On March 15, 2011, the Board of Standards and Appeals held a hearing on the developer’s plan to build a 5 story building at 3333 Giles Place. Such a building would only be allowed on this site under the old zoning, R6, which was changed on September 28, 2004 (yes, folks, that’s nearly 7 years ago). The developer is trying to establish that he meets the requirements to be grandfathered in under the old zoning. As of September 28, 2004, the most that could be built at 3329/33 Giles Place is four two-family homes (R4A zoning).
As many FIPNA blog readers know, this is a old battle for FIPNA, dating back to 2004. In the final final stages of the campaign to downzone parts of Van Cortlandt Village, this developer began a hasty effort to put enough concrete in the ground to earn vested rights to continue under the old zoning. In his haste, he built a foundation that encroaches on what should be the sidewalk. (For other issues with his project, see our attached letter).
FIPNA members prepared a formal response to the BSA, which we submitted a week before the hearing (It is bsa march 2011). Several FIPNA members testified at the hearing: Judy Baier, Teresa Stoeth, Brian Aucoin, Sarah Aucoin, Margaret Groarke, Dan Padernacht (who is also a member of Community Board 8) and Dart Westphal. Everyone spoke eloquently, and made a great case for denying the developer’s application. One commissioner looked up in surprise when Judy Baier said the site had not been excavated. Thanks to Karen Argenti, Lynn Schwarz, and Faith DeVeaux and Kristen Hart for their help in preparing the testimony.
We were thrilled to have the support, in our efforts, of Community Board 8 and elected officials. Charles Moerdler, chair of the CB 8 Land Use Committee, made a presentation both impassioned and knowledgeable. Jamin Sewell, staff to Councilman Oliver Koppell, spoke to the board about Koppell’s continued opposition to this end-run around the zoning rules, and Russ Agdern, director of community affairs for newly-elected State Senator Gustavo Rivera, also weighed in.
The Board itself questioned Jordan Most, from the law firm of Sheldon Lobel, P.C., who represented the developer. (Note: please do not confuse the lawyer, Jordan Most, with my husband, Jordan Moss). They asked many questions about whether a legal building (that is, a zoning-compliant building) could be built on the foundation, even though the foundation is in the wrong place. They asked for more proof on how much of the foundation has actually been poured (This did not appear to make Jordan Most happy – probably because they are exaggerating how much of the foundation has been poured).
As we said to the Board of Standards and Appeals, this developer made a last-minute, bad-faith effort to throw enough concrete into the ground to win the right to build under the old zoning. The foundation is in the wrong location, and is unlikely to be deep enough to support a 5 story building.
The Board gave Jordan Most until April 5 to submit further information, and respondents in Opposition until April 19 to respond. Another hearing will be held on May 3. We will schedule a meeting sometime after April 5 to plan our response, and a meeting shortly before May 3 to plan our testimony. If you would like to participate in either of these, and/or if you are free to attend the May 3rd hearing (which will be at 40 Rector Street in Manhattan, probably at 10 am), please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We made a great case to the BSA, and all who participated should be proud, but until the final ruling there is still more work to be done. Together, we hope to defeat his effort to get around the zoning rules. Join us!