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Hon. Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
New York City Board of Standards and Appeals
40 Rector Street
New York, NY 10006
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RE: 605 East 9th Street, BSA Application No. 95-05 A
Dear Chair Srinivasan:
I write to strongly urge the Board of Standards and Appeals to uphold the ruling of the Department of Buildings denying a permit for construction of a 19-story dormitory at the above-referenced premises based upon the lack of an “institutional nexus,” or the absence of a long-term lease or deed by a school or university for the proposed dormitory.
There is an enormously important principle that must be upheld in this case. Current City zoning regulations allow substantially greater bulk for construction of dormitories than for residences in many zoning districts, including the one governing 605 East 9th Street. Dormitories can easily be converted to residential use, as the facilities for each are nearly identical. It is therefore vital that the City require substantial proof that an actual school or university which is qualified under the zoning code to occupy this space as a dormitory, rather than a residence, is in place and wedded to the project. Only by these means can we begin to ensure that developers will not be granted the additional bulk afforded community facilities and then turn around and claim they cannot fill the space with appropriate uses and request permission to convert to residential use, which in the case of some unscrupulous developers may be the intention all along.
The City must take measures to ensure that if they are to grant this additional bulk to developers, there are reasonable assurances in place that the bulk can and will only be used for the purpose the zoning code intends it for. Without the ability to enforce such measures, we will undoubtedly see further abuse of the law, and situations where buildings of greater bulk are built and developers claim they cannot fill them with the as-of-right community facility use, and will seek variances to convert to more profitable market-rate housing. Such a situation would not be good for the city, for affected neighborhoods, or for the BSA, which would be asked to rule on hardship applications in these cases.
Thank you for considering my comments, and I hope that you will deny the applicant’s appeal in this case.