Queens developer claimed out-of- date layout made apartments unfit. A Queens developer proposed to demolish two adjacent two-family buildings in Long Island City, replacing them with a five-story, 20- unit building that required waivers from BSA for floor area, yard, height, setback and open space.
The proposal was strongly opposed by the community, Borough President Helen Marshall, Community Board 1 and Council Members Peter F. Vallone, Jr. and Tony Avella. Faced with community opposition, the developer slightly decreased the proposal to a 15,005- square-foot 16-unit building that remained 6,140 sq.ft. larger than an as-of-right development.
At the BSA hearing, the developer claimed that the existing two-family, roughly 2,100-square-foot buildings needed to be demolished because the apartments lacked “modern layouts,” explaining that the bathrooms had to be accessed by walking through the kitchen and living room. A modern layout, according to the applicant, required the bath to be adjacent to the bedroom. The applicant added that the buildings had never been upgraded and suffered structural damage due to flooding.
Following a site visit by all four BSA members, BSA denied the applicant’s argument, finding the buildings fit for residential purposes. Lack of the most advantageous layout or modern upgrades is insufficient to prove buildings are unfit as housing. Since both buildings would be demolished, BSA explained that hardship and uniqueness must be shown by examining the condition of the lots, not the buildings.
The applicant argued that the site’s high water table and poor soil conditions necessitated a variance. Studies submitted by the applicant showed that the lot’s water table was higher than seven other properties in the area and the need to build piles for the project added $200,000 to the project cost.
BSA unanimously voted to deny the variance, explaining that uniqueness could not be shown by comparing only seven nearby properties when there were 60 others in the immediate area that seemed similar to the developer’s lots. With a total development cost of over $2.1 million, the added $200,000 was not significant to establish hardship.
BSA: 14-38 31st Drive (272-04-BZ) (September 20, 2005) (Sullivan Chester, for the developer). CITYADMIN