March 6, 2017
Hon. Margery Perlmutter, Chair
NYC Board of Standards and Appeals
250 Broadway, 29th Floor
New York, NY 10007
Dear Chair Perlmutter:
Mayor Bill de Blasio admits – publicly, on NY1 television – that he pulls strings at city agencies for friends. The fact that you and your colleagues on the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) voted to approve Congregation Shearith Israel’s West 70th Street luxury condominium project on the same day (February 28, 2017) as the New York Post reported on Mayor de Blasio’s blasé statement that it is “perfectly appropriate” for a chief to interfere with agency decisions strikes us as sadly consistent with New York City’s reprehensible “pay-to-play” culture. This attitude is the root cause of so many of New York City’s – and our country’s – problems.
The public wants to know, how many times did the Mayor, his staff, or any of the lobbyists funding his re-election campaign contact the BSA about Congregation Shearith Israel’s application?
It is a fact that Congregation Shearith Israel, a politically and financially powerful synagogue, paid de Blasio crony Capalino + Company more than $60,000 to lobby the City to approve its flawed and dishonest “hardship” application for building height and setback variances, over intense community opposition. If the Mayor pulled strings, they weren’t for the community.
Your approval of this application will result in a building that will be the tallest building ever approved in a neighborhood midblock since the creation of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District and low-rise contextual zoning. It will shatter the quality of life of its neighbors. String-pulling on behalf of Congregation Shearith Israel will cost those neighbors a lot more than economic value in their properties.
Your statement at the January 10, 2017, public hearing that the BSA commissioners “never see fully developed design drawings” when deciding on whether applicants deserve extraordinary relief from zoning laws – and determining whether variances constitute the minimum necessary to afford relief – undercuts the credibility of your agency and the City’s land-use regulations. You are sending a signal to well-connected property owners to engage in speculative development at the public’s expense.
Unfortunately for all New Yorkers, that will be Mayor de Blasio’s legacy, and yours.