Court challenge to East Village/LES rezoning fails

Developer argued City inadequately considered rezoning’s economic impact. In May 2008, the Department of City Planning proposed rezoning 111 blocks in Manhattan’s East Village and Lower East Side neighborhoods. Planning proposed the contextual rezoning in order to preserve the area’s low- and midrise character and channel new construction to blocks suitable for development. The plan included rezoning large mid-block portions above Houston Street from R7-2 to R8B to establish height limits while providing an increase in total floor area. The plan also included applying a more restrictive R7B zoning district to three mid-blocks located between East 4th and 7th Streets and Avenues A and B.

After three years of public review, the City Planning Commission prepared a final environmental impact statement which concluded that the rezoning would have no significant impact on the environment. The City Council approved the proposal. 5 CityLand 165 (Dec. 2008).

Jakobson Properties LLC, the owner of 530 and 532 East 5th Street, challenged the City’s environmental review. Jakobson claimed that the City decided to apply the R7B zoning as a matter of political convenience in order to secure community approval. Jakobson argued that the City did not properly consider the rezoning’s impact on Jakobson’s properties, characterizing the R7B designation as a “moratorium on new building.”

Justice Alice Schlesinger dismissed the challenge, ruling that the City took the requisite “hard look” at the relevant areas of environmental concern and provided a “reasoned elaboration” for the decision to rezone the three mid-blocks differently than other blocks. Justice Schlesinger found that Planning had explained that the area covering Jakobson’s lots was characterized by shorter and lower-density development than other portions of the rezoning area. Planning also explained that an R8B zoning district would have been inappropriate because it would not maintain that area’s low-rise character. Justice Schlesinger further found that the rezoning would not prevent new construction, noting that Jakobson was in the process of constructing a six-story building on its property.

Justice Schlesinger said that the City revised the plan in response to community concerns and that such action was a well recognized and important part of the environmental review process, not evidence of “some sort of deal” made in contravention of the law.

Matter of Jakobson Properties, LLC v. The City of New York, Index No. 103638/09 (N.Y. Cty.Sup.Ct. Aug. 9, 2010) (Schlesinger, J.) (Attorneys: Marvin B. Mitzner, for Jakobson; Michael A. Cardozo, Christina L. Hoggan, for City; David Karnovsky, for Planning).

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