BSA Grants Appeal for Caretaker Apartment in Sign Painting Shop

Sign Painting Shop in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn was granted an appeal to include a caretaker’s apartment within the property. The owners of 1109 Metropolitan Avenue in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn are planning to convert the property into the Sign Painting Shop, which will include a proposed caretaker apartment as an accessory use. On May 4, 2015, Department of Buildings (“Buildings”) determined that the proposed caretaker apartment was not permitted in the manufacturing zoning district. On December 5, 2017, the Board of Standards (“Board”) and Appeals disagreed with Buildings.

The owners’ proposal for the property will employ 40 full-time employees in departments devoted to operations, painting, rigging, shop, and maintenance. Operating 24 hours and 7 days a week, employees will be responsible for the creation of custom patterning, sign designs, and mixing of custom paint colors, and office equipment, job materials, safety equipment, scissor lifts, and other work vehicles will be stored at the site. After conversion, the property will contain the first floor as workshop space and the second floor proposed to be used as an accessory office and the caretaker’s apartment.

The Board examined whether the caretaker’s apartment was an “accessory use” under the zoning regulations permitting a caretaker apartment in the manufacturing zoning district. An “accessory use” is defined as a use customarily found in connection with the principal use to which it is related. The “accessory use” inquiry focuses on whether the use is customarily found or if there something inherently different in this use that would justify treating it differently.

In its examination, the Board looked at (1) whether living or sleeping accommodations for caretakers generally are customarily found in connection with sign painting shops, and then (2) whether the owners had demonstrated that the specific activities proposed rendered the caretaker’s apartment a living or sleeping accommodation for caretakers within the meaning “accessory use.” The Board found in the affirmative for both questions.

Because of the lack of sign painting shops around the City, the Board instead used art studios as a comparison. The Board noted that sign painting shops employ commercial artists and many artists use paint as their medium and utilize expensive equipment and inventory, which have a strong interest in protecting. Thus, there was sufficient overlap and overall similarity of activities between sign painting shops and art studios for a proper analogy. The owners provided occupancy certificates of art studios that showed the studios included caretaker apartments on the premises. The Board found that the proffered occupancy certificates were close enough and showed that living or sleeping accommodations for caretakers were concomitant with sign painting shops.

The Board then examined whether the activities proposed for the caretaker’s apartment would be of a type and character within the ambit of the general term “living or sleeping accommodations for caretakers” or whether there was something inherently different about the owner’s proposed activities that would justify treating the caretaker’s apartment differently and thus not permissible in the manufacturing district. The proposed caretaker apartment would house an individual who would perform duties such as collecting and managing the collection of refuse, maintaining the sidewalk, bulkhead, shoreline, and the site and building in good condition, maintaining and operating the mechanical and heating equipment; ensuring continuance of maintenance, security, and good repair; and maintain the Sign Painting Shop’s inventory. The supplied certificates of occupancy for art studios with caretakers’ apartments listed the same duties as those proposed for the Sign Painting Shop caretaker.

Further, the owners also submitted police reports of four burglaries since 2016, with one burglary occurring while the appeal was pending. The owners stated that the caretaker’s responsibilities would provide site security and theft deterrence as the most practice and cost-effective measure since the current gates, lighting, fencing, and 14 security cameras have not been effective at deterring the break-ins.

The Board held that the caretaker’s apartment was a permitted accessory use for the Sign Painting Shop.


BSA: 1109 Metropolitan Avenue (2017-52-A) (December 5, 2017).

By: Dorichel Rodriguez (Dorichel is a CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)

One thought on “BSA Grants Appeal for Caretaker Apartment in Sign Painting Shop

  1. Can you please show me where in the NYC website I can find a current list of the 5 BSA Commissioners. I did check the relevant website but did not see the list. Thank you

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