Developers want to put up a taller building on East 14th Street than zoning allows, due to “extraordinary” costs resulting from an underground stream — but others say their claim is all wet.
Benenson Capital Partners and Mack Real Estate Group want to add four stories to a rental apartment building they’ve begun work on at 432 E. 14th St. that was previously meant to be eight stories. The 29,950-square-foot site lies between Avenue A and First Avenue and stretches through the block to East 13th Street.
The extra floors, which would all be on the 14th Street side, would increase the number of apartments from 114 to 155, 20 percent of which would be “affordable” in either case — but would require a zoning variance. The developers will make their “hardship” case on Tuesday before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.
The development team says the site is “burdened” by “unique conditions” that would result in “extraordinary construction costs.”
As a result, they say, they couldn’t make a profit on the original, smaller structure, which was compliant with zoning.
A mere 34 extra apartments might sound like small potatoes for two such big-league developers. Benenson has stakes in more than 150 properties around the US, including a 340,000-square-foot mixed-use tower on Brooklyn’s Livingston Street and the Hammacher Schlemmer building on East 57th Street. Mack owns 6 million square feet directly and has partnership stakes in 60 million square feet.
Yet, to help get the city’s blessing for a few extra floors on East 14th Street, the partners have tapped prominent über-lobbyist Suri Kasirer for a fee of $10,000 a month.
The partners filed the first plan for 432 E. 14th St. with the Department of Buildings in December 2014 and began excavation.
But according to a revised proposal submitted to BSA, they discovered “unusually elevated ground water levels” and “exceedingly soft and unstable soils” caused by an underground stream.
But Community Board 3 and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation not only argue that a taller building would be out of context with the neighborhood — but also say that Benenson has owned the site since at least the 1950s and must have known about the weak soil much earlier.
GVSHP executive director Andrew Berman said, “There’s no reason they shouldn’t have known these conditions were there. They’re pervasive throughout the area.” He said other new buildings nearby went up where there were similar soil issues, but without getting zoning variances.
Hope Provost, vice president of the condo board at 425 E. 13th St., next door to the building site’s south side, said: “I’m worried about the precedent. There are four other new developments in our vicinity and they could all make the same claim.”
But at least one neighbor had a different beef. In a draft letter to S&A, a resident we won’t name out of mercy lamented that a 12-story structure “will cause a loss of privacy for users of [our] building’s rooftop pool,” as it would allow people “on the higher floors of such building to stare down [at] the rooftop pool users.”
The project owners said through a rep that their site’s soil condition “was not fully known” until older buildings were demolished.
Plus: “Very early in this process, we met extensively with the community… and in some instances made changes based on their recommendations. We look forward to the BSA hearing and the opportunity to be heard on the merits of our application.”