Dental practice use within zoning laws

218 E. 61st Street, Manhattan. Photo: Kevin E. Schultz

Neighborhood associations claimed dental office violated restrictive covenant dating back to Civil War and current zoning laws. Two neighborhood associations in the Treadwell Farm Historic District, an area bounded by 61st and 62nd Streets and Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan, sued Jak Cohane, the owner of the bottom two stories of a four-story brownstone located at 218 East 61st Street, who leased his premises to a dental group. The associations claimed that the dental group violated a restrictive covenant dating back to 1868 that prohibited objectionable or offensive uses or occupations, and the zoning laws, both of which limited use to residential.

Justice Faviola Soto dismissed the complaint. The court found that the dental group did not violate the restrictive covenant because the dental practice could not be considered a dangerous or offensive business. As for the zoning laws, the court found that both the Environmental Control Board and Buildings had determined, after repeated inspections, that the current use as a dental practice in the basement and first floor satisfied all relevant zoning laws and was a permissible home exception. Justice Soto further found that the associations had not pursued the available administrative remedies. They failed to participate in the Board’s and Buildings’ administrative processes, failed to appeal the agency determinations to BSA and failed to file an article 78 petition, which as adjoining land owners or interested neighborhood associations they had standing to file.

East Sixties Property Owners Assoc. v. Cohane, Index No. 601051/05, Feb. 9, 2006 (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct.) (Soto, J.).

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