On October 16, 2018, the Park West community and the children of PS 163 won a significant victory. The Appellate Division, First Department, ruled in favor of a zoning challenge brought by neighborhood residents claiming that there was not enough open space on the proposed site to construct a nursing home or any other building because the nursing home and the property owner were trying to count as open space two rooftop gardens in the luxury 808 Columbus Avenue building that were neither open nor accessible to the residents of the three Park West Village buildings on the same zoning lot. Under the New York City Zoning Resolution, open space is defined as space that is “open” and “accessible” to all persons residing on a zoning lot, and the Appellate Division stated that this “clear and unambiguous” language precluded the nursing home and the property owner from counting the inaccessible roof top gardens as open space for purposes of satisfying the minimum open space requirements for the proposed facility.
On October 17, 2018, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell wrote a letter to Mayor de Blasio stating that the Appellate Division decision provided much-needed relief to the community which had passionately opposed the construction of the nursing home on the grounds that it would expose seniors and children to unnecessary risks from toxic levels of lead, and exacerbate traffic congestion and impede emergency response time. On November 1, 2018, Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Mark Levine wrote a letter to the New York City Corporation Counsel, Zachary Carter, urging him not to appeal the Appellate Division decision on the grounds that sound public policy required that the maximum amount of open space on a lot be accessible to the maximum number of residents, and that the community strongly opposed the project.
Notwithstanding the powerful reasons advanced by our elected officials to refrain from filing an appeal, the Corporation Counsel did the opposite and filed a motion for permission to appeal the case to the state’s highest court, the NY State Court of Appeals. The Corporation Counsel parroted the same bogus arguments made by the nursing home and the property owner that the Court’s decision would have a harmful effect on real estate development in general, including residential developments, affordable housing units, and existing housing stock. It is clear that the primary purpose of this filing was to enable the mayor to throw his support for the real estate industry against a decision that benefitted the Park West Community and PS 163. A sad reminder that once again, “Blaz chose cronies over kids.”
Concerned parents and neighbors should call 311 and tell Mayor de Blasio to stop this dangerous project.