Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Once Again, BSA Delays Vote On 280 Bond Street (The Proposed Site Of Rock and Roll Playhouse).

280 Bond Street, between between Sackett and Degraw Street
280 Bond Street
Board of Standard And Appeals Board hearing on June 17th, 2014
Board Of Standards And Appeals Chairperson Meenakshi SrinivasanIMG_0099
Lawyer Jack Lester representing We Are Gowanus (WAG)IMG_0103
Frank Napoli, Private Investigator
Katya Jestin of We Are Gowanus
Representative of NYC Department Of Buildings
Richard Lobel of  Sheldon Lobel representing the owner of 280 Bond Street
Kit Roane testifying for We Are Gowanus

Chart summary provided by We Are Gowanus of the evidence gathered by the group to date.
To enlarge, click on the photo.
Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.41.52 PM
Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.38.24 PM

On Tuesday, June 17th, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) once again heard the case of 280 Bond Street, a brick warehouse building in Gowanus abutting six residential townhouses that developer Peter Shapiro hopes to turn into the Rock And Roll Playhouse.

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.
Before Shapiro can proceed with his plans to open his music school / jazz club, the Board needs to determine if the previous non-conforming use of the building can be continued. 

The case was brought in front of the BSA by We Are Gowanus (WAG), a group of neighborhood residents, who are fighting to prevent the establishment of the music venue. The group maintains that the R6-B zone should be enforced because the non-conforming use of the building was discontinued for more than two years.

Alvin Isacowitz, the building's owner, claims that he continuously ran his plumbing business, Excellence in Plumbing & Heat, at that location until signing a lease and turning over the building to Peter Shapiro in 2012.

So far, Isacowitz has been unable to submit viable evidence to substantiate his claim. In fact, under sworn testimony to the DA in a 2011 criminal matter, Isacowitz stated that his business had stopped operating in 2008. His testimony points to an interruption of his business for more than two years prior to 2012.

At the first hearing on this matter in January2014, no significant evidence of an actual business at 280 Bond Street was provided. BSA Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan instructed the attorney for the owner to produce evidence for the next hearing.

At the second BSA hearing on April 1st,  Isacowitz's legal council was able to provided a few DOB permits tied to another Excellence in Plumbing & Heat business address -- critically not 280 Bond Street -- but provided no employee records, no tax returns, no invoices, no receipts, no work logs, and no bank statements.  Isacowitz's lawyer claimed to the BSA that his client’s financial advisor had told him to destroy all such documentation. 

Once again, the BSA decided to provide more time for the owner to prove that he maintained his business through 2012.

Which brings us to yesterday's BSA hearing.  Lawyer Jack Lester, representing We Are Gowanus, presented the Board with letters of support from both State Assembly Member Joan Millman and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.  The second submission to the Board was a chart summary of the evidence gathered to date. (See charts above)

Lester pointed out that despite the extra time given by the BSA, Mr. Isacowitz has produce "no receipt, no evidence that any materials were bought or sold, no exchanges with customers." More importantly, there are no tax returns for the period in question.

Lester referred once again to Isacowitz’s own sworn testimony to the Manhattan District Attorney in a 2011 criminal matter.   Under oath, Isacowitz claimed that he stopped operating his business in 2008 and had no active business at the location from 2008-2011, which would support termination of the non-conforming use of the 280 Bond Street building. 
"Is there anything in the record, which is a sworn statement, that would contradict that?" Lester asked the Board.  "You can't reconcile these two issues. Either he is doing business, or he is not.  Allow Mr. Isacowitz to reconcile these contradictions himself.  Issue a subpoena." 

In his filings to the BSA, Mr. Isacowitz has claimed to be too ill to attend the hearings and to testify in person. However, documentary evidence that Mr Isacowitz is ambulatory and should be able to testify under oath before the BSA was handed to the Board by We Are Gowanus yesterday.

A vote on this matter has been scheduled by Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan for August 12, 2014.


Anonymous said...

The evidence is clear. Bravo We Are Gowanus !!

Mrs. G said...

Really like how you organized and did your research! You go guys(WAG). Fiht the good fight!!!Power to the People!!!