New owner relied on error by Buildings which had erroneously issued permit for sign in residential district. Beginning in 1941 the owner of a 4-story apartment building located at 24-59 32nd Street in Astoria, Queens, allowed a sign to be painted on the south wall of the building. In 1961 the City adopted an amendment to the zoning resolution which prohibited signs in residential districts including the district covering 24-59 32d Street. Non-conforming signs then in existence were allowed to be continued for ten years after which the sign had to be removed. Notwithstanding the zoning resolution, the Department of Buildings in February 1981erroneously renewed the sign permit at 24-59 32nd Street. In 1998 a new owner, Astoria Landing, purchased the property and continued to lease the space for the sign.
In 2011 Buildings issued notices of violations charging Astoria Landing with maintaining a sign in violation of the zoning resolution. An Administrative Law Judge in 2012 imposed a penalty of $20,000 for the violation. Astoria Landing appealed.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed the violation and the penalty. The Court ruled that Buildings’ erroneous issuance of the permit in 1981 did not exempt the sign from the time limitation that had been imposed by the 1961 zoning resolution. Vested rights could not be acquired by Astoria Landing in reliance on an invalid permit. The erroneous issuance of the sign permit did not bar Buildings from correcting its error, even where there were harsh results.
Astoria Landing Inc. v. NYC ECB, 50 N.Y.S.3d 148 (2nd Dep’t 2017).