Court remands decision on homeless housing to BSA

Provider of transitional housing appealed denial of variance. Homes for the Homeless, Inc. operated the Saratoga, a transitional housing facility for the homeless on Rockaway Boulevard in Queens. After receiving a request for proposals for added units, Homes applied to BSA for two variances: to legalize the use of its homeless facility, which was located in an M-1 district zoned for light manufacturing, and to expand its homeless units by constructing a new building.

BSA granted the legalization variance, finding that the property’s unique physical conditions created practical difficulties and unnecessary hardship. The Board denied the expansion variance, however, finding that Homes had not presented substantial evidence to show unnecessary hardship or practical difficulties requiring an expansion.

A lower court ordered BSA to grant the expansion variance, ruling that the Board had acted arbitrarily in finding that the entire property was unique, but denying the expansion. The court found that both variances were the minimum relief necessary in order for Homes to house the additional families.

On appeal the First Department reversed and remanded to BSA for reconsideration. The court ruled that while BSA found the entire property unique and the zoning impractical, it did not consistently explain why it granted the legalization variance while denying the expansion. BSA did not distinguish between the lots that housed the homeless units and the lot where the proposed building would be constructed and as a result the court could not review whether BSA’s decision to grant the legalization and deny the expansion was rational.

Homes for the Homeless v. BSA, 2005 NY Slip Op 10206, Dec. 29, 2005 (1st Dep’t) (Howard B. Hornstein, Maureen Bezuhly, for HFH; Michael A. Cardozo, Drake A. Colley, for BSA).

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