BSA Approves Upper West Side Townhouse Addition

Addition OK’d for 4-story townhouse

Owners’ plan to enlarge fourth-floor co-op violated multiple dwelling law. In December 2010, Felix and Lisa Oberholzer-Gee sought a building permit to enlarge their 1,000-square-foot, fourth-floor co-op in a five-unit townhouse at 159 West 78th Street in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The Oberholzer-Gees proposed building a set-back, 646-square-foot rooftop addition. Buildings denied the permit because the plans violated the multiple dwelling law’s restrictions on enlargements of converted dwellings. The Oberholzer-Gees applied to the Board of Standards & Appeals seeking to vary the multiple dwelling law’s height and bulk regulations.

At BSA, the Oberholzer-Gees claimed that a complying proposal would cause practical difficulties because the multiple dwelling law prohibited a vertical enlargement, and a complying 234-square-foot horizontal enlargement would require a cantilevered extension blocking the light and air to the apartment below. The Oberholzer-Gees also noted that their proposal included a variety of fire safety measures, such as installing a new sprinkler system, using non-combustible materials throughout the building, and adding fireproof doors to all apartments.

Manhattan Community Board 7 objected to some design elements, but supported the proposal. The FDNY submitted a letter noting that it had no objection to the proposal.

BSA agreed to modify the multiple dwelling law regulations and allow the addition. BSA found that the Oberholzer-Gees had established that complying with the law would create a sufficient level of hardship. Citing the proposed fire safety improvements, BSA also found that the proposal would maintain the multiple dwelling law’s intent, which is to preserve public health, safety, and welfare.

BSA: 159 West 78th Street, Manhattan (83-11-A) (Aug. 14, 2012) (Marvin B. Mitzner, for Felix and Lisa Oberholzer-Gee).

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