DOB exemption calculation method upheld

Buildings applied customary “square” method of measuring 100 ft. rear yard exemption. The Allen- Stevenson School, located at 128 East 78th Street in a C1-8X district, applied to Buildings for a permit to expand a two-story structure to five-stories and eliminate a courtyard at the rear of the lot. Buildings issued permits for the alterations, and Neighbors for Light and Air, a local community group, sought to have them revoked, claiming that zoning regulations required Allen-Stevenson to maintain a rear yard. Buildings refused to revoke the permits and Neighbors appealed to BSA.

On appeal, Buildings stated that Allen-Stevenson’s lot, lying within 100 ft. of an intersection of two streets, was exempt from rear yard requirements. Neighbors countered that the 100 ft. should be measured using the arc theory, referred to in other sections of the zoning text, which required drawing an arc from the corner of the two streets and exempting any area within the arc. Buildings replied that as a long-standing policy it used the square theory of measuring, which required drawing parallel and perpendicular lines from the street corner. Neighbors responded that even if the square theory were used, Allen-Stevenson was still required to maintain a rear yard for the portion of the lot that exceeded the 100 ft. square cut-off.

BSA denied the appeal, finding that the square theory was the appropriate method, noting that certain provisions of the zoning text expressly called for the arc theory to be used and the corner lot exemption – Zoning Res. §33-301 – did not. Further, BSA determined that even if a lot exceeded the 100 ft. measurement, the exemption applied to the depth of the whole lot as long as the street fronting the lot was less than 230 ft. Additionally, BSA noted Manhattan is characterized by high-density development within 100 ft. from the avenues, and application of the arc theory would undermine that established pattern.

BSA: 128 East 78th Street (273-04-A) (March 8, 2004) (Michael Gruen, Esq., for Neighbors; Marvin Mitzner, for Allen-Stevenson). CITYADMIN

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