Feb. 23, 2016 By Christian Murray
Developers who had a Woodside Avenue project approved against the community’s wishes several years ago are now asking for help to push back their construction deadline.
The Board of Standards and Appeals gave the go-ahead to a development company to construct a seven-story, 27-unit apartment complex at 64-01 Woodside Ave. in 2011, overcoming the objections of Community Board 2 and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Joe Conley, who was chairman of Community Board 2 at the time, said that a one-family house was torn down in order for the seven-story development to proceed.
Last week, a representative for the developer went before CB 2’s Land Use Committee and said the builder ran out of time completing the project and is seeking the approval of the BSA to grant it an extension so it could get a certificate of occupancy.
The Board was not sympathetic given the project’s storied history.
Developers first approached the BSA because of the 2011 Sunnyside-Woodside Rezoning, which rezoned their 64-01 Woodside Ave. property from R6 to R5D. That decreased the number of apartments permitted on the site from 27 to 17, according to BSA records.
The developer, working under the name 64-01 Woodside Realty, had rushed to get the building up before the rezoning and obtained a foundation permit on June 24, 2011. However, by the time the rezoning was adopted on July 28, the owner had not completed the foundations and a stop work order was issued.
Therefore, the developers applied to the BSA seeking permission to build 27 units instead of the 17 permitted under the new R5D zone. They told the BSA that the loss of ten units would have reduced the annual rental income from approximately $713,000 to $316,000, and there would be “costly and burdensome design solutions” to fix the structure.
The BSA sided with the developer and granted the 27 units. The developer had two years to complete the job.
According to attorney Hilary Atzrott of Sheldon Lobel, construction was expected to be completed by Dec. 13, 2013 and 97 percent of it was completed by that time.
Atzrott said that the developers were unable to hook up the sewage lines and only received the approval to do so in 2014. She said they applied during the two-year construction period granted by the BSA.
“Are you aware of the history of this site?” Conley, a public member of CB 2’s Land Use Committee, asked the attorney. “The demonstrations that were held at the site, the disingenuous developer.”
The attorney said she had represented her client for a year and was unsure of what Conley was referring to.
However, her firm represented the 64-01 Woodside Realty in 2011 when the BSA approved the developer’s plans.
Atzrott said it would be an injustice if the developer could not get the BSA extension. She said that more than $4 million has been spent, a seven-story building has almost been completed and it would be wrong for the building to sit vacant in the community.
Conley shot back claiming that it was an injustice to the community when the developer tore down the house to put up so many units on the site.
“The BSA is a joke in this community – a rubber stamp,” Conley said, referring to the 2011 decision. “A toothless tiger.”
However, despite the frustration, the Committee members felt that it makes more sense to have a viable building than a vacant one.
The Committee also noted deficiencies such as a lack of trees surrounding the property and requested to speak to the owner(s) at the next meeting before making a recommendation.
Atzott said that she would try to arrange it.
The Board’s recommendation would only be advisory, as it was in 2011.
Meanwhile, Van Bramer expressed disappointment with the entire four-year saga.
“The BSA too often pays little attention to the voices of our communities, not only in Woodside but throughout our city,” she said. “Large buildings are completely inappropriate on this stretch of Woodside Avenue.”
He said that he is looking to pass a series of bills to reform the BSA that will make community input and feedback a central focus.