No decision made on proposed Bond Street building variances

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No decision made on proposed Bond Street building variances

The future of a proposed 61-unit apartment complex at 15 Bond St. in the Village of Great Neck Plaza is still up in the air after the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted to continue a hearing on variances sought for the project.
Paul Bloom, attorney for Effie Namdar of 14 Park Place LLC, which is seeking to build the complex, and Chris Prior, an attorney who represents residents from the four buildings surrounding the proposed dwelling, appeared at last Wednesday’s board meeting to plead their case for why or why not the variances should be granted.
Bloom said his client was seeking four variances to construct the building: one to exceed the number of floors permitted by village code, two relating to the construction of a two-level underground parking lot and one to exceed the maximum square-footage allowed by village code.
Village zoning laws permit three-story, 45-foot-tall buildings, while the applicant is seeking to build a four-story, 45-foot-tall building.
Bloom argued that the buildings surrounding 15 Bond St., Westminster Hall Apartments, located at 4 Maple Drive, and the Cartier Apartments, located at 21 Bond St., 22 Park Place and 25 Park Place, are more than three stories.
Prior said that the buildings are only three floors of residential units, while there is a fourth level which is partly below grade level, which was permitted by village code at the time of construction.
The total floor area of the proposed building, Bloom said, would be slightly more than 59,900 square feet. Village code permits the square-footage of a building to equal the total area of the property, or a 1:1 floor area ratio.
He argued that the surrounding buildings all had a greater floor area ratio than what is permitted by village code.
“I’ve got an average of 1.7 [floor area ratio] for the buildings right behind me that are telling me I’m too massive,” Bloom said. “Is that de minimis or is that massive?”
Prior and residents of the surrounding buildings said that granting the height and floor area variances would affect the character of the neighborhood.
Faith Cleary, chairwoman of the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals, said that while the buildings may not conform to code now, they did when they were constructed.
“The style of many of these buildings was acceptable in those days, they were allowed under code,” Cleary said. “We’re now dealing with another century.”
Bloom said both the engineers that his client hired and the engineers that the village hired worked for “many, many hours” to develop a plan for the proposed underground parking garage to combat resident noise and water drainage concerns.
He said his client agreed to use “screws” rather than pile drivers in constructing the garage to avoid causing vibrations in the surrounding buildings.
Bloom also said that there would be sufficient water drainage to handle up to eight inches of rainfall.
Prior said that since the proposed parking garage would be located up to the lot lines of both the north and south of the building, excavation for the two levels and the construction of the lot itself would cause a disruption to the surrounding neighbors.
He also said that his clients hired engineers to install monitoring wells at 22 Park Place and 21 Bond St. and found that there would not be sufficient water drainage with what is proposed.
Prior argued that if the applicant completed an as-of-right construction and did not seek any variances, it would both benefit the community and erase resident concerns.
“Every variance that’s being asked for here is built upon the other one,” he said. “Take one of them away and you don’t need any of the rest of it.”
Prior also said that the only benefit of the project was to ”make the investment more profitable to the developer.”
“Maximizing the economic benefits of a property owner is not a reason for a zoning board to grant a variance,” he said. “If that’s the benefit that we have, then that’s hard to understand that we’re even going any further.”
Zoning board members voted to adjourn the hearing to  Sept. 28  to allow for further comment from both sides.

By Joe Nikic

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