Psychic business ruled an accessory use

Fortune teller advertised psychic consulting business with large neon sign and awning over her first-floor apartment window. Louis and Laura Wanko leased a first-floor apartment at 333 East 52nd Street in an Upper East Side neighborhood zoned for residential uses – an R813 district. A month after moving in, Louis installed several signs without permits, announcing his wife’s fortune telling business. A neon sign, three-feet tall by two-feet wide, reading “Laura’s Psychic Vision” was bolted to the outside of the building and paired with a large awning affixed over the first floor window reading “Clairvoyant & Astrology Reading.” A third sign over the doorbell directed potential clients to their apartment.

A Buildings inspector confirmed the wife’s use of the apartment for psychic consultations. He found a table, chairs, tarot cards, candles and a statuette positioned in the front hall of the apartment. Buildings filed a petition to padlock the apartment, charging the Wankos and the building owner with violating the zoning code restriction on operating a commercial business in a residential district. At the hearing, the Wankos argued that the use was permitted under the zoning code as an accessory “home occupation” because the apartment was their primary residence, the fortune-telling operation took up less than 25 percent of the unit, and the wife did not have employees.

OATH ALJ Raymond E. Kramer ruled that the psychic consulting business met the general zoning resolution requirements related to home occupation use, but the exterior signs violated the provisions regulating the use of signs in residential areas. Signs directing attention to the commercial use or advertising the business were prohibited. With the signage, the home occupation is an illegal commercial use.

The ALJ recommended that Buildings padlock the unit unless the Wankos immediately remove all three exterior signs.

Buildings v. Owners of 333 E. 52nd St., OATH Index No. 400/05 (Feb. 2, 2005) (Kramer, ALJ) (Attorneys: Ingrid M. Addison, for Buildings; Mara R. Levy, for Wankos). CITYADMIN

CITYLANDComment: The Wankos removed the signs on February 19, 2005.

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