BSA Denies Appeal of Illegal Advertising Sign

Stuart Beckerman testifies before the Board of Standards and Appeals. Image credit: BSA

Stuart Beckerman testifies before the Board of Standards and Appeals. Image credit: BSA

Board found the tunnel approach qualified as an “arterial highway” under the Zoning Resolution.  On July 21, 2015 the Board of Standards and Appeals voted to deny an appeal by 121 Varick St. Corp. of a previous Department of Buildings determination that their advertising sign was not established as a lawful non-conforming use.  The sign is a 75′ by 75′ illuminated advertising sign placed fifty feet above curb level on 121 Varick Street, Manhattan, facing onto the intersection of Varick and Dominick Streets.

On August 28, 2013 the Department of Buildings revoked a previously-granted permit for the sign.  In its final determination, Buildings stated the sign was within two hundred feet of multiple approaches to the Holland Tunnel, an arterial highway, and such placement was prohibited by Zoning Resolution §42-55.  On September 27, 2013 the applicant appealed the decision.

The Board held a public hearing on September 9, 2014 with continued hearings on January 27, 2015, April 14, 2015, and May 19, 2015.  In the hearing, counsel for the applicant Stuart Beckerman argued the Buildings revocation was made in error because there are no approaches to the Holland Tunnel.  Mr. Beckerman further argued that even if there were approaches to the Tunnel, the approaches do not qualify as a “designated arterial highway” under the Zoning Resolution, and even if the approaches do so qualify, the applicant’s sign is not within two hundred feet of the approaches.

Buildings argued the Holland Tunnel is explicitly named by the Zoning Resolution as an arterial highway subject to ZR §42-55 and under the City Planning Commission’s Master Plan, the location of the Tunnel approaches was left to Buildings’ determination.  Buildings had designated one approach as beginning at the intersections of Varick and Broome Streets, and the sign is within two hundred feet of that approach.

On July 21, 2015 the Board voted 4-0 to deny the appeal.  In its final decision, the Board agreed with Buildings that the sign was within two hundred feet of the Holland Tunnel, citing a letter dated April 23, 2013 where the applicant conceded the fact.  The Board agreed with Buildings’ long-standing interpretations as to what were the approaches to the Holland Tunnel, noting the applicant failed to refute those interpretations.  The Board applied a 360 degrees standard under which a sign is within view if it can be viewed from a specific point on an arterial highway in any direction and found the sign was within view of the tunnel approach.

BSA: 121 Varick Street (278-13-A) (Jul. 21, 2015) ( Isaac Szpilzinger, Esq., for 121 Varick St. Corp., owner).

By:  Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2014).

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