Developer seeks zoning permit for project he won’t build

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A developer wants zoning variance for a building he doesn’t plan to build.

Architect Raymond Chan wants to construct a giant mixed-use development on a former manufacturing site at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street in Sunset Park, but he’ll need special permission to do so.

The city gave the lot’s previous owner a variance in 2007 for an 11-story apartment complex and a Home Depot, but the developer never broke ground.

Chan and a cadre of investors purchased the land earlier this year, and now he wants to renew that variance before it expires — even though it wouldn’t allow him to build the massive project he plans.

Chan said he wants to re-up the superfluous variance because it will make it easier for him to secure an even larger one when he files the actual plans, which vastly exceed the 2007 project’s size.

This permit prestidigitation had required some dubious paperwork manipulation.

The city doesn’t give variances unless applicants submit building plans, but Chan’s actual plans would immediately trigger a lengthy public review process, so the architect filed a schematic the lot’s previous owner drew up in 2007 for the earlier plans — even though he doesn’t have any intention to execute the 7-year-old design.

“He wants to preserve this variance as a baseline,” said Joanne Seminara, who sits on Community Board 10’s Land Use Committee.

The lot — about the size of three football fields — is zoned for manufacturing, and the existing variance allows for a mixed-use building with a total floor area roughly three times the lot’s size, city records show.

Chan’s actual project — which would be more than six times the size of the lot — would include a Chelsea Market-style mall, a hotel, and two residential towers, and he’ll need a bigger variance to make that plan a reality, but preventing the existing special permit from lapsing will shorten the public review process his actual plan must undergo, according to his attorneys.

The CB10’s land use committee plans to recommend that the full board not support the renewal of the old variance at its Nov. 17 meeting, but the developer doesn’t need the board’s support.

“On the range of city planning actions, this is one that involves less deliberati­on,” said Chan’s attorney Rich Lobel.

Instead, the developer’s transparency is intended as a show of good will to the board that will influence whether he gets the bigger variance down the road, the architect said.

“Anything that we do will have to come before you,” Chan told the committee.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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