Midtown Seafood Restaurant, a Victim of Crane Collapse, Wins Right to Expand

Crave Fishbar, located at 945 Second Ave. in Manhattan. Image courtesy of Crave Fishbar.

Crave Fishbar, located at 945 Second Ave. in Manhattan. Image courtesy of Crave Fishbar.

Land Use Committee approved zoning text amendment needed to allow restaurant to occupy the second floor of a mixed-use building. On February 13, 2014, the City Council’s Committee on Land Use unanimously approved 17-0 an application filed by 945 Realty Holdings, LLC to modify Section 32-421 of the Zoning Resolution to facilitate the placement of 1,280 sq. ft. of commercial restaurant use on the second story of a four-story building. The restaurant, Crave Fishbar, is located at 945 Second Avenue in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan.  The building is a 40-ft. tall, four-story mixed-use building, of which the first floor is currently occupied by Crave Fishbar and the second floor is vacant. Crave Fishbar was previously located across the street from its current location until March 2008, when its building was damaged by a construction crane that collapsed on the building. The building has since been demolished.

At the Land Use Subcommittee for Zoning and Franchises meeting on February 11, 2013, Eugene Travers, land use attorney for Goldman Harris LLC, testified on behalf of 945 Realty. Travers stated that the application would allow the restaurant to expand from its existing ground floor location to the second floor. The former location of the restaurant was a larger corner lot, and the new location is very narrow with a 25 ft. wide interior. The restaurant needs to expand to the second floor in order to remain viable. Travers stated that the zoning text currently permits commercial use in the second floor only if the building was built on or after September 17, 1970. He stated that the resolution was meant to protect residential uses and community facility spaces in older buildings.

The zoning change to allow commercial uses on the second floor would only apply to pre-1970 buildings in Manhattan Community Board 6 provided three conditions are met. First, the second floor must not have been occupied by residential or community facility use from May 1, 2013 onward. Second, the subject building must be located on a block front that includes at least one other second floor commercial space as a form of contextual protection. Third, as an added protection, the chairperson of the City Planning Commission must certify that the first two conditions have been met.

Community Board 6 recommended approval of the application 35-6 on June 12, 2013. Former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer recommended disapproval on July 1, 2013, raising concerns about the consequences of expanding commercial uses that conflict with residential uses, and inadequate protections against potential negative impacts on a block’s character. The City Planning Commission voted to approve the application with companion resolution on December 18, 2013.

The proposed zoning text amendment was originally set forth as a citywide text amendment. However, City Planning recommended in its Commission Report that, “[T]here is no benefit in extending the applicability of the text amendment to parts of the City where the subject site is not located”  The language of the currently proposed zoning text amendment is therefore specifically drawn to only affect Community Board 6.

City Council: Second Avenue Text Amendment (N 130232 ZRY – Text Amendment) (February 14, 2014).

By: Jennifer Baek (Jennifer is a CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2013).


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