Appellate Court Upholds Council’s Special Permit Denial

City Planning Commission had approved the permit to operate a Bronx homeless shelter.  Liska NY, Inc. had constructed an eight-story homeless shelter at 731 Southern Boulevard in the Longwood area of the Bronx.  The shelter exceeded the height, setback, and floor area ratio limits for the site and on August 21, 2013 the City Planning Commission approved Liska’s request for a special permit to legalize the building.  On October 9, 2013 the City Council voted to deny the permit.  In an earlier hearing, then-Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo requested a vote to deny the permit because the shelter was originally constructed as a thirty-two unit apartment building in 2003 and four years later converted to a homeless shelter in violation of applicable zoning.  Council Member Arroyo stated this after-the-fact shelter construction was a pattern of behavior by Liska and continued to oversaturate the local community board district with shelter providers.

Liska commenced an Article 78 proceeding to void the Council’s decision as arbitrary and capricious, arguing Council’s decision was made without relevant evidence and used an improperly stringent standard of review in their decision.  On May 30, 2014 Judge Joan Lobis of Supreme Court, New York County denied Liska’s petition and ruled the Council’s denial was based on specific complaints and neither arbitrary nor capricious.  Liska appealed.

On December 8, 2015 the Appellate Division, First Department voted to affirm the lower court’s decision.  The court ruled the Council’s review powers are more broad than the Zoning Resolution’s specific permit standards and may consider policy issues in deciding to approve or deny a permit.

Liska NY, Inc. v. City Council of the City of N.Y., 2015 Slip Op 08957 (A.D. 1 Dept. 2015), Dec. 8, 2015.  Attorneys:  Sheldon Lobel P.C., Richard Lobel of counsel, for Liska; Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel, Jane Gordon of counsel, for Council.

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