Stop hammer time! Ridgites want freeze on home-enlargement permits

Brooklyn Daily
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They won’t permit it any longer!

The city must repeal provisions letting Ridgites drastically increase the size of their houses, because homeowners are turning the neighborhood into a hodgepodge of McMansions, local leaders say. The Department of City Planning is considering no longer extending so-called “special permits” to residents who want to enlarge their one- and two-family homes bigger than zoning allows. The agency created such permits to help families grow in place — so homeowners could build an extra bedroom for a child instead of moving out of the neighborhood, for example. But in practice, greedy speculators use it to make a quick buck, one critic said.

“It is used rampantly by people to buy property, build it up, and flip it for a profit,” said Michael Bistreich, legislation and budget director for Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “Repealing it will help keep neighborhood character and the housing market in the area intact.”

Community Board 10 opted into the program 20 years ago under the belief that the Board of Standards and Appeals — a city planning sub-agency that grants the permits — would ensure that any expansions would not “alter the essential character of the neighborho­od,” and that the community board would have some say in what permits were granted, according to a 1996 board report.

But since then, the city has rubber-stamped wildly inappropriate home expansions, according to a board honcho.

“In one case there was a street where all the homes had backyard gardens, and one homeowner wanted to build out into the backyard — we felt it changed the character of the block, but it was very subjective, because character wasn’t defined, and so the [Board of Standards and Appeals] granted the permit,” district manager Josephine Beckmann said.

The board tried to get rid of special permits a handful of times but never got far. Now the Department of City Planning has agreed to help draft an appeal to go before the City Council, which would have to sign off on the change.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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