Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rear Yard Encroachment: Today's Zoning Trivia Question

A milestone of sorts. The Armory Plaza graciously accepts its One Hundredth 311 complaint this week. Special thanks given to all their workers who recently toiled after hours, late into the night finishing the concrete pour to push them over the top. We at IMBY can think of no other way to celebrate this groundbreaking three digit achievement than to spotlight Complaint #3239771. The complaint states "Building contrary to approved plans".

Let's take a look and see what we have to work with. Remember the developer may be using the 100 foot commercial overlay afforded to him by his proximity to 8th Avenue. That could mean 45 feet of additional buildable space within the rear yard's 125' length. But remember, "Quality Housing" in a R6b Zoning District does not preclude the requirement for a 30' rear yard and the consequent restrictions on rear yard obstructions, once past that 100' commercial overlay. Community Facilities, like our proposed medical health center, may encroach into the rear yard but for zoning purposes, a Facility must be in a "habitable" space which is at least a basement. (Cellars do not comply!) You can still place a Community Facility in a cellar as long as you provide legal light and air as per NYC building code....... Starting to smell smoke between your ears? Why am I suddenly craving a brain omelette from the Spanish Diner?

So as you can see in the two construction photos above, the foundation is being built out along the rear property line. The first photo shows the lowest
sub-cellar floor slab. There are two sub-cellar levels of parking beneath the cellar level Ambulatory Health Care Facility.

The second photo shows the current state of construction. This shows the completed cellar level floor slab and the iron work that will eventually support the metal decking and poured concrete ceiling slab. The rear facing residential units on this level of the building have sliding glass doors that open up on to this space.

I think what the complaint seems to be addressing is whether this cellar level structure, which looks like it will finish out some 4 to 5 feet above grade, constitutes a violation of the rear yard setback requirements. If one figures in a parapet wall the height could be 8 feet or more above the existing grade.

Or, could the complaint be targeting the apparent inconsistency in the building's approved plans, between the drawing for the cellar level health care facility that clearly illustrates the pilings being set back 30' from the rear shared property line, and the drawings for the other two sub-cellars, where there is no set back at all?

You can see in this plan for the sub-cellar level #2 that the foundation pilings have been designed to follow the rear property line without setbacks. This is more or less how it is being built. How does one explain this? The plans are stamped January 10th, 2006 and that they have been checked in regards to zoning.

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how this complaint is dealt with. Any guesses?

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