BSA denies challenge to NYU East Village dorm

City’s zoning laws do not restrict transfers of air rights from federally-owned sites. On June 12, 2007, BSA denied a challenge by several East Village residents to the 26-story New York University dormitory currently under construction on East 12th Street in Manhattan. The residents, who objected to the 26-story height as out-of-character with surrounding walk-ups, first sought an injunction to halt construction while they filed an appeal with BSA, which a court denied in 2006. 3 CityLand 144 (Oct. 15, 2006).

With construction substantially underway, a contentious hearing followed at BSA in April 2007 where the residents argued that the Department of Buildings improperly issued the construction permit. The dorm reached the 26-story height with a lot merger and air rights transfer from an adjacent site, the federally-owned Cooper Station Post Office. The residents’ challenge centered on this merger, claiming that since federally-owned lots were exempt from local zoning laws, the federal government could not take advantage of the merger provision and sell unused development rights. Nothing could stop the federal government from later building a larger building on the Cooper Station site, they added. Attorneys for Buildings, the United States Postal Service and NYU’s developer, Hudson 12th Development LLC, opposed, pointing to the private merger agreement, a recorded easement held by Hudson for light and air over the Cooper Station site and provisions in the City’s zoning resolution that allowed air right transfers from federally-owned landmarks as justification for the permit and as limitations on future development. 4 CityLand 57 (May 15, 2007).

BSA, in perhaps the final chapter in this dispute, upheld the permit, finding that the zoning resolution did not prohibit or restrict the rights of private parties to use development rights from sites owned by governmental entities not subject to zoning laws. It rejected the claim that the federal government could later build on the site as entirely speculative in light of the merger and easement agreement and a federal code that requires the postal service to consult with local officials on building projects.

BSA: 110-124 East 12th Street (238-06- A) (June 12, 2007) (Kevin Finnegan, for residents; Lisa M. Orrantia, for DOB; David M. Satnick, for Hudson; Jeffrey Rosen, for Postal Service). CITYADMIN

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