Greater Transparency Now Mandated for the Board of Standards and Appeals
Last week the Mayor signed a raft of bills passed by the City Council that will lead to a series of reforms to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) zoning variance process. Thanks to your involvement, whether through an email action or at our recent BSA forum, together we have made progress on greater transparency for this sometimes opaque agency and process.
The BSA and its ability to grant zoning variances (i.e. to allow development which does not conform with local zoning regulations) is of course of great interest to GVSHP. We regularly monitor and review each BSA application in our area, and testify and promotes public participation at hearings when necessary to protect the character of our neighborhoods or oppose undeserved zoning variances (zoning variances are only supposed to be granted when an owner cannot make a reasonable return on the property under the existing zoning, among other criteria).
In 2016 GVSHP testified at the City Council hearing on reforming and improving the BSA variance granting process. In April of this year we organized a forum “Can They Build That?” with Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Government Operations Committee that spearheaded the legislative efforts, and stakeholders and allies from across the city. Panelists included GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Bemran; Landmark West! President Kate Wood;Jonathan Hogstad, SEIU Local 32BJ; Aries De La Cruz, Coalition to Defend Woodside & Little Manila and Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the New York City Council Governmental Operations Committee.
Our Executive Director Andrew Berman was quoted in the press release here announcing the passage of the legislation:
“The BSA holds tremendous sway over what gets built in our city and is where you go to seek exceptions from our city’s zoning restrictions and regulations. For too long, these exemptions have been given out without a firm basis in fact or the law, based upon spurious claims by developers and institutions. We welcome these efforts to make the BSA more transparent and responsive and hope these will be first steps towards ensuring that everyone in our city must play by the same rules, and neighborhood zoning protections and character are respected and upheld.”
While this is certainly not all we would like to see and much more needs to be done, any reforms serve to strengthen our efforts to hold developers accountable for the assertions they make when appearing before the BSA. In the last year we have successfully challenged two such applications, on the east and west ends of 14th Street.