Variance Granted for Construction of Brooklyn School for Medically Frail Children

Calvin Wong testifies before the Board of Standards and Appeals. Image credit: BSA

Calvin Wong testifies before the Board of Standards and Appeals. Image credit: BSA

On July 28, 2015, the Board of Standards and Appeals voted to grant a zoning variance to the applicant, Akerman Senterfitt LLP, for the construction of the Brooklyn School for Medically Frail Children in the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.  The construction would yield a pre-kindergarten school at 570 East 21st Street with dormitory facilities for physically-handicapped children who require breathing ventilation and general respiratory care throughout at least part of the school day.  The school would anticipate enrollment of up to 50 students, 20 of whom would be expected to live in the on-site housing facilities.

The Board held a public hearing on September 9, 2014, with follow-up hearings on October 28, 2014, December 16, 2014, February 24, 2015, May 19, 2015, June 23, 2015, and July 28, 2015.  At the September 9th hearing, Steven Bernardo, education consultant for the project, testified that there is “no school of this type in the city,” so the students who require this specific form of respiratory care are either hospitalized or sent to accommodating schools in distant locations, such as New Jersey.  Dr. Bernardo further testified the “intention is to move children out of inappropriate settings,” because the current lack of school facilities catering to children with special needs of this type result in hospitalization rather than schooling.  “Our goal is to move students from a patient mentality to a student mentality.”  Calvin Wong, zoning consultant at Akerman LLP, testified the project had received the support of Brooklyn Community Board 14, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Council Members Mathieu Eugene, Chaim Deutsch, and Andrew Cohen.

Ray Peebles of the Ditmas Park East Association spoke in opposition to the school, arguing the cause was worthwhile but the proposal did not conform to the zoning resolution or the building code.  Mr. Peebles argued the site is not burdened by unique physical conditions requiring a variance and any hardship accompanying the site was caused by the school buying land partially within a residential district.  Mr. Peebles also argued the proposed building would not be a school but a nursing facility, and because of that, must first obtain certificates from the State before beginning construction.

On July 28, 2015 the Board voted 3-0 to approve the variance.  In its decision, the Board noted the Department of Buildings had determined the proposal constituted a school under the zoning resolution and was properly chartered by the Board of Regents.  The Board disagreed with opposing arguments, recognizing state law allows educational institutions to rely on programmatic needs for determining the presence of a physical hardship in a variance application.  The Board also recognized the holding in Cornell Univ. v. Bagnardi requires an educational institution’s application be granted provided the project does not adversely impact the health, safety, or welfare of the community, and found no adverse impact in the proposal.

BSA:  570 East 21st Street (343-12-BZ) (Jul. 28, 2015) (Akerman Senterfitt, LLP. For Ocean Ave Education Support, Inc., owner).

By: Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein (Jessica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2015)

One thought on “Variance Granted for Construction of Brooklyn School for Medically Frail Children

  1. Totally a fraud, no money no nothing, no school, fake,just Ditmas Health center trying to expand in the residential area with a huge parking lot, the variance expired and now they are trying to renew it. Frauds involved and money weirdness.

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