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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

247-251 West 29th Street, application to amend previous variance to allow residential on the 2nd floor.

WHEREAS, 249 West 29 Owners Corp. is the owner of 247-251 West 29th Street, a 62,500 square foot mixed-use building with 15 stories and a 2-story extension located in the newly re-zoned M1-6D district; and

WHEREAS, this once all-commercial building was made mixed-use in 1980 when a Variance was granted by the BSA that permitted the conversion of floors 3 to 15 from commercial to residential use but the BSA did not permit the 2nd floor to be residential because of the opposition of one commercial tenant who vacated the building shortly thereafter; and

WHEREAS, the Applicant is now requesting that the 2nd floor be converted to residential use arguing that commercial occupancy on the 6,610 sq. ft. 2nd floor is incompatible with the residential occupancies on the upper floors and not suitable for commercial use due to the building's physical structure, the units are too small to accommodate the types of commercial uses operating in the neighborhood, the location of structural walls prevent combining the three 2nd floor units into a more marketable single large unit, and having only one lobby and elevator for both residential and commercial tenants creates access, egress, and security issues; and

WHEREAS, since the 1980 variance, a period followed that saw several economic downturns and a deterioration of the neighborhood's fur industry and other manufacturing activities, but despite these conditions, the building made numerous efforts to rent the 2nd floor units to various commercial tenants that were suitable for the units and who paid their rent but experienced numerous problems with extreme noise, security violations, and other disturbances that threatened the habitability of the residential units on the upper floors as well as problems with rent arrears leading to multiple evictions, creating hardships for the building's owners and occupants; and

WHEREAS, starting in the mid-1990's, the building began to attract tenants in creative businesses who rented the units on the 2nd floor as work spaces but also began to illegally occupy them as live-work spaces and when the building became a cooperative, two of the three 2nd floor tenants became shareholders in the cooperative; and

WHEREAS, the Applicant wishes to legalize what has become a highly stable live-work use that has been in place for over ten years; and

WHEREAS, granting the variance will not change the zoning and commercial use will still be permitted on the 2nd floor, nor will it violate the spirit of the new M1-6D zoning district which has as one of its purposes to protect buildings with concentrations of Class B office space which is not the case with this application; and

WHEREAS, the BSA has not taken any action or filed complaints against the building or coop pertaining to this illegal use and all physical aspects of the building are said to be to code; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of the application to amend the previous BSA variance to allow residential use on the 2nd floor of 247-251 West 29th Street.

The above resolution passed by a vote of 33 in favor, 0 opposed, 2 abstaining.

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