December 16, 2011

Meenakshi Srinivasan
New York City Board of Standards and Appeals
40 Rector Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10006

Dear Chair Srinivasan,

I write in opposition to application 96-11-BZ for variances to legalize existing vertical enlargements and excess apartments at 514-516 East 6 Street. The requested variances would waive Sections 23-145 and 23-22 of the New York City Zoning Resolution. Although my current district's boundaries lie several blocks away from the properties in question, I represented them in the New York State Senate prior to the 2002 redistricting. Furthermore, the integrity of New York State's Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL), which is at stake in this hearing, is relevant to my current constituents as well as all New Yorkers. While I have many concerns about this application, I will focus my comments on a few key issues.

I am particularly concerned that these enlargements adversely impact the character of the surrounding neighborhood, and thus the requested variances do not meet finding (c) of Section 72-21 of the Zoning Resolution. As Manhattan Community Board 3 noted in its resolution on this application, the area in which the subject building is located was down-zoned to an R7B district, with a FAR of 3.0, as part of the larger East Village/Lower East Side rezoning in 2008. When the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) proposed to rezone the area, I along with Manhattan Community Board 3, New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and other advocates and elected officials fought to maintain the low-rise character of this neighborhood, ultimately persuading DCP to scale back its original proposal – R8B, with a maximum floor area ratio (FAR) of 4.0. Granting these variances, including the unauthorized increase in residential floor area, would undermine the community's efforts on this matter and establish a precedent that would threaten character of the neighborhood, which our community fought so hard to preserve.

It is also important to note that the hardship alleged by the applicant to justify the variances is entirely self-created; the vertical enlargements in question were constructed in violation of numerous long-standing and widely understood provisions of the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law. Therefore, this application patently fails to meet finding (d) of Section 72-21 of the Zoning Resolution as well.

Finally, I must echo the point made by New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez that this application should not be given any further consideration until and unless the property's owners comply with the earlier stipulation by the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) that fire safety improvements and the removal of the seventh floor be completed by February 3, 2011. As I noted in my December 6, 2011 testimony to the BSA on application 125-11-A regarding the same property, the owners have neglected to even apply for permits to demolish the seventh floor addition. This disregard for the Board's authority is indicative of their broader disregard for City and State regulations governing the alteration of buildings. We cannot ignore this contravention of the prior ruling.

For these reasons, I urge the Board to deny the applicant's request for a zoning variance. Thank you for your consideration of my comments.


Thomas K. Duane
New York State Senator

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