Variance for autism school granted

School’s plans would violate street wall height requirement. The Learning Spring Elementary School, a school for high-functioning autistic children, applied to BSA for a variance to construct a new 27,492 sq.ft. elementary and middle school at 345 Second Avenue at East 20th Street to replace its current Chelsea facility. The building design called for an eight-story section at the corner of East 20th Street running along the first 42 ft. of Second Avenue. The building would then drop down to a three-story, 38-foot tall section for the last 20 ft. of lot frontage along Second Avenue, violating the minimum street wall height of 60 feet.

At BSA, Learning Spring claimed the design allowed it to keep the lower and middle school children separate and resulted in smaller classrooms, creating a more conducive learning environment for students with autism spectrum disorders. It would also maximize light and air. In addition, a 1969 easement restricted any enlargement or new building on the three-story portion of the site to a maximum height of approximately 47 feet.

Acknowledging that state law requires BSA to give deference to the programmatic needs of an educational institution, BSA granted the variance. BSA also noted that the street wall height of the building’s three-story section would be consistent with adjacent three-story buildings along Second Avenue.

BSA: 345-349 Second Avenue (316-08- BZ) (May 12, 2009) (Robert S. Davis, Bryan Cave, for Learning Spring). CITYADMIN

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