BSA legalizes sixth floor, but not penthouse

BSA had previously revoked permit for buildings’ existing two-story addition. In 2007, the owner of two pre-1948 five-story buildings at 514 and 516 East 6th Street in Manhattan obtained an alteration permit and enlarged the buildings by two stories. The enlarged buildings did not comply with the Multiple Dwelling Law’s fire safety requirements, but Buildings permitted the owner to provide alternative fire safety upgrades. A tenant appealed the decision to BSA, claiming that Buildings was not authorized to permit alternative measures in lieu of the Multiple Dwelling Law requirements. BSA agreed and revoked the permit.

The owner requested that BSA legalize the buildings pursuant to a section of the Multiple Dwelling Law permitting BSA to modify requirements for buildings constructed prior to 1948. During the hearings process, the owner agreed to demolish the seventh floor penthouse and requested that BSA only legalize plans reflecting a six-story building. The owner claimed that it would be a hardship to comply with the Multiple Dwelling Law safety requirements, noting that it would require widening existing staircases and hallways, and removing floors, beams, and walls. The owner also claimed that the alternative measures, which included a full sprinkler system, hard-wired smoke detectors, and new fire escapes, satisfied the Multiple Dwelling Law’s intent.

Local elected officials, community groups, and one of the buildings’ tenants opposed the application, arguing that the buildings were incompatible with the neighborhood. The tenant also claimed that because of the two-story addition, BSA was required to review the application under an alternate section of the Multiple Dwelling Law requiring that a building altered after 1961 demonstrate the building or premises had unique physical features. BSA disagreed and granted the appeal.

BSA concluded that the alternate section only applied to the construction of new buildings, or to renovations to new buildings, constructed after July 1, 1948. According to BSA, to interpret the alternate section as the tenant suggested would render ineffective the section cited by the owner that expressly applies to buildings constructed prior to 1948. BSA found that the owner established that complying with the Multiple Dwelling Law created a hardship and the “spirit and intent” of the law would be maintained by the six-story building with alternative safety measures.

BSA: 514-516 East 6th Street, Manhattan (217-09- A) (Aug. 3, 2010) (Marvin Mitzner, for owner).

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