NYU Variance Hearing Shines Light on BSA, Elected Officials

Yesterday’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) hearing on NYU’s variance application for 730 Broadway was revealing in several ways.

730 Broadway

GVSHP urged the board to reject NYU’s application (read our testimony HERE) as did Community Board #2, the NoHo Neighborhood Association (NNA), and a representative of Assemblymember Deborah Glick.  NNA and Assemblymember Glick are, by the way, co-plaintiffs with GVSHP in the lawsuit seeking to overturn the City Planning Commission and the City Council’s approval of NYU’s massive expansion plan.

Speaking of this plan, one of many reasons why GVSHP is opposed to the variance is that when NYU went through the approval process for their 2 million square foot expansion, they told the public and elected officials that they were putting all their plans on the table and being completely transparent; ‘maybe you don’t like what we’re proposing, but at least we’re being open and honest about it’ was their basic line of argument.

However, nowhere in their plans did they ever reveal that they planned to seek a zoning variance for this site, or that their plans would require adding four bulky, unsightly floors of mechanical equipment atop this structure, located with the NoHo Historic District.  NYU filed their application to do so, revealing their intentions for the first time, within a week of receiving their final approvals from the City Council.

Disappointingly, in spite of this clear lie by NYU, none of the elected officials who voted for their expansion plan — premised, at least in part, upon this assertion of full disclosure — came to the hearing to oppose or even raise concerns about NYU’s variance application.  This includes Borough President Stringer and any of the City Councilmembers who voted for the plan.

Opponents at the City Council vote on the NYU expansion plan. Though NYU lied to the Council about their plans, no City Councilmember, nor Borough President Stringer, showed up to oppose or question their variance.

Unfortunately, the response from the Board members was not much more encouraging.  At the end of the hearing, the BSA Chair openly groused that she could not understand why so many people were opposed to this variance (the BSA had received scores of letters opposing the application via e-mail), why we thought it would change the character of the neighborhood, and why we felt NYU had been dishonest (I think our testimony sort of explained all that).  And the BSA Vice-Chair questioned why we thought the board could ask NYU to prove their claim that the variance they were requesting was necessary or that reasonable alternatives did not exist, saying that the law did not explicitly authorize them to do so (see GVSHP’s response HERE).

A decision by the BSA on this case is expected in the coming weeks.


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avatar Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.