While her friends are sunning in Boca or playing canasta at the JCC, Olive Freud prefers to take down billion-dollar developers.
Freud — a 90-year-old retired math teacher — spearheaded recent community efforts to shave multiple stories off a nearly completed Upper West Side condo building. Last month, a State Supreme Court judge decided to revoke the building permit for the 52-story tower at 200 Amsterdam Ave., ruling that developers SJP Properties must remove as many as 20 floors because of zoning violations.
“We’ve got all the developers in New York City up in arms,” Freud told The Post.
The sassy senior idealist is president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, a nonprofit group fighting for quality of life on the UWS.
“I love urban life but there’s a limit,” said Freud, who has lived in the neighborhood for 60 years. For her, that limit is the looming 668-foot-tall tower, where apartment prices range from $2.6 million to $8 million. “Is it only rich people who get to see the sun and the sky and the air — and all we get are the shadows?
Over the past three years, the nonagenarian organized rallies, lobbied politicians and raised funds for a lawyer and for an urban planner to study the zoning.
We’ve got all the developers up in arms.
“Most people give you $25 and $50, [but] there are deep pockets in the community,” Freud said, noting that donations tend to come in through her group’s Web site, cfesdny.org. She added that the urban-planning non-profit Municipal Art Society of New York also helped with expenses.
This was not her first David vs. Goliath battle.
Freud said one of her greatest accomplishments was the committee’s successful lawsuit against Lincoln Center in 2014.
After the building’s performing-arts organization razed adjacent Damrosch Park in 2010, destroying dozens of trees and removing gardens to monetize the public space for events like New York Fashion Week, they were then forced to restore the park and boot the fashionistas.
“You don’t want to be on the opposite side of the negotiating table of her,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who has known Freud since the 1980s. “She takes on these companies — and she wins. She’s made her mark on the West Side.”
Brewer recalled how Freud led the charge for a roadway connecting Riverside Drive and Riverside Boulevard at 72nd Street, easing congestion on parallel West End Avenue about 20 years ago.
“We might as well call it the Olive Freud Exit Ramp,” said Brewer.
Freud says her contemporaries think she sometimes takes on more than a 90-year-old should. “My friend in Boston heard the news [about the recent ruling] and called me up and said, ‘I’m worried about you — you better go out with bodyguards,’ ” she said.
But the widowed grandmother stands tall when it comes to defending her neighborhood: “I have a strong sense of justice, and we shouldn’t allow wealthy companies to take advantage.”
Still, she wishes there were more young people involved in her fights. “The volunteers are retired people — I guess everyone [else] is busy earning a living,” Freud said. “But there’s a lot to be done in this world.
“Being alive means fighting. You can’t just let things happen to you.”
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