On Sunday, August 28, 2016, LW! attorney (and board member) David Rosenberg emailed Community Board 7 (CB7) to call for Congregation Shearith Israel’s application to construct an inappropriate new building on the midblock of West 70th Street (in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, and adjacent to the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, an Individual Landmark) to be sent back to CB7’s Land Use Committee after extensive deficiencies in the application came to light:
To CB7 Chair + Land Use Committee Co-Chairs
As you know, this firm has represented, for many years, Landmark West! and neighbors of the site of the new community house and luxury condominium apartments, at 8 West 70th Street, proposed to be constructed by Congregation Shearith Israel (“CSI”).
In 2008, over the strenuous objections of CB7, Landmark West!, many elected public officials and members of the community, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (“BSA”) issued a resolution (the “Resolution”) granting CSI multiple variances from important Zoning Resolution requirements, based, in significant part, on CSI’s claimed: “programmatic needs” for additional and expanded classroom space; and desire to “monetize its [claimed] zoning rights” to construct and sell the luxury condominium apartments.
Thereafter, CSI made multiple filings, significantly converting proposed classroom space — the basis for many of the variances granted by BSA — to office space.
After the office space proposal was rejected by the Department of Buildings as being not “substantially similar” to the proposed classroom space authorized by BSA, CSI abandoned that proposal and “relabeled” the office space as classrooms in its most recent BSA filings.
When CSI presented its “relabeled” sketches to CB7’s Land Use Committee, it claimed that: the new proposal was but a “minor amendment” of its 2008 proposal and that it required an after-the-fact extension of its time to “complete construction” of its proposed new building based upon a claim that it had been delayed by litigation brought by Landmark West! and others.
The Land Use Committee rejected CSI’s claim that the changes in CSI’s new proposal were “minor”, but (informally) supported CSI’s request for additional time, based upon CSI’s misrepresentations of the reasons for its delayed construction.
In my July 25, 2016 email to the Land Use Committee, I pointed out CSI’s misrepresentations that had resulted in the Land Use Committee vote (with a bare quorum).
During the July 20, 2016 Land Use Committee public hearing, Co-Chair Richard Asche suggested to CSI’s attorney and other representatives that they agree to provide further information responsive to the Committee’s questions and requests and adjourn the vote until the next scheduled Land Use Committee meeting.
CSI rejected Mr. Asche’s reasonable suggestion and demanded that the bare quorum in attendance vote that night.
On August 25, 2016, in response to repeated Freedom of Information Law requests, we finally obtained, from BSA, the attached BSA August 12, 2016 letter to Zachary Bernstein, CSI’s recently substituted attorney, together with a 3 page list of 40 questions and requests for documents as to CSI’s application “which raises issues that need to be addressed before these applications may be calendared by the Board (of Standards and Appeals) for a hearing.”
BSA’s August 12, 2016 letter to CSI expressly requires:
“A copy of all materials sent in response to these objections must also be submitted to the Community Board(s)….”
The BSA August 12, 2016 letter to CSI establishes that:
The proposal submitted by CSI to CB7’s Land Use Committee was not complete or capable of intelligent review by the Land Use Committee; and
The July 20, 2016 vote taken by a bare quorum of the Land Use Committee was based upon a materially incomplete submission by CSI.
As of today, CB7’s website states, with respect to the next full CB7 meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 6, 2016: “Proposed Agenda will be uploaded in late August.”
We understand that CSI’s application may be on the agenda for the September 6, 2016 CB7 meeting.
In view of the 40 items to which CSI must respond before its application is deemed complete, the fact that many members of the CB7 community are on vacation and the fact that Tuesday September 6, 2016 is the first day after the 3 day Labor Day weekend, this is to suggest and request that CSI’s proposal not be placed on the agenda of the CB7 full Board meeting scheduled for September 6, 2016, but that CSI’s proposal be returned to the Land Use Committee for review AFTER CSI has complied with BSA’s required response to the 40 items listed in its August 12, 2016 letter.
Marcus Rosenberg & Diamond LLP
Board of Standards & Appeals August 12, 2016, letter to Congregation Shearith Israel