Appellate Court Upholds BSA Approval of Rooftop Additions

Rooftop addition at 514-516 East 6th Street. Credit: CityLand

Tenant objected to BSA’s interpretation of Multiple Dwelling Law that legalized sixth-floor additions to East Village tenements. In October 2006, Ben Shaoul, the owner of two adjacent five-story tenements located at 514 and 516 East 6th Street in the East Village, filed an application with the City’s Department of Buildings seeking an alteration permit to add two floors to each building. The proposal did not comply with the fire safety requirements of the Multiple Dwelling Law and the owner sought a waiver from Buildings. Buildings waived the Multiple Dwelling Law requirements and issued the permit. In November 2008, after the owner had already enlarged the buildings, the Board of Standards and Appeals revoked the permit because Buildings did not have the authority to vary the requirements of the Multiple Dwelling Law.

The owner applied to BSA to legalize the enlargement. BSA legalized the sixth-floor by granting the variance after the owner agreed to demolish the seventh-floor. (Read CityLand’s coverage of the legalization here.) Jean Chin, a tenant in one of the buildings, filed an article 78 petition challenging BSA’s decision. Chin denied the enlargement’s legality, arguing that BSA applied the wrong section of the Multiple Dwelling Law and instead should have applied a different more stringent section. Justice Cynthia S. Kern upheld BSA’s determination, holding that the statute was ambiguous and therefore BSA’s interpretation was entitled to deference so long as it was reasonable. The Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, affirmed Justice Kern’s decision. The First Department agreed that BSA’s interpretation of the Multiple Dwelling Law was reasonable because subjecting building owners to the statute’s more stringent requirements could create a chilling effect on renovations.

Jean Chin v. BSA, 2012 N.Y. Slip Op. 05599 (1st Dep’t July 17, 2012) (Attorneys: LeMare Moore, for Chin; Michael A. Cardozo, Susan Paulson, for BSA).

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