BSA Approves Building Expansion For Dance Performance School

The additions to the building will provide more classrooms and general support space. On August 25, 2015, the Board of Standards and Appeals voted to grant a request by Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation for a variance to expand its existing building located at 405 West 55th Street in the Preservation Area of Manhattan’s Clinton Preservation Area. The expansion will add 10,000 square feet to the existing building for use as four dance studios, two classrooms, and additional office space.

The building at issue was built pursuant to a variance granted by BSA on July 9, 2002, which permitted the construction of a 60,000 square-foot building divided into 14 dance studios, several offices, and other support space. The building constructed under the variance provides slightly more than 50,000 square feet of usable space, however, which includes 12 dance studios and lacks any support space.

On July 28, 2015, the Board held a public hearing on Alvin Ailey’s application. At the hearing, Alvin Ailey Executive Director Bennett Rink testified that the existing building was constructed in 2004 as utilizing less than the maximum permissible square-footage due to then-existing budget constraints. Since then, the Alvin Ailey school’s attendance rate has more than doubled, requiring classes to be held in performance studios and causing class cancellations when performance rehearsal times conflict with scheduled classes. According to Executive Director Rink, the building additions are necessary to keep up with the Alvin Ailey School’s increased enrollment.

On August 25, 2015, the Board voted 4-0 to approve the variance request. In its decision, the Board recognized that if the variance is not authorized, the Alvin Ailey school would be required to hold its nine academic courses in dance studios, which is not an efficient use of available space. The Board cited Cornell v. Bagnardi, 68 NY2d 583 (1986) to support its finding that as an educational institution, Alvin Ailey’s application should be granted unless it would adversely affect the “health, safety, and welfare of the community” and local neighborhood. The Board found this to not be the case and found no other reason to deny the variance application.

BSA: 405 West 55th Street, Manhattan (55-15-BZ) (Aug. 25, 2016) (Elise Wagner, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, for Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, lessee).

By: Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein (Jessica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2015)

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