Residential building grandfathered despite opposition

Owner completed 99 percent of building’s foundation before City Council approved Astoria Rezoning plan. Plaza Group 36 LLC obtained excavation and foundation permits to begin work on a four-story residential building at 30-86 36th Street in Astoria, Queens. On May 18, 2010, Buildings issued a new building permit to Plaza Group for the project. One week later, the City Council approved the Astoria Rezoning, changing the site’s R6 zoning to R5B and rendering the 6,565 sq.ft. eight-unit project out of compliance with the district’s maximum permitted floor area and number of dwelling units.

Buildings inspected the site two days after the rezoning and initially determined that Plaza Group had completed the foundation by the enactment date. Buildings, however, issued a stop work order the next month after finding that three interior footings for steel columns were not completed before the rezoning.

Plaza Group sought approval from BSA to finish construction, claiming that it had completed all excavation work and poured 82 of the 84 total cubic yards of the foundation’s concrete prior to the rezoning. Plaza Group also submitted records indicating that it had spent $95,276 of the foundation’s $96,026 total estimated cost.

Local Council Member Peter F. Vallone, Queens Community Board 13, and a group of neighbors opposed the application. The neighbors claimed that Plaza Group had not completed the excavation before the rezoning and submitted photographs allegedly showing Plaza Group removing soil from the site after the enactment date. The neighbors also argued that construction took place after the rezoning.

In response, Plaza Group stated that it had used on-site soil to provide a ramp to remove excavation equipment and to complete backfill. Plaza Group claimed that any work performed after the rezoning was pursuant to valid permits existing after the enactment date and before Buildings reversed their position on whether the foundation had been completed.

BSA granted Plaza Group a six month extension to complete construction. Noting that Plaza Group had omitted any construction work that took place after the rezoning and before the stop-work order, BSA found that the site had been excavated and that substantial progress had been made on the foundation.

BSA: 30-86 36th Street, Queens (113-10- BZY) (Nov. 23, 2010) (Rothkrug Rothkrug, for Plaza Group).

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