Saturday, May 27, 2017

Board of Standards and Appeals Reform Legislation Passes New York City Council

City Hall – Yesterday, the New York City Council passed a package of legislation aimed at reforming the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). In the past developers have been able to circumvent city zoning laws restricting building forms, use, height, density, through the BSA even though local Community Boards and elected officials objected to their decisions. This legislation aims to reform applications, decisions, notifications, staffing and transparency around the BSA to be more accountable to the public. The BSA is a five-member body tasked with reviewing requests for variances and special permits related to affordable housing and city planning in the zoning law. The package includes nine bills and featured bipartisan support from sponsors including Governmental Operations Chair Ben Kallos, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Minority Leader Steven Matteo and Council Members Karen Koslowitz (D-29) and Donovan Richards (D-31).

Application Reform:

Introduction 1392-A, by Kallos – Sets minimum application requirements for developers to show why zoning laws should not apply to them including key financial disclosures with analysis by real estate professionals, neighborhood studies showing unique conditions, and affirmations under penalties of perjury with fines for knowing violations of up to $15,000.

Decision Reforms:

Introduction 418-A, by Koslowitz – The BSA will be required to write decisions with responses to recommendations from Community Boards and Borough Boards.
Introduction 282-A, by Van Bramer - The BSA will be required to write decisions that respond to any relevant evidence and arguments submitted by the City Planning Commission, Community Boards, Borough Boards, lessees and tenants as well as owners.

Notification Reforms:

Introduction 1200-A, by Richards –Proof of service will be required for applications and materials mailed to Council Members, Borough Presidents, Community Boards and other city agencies, with verification of receipt to be posted online.
Introduction 514-A, by Matteo - Notifies property owners when variances are expiring and penalties will be incurred in the coming six months.

City Staffing Reforms:

Introduction 1390-A, by Kallos -The Department of City Planning will appoint a BSA coordinator to appear before the BSA to submit testimony in defense of the zoning resolution, and such testimony would be available online.
Introduction 1391-A, by Kallos - A state certified real estate appraiser with no less than 5 years’ experience will be available to work for or consult with the BSA to review and analyze real estate financials provided by developers.

Transparency Reforms:

Introduction 1393-A, by Kallos - The number of pre-application meeting requests, number of applications, number approved or denied, and an average length of time until a decision would be reported biannually.
Introduction 1394-A, by Kallos – The location of all variances and special permit applications acted upon by the Board since 1998 would be available as a list and a layer on an interactive map of the city.

“We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents. Developers will have, to be honest in applications that include the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The Board of Standards and Appeals will have to consider community objections and write decisions outlining why they disagree. The City Planning Commission will have to watch over our zoning laws,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has oversight of the Board of Standards and Appeals. “Thank you to the Municipal Art Society and Citizens Union for their reports and guidance, Borough President Brewer, as well as Council Members Koslowitz, Matteo, Richards, and Majority Leader Van Bramer for their long-standing leadership on this issue, and our Community Boards who fight the Board of Standards and Appeals on behalf of all New Yorkers every day.”


JQ LLC said...

Too little too late. Because the tower pestilence already occurred and there are still more to come thanks to Mario's son's official 5 year tax abatement giveaway. The predator developers (DEVILopers?) already won.

This legislation should have been done on day one of De faustio's term, since he declared that he wanted to end the tale of 2 cities. But starting a slush fund in the guise of instituting Pre-K and the council's own selfish needs in getting an undeserved raise had to come first. Now we got 65,000 homeless people and shelters and jails coming to towns to put them in

Anonymous said...

The most important needed reform is not in any of the bills: The final decision should be left to an elected official, like a Borough president, who is accountable to the voters. BSA members are not elected and not accountable to the voters, and BSA should be used only as the first step in the process, to only give its view on the technical aspects of the application.

Anonymous said...

This actually doesn't seem too bad. If anything, it's not enough.

Anonymous said...

Most sensible would be an effort to use the BSA as it was intended: to prevent zoning regulations from effectively acting as a "taking" of the owners'property rights. Which means the developers who bought property AFTER the zoning regulations went into effect cannot argue that they lost something: thy didn't have it to begin with.