Permit denied to developer who cheated on demolition

Developer caught on video demolishing building with mechanical excavator and without a permit. In July 2005, Isaac Katan, of Global Development, received demolition permits to dismantle the building at 182 15th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn to make way for a new 62-unit, 11-story residential building. Buildings issued a stop-work order and then rescinded, stopping Katan’s work for almost a month from October 4th to November 11th. On November 16th, the City Council rezoned Park Slope, making Katan’s proposed development impermissible since it exceeded height and floor area limits.

Katan applied to BSA to grandfather the permits, arguing that it had fully completed excavation and made substantial progress on the foundations. A number of Park Slope neighbors opposed the application, accusing Katan of illegally demolishing the building with a crawler excavator when his permit limited work to hand excavation.

When questioned by BSA, Katan testified in two hearings that his workers used a crawler on one day for only four hours, stating that, “they got caught, they stopped, and it was done right.” Katan then argued that BSA had no authority under the zoning resolution to consider the impacts of illegal demolition; BSA’s review should be limited to excavation and foundation work.

The opponents’ attorney then presented a video montage of residents’ video clips showing that mechanical demolition continued for at least ten days. Neighbors argued that BSA should discount ten days of excavation and foundation work since Katan could not have started work until it finished demolition.

Buildings’ expert estimated that Katan gained almost two-and-a half months of time with the illegal demolition and argued that a mechanical demolition permit would not have been issued by DOB. Sanborn maps showed that the demolished building covered the whole lot and extended into the street line, meaning that the street provided the only potential place for the safety area required for mechanical equipment. Thus, Katan needed a DOT permit, which in Buildings’ opinion, DOT would not have issued due to safety issues.

BSA denied Katan’s permit, emphasizing that the sole reason for its denial was Katan’s direct lies to BSA, adding that there was no reason to consider expert opinions on the impact of the illegal work. BSA also ruled that since the zoning resolution’s preamble requires BSA to consider public health and safety, it was authorized to consider the effects of illegal pre-excavation work that directly impacted excavation and foundation progress. To rule otherwise would encourage developers to complete illegal demolition work. BSA added that the right to grandfather permits under the zoning code must necessarily depend on the accuracy of the developer’s information.

BSA: 182 15th Street (354-05-BZY) (July 25, 2006) (Peter Geis, Cozen O’Connor, for Katan; Caroline Harris, Troutman Sanders LLP, for neighbors; Janine A. Gaylard, for DOB). CITYADMIN

CITYLAND Comment: Katan has filed an article 78 petition challenging BSA’s decision.

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