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Preservationist go 3 for 4 - Special permits shot down at Community Board 15

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No one really believes that the tide is changing at Community Board 15 when it comes to backing special permits, but three of the four items on this month’s agenda did get shot down.

Of the four applications – 1814 East 27th Street, 153 Norfolk Street, 136 Dover Street and 1855 East 24th Street – only the East 24th Street application will be going to the Board of Standards and Appeals [BSA] with the official endorsement from Community Board 15.

The board has a long history of being friendly to the type of home expansion projects that supporters say help keep families in communities and critics charge hurt the essential character of neighborhoods.

That ever elusive idea of “character” was at the forefront of testimony delivered during the public portion of the community board’s proceedings held last week at Kingsborough Community College.

“There comes a point when you must act and speak up to preserve the integrity of your neighborho­od,” one longtime Avenue R resident declared.

Another complained that the expansion many homeowners – often new to the community – seek is based more on a desire for excess than a legitimate need for space.

Such extravagance may be fine according to Louis Goldberg – a neighbor of 1814 East 27th Street – but not when it comes at the expense of those who live nearby.

“You have a right to smoke, but I don’t know that you can blow smoke in someone’s face,” he said after the board’s Zoning & Variance Committee had deliberated on all four applications.

Goldberg testified against plans to expand the single-family home at 1814 East 27th Street that would produce non-conforming additional space under existing zoning regulations.

“You have the option of finding another property,” Goldberg said of his new neighbors. “We’re living there already.”

Still, the application Goldberg and other neighbors opposed might have nonetheless gotten Community Board 15’s stamp of approval if it had not been for a personal appeal by City Councilmember Lew Fidler.

Before they cast their votes, Fidler told board members that he was “very concerned” about the 1814 East 27th Street application and advised them to “look at it closely.”

Goldberg later said that the councilman’s input “meant a lot.”

Two weeks ago, the Zoning & Variance Committee voted eight to seven in favor of supporting the special permit for 1814 East 27th Street with Chair Theresa Scavo casting the tie-breaking vote.

At last week’s full meeting of the community board, members went against that recommendation and voted 11 in favor and 25 opposed to reject the application.

BSA hearing dates for 1855 East 24th Street and 1814 East 27th Street have been slated for October 7 at 40 Rector Street in Manhattan.

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