May 29, By Christian Murray
The city council passed several pieces of legislation last week to rein in the Building Standards & Appeals after claiming that the city agency grants zoning variances with little regard to the views of the public.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (Sunnyside) was a sponsor of one of the bills that calls for the BSA to directly address the concerns of the public when it renders a decision.
“If the board votes against the apparent wants of a neighborhood, I believe that the members of the community who will ultimately live with the consequences of the Board’s decision deserve to know why.”
Several council members claim that the BSA has become a rubber stamp for developers. They cited a study conducted by Citizens Union in 2012 that found that the BSA ruled in favor of the applicants 97 percent of the time.
Another bill that passed, sponsored by Karen Koslowitz (Forest Hills), requires the BSA to provide a written explanation whenever it approves a variance contrary to the recommendations of the community
Several of the bills that passed call for accountability.
One of the bills now requires the BSA to list the number of applications it has approved or denied as well as the average length of time until a decision was rendered. Another bill requires the BSA to list all thee variances and special applications action upon since 1998 to be available on an interactive map of the city.
Ben Kellos (Manhattan), who sponsored several of the bills, said in a statement: “We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents.”