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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

230 West 27th: Street application by the Fashion Institute of Technology for a variance to enlarge a portion of that building to accommodate relocation of the campus bookstore and construction a new educational facility

WHEREAS, The applicant, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York college, and sole property owner of 230 West 27th Street (the "Building"), is seeking a variance under New York Zoning Resolution ("ZR") § 72-01 and § 72-21 to enlarge the rear area of a portion of the Building to create sufficient space to relocate its existing bookstore and construct a new educational facility ("Studio X") in the space the bookstore previously occupied (together, the "Proposed Modification"); and

WHEREAS, FIT's Proposed Modification has been denied by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) pursuant to ZR § 33-10 for nonconformity with applicable FAR limitations and has therefore been referred to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) under ZR § 72-21; and

WHEREAS, New York law suggests that not-for-profit educational institutions, like FIT, are entitled to significant and unique deference under the ZR when asserting that programmatic needs satisfy the "unique physical conditions" finding under the ZR variance test; and

WHEREAS; New York law further suggests that such deference is not absolute and is particularly limited when a proposed expansion by an educational or religious institution would adversely impact the public health or welfare; and

WHEREAS, FIT is such an educational institution and therefore entitled to unique deference under the ZR; and

WHEREAS, The Proposed Modification will directly enable FIT to carry out its educational mission by 1) providing sufficient space to relocate its campus bookstore and 2) thereby free up space previously occupied by the bookstore to construct new and vital educational programming (Studio X); and

WHEREAS, Under BSA precedent, FIT's bookstore, which provides educational materials to students, is accessory to FIT's mission, but nonetheless sufficiently connected to its core educational programming to receive deference under the ZR uniqueness finding; and

WHEREAS, FIT has considered alternative locations for its bookstore to free up space for its other programmatic needs, but is challenged by the Building's core and lobby; and

WHEREAS, The Proposed Modification and relocation of the bookstore will not alter the essential neighborhood character because a bookstore is permitted as of right in a C6-2 zoning district and the bookstore will result in modest improvements; and

WHEREAS, Construction of the new Studio X in the current bookstore space is below grade and will not alter neighborhood character; and

WHEREAS, The hardship that FIT seeks to remedy with this Proposed Modification has not been self-created, but rather arises directly from FIT's unique educational programming needs and physical conditions; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five is satisfied that FIT's proposed modifications – exceeding applicable FAR limitations by 0.1 – is the minimum variance; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of a variance under ZR § 72-21 to accommodate FIT's Proposed Modification facilitating the relocation of its bookstore and construction of the planned Studio X at 230 West 27th Street.

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