CB13 votes unanimously for Z Best Car Wash variance

Z Best buddies

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The embattled Z Best Car Wash enjoyed overwhelming support from Community Board 13 Wednesday night, when the panel voted unanimously to approve the business’s latest variance hoop they’ve been forced to jump through by the city, despite protests from state Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz’s representative who asked the board to vote against the business.

“It is a travesty and embarrassment that the Department of Building’s has acted this way, and I think it’s a travesty that the politicians can’t speak the same language — that you have a politician that strongly supports this business and a politician that’s strongly against it,” said board member and architect Jack Suben. “I think it’s a shame that everybody has to come to this body just to speak with each other.”

Z Best had purchased the property on Coney Island Avenue between Avenues Y and Z, which had been a car wash since the 1950s, and received all the necessary permits to begin work there, according to attorney Eric Palatnik, who represents Z Best as they navigate the Board of Standards and Appeals’s tricky variance process. Permits in hand, the owners began a $1 million retrofit of the aging facilities to modernize the building and equipment.

But later the Department of Buildings began receiving a furious stream of complaints from nearby residents and Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’s office grumbling about the car wash’s noisy machinery. As a result, the business was audited not once, not twice, but three times before the city found enough evidence to revoke the permits it had already issued to the new owners before they sunk their life savings into the renovation.

“The job got audited, and the Department of Buildings went through their paperwork line by line to discredit their prior approvals,” said Palatnik, speaking before Community Board 13. “Everything past muster twice, and before a third review the job was allowed to continue, resulting in hundreds of thousands being invested in the property.”

By that point, however, Z Best had finished almost all of the work necessary to get their car wash operation up and running, which they did successfully for almost a year, before they were issued a padlock order from the Department of Buildings on the grounds that a zoning variance granted to the previous business was void. The city claimed — using pictures from Google Maps as evidence — that Z Best had not operated as a car wash for longer than two years, thus requiring Z Best to seek a new variance through the Board of Standards and Appeals.

Residents living nearby Z Best have complained about several issues regarding the car wash, including a gate which occasionally opens onto the adjoining Gerald Court to allow traffic from the Coney Island Avenue business onto the residential street, although owner Russell Shern says that exit is only used under special circumstances and that Z Best had hired a employee to direct traffic shortly before they were shut down.

The main concern among neighbors, however, has always been the car wash’s noisy machinery, a cause Assemblyman Cymbrowitz frequently cites as his motivation for his crusade against the business.

“The noise is by far the largest and most shared of concerns,” said Ilya Novofastovsky, speaking before Community Board 13 on behalf of the assemblyman.

But the meeting was attended by neighbors of the business, including Andy Mitchell, who lives in the house directly beside Z Best, and he lauded the car wash’s efforts to mitigate the noise. Mitchell said he was not in favor of destroying the owners’ investment.

“I’m going to be honest, they did reduce the noise level,” said Mitchell. “I’m not looking to close any business. I realize they invested a lot of money and, compared to the old car wash, their building is beautiful.”

Furthermore, as a condition of the board’s support, Shern agreed, in writing, to install a canopy that would reduce the noise level even further — although that would require the Department of Buildings to lift the stop-work order.

“From day one we wanted to eliminate the noise 100 percent,” said Shern. “In order to do that we wanted to enclose our machines in a canopy, but because of a stop-work order, we’re unable to do that.”

The business’s written commitment was not enough for Cymbrowitz’s representative.

“A yes [vote] means you’re getting carte blanche to make the promises you’re making, without holding you to them,” said Novofastovsky.

That promise was, however, enough for the community board, which gave Z Best their unanimous approval.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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