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Apparent loophole in NYC Zoning Resolution section covering ‘Special Provisions for Existing Small Lots’ allows construction

The Department of Buildings allows ‘thin house’ construction in Throggs Neck to continue in ‘fluke’

Bronx Times
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Something smells on Revere Avenue, and it seems to be a fluke.

According to a highly technical analysis of information provided to Councilman James Vacca’s office and the Bronx Times by the NYC Department of Buildings, the ‘thin house’ at 848 Revere Avenue in Throggs Neck actually appears to comply with an obscure section of the New York City Zoning Resolution that allows two-family homes to be built on lots smaller in width than is normally permitted under the current zoning.

Because the undersized lot in question, which is in a Lower Density Growth Management Area, and the adjoining properties, were not owned by the same individuals on December 8, 2005, the date the rezoning went into effect, it falls into a special category.

Section 23-33 of the citywide zoning resolution permits the construction of a two-family residence in an R3A zone when a lot “that has less than minimum lot area, or lot width,” meets the zoning’s density requirements. This section is called ‘Special Provisions for Existing Small Lots’.

Thus the waif-like house, only a mere 14-feet wide, on a 22-foot wide lot, should be legal if it complies with all other regulations.

A Stop Work Order imposed for months was lifted in November, and construction resumed after an exhaustive review of the plans and ownership records by the DOB. This included a review by a senior plan examiner, sources said.

“The Stop Work Order on this property was rescinded after the applicant amended its plans to demonstrate compliance with all necessary building codes and zoning regulations,” stated a DOB spokesman.

Councilman Vacca, who fought for the 2003 reduction in density of new construction when he was district manager of Community Board 10, labeled the Revere Avenue situation a “fluke.”

The apparent loophole should not affect the downzoning put in place in the last decade to halt overdevelopment, the councilman asserted.

“People should understand that by no means does this mean that the downzoning is no longer in effect,” Vacca said. “This is a rare exception.”

Vacca cautioned that he is still monitoring the situation, saying that a permit for construction of a garage at the site had yet to be approved according to the DOB searchable database.

He added he does not believe that the house is in context with the others on the block.

CB 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns sought to clarify a previous report in the Bronx Times that said that the board had reviewed the project with others.

The board reviewed the project after the Stop Work Order was issued, he said, but separately. He added that the councilman, the community board, and the community all supported a DOB review of the plans.

John Marano, CB 10 first vice-chairman, said he will ask the board to look into the present zoning regulations, and if they find any other loopholes, they will open conversations with Councilman Vacca about closing them.

“The builders and architects find the loopholes so they can build what they want,” said Marano. “Our job is to look into these loopholes and correct them, so it cannot happen again.”

Normally, in R3A zones, the lot width has to be at least 25 feet, and the lot area needs to be no less than 2,375 square feet. There is also a requirement, normally, that the rear yard be a minimum of 30 feet to the rear property line.

Vacca said that he is also monitoring several other potential future development sites in his district, and is being vigilant as the economy improves and more construction will likely be started.

He stressed that the changes he fought for when he was CB 10 district manager reduce the density of future developments, but do not stop construction, remarking that even President Obama could not stop development.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Posted 12:00 am, December 5, 2014
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