The (Forever?) Iron Triangle

Last week, opponents of the Bloomberg Administration’s plan to redevelop Willets Point found themselves cheering a move by the Mayor. The Administration withdrew its legal request to utilize eminent domain in the 12-acre Queens neighborhood.

In 2008, the area – which currently and historically has been used for automotive and industrial uses – was rezoned. Mayor Bloomberg’s vision was a mixed-use neighborhood with retail, residential, hotel and other uses. Adjacent to the new Mets ballpark, close to the subway and several highways, the vision for the neighborhood was quite grand. Continue reading

Judge Sides with City in Adult Use Zoning Case

This week, the New York Supreme Court decided in favor of the City in an “adult use” zoning case (For the People Theatres of NY Inc. v City of New York), drawing yet another chapter to a close in the ongoing saga of adult establishments vs. the City of New York.  As a result of this decision, which places substantial additional limits on the location of adult uses, a number of adult book and video stores that have been operating as “60/40” establishments — businesses where only 40% or less of the floor area is occupied by adult uses — will likely have to close or move elsewhere.  The case, which dates to 2002 (and was remanded from the Court of Appeals), was in response to a 2001 amendment to the Zoning Resolution expanding the definition of “adult establishment.” However, the controversy over the regulation of adult establishments in the Zoning Resolution dates back to at least 1995, when the ZR was originally amended to classify adult establishments as different from other commercial uses.  Continue reading

Once a “Development”, always a “Development”? City loses lawsuit, subsequently aims to overhaul entire Zoning Resolution!

161 E. 94th St.

Image from Google Streetview

In 2007, an owner of an upper east side townhouse submitted a proposal to the Department of City Planning requesting permission to convert the townhouse basement into a 1-car garage.  Doing so would require creating a 9’2” curb cut in front of the property in question.

The Department of City Planning rejected the application, citing Section 25-633 of the zoning resolution:

In the districts indicated, curb cuts are prohibited for residential developments on zoning lots having a width of less than 40 feet…

City Planning felt that this section disqualified the applicant, since the property: Continue reading

Officially Blighted: Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Atlantic Yards

The New York State Court of Appeals, in a 4-3 decision, ruled today in favor of Forest City Ratner and the proposed Atlantic Yards development.  While this decision is being widely reported, the reasoning behind the decision could benefit from some further scrutiny.

The decision (warning: PDF) was based on the public benefit gained from the removal of blight, not the public benefit of the proposed use itself.  Much of the discussions surrounding eminent domain in recent years (stemming mainly from the Kelo v. New London case) has not had to do with blight specifically, but rather the benefit to the public gained from economic development projects.  The Atlantic Yards decision, however, focuses on blight and whether or not the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESDC”) made its case that this area was blighted. Continue reading

City Planning’s Rezoning of Sunset Park Faces Legal Challenge

A coalition of well-known civic and community organizations have filed a lawsuit in NYS Supreme Court challenging the adequacy of City Planning’s environmental review process for the recently-adopted rezoning of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  The Sunset Park rezoning contextually downzoned portions of the Brooklyn neighborhood, but also included an upzoning along the avenues. Continue reading

New York High Court Rules in Stuy Town Case

In the closely watched Stuyvesant Town case, New York’s highest court ruled today that buildings enrolled in the J-51 tax abatement program are not subject to the rent stabilization law’s luxury decontrol provisions.  Thousands of buildings throughout New York City are enrolled in the J-51 program, which grants property tax benefits in return for the performance of capital improvements to an existing multiple dwelling or the conversion of a non-residential building to a multiple dwelling.

The ruling upsets a decade-old assumption, supported by a 1996 advisory opinion issued by DHCR, the state agency charged with administering rent stabilization, that enrollment in the J-51 program does not preclude deregulation.  There are myriad implications of the decision — which raises as many questions as it answers.

We will be watching this closely and hope to update you soon on the fallout from this significant decision.