Girls school okayed for private catering business

The cellar of the Bnos Menachem school to house a private onsite catering service and events. Bnos Menachem is a not-for-profit girls school with pre-school to seventh grade classes located in a residentially- zoned area of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It sought a variance from BSA to allow a private, for-profit catering company, Ragzag, Inc., to operate from the school’s cellar. The caterer would operate after school hours and provide services to the school and the community with a total event capacity of 550 people. Outside events would be limited to forty percent of the total events each year.

The school argued that the manufacturing nature of its 33,646 sq.ft. building, originally used by a publishing company, made it unsuitable for residential uses. Noting that the catering business was permitted as-of-right on the other floors, the school argued that the cellar was unfit for the school’s classrooms. It also stressed its great financial need, explaining that families in the area could not afford high tuition costs.

Commissioner Joel Miele questioned the school’s categorization of the catering business as a not-for-profit, which would eliminate the financial infeasibility requirement, because the connection between the caterer’s profits and the school seemed unsubstantiated. BSA also expressed concern that the 550-person events could negatively impact the character of the neighborhood, which appeared primarily residential. In response, the school abandoned its argument that the catering business should be treated as a not-for-profit and submitted full financial studies showing residential uses were infeasible. The school also submitted an assessment that showed a mix of uses, including retail and a manufacturing plant, within a 400-foot radius of the site.

BSA granted the variance but conditioned the approval on the school providing 75 off-site parking spaces for events, limiting operation to Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and limiting refuse pick up to Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

BSA: 739 East New York Avenue (194- 03-BZ) (December 14, 2004) (Richard Lobel, Sheldon Lobel, P.C., for Bnos Menachem). CITYADMIN

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