280 Bond Street
Lawyer Jack Lester representing We Are Gowanus (WAG)
Board Of Standards And Appeals Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan
Councilman Steve Levin
Representative of NYC Department Of Buildings
Property owner Sharon Ackerman
Did the New York City Department Of Buildings make a mistake when it issued permits for 280 Bond Street, an 6,621 SF industrial warehouse that impresario Peter Shapiro intends to turn into The Rock And Roll Playhouse (RRPH)?
Since 1961, when NYC Zoning districts were mapped, 280 Bond Street has housed a non-conforming use in a residential zone (R6 from 1961 - 2009, and R6-B since 2009) which only permits residential or community facility use.
Although the previous non-conforming uses in the residential zone are grandfathered and allowed continuing use, the R6-B zone has to be enforced when the non-conforming use is discontinued for two years.
We Are Gowanus (WAG), the group of residents who have been fighting to keep the proposed Rock And Roll Playhouse at 280 Bond Street from impacting their quality of life, claim that "Excellence in Plumbing", the business that was based at this location previously, had ceased operation long ago.
WAG reached out to the Brooklyn Building's Department to point out that the new music venue should not be allowed under the existing R6B zoning and to make the agency aware of the discontinued use.
But DOB issued building permits for the Rock And Roll Playhouse nonetheless.
The group ultimately sued the Buildings Department to force DOB to issue its decision and the basis for it. In a final NYC DOB determination issued on October 2, 2013, the agency was in opposition to WAG.
With the help of lawyer Jack Lester, We Are Gowanus has appealed this decision to the Board Of Standards and Appeals. The first public hearing was held yesterday at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan.
Jack Lester informed members of the BSA that there is insufficient evidence that Excellence in Plumbing has been in business at 280 Bond Street in the last couple of years. He has provided 14 affidavits from local residents to support this claim, as well as a Certificate of Dissolution that shows that the company was dissolved in 1999. In addition, the plumbing license was suspended in 2013.
"Right now we can say that there are no documentations supporting employee activity, no documentations showing business hours, no documentation showing income tax, no tax returns, no receipts, no invoices, no insurance," Lester told Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan and the other members of the board. "We have lots of work to do. We acknowledge that. More evidence needs to be revealed, but we think that if the case were to end right now, based on the legal standard established by this Board, confirmed by the Board of Appeals, it would show that the non-conforming use has come to an end."
Council Member Steve Levin also testify in favor of We Are Gowanus. "I want to let the Board know that I have been aware of the situation for a number of months. I have met with the business owner and and with the neighbors a couple of times," he told the board. "It is not up to me as to decide whether or not there has been continuous use. I am now aware of the standard. The evidence that has been shown to me is enough at least for me to recommend that this Board take another look at this issue." He concluded: "I think that when DOB opined on the issue, I don't think that they fully looked at the breath of evidence. More evidence has been gathered since that time. The new business would have a significant impact on that block. Therefore, this deserves the highest level of scrutiny."
A representative of the Department of Buildings did have to admit during the hearing that the additional evidence presented warrants a review. "It seems prudent that we would set a schedule and both the department and the BSA can look at the additional evidence the [building] owner may submit on the continued use of the business. If the evidence is not enough, we can issue an Intent To Revoke [the permit] and proceed accordingly."
Property owner Sharon Ackerman addressed the Board as well. She insisted that her husband's plumbing business continuously operated out of 280 Bond Street until turning over the building to Peter Shapiro, with whom they signed a lease in October 2011.
She insisted that she will submit all necessary documentation.
The Board of Standards And Appeal has scheduled a second hearing for March 25th.