Playing the blame game - Agencies duck rap for missed signals

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Sometimes, late isn’t better than never.

Take a recent action by Community Board 6. The board recently rejected an application that allows the continued use of 70-84 Sullivan Street as a carpentry shop, warehouse and business office.

Unfortunately for critics of the proposal, the board handed down its decision after the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), the city panel with official say on the matter, already gave its blessing.

Local residents like Molly Rouzie have long challenged the often-amended proposal, whose scope at one time sought to include 115 King Street.

She said the trucks and other potentially noxious uses are not welcome on the block, which was at one time entirely residential. Moreover, she noted, the Sullivan Street property stands across a narrow street from Public School 15.

“It is never appropriate for a Use Group 16 to be across the street from an elementary school,” Rouzie said.

In the language of city planners, use groups describe what may be allowed in a given area, with 1 being only residential, and 18, the most intense industrial uses.

Rouzie said that for months, the community board made every effort to hear concerns from local residents.

“But in the end, Community Board 6 fell down on the job by not notifying the BSA of its Land Use Committee’s unanimous vote [against the proposal] in July.”

Craig Hammerman, the district manager of board, said it is up to the applicant or its representatives to notify the board of a BSA hearing date.

“I don’t know that we were notified at all that the BSA was acting,” he said. “Clearly, we would have made our submission in a timely way.”

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that an application would knowingly withhold that information from the BSA when the community board’s recommendation wasn’t favorable,” Hammerman added.

At press time, the firm of Sheldon Lobel, representing property owner High Tech Park Inc., according to city records, did not return a call for comment.

At the board’s Sept. 10 meeting, members unanimously rejected the proposal, and recommended the dispatch of a letter to BSA, asking the panel to reexamine the allowable use group on the block.

“If we knew the BSA was going to act before our meeting, we would have convened a meeting of our executive committee over the summer,” he added.

The King Street property will revert back to residential use, something cheered by Rouzie and groups like the Red Hook Civic Association. The group advocates for the restoration of the neighborhood’s residential population, which has diminished since its heyday decades ago.

The BSA’s decision, handed down August 26, will allow the property to keep the current uses for two years, until the application is reviewed once more. The previous variance had expired six years ago, board members noted.

Rouzie said the biggest problem is not the current tenants, but who may be allowed to set up shop in the future. “A precedent is being set by granting another two years,” she sad.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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