Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal Slams New York City as Law Department Files Notice of Intent to Appeal Court’s Decision in 200 Amsterdam Avenue Case

The NYC Dept. of Buildings yesterday issued new rule purporting to close the zoning lot merger loophole for new development, but exempts 200 Amsterdam Avenue and other developments that already have permits
March 3, 2020

New York, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), who represents 200 Amsterdam Avenue in the New York State Assembly issued the statement below:

“The building at 200 Amsterdam Avenue has been a flashpoint for the community and the City as a whole because it so clearly exemplifies the type of developer overreach that the City’s laissez faire attitude toward over-development has allowed and even invited. Despite overwhelming community opposition and on uncertain legal footing, the building’s developer, SJP Properties, raced to erect a glass super tower hoping a finished structure would insulate it against legal consequence. And SJP did so with the tacit endorsement of the City of New York and each of its agencies, which could have stopped SJP at multiple points during the process but refused to do so.

When community advocates argued that the New York City Department of Buildings should not have granted SJP permits because the 55-story plans did not comply with zoning rules, the DOB agreed that it misinterpreted the zoning regulations, but decided that it did not have the authority to act. When the advocates and I and other elected officials asked the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals to enforce the zoning rules against SJP, a tie decision, resulting from a recusal, defaulted in the favor of the developer.

The Supreme Court’s decision, ordering DOB to revoke permits for the building and requiring the removal of all floors that exceed the zoning regulations, questioned the City’s apparent repeated and willful blindness to SJPs overreach, and called the City out on its overly generous interpretation and application of the zoning text to 200 Amsterdam.

The Supreme Court of the State of New York needed to intervene in the 200 Amsterdam Avenue case since it was made abundantly clear, time and time again, that the City would not.

It is sad, but hardly surprising, in light of all that has transpired that the City would side with SJP and appeal the Judge’s decision in this case. In its filing, the City argues that it and it alone has the unilateral authority to determine how the zoning rules are interpreted and applied to developers. But when there is evidence that the City cannot be trusted to objectively do so, it is vital that an independent third party, step in to restore balance and order.

If the Supreme Court of New York is not the proper venue in which to sort these issues out, the State Legislature has the power to step in. I have introduced legislation to close the mechanical voids (A5026) and zoning lot mergers (A9961) loophole.

Since the City cannot be trusted to enforce the zoning rules, the State can and must step in.

To paper over this appeal, the City quietly released a zoning bulletin yesterday which prohibits prospective zoning lit mergers. To say that this is like closing the barn door after the horse has left the stable is a gross understatement.

Our city is being handed, zoning lot by partial zoning lot, to wealthy developers who are constructing luxury apartments in the sky for billionaires to treat as tax shelters. At the same time, 92,000 New Yorkers – and more than 40,000 children – who sleep in shelters or on the street each night. We cannot continue to hand over our City to wealthy developers without regard to the impact that it has on our communities, and if the City wants to fight to preserve its unilateral right to do so, I intend to stop it.”