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"Now that the 52-story tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue is almost done, it may soon have to be partly undone, like a construction film running in reverse," writes Justin Davidson.
The building's final height is subject to a case currently underway in appeals court, with as many as 20 stories, already mostly built, hanging in the balance.
All of the confusion, according to Davidson, is thanks to New York's inscrutable zoning code, and the building's location on a "bizarre knot" of parcels.
Complexity favors developers equipped with expensive legal advice, which is how SJP Properties persuaded the Department of Buildings to issue a permit for a 668-foot spear sticking into the flank of the Upper West Side. The narrow, stretched-out tower designed by Elkus Manfredi reaches its kinda–sorta–neo–Art Deco–ish crown via a series of setbacks that make it look like a staircase in the wrong aspect ratio. Any tall building can unleash the usual It’s out of character! versus More housing now! shoutfest, but this one has turned area residents into self-appointed land-use experts.
As detailed in the history provided here by Davidson, the unbuilding of skyscrapers happens with some frequency in New York, and this wouldn't be the first time a building has had to lop its top off. That's where those with even a passing interest in the science and art of building might be interested in this case study. "In a city too packed for implosion or wrecking balls, disassembling an entire structure is slow and dangerous work, planned by specialized engineers," according to Davidson.