Completed senior housing facility in Queens exceeded FAR; owner retroactively sought special permit

Buildings only caught architect’s FAR miscalculation after six-story facility was completed. On May 9, 2012, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation’s special permit request to legalize a six-story, 66,000 sq.ft. senior housing facility built next door to its existing five-story, 130,000 sq.ft. nursing home in Briarwood, Queens. In an effort to expand its campus, Silvercrest built a new six-story, 81-bed senior housing facility at 86-19 144th Street. After completion, however, the Department of Buildings determined that Silvercrest had miscalculated the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) permitted under the R4-1 zoning district’s regulations. Community facilities within R4-1 districts are typically restricted to a FAR of 2.0. However, nursing homes and senior housing facilities within R4-1 districts are limited to a combined FAR of 0.75. As a result of Silvercrest’s error, the nursing home and senior housing facility had a combined FAR of 1.1.

Buildings notified Silvercrest of the problem, and the developer sought an after-the-fact special permit to increase the FAR for the noncomplying prject. The special permit would allow Silvercrest to replace the senior housing facility’s temporary certificate of occupancy with final certificate of occupancy. Silvercrest also plans on adding an as-of-right renal dialysis center to the nursing home.

Queens Community Board 8 recommended approval of the application by a vote of 17-14-0. Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall supported the application, noting the community’s need for quality senior housing.

At the Commission’s public hearing, Commissioner Irwin Cantor asked Silvercrest’s attorney, Akerman Senterfitt’s Lance Michaels, to provide a history of the project. Michaels explained that the project’s architect had erred when filing a partially self-certified building application in 2008. He said that Buildings had audited the plans several times and had been in contact with Silvercrest to address “minor” technical problems. However, Buildings did not recognize the FAR error until after the facility had been completed. Commissioner Anna Levin noted that the special permit would allow a FAR of up to 2.0 on the site, and asked Michaels if Silvercrest had any intention to use the excess FAR. Michaels said that Silvercrest did not have any plans to do so, and pointed out that the special permit would limit Silvercrest to the plans as they were submitted to the Department of City Planning.

A representative of local City Council Member James F. Gennaro testified that Gennaro strongly supported the application.

According to City Planning’s Land Use & CEQR Application Tracking System (LUCATS), the Commission has until June 28, 2012 to vote on the application.

CPC: Hearing on Silvercrest Senior Housing (C 110042 ZSQ – special permit) (May 9, 2012).

[Correction: On June 18, 2012, CityLand updated this article to clarify that the newer six-story, 66,000 sq.ft.  senior housing facility and the older five-story, 130,000 square-foot nursing home  had a combined FAR of 1.1, which exceeded the maximum 0.75 FAR for the R4-1 zoned site. Further, Silvercrest intends to add the as-of-right renal dialysis center to the five-story nursing home.]


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