Tall building makes for short tempers

A half-built house on a quaint Sheepshead Bay street has become a lightning rod of discontent for keeping the neighborhood character intact.

Community Board 15 voted 27-2 with four abstentions to recommend rejecting Dr. Joseph Durzieh’s request that he be given a two-year extension to complete the house he is building at 1882 East 12th Street.

Durzieh came to the board as part of the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals process to try to complete a large 53-foot home that has been under construction for four years.

The brouhaha over the construction began in Feb. 2006, when the Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay neighborhood was downzoned from allowing roughly a six-story building to requirements that mandate a maximum height of about 35 feet.

Durzieh raced to put in the foundation footings before the new law took effect, which also gave him a two-year extension to build the larger building he planned for the site.

From 2006 through 2008, Durzieh did some work on the building, and reportedly just recently began work again on the project.

“From February 2008 until now he disappeared off the earth and now he wants two years more,”said Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo.

Scavo said while Durzieh looked at the issue as one where he invested enough time and money, “the outcry from two neighbors was unbelievable.”

The neighbors, Betty Travitsky and Bella Center, hired attorney Stuart Klein, who argued in front of CB 15 that his clients didn’t want the house there because it’s a monstrosity, and more important, it doesn’t conform to the building code for multiple reasons.

“There should have been a new building application because if more than 50 percent of the exterior walls are removed and the floors are removed and part of the foundation is modified, they have to put in a new building application which would radically change the footprint of the building,” said Klein.

Klein said that in order for Durzieh to secure vested rights, he has to show he can’t develop the property under the new R41 zoning that allows only a three-story building.

The community board asked the applicant on Feb. 10 why he can’t develop the property under the new zoning and he has yet to respond, said Klein.

“When you’re tying to show vested rights, you have to show you can’t develop under new zoning without a lot of money and that inequity is manifest,” said Klein.

Klein said the applicant continues to work on the building long after the expiration date for completion.

As matter of law, he explained, you have two years to complete a project and it was never completed. Now he is coming for an additional two-years, said Klein.

Durzieh’s attorney, Lyra Altman, argued before the board that her client had already expended about $158,000 on the building and there would be considerable financial hardship not to finish it.

Follow-up calls to Durzieh were directed to Altman, who did not return several calls.