There are always ways to get around zoning laws and the most common is called a variance.
This is an action where an owner will approach the city and say hey, I need to do this… but the law says I can’t, but if I can’t do this….. I will lose money. Normally documentation will be given to support the owner’s assumption, a hearing done and then a final decision.
Another loophole is to apply for a "special " permit, that would allow a developer to override the existing zoning restrictions in an already protected community, which has height limits.
Below are two examples of these common loopholes.
Mandatory Inclusionary Housing "MIH" Loopholes
The Mandatorily Inclusionary Housing, "MIH" plan that has just been entered into law, March 2016, which 52 out of 59 Community boards rejected, basically states that a developer can build 33% more buildable space but they must provide "affordable" housing.
One of the main arguments in opposition of the "MIH", was based on the ability of developers to take advantage of the increase buildable space but not provide the affordable units, because of a loophole in the proposed laws allowing developers to apply for a special permit. This loophole is currently being tested by a developer in a historic district in Manhattan, where the developer wants to build 4 stories higher than the current limit and not provide affordable housing.
Western Beef, which is on the corner of Empire Blvd and Washington Ave, is sitting on three zoning parcels, R5, R71 and C82. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/zone/map16d.pdf Most of the land is the C82 (which means it is commercial) and has always been used as a commercial property. However, a developer knows the loophole of a variance, and is intending to buy this land and then apply for a variance to convert the entire land into an R71, (which is residential without height limits) giving him the right to build a 25 story (we did the calculations based upon Western Beef square footage!)
residential luxury complex (possibly with tax payer’s money!)
When we were at Department of City Planning in late Spring of 2014, and Jeff, a home owner who lives behind western beef, mentioned the three zoning parcels, City Planning said oh don’t worry about that, they won’t build up on a little bit of land on the R sections, but he failed to tell us about the variance. This is why you can’t negotiate with City Planning, because there are too many loopholes that they won’t disclose that developers know and will implement as City Planning tells us don’t worry!
Do we know all the loopholes? No, only well verse experience lawyers, developers
and city planners really know. That is why negotiating with City Planning is dangerous.
Not to put ourselves into this is the best defense. No residential on Empire!
We prevent City Planning from doing a study of our community, we fight any development that is attempting to get funding to circumvent our goals for our community and we sue in a Brooklyn Supreme Court to protect ourselves.
Again this information has been simplified but it accurate.