Variance granted for vacant SoHo building

Permissible uses for vacant two-story building on Crosby Street expanded to include restaurant and bar. The owner of a vacant two-story building at 54 Crosby Street in SoHo applied to BSA for a use variance to permit a bar or restaurant on the building’s ground floor. The 4,535 sq.ft. building sits on a lot twenty feet wide and is built to less than half of the available floor area. The building was formerly used as a sculptor’s residence and studio, and its M1-5B manufacturing zoning does not permit commercial uses below the second floor.

The owner argued that the narrow building made a conforming manufacturing use impractical. The owner claimed that the building’s narrow floor plates were inefficient for a warehouse use and that the absence of an elevator would make transferring goods between floors difficult. According to an analysis submitted by the owner, only five of the 150 surrounding lots had widths of less than 25 feet and are built to less than half of the zoning district’s maximum floor area.

Manhattan Community Board 2 and local Council Member Margaret Chin opposed the variance unless a restaurant and bar were prohibited on the site. The residents of the neighboring condominium at 56 Crosby Street also opposed the application. The condo residents argued, among other things, that a bar or restaurant would be incompatible with adjacent uses because it would attract night life and that the owner could earn a reasonable return from a conforming use.

In response to the condo residents’ arguments, the owner pointed out that there were seven restaurants and bars in the surrounding area, including Balthazar at Spring and Crosby Streets and L’Orange Bleue at Broome and Crosby Streets. The owner, however, agreed to place certain conditions on any restaurant or bar tenant. The conditions included requiring a closing time no later than 12:30 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

BSA granted the variance, finding that strict compliance with the lot’s zoning would not provide a reasonable economic return. BSA noted that the undersized building could only accommodate a single use and a single income stream, unlike the area’s larger buildings which have multiple tenants.

BSA: 54 Crosby Street, Manhattan (101-10-BZ) (Feb. 15, 2011) (Jordan Most, for owners).


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