Archive for the tag 'board of standards and appeals'

loehmanns

Bullet Points” is our format for Community Board 15 meeting coverage, providing takeaways we think are important. Information in Bullet Points is meant only to be a quick summary, and some issues may be more deeply explored in future articles.

Loehmann’s expansion postponed: An expected vote on an application to expand Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza (2027 Emmons Avenue) was tabled by Community Board 15 at their meeting this Tuesday to allow hearings and public input throughout the summer.

The Board was scheduled to vote on the proposal, which seeks to add an additional floor of office space totaling 10,000 square feet to the building. As the first item on the agenda, the Board’s Zoning Committee chairperson, Ronnie Tawil, made a motion to table the item until the group’s next meeting in September.

“Since this property is at the centerpiece of Sheepshead Bay and is of such high significance for the entire area, I’m of the mind that we should table this matter so that we can have more public hearings and more opportunities to discuss the ramifications of this particular application,” he said before the Board.

Normally, postponing such a hearing before the summer could open the door for an end-run around the Board. The group’s recommendation is advisory, and is requested to come within 60 days before the landlord’s appearance before the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), which has final say. If the Community Board tables a motion, it could forfeit its right to provide input.

However, the group’s chairperson Theresa Scavo said that won’t happen in this case. She met with the landlord’s attorney, Eric Palatnik, who frequently comes before the group on zoning matter and requested that he postpone the appearance before the BSA so that public hearings can be organized. He agreed, and has frozen the application, Scavo said.

“I’m asking him not to go ahead without us, he said he would not, and everything is put on hold. He’s giving it until September,” said Scavo.

Public hearings are expected to be scheduled in July or August by Councilman Deutsch’s office in conjunction with local groups like the Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association. The item will be back for a vote before the Board in September.

As Sheepshead Bites first reported in March, the landlord is planning to add a new floor of commercial offices. Because it falls outside of the special zoning district‘s permitted uses, and the building is already subject to a variance, the BSA must review and approve the project.

Its initial construction was a lightning rod for community activists in the 1990s, when many locals mobilized to stop it from being built. It succeeded in going forward, and many credit the development as being the death of the special zoning district.

“It’s the same thing all over again. The use exceeds the zoning by 800 percent. It was granted specifically for Loehmann’s and Loehmann’s went out [of business]. So that’s it. Unbelievable,” said Steve Barrison when he learned the news in March. “We’re talking about a special district. We’re talking about the waterfront. We’re not talking about any where else in the community. It’s disgusting.”

Zoning items:

  • 1112 Gilmore Court - The board voted 28-to-5 to approve an application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling. The landlord is seeking to upgrade a one-story bungalow into a two-family house, saying he needs more space for his family and needs the second unit to cover the costs of construction. The construction will not result in decreased side yards, as they plan to build back into the rear yard and to increase the front yard space.

Elected officials:

  • Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein briefed the Board on the end of the legislative session, specifically touting her record of domestic violence initiatives. She added that her bill on special education placements did not pass, but that was in fact good news since a deal had been negotiated with Mayor Bill de Blasio to initiate the changes at the Department of Education anyway.

Other notable information:

  • A motion by newly appointed boardmember Ed Jaworski, also the president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association, was rejected. The motion was to approve a resolution of “no confidence” in the Board of Standards and Appeals, which he said has been effectively upzoning neighborhoods on a lot-by-lot basis by rubber stamping special applications for variances that come before it. In the coming days, the BSA will lose its current chairperson to term limits, and Jaworski hoped to send a message that would result in an appointee he would consider more inclined to listen to local communities. The Board ultimately rejected the motion after choosing not to table it, with members saying that it would “disenfranchise the relationship we’ve built over time,” and that there were other ways to weigh in on the selection of a new BSA chairperson.
  • The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, through their partnership with the Family Justice Center, informed the area that they are establishing walk-in centers in every borough for domestic violence victims. The centers have free attorneys, social workers, children’s counselors and more on-site, and it’s open to all regardless of gender or immigration status. Community Board 15 is ranked 39th citywide in domestic violence calls, roughly in the middle of all communities.
  • The Department of City Planning announced the launch of the Southern Brooklyn Resilient Neighborhood Study, a two-year plan to examine the Sheepshead Bay area (specifically Plumb Beach and Gerritsen Beach) to identify strategies to strengthen the area from future storms. Some attendees complained that the new study doesn’t help with ongoing issues with Build it Back, FEMA or other agencies, and is yet another in a long line of studies and initiatives that they feel are not moving forward.
  • The Board welcomed the appointment of five new members, at least two of which were not in attendance, and at least one of which has never been seen at Board meetings previously. Board appointments are made by the borough president, often at the recommendation of local Council members.
  • Doreen Garson, representing the local CERT team, noted that the Office of Emergency Management has issued new evacuation maps and a related website.
  • A representative for Councilman Mark Treyger announced that his office would hold an unclaimed funds event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at their 2014 Stillwell Avenue office on July 10. You will be able to search state databases for funds owed that you may have forgotten about or lost track of.
  • The Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach branches of the Brooklyn Public Library will participate in the Department of Education’s summer meals programming, offering kids free lunch during the day, beginning on June 27.
  • The July 4 holiday is a Friday. There will be no recycling picked up that day, but garbage may be put to the curb. Alternate side parking will be suspended.
  • The Department of Consumer Affairs asked the Board for input on the installation of bumper cars at Land o’ Fun at 2955 Coney Island Avenue. The Board voted to recommend its approval.
1882 East 12th Street (Source: Google Maps)

1882 East 12th Street (Source: Google Maps)

For eight years Homecrest residents have been bemoaning the erection of what has come to be known as “the monstrous tower” or “Homecrest tower.” The owner of the residential building, located on 1882 East 12th Street, Joseph Durzieh, called it an addition. Call it what you will, the unsightly structure will be removed, according to a report from the Brooklyn Daily.

Back in March, the Department of Buildings ordered the structure to be taken down or submit new plans. The owner chose the latter, and engineer James W. Feuerborn of firm Thornton Tomasetti will draw up plans to tear down the structure, department officials told Brooklyn Daily.

It’s hard to know where to start with such a controversial erection. But one thing can be said for sure, it sure is an ugly appendage. The two-story home is built atop a crumbling bungalow, and at 43 feet tall, it towers over nearby homes that stand a little over 20 feet tall, which led to many residents calling the structure unsafe.

In summer in 2o13, residents of the community won a long-fought victory in their battle against the landlord when a state judge ordered the city to re-examine building plans from “a shady developer” who, at the time, had attempted to erect a 53-foot addition to his Homecrest home.

At the time we wrote:

Judge Yvonne Lewis had sided with neighbors who called for a halt to the project. The judge didn’t have the authority to tear down the structure but had ordered the BSA to re-examine the case. Durzieh had argued that he had the proper permits to make the alterations, claiming that he was building a new addition for his family. Neighbors argued that this was unlikely considering that Durzieh tore down most of his house to accommodate the addition and that his plans called for the installation of an exterior staircase and an elevator. The speculation was that Durzieh was looking to build and rent out condos.

Around the same time, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz expressed his distaste for the extra large piece. In a press release he admonished the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for allowing the continued construction. He also cited issues of safety as a major complaint in his opposition to the construction.

For now, everyone can breathe easy and not have to live life in the shadow of such a huge object.

loehmanns

ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: The owners of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza (2027 Emmons Avenue) have submitted plans to the Department of Building to construct a new extension to the controversial building, leaving those who fought its initial construction nearly 20 years ago in a state of shock.

The proposed extension would add a new story of commercial offices, totaling 10,000 square feet. The plans are in violation of zoning and the property’s current variance, and will soon be considered by Community Board 15 and the Board of Standards and Appeals.

One of the property’s owners, Alex Levin, confirmed the expansion.

“We’re looking to expand office space,” he said. “We’re going to bring the elevator up to [a new third] floor. We have our reasons.”

The project’s architect, Robert Palermo, declined to discuss the plans.

“It’s privileged information. When it comes before the board, it’ll be public,” he said.

There is no date set yet for a public hearing at Community Board 15, the first step to obtaining any variance. Chairperson Theresa Scavo said she had not yet been notified by the Board of Standards Appeals.

As a resident, though, she was shocked to learn of the plan.

“Speaking personally, it was against the special Sheepshead zoning district to begin with, and to add a floor is a slap in the face to the people of Sheepshead Bay,” she said. “I cannot believe that adding another floor is going to give the Bay a better look with that monstrosity there.”

The building sits within the Sheepshead Bay special zoning district, which limits the size and use of structures along the Emmons Avenue waterfront. The area is limited to waterfront and tourist-related activities, and special density and height limits govern development.

Many longtime Sheepshead Bay activists credit the development of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza in the 1990s as the death of the special district, having won a variance that, according to those who fought it, resulted in it being 800 percent larger than legal limits. The exception was won due to the promise of the retail giant Loehmann’s as an anchor tenant, justifying jobs and commercial draw in exchange for its waiver.

Loehmann’s went bankrupt and vacated the property last month.

Bay Improvement Group Steve Barrison, one of the development’s most vocal opponents, said the new application is history repeating itself.

“It’s the same thing all over again. The use exceeds the zoning by 800 percent. It was granted specifically for Loehmann’s and Loehmann’s went out. So that’s it. Unbelievable,” he said. “We’re talking about a special district. We’re talking about the waterfront. We’re not talking about any where else in the community. It’s disgusting.”

Barrison added that there’s little legal justification to allow the variance simply for office space. According to the law, a developer must show that they suffer from certain hardships, as found in section 72-21 of New York’s Zoning Resolution.

“It’s insensitive to the whole community after Sandy,” said Barrison. “All of the people who haven’t moved in or are still rebuilding and trying to get their lives together. Now [this developer] wants to go and build and increase zoning some more when people can’t speak up.”

If Bay Improvement Group decides to fight the variance, they’ll be fighting a different developer than they did in the 1990s. The building was sold to Levin in 2008 for $24 million, a local real estate record at the time.

1882 East 12th Street (Source: Google Maps)

1882 East 12th Street (Source: Google Maps)

After a long and bitter battle with Homecrest neighbors, the Department of Buildings has ordered the owner of a home being built on East 12th Street to submit new plans or tear the house down, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today.

The home at 1882 East 12th Street has been the site of sour relations for eight years, with local advocates and neighbors saying that the building is not only built outrageously beyond zoning restrictions, but in a dangerous manner.

The property owner, Joseph Durzieh, classified the construction as an alteration when filing plans to do the DOB. But the building appears to be a entirely new structure built around a one-story bungalow – but without the necessary foundation to keep it stable. Critics say it should have been classified as a new construction – and forced to seek permission to construct a building that towers over its neighbors.

The property owner has previously received stop work orders and restraining orders, and a Kings County Supreme Court judge called the city agency’s decision to allow construction to proceed “arbitrary and capricious.”

“For eight years the people of East 12th Street battled the Board of Standards and Appeals, battled the Department of Buildings and battled a bureaucracy that seemed stacked against them even though common sense was on their side,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “Anyone who saw this five-story monster of a house at 1882 East 12th Street knew it didn’t belong there. Neighbors lost sleep because they imagined the structure falling down around them. At last, justice has prevailed.”

Cymbrowitz met with Brooklyn Buildings Commissioner Ira Gluckman in January, during which Gluckman expressed “deep concerns that the architect’s plans did not accurately deal with structural issues in the building,” and the agency issued a stop work order.

Now the department has requested an emergency declaration to raze the building, giving the owner 60 days to submit new plans or tear down the home. If Durzieh fails to comply, the city will send a wrecking ball – and a bill to Durzieh for the work.

BEFORE AND AFTER: 2801 Brown before construction began (Source: Google maps; 2801 Brown in a recent photo (Source: Community Board 15)

BEFORE AND AFTER: 2801 Brown before construction began (Source: Google maps; 2801 Brown in a recent photo (Source: Community Board 15)

Bullet Points” is our format for Community Board 15 meeting coverage, providing takeaways we think are important. Information in Bullet Points is meant only to be a quick summary, and some issues may be more deeply explored in future articles.

Bunga-no! Community Board 15 voted last night to deny an application for a special permit to enlarge a single-family, one-story bungalow on Brown Street into a two-story residence, although much of the work appears to have already been completed.

According to the attorney representing the property, Alexander Levkovich, the owners of 2801 Brown Street are seeking to elevate the bungalow to comply with FEMA flood map recommendations. To do so, the attorney said, they’d have to see an increase in the permitted floor-area-ratio (FAR) – the formula used to determine how much square footage can be constructed on a given property.

But the attorney let slip seemingly contradictory statements that soured the Board’s opinion of the project.

A photo of the property was shared with the Board showing the property, which has already been elevated and a second story added. The lawyer stated that work “up until what’s been approved by the Department of Buildings” was completed, leaving boardmembers to wonder why a FAR waiver was needed since the building has already been raised.

Bullet Points is our easy-to-read rundown of Community Board 15 meetings. Keep reading to learn what happened.

forum

A sweeping City Council candidates’ forum hosted by the Manhattan Beach Community Group last Wednesday touched on topics including stop-and-frisk, discretionary funding, and the overhaul of the Riegelmann Boardwalk. But the audience, which included active civic association leaders from around the district, was eager to question the candidates on their plans to wrestle some local control back from City Hall and back into the community.

The Democratic candidates vying to replace term-limited Michael Nelson in the 48th District fielded a volley of wonkish questions about Community Board reforms, community-based planning, and a potential dismantling of a city agency that many civic boards fault with turning a blind eye to over-development in the area.

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1882 East 12th Street (Source: Google Maps)

1882 East 12th Street (Source: Google Maps)

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz admonished the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for allowing the continued construction on the reviled “Homecrest Tower” (1882 East 12th Street). In a press release, Cymbrowitz cited issues of safety as a major complaint in his opposition to the construction.

Earlier in the week, we reported that the BSA ignored the recommendations of Judge Yvonne Lewis, who ruled that the BSA should reconsider their initial decision to grant permits to owner Joseph Durzieh. The BSA gave Durzieh the go ahead, declaring his permits valid and dismissing community complaints and declared that any errors made in the approval of the original permits were “administrative.”

In the release, Cymbrowitz cited his history of opposition against the structure:

In late June, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz wrote to BSA urging the board to “heed the community’s strong concerns” and rule against the five-story home, which towers well above its two-story neighbors. He had previously written to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) asking the agency to revoke its approval of the building’s plans, which were filed incorrectly as a renovation instead of new construction.

Cymbrowitz went on to note that the issue of safety was the primary concern as to why the structure shouldn’t be built.

“This isn’t a case of neighbors’ word against BSA. BSA is choosing to ignore a court order to review a project that was admittedly filed improperly and may have serious construction issues that compromise safety. Who’s protecting the residents here? The lack of accountability is extremely troubling,” Cymbrowitz said.

Source: Nydailynews.com

An angry neighbor in front of the “Homecrest Tower” (Source: Nydailynews.com)

The Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) ignored a state judge’s plea to re-examine the plans put forward by the shady developer of the so-called “Homecrest Tower” (1882 East 12th Street). Reports indicate that the BSA declared that developer Joseph Durzieh does have the right to continue building the enormous addition to his home, much to the consternation of his neighbors.

The last we reported on the building, which is a 53-foot tribute to horrendous taste, Judge Yvonne Lewis had sided with neighbors who called for a halt to the project. The judge didn’t have the authority to tear down the structure but had ordered the BSA to re-examine the case. Durzieh had argued that he had the proper permits to make the alterations, claiming that he was building a new addition for his family. Neighbors argued that this was unlikely considering that Durzieh tore down most of his house to accommodate the addition and that his plans called for the installation of an exterior staircase and an elevator. The speculation was that Durzieh was looking to build and rent out condos.

When the BSA finally ruled last week, they declared that Durzieh’s permits were indeed valid, stating that architect Shlomo Wygoda made an error by not filing for a “new building” permit. The BSA decided that this error was “administrative” in nature, effectively giving Durzieh the go ahead on his plans.

Brooklyn Daily described the angry reaction of State Senator Tony Avella:

Tony Avella, a state senator from Queens who crusades against unscrupulous developers, visited the tower on E. 12th Street earlier this year and cited the agency’s decision as further evidence of why the mayor should get rid of it.

“This is one more example of why the Board of Standards and Appeals should be abolished,” said Avella. “It’s just incomprehensible that this developer got away with this huge building. It’s a monstrosity, and not only that, but its a dangerous accident waiting to happen.”

In fact, the board appears to have performed no additional investigation or review beyond the consulting the buildings department, and based its decision largely on the testimony of the department it is supposed to police.

Attorney Stuart Klein, who represents the neighbors opposed to the structure, spoke to the unfair relationship between the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the BSA.

“This decision says that the BSA is going to rubber stamp anything the DOB does,” Klein told Brooklyn Daily.

shul1

1782 and 1784 East 28th Street (Source: Google Maps)

Shul Shunned: A local synagogue located on a residential block was denied the support of Community Board 15 last night, as neighbors lined up during the Board’s meeting to decry the shul’s proposal to expand.

Proposed plan for the shul. (Click to enlarge)

Proposed plan for the shul. (Click to enlarge)

Congregation Kozover Zichron Chaim Shloime currently takes up two residential homes at 1782 and 1784 East 28th Street, between Quentin Road and Avenue R. Leaders from the synagogue came to request the Board’s approval for a plan to legalize a structure that has illegally connected the two buildings for nearly 20 years, and to expand the rear of the building to add a women’s prayer sanctuary. A representative for the owner said that the facility served 200 local families. Because women and men are separated for prayer services, the building no longer has the space to accommodate their flock, and women have stopped attending. The proposal would provide the space they need to serve the congregation, the representative said.

Neighbors, though, rattled off complaints about the building’s owners, saying that congregants often caused traffic and blocked driveways, the building has been illegally altered without regard for safety, is out of character with the rest of the block, and is a general detriment to their quality of life.

Joe Melfi, whose 85-year-old disabled mother has lived in an adjacent attached house for 40 years, pleaded with the Board to join his neighbors in opposing the shul’s plans.

“My mother and my father, who’ve been in this community 40 years, chose that house to raise five children, raise 14 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. They worked their lives as a longshoreman and a seamstress … and all my mother wants is to spend her twilight years, her golden years in that house,” Melfi said. “How she is possibly not going to have her quality of life affected by this level of construction, I don’t think it’s humanly possible. And anyone voting for this proposed initiative needs to consider that, and consider the responsibility of my mother in that situation.”

Keep reading to find out what happened, and more information from this month’s Community Board 15 meeting.

Source: Nydailynews.com

Source: Nydailynews.com

A fight that has stretched over seven years might finally be ending as a state judge has ordered the city to re-examine building plans from a shady developer who has attempted to build a 53-foot addition to his Homecrest home. The New York Daily News is reporting that Judge Yvonne Lewis has sided with neighbors who have spent years complaining that the home in question (1882 East 12th Street) was illegally altered.

We last reported on the 53-foot eyesore in October of 2010. At that time, Joseph Durzieh, owner of the house, was arguing that he had the proper permits to construct the enormous additions because he was merely altering his house and not building a new structure entirely. Neighbors argued that Durzieh actually tore down most of his house to set up the new addition to rent out condos. Durzieh maintained that the addition was meant only for his family but many were skeptical considering that plans called for an elevator and exterior staircase.

While Judge Lewis doesn’t have the authority to order the tearing down of Durzieh’s tower, she informed Durzieh to prepare to do so when the city properly re-examines the case. Neighbors were thrilled at Lewis’s decision but still livid at the nightmare they’ve had to live with.

“The site is in an appalling state,” neighbor Betty Travitsky told the Daily News. “There has been no upkeep. To live next to this is horrible. People walk by and laugh.”

Despite the judge’s decision, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) still has the final say when they again re-examine the building plans and will provide a final decision on July 23.

Still, optimism is strong that the BSA will reverse its previous decision.

“Common sense says anyone in their right mind would rule to tear this aberration down because it is not and never was an alteration,” said Walter Maffei, an architect consulting with the neighbors. “But it’s lack of common sense and respect that got us to this point.”

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