, is how much of the Upper West Side will now be under the commission's purview. It will be interesting to see how the development community reacts.