City sweeps up sidewalk consents to the tune of $2M per year

Bigwigs like Jimmy Kuhn, Bruce Ratner pay up for potted-plant privilege 
January 30, 2017 08:30AM

The San Remo (Credit: Google Maps)

The city pulls in $2 million in revenue each year from revocable consents it grants property owners to use portions of the city sidewalk for things like gardens and snow-melting systems.

The tony San Remo apartments on the Upper West Side, for example, pay $2,151 a year for gardens it keeps outside the building’s entrance. And the Sherry Netherland pays $1,175 a year in order to keep planters along Fifth Avenue, Crain’s reported.

Some big names in the real estate industry, too, open their wallets for the use of the public sidewalk.

Newmark Grubb Knight Frank TRData LogoTINY president Jimmy Kuhn and his wife, for example, agreed last year to pay $25 annually to keep planters and a sidewalk snow-melting system outside their Upper East Side apartment.

And Bruce Ratner and his wife, who are in the midst of a divorce, are seeking permission to keep a selection of potted plants in front of their Upper East Side townhouse. Ratner – or, more likely, a representative – will attend a city Department of Transportation hearing Feb. 1 to get permission for he revocable consent, which allows the city to theoretically reclaim the space at the end of the agreement, which usually expires within 10 years.

In Brooklyn, developer Hamlin Ventures and Time Equities even got a revocable consent from the city to extend staircases out onto the city sidewalk at a row of Brooklyn townhouses they built in Boerum Hill.

Some homeowners sued the city last year over the agreement, but a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of City Hall earlier this month.

Attorney Jack Lester, who represents the Boerum Hill homeowners, said he thinks the Transportation department is heavy handed when it comes to enforcing the agreements.

“I think revocable consent is a revenue scam,” he said, adding that he will work to change the law concerning revocable consent agreements. [Crain’s]Rich Bockmann