The City Council is set to discuss a package of bills Wednesday that would make it harder for property owners to bend the city's zoning laws, as they typically request in order to building bigger projects than would normally be allowed.
The 10 bills target the Board of Standards and Appeals, an obscure city body where owners argue that it is impossible to make a reasonable return developing a property without surpassing limits on things like the size and shape of buildings. A property might be oddly shaped, for example, preventing projects that conform to the zoning and are big enough to justify the investment. In order to make the economics pencil out, an owner might ask the board to relax height restrictions so more revenue-generating apartments could fit on the site.
According to the Manhattan councilman sponsoring five of the bills—which are to be heard Wednesday by the Committee on Governmental Operations—the board is persuaded too frequently. In 2011, it approved 97% of applications, many of which were opposed by local community boards.