The Real Deal New York

City considering crackdown on landlords who skirt zoning rules

Council to review 10 bills that would make it harder to bend the city’s zoning laws
December 13, 2016 03:45PM

Ben Kallos

The City Council will discuss 10 bills Wednesday aimed at tightening the rules that allow property owners to bend zoning regulations.

Council member Ben Kallos is sponsoring the proposed bills that will target the Board of Standards and Appeals, Crain’s reported. The board is able to approve applications from landlords who argue they need to surpass zoning laws in order to make a profit from a development. In some cases, according to the publication, owners ask that a height restriction be relaxed so that revenue-generating apartments can be built. In other circumstances an owner may say that a lot is oddly shaped and it is therefore impossible to conform to zoning laws.

In 2011, the board approved 97 percent of applications that came before it, many of which had been opposed at the local council level. Kallos believes the board is too lenient.

Making a false statement on an application would trigger a $25,000 fine, under one of the bills sponsored by Kallos. Another bill would require the board to retain a certified appraiser to closely examine applicants’ financial hardship claims. Other bills would force the board to consider the views of elected officials. The Committee on Governmental Operation will discuss the bills tomorrow.

“We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents,” said Kallos, according to the publication. “Developers will have to be honest.”

The agency’s executive director Ryan Singer rejected the suggestion the board is too easily persuaded. He said the 97 percent approval rate is deceiving because most developers and owners go through a process beforehand that weeds out weak cases.

In May, the Board of Standard and Appeals considered a $10 million-plus expansion of the IFC Center movie theater in Greenwich Village. [Crain’s]Miriam Hall