Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Open "letter" to all those who care about this sort of thing...

Sins of omission and commission
These are strange days indeed when a neighborhood can "celebrate" the simple enforcement and compliance of the law. This week another small, lets say, "victory". Armory Plaza workers have been out in the rain removing all the recently installed re-bar and metal decking from the offending section of their building's rear yard that is not part of the commercial zoning overlay. It looks like they are also dismantling the steel I-beam support structure as well. Approximately 1800 square feet worth. A pretty sizable chunk. It amazes me how such a blunder could possible have occurred. The owner/developer/builder has been on the site every day supervising the construction. Surely they must be working from a set of approved plans and not just making it up as they go along. Maybe they were ill advised, or maybe they were hoping that no one would notice until it was too late.

To Protect and Serve

Yet again, it looks like the local South Slope citizens must bear the burden of responsibility for policing NYC's building codes, zoning rules and regulations. No easy feat even for those who can afford to pay attention.

What exactly does it take to make this happen? Calling 311 with a well targeted complaint doesn't always start the ball rolling, but it begins the official documentation trail of tears. You will need to make the trip downtown to 210 Joralemon Street, 8th floor and, if the gods aren't too constipated that day, you may miraculously find and then purchase a copy of the drawings on file for as little as $150. Next, locate a sympathetic architect familiar with City Planning's zoning rules willing to go over those said plans looking for anything out of the ordinary that may help your cause. In this case it didn't take very long to uncover the error. All one had to do was look out their rear window to see that what was being built didn't match up with what was on paper.
Heavy Lifting
If your lucky enough to have someone like Assemblymember Jim Brennan fighting on your behalf, your concerns will eventually be seen by someone who actually has the power to pull the plug on the builder. Someone like Mr.Magdi Mossad R.E., the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner at the Department of Buildings. Here is the letter Jim sent at our request from September 28th, 2007 to Commissioner Mossad.

The Commissioner's response, in part, to this letter came on October 2nd.
"The site at 406 15th Street is not overbuilt in terms of zoning floor area. It is to be noted that sub-cellars and cellars are not counted as floor area as per ZR 12-10. Please be advised that the plans approved on 12/29/05 show sub-cellar #1 and #2 are erected up to the rear lot line for the full length of the lot line. The cellar plans were approved showing the required 30ft rear yard. The Department through a recent inspection to the site (conducted on 9/24/07) have observed steel framing of the cellar floor projected into the required 30ft. rear yard. In normal circumstances, a stop work order should have been issued until the approved plans are amended or the site construction changed to conform with the approved plans.

In your letter of September 28th, 2007, you are concerned that the inspector is overlooking obvious evidence of non-compliance. As you are aware, our first goal at the present time is to stabilize the surrounding soil adjacent to the site. To issue a stop work order for plan contradictions may cause delay of the stabilization process and for sure shall not be for the benefits of the surrounding properties.

The applicant was immediately notified with the changes required. Amended plans were reviewed for the changes and will be approved when all objections raised are being answered. The required rear yard shall remain and site shall be in full compliance with zoning requirements."

If it's any consolation, one might be able to squeeze a few bitter drops of joy from this debacle thinking that someone has spent their weekend camping out on the front steps of Joralemon Street waiting to file their Post Approval Amendments.


Here is what the structure looked like at the end of last week. Ready for concrete.

Along the rear lot line in question.

Building according to those pesky plans! Sub-cellar #1 and #2 plans showing no set back. None is required because sub-cellars are apparently exempt. In this drawing as is in life, the foundation pilings extend out to the rear property line.

Cellar level plan (below) showing 30' set back as required by God.

Haunted by Past Performance. What might have been.

What ever happened to our "evil twin" 266 22nd Street? Recent DoB and ECB activity shows that even two years later, the building's Certificate of Occupancy problems still remain unresolved. Here's a copy of the Temporary C of O from 2004.

Description of use

It reads in part, Note: Faculty dwelling units as designed above shall be maintained as a group 3, community facility use dormitory for "faculty housing in a class A multiple dwelling" dedicated to the exclusive use of Yeshiva Gendolah Bais Yisroel, a registered educational institution by the NYS Board of Education...."
The first floor shows a 19 person "Day Care Center for ages 2-6"

The problem? So of course nine towering stories later when the building gets built, there's no sign of any yeshiva faculty or children ages 2-6. I can't imagine that cellar level "recreation room" is getting much use either. Art therapy classes anyone...anyone?

If there is bright side for the builder in all of this, by removing the offending section of the Armory Plaza now, maybe he will be spared future penalties (not that he's paying any of them anyway) and actually be able to receive his C of O when the building is finally correctly built and occupied, how ever many decades from now that may be. Maybe we deserve a thank you.

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