The long-stalled site at 170 Amsterdam Avenue is finally giving rise to a new residential tower by Sam Zell, of Equity Residential. After buying the site in 2011, the firm has wasted no time securing construction permits, and the building is now past its first level. No renderings of the project have been released, but a glimpse into the lower levels reveals diagonal concrete columns; it does seem 170 Amsterdam may actually present an interesting design, atypical for a development of only twenty floors.
New development on the Upper West Side is hard to come by, resulting in an affordability crisis; neighborhood NIMBYs do not tolerate anything, and even derelict buildings are preferred over new construction. Indeed, efforts to improve the neighborhood – buffering the tax base and using vacant land – have been denied, with Gale Brewer implicit in the process. 170 Amsterdam Avenue will make an excellent addition to a forlorn stretch of Amsterdam Avenue, but it will barely alleviate the Upper West Side’s extremely pent-up demand for new real estate; per the DOB, it will add only 235 new units.
The Observer has an excellent piece on the problematic political attitudes prevalent in the neighborhood, and it seems Gale Brewer’s probable rise to Manhattan Borough President will leave the Upper West Side even worse off, with contenders for her seat unanimously opposed to anything new. Many of her potential replacements are calling for the abolition of all as-of-right development, however unlikely that may be.
Reality is proving unkind to unwitting residents, with the lack of any new construction driving prices through the roof. Demanding affordable housing is a ruse for NIMBYs to oppose everything new – and an increasingly feeble, antiquated, decrepit, and unnecessarily expensive building stock is the ultimate outcome.
170 Amsterdam Avenue represents a minor victory for progress, especially as Brewer’s replacement could signal the end of any new development in the neighborhood.