Garodnick and STPCVTA write letters questioning legality of ice rink

Letter from City Council Member Dan Garodnick to the Chair of NYC Department of City Planning Amanda Burden, dated October 28.

Dear Chair Burden:

In recent months, Stuyvesant Town residents have seen an increase in the amount of commercial activity taking place within the Stuyvesant Town Oval, which is in an R7-2 zone. The Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association leadership has asked me to investigate whether any of these new activities are in violation of the area’s residential zoning.

With that in mind, I ask that you answer the following questions:

– Does zoning allow for food trucks to be positioned within the Stuyvesant Town Oval? Would zoning allow for food trucks elsewhere on the property, such as one of the four loop roads that cut through the property?

– Similarly, is there anywhere on the property that is appropriately zoned for a green market? Would anything in the zoning regulations prohibit in green market on any sidewalks on the perimeter of the property?

– Management is offering residents an opportunity to rent out a storage unit in their own building. Would such a transaction violate the zoning regulations?

– Management recently announced that they would be installing and opening an ice rink in a Stuyvesant Town playground. Does the present zoning allow for an ice rink on the property? And if so, would charging for admission or equipment change that?

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I appreciate your prompt reply.

Sincerely,

Daniel R. Garodnick

 

Letter from Adam Rose to Council Member Garodnick, dated November 3.

Dear Council Member Garodnick:

Thank you for your letter dated October 24, 2011 regarding the ice rink that we plan to install for the winter months at Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town (PCVST). Write to respond to the questions you raised.

First, it is important to note that most residents of PCVST would prefer infrastructure projects not to be located near their apartments. This includes staff areas, work rooms, storage, refuse handling areas, amenities, and other similar uses. It is obviously not a viable way to operate a large property with a large population if all infrastructure is located “somewhere else.” We do our best to distribute the functions shared by all residents to different areas of the property. For example, many people live closer to active playgrounds than those that live near Playground 10, the site of the ice rink. Rarely do we hear complaints about a basketball court or children’s playground being “too close” to one building or another. It is fair to spread these around.

We will do everything possible to minimize the disturbance that may be caused by the ice rink to the buildings that surround it. The most important aspect of this is the operating hours which will require the rink to close at 9 p.m. We expect to end the music by 8 p.m. and will ensure that music levels are not excessive.

Regarding the fees and expenses, we must inform you that the ice rink is intended to be a wonderful new amenity for the residents of PCVST. As you probably know, finding ice time is very difficult in the entire Metropolitan area, and we are convinced that the families of PCVST will appreciate this private facility for residents and their guests. The revenues of this three month operation will not equal the expenses, but making a profit was never the objective. We will provide some limited free ice time for residents, but during other hours when it is open the intention is to have people who enjoy the facility contribute modestly to the cost of its operation.

Finally, I am hopeful that your concern with respect to the elimination of “free open space” stems from the misconception that the facility is permanent. It will only be in place during the winter months when the playground is otherwise covered in snow and ice and all but unused. The hope is that this will help bring this space to life and provide all residents a venue in which to enjoy the outdoors during the winter season. As the weather warms, the rink will be removed and the playground will be as it has always been.

Sincerely,

Adam R. Rose

 

Response to Council Member Garodnick’s Oct. 28 letter, from Chair of NYC Department of City Planning Amanda Burden, dated November 7.

Dear Council Member Garodnick,

Thank you for your letter regarding zoning rules governing Stuyvesant Town. As you point out, the majority of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village is located in an R7-2 residential zone, with some commercial districts mapped along portions of First Avenue, 14th and 20th Streets to a depth of 100 feet. Within the R7-2 residential district, commercial uses are not permitted; however, uses considered “accessory” to residential uses and community facilities are permitted. Accessory use is defined in the Zoning Resolution 12-10 as

(a)    is a use conducted on the same zoning lot as principal use to which it is related (whether located withing the same or an accessory building or other structure, or as an accessory use of land), except that, where specifically provided in the applicable district regulations or elsewhere in this Resolution, accessory dock, off-street parking or off-street loading need not be located on the same zoning lot; and

(b)   is a use which is clearly incidental to, and customarily found in connection with, such  principal use; and

(c)    is either in the same ownership as such principal use, or is operated and maintained on the same zoning lot substantially for the benefit or convenience of the owners, occupants, employees, customers, or visitors of the principal use.

City Planning has taken Section (c) to prohibit businesses which are not primarily restricted to use by residents. Uses like gyms, newspaper stands, concierge, or swimming pools when primarily restricted to residents and their guests are considered accessory uses permitted in residential district.

To answer your specific questions:

–         Food trucks are a commercial use, and would only be permitted on commercially zoned portions of the Stuyvesant Town property.

–         Green Markets that operate as an open commercial use would similarly be prohibited on residentially zoned portions of the site CSA’s or other types of accessory agricultural providers would not be prohibited.

–         The perimeter sidewalks of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are not part of the private zoning lot and are not subject to zoning constraints. These sidewalks are public property and are under the purview of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

–         Storage units would typically be considered an accessory use, provided the storage is provided primarily for residents. Fee for use would not violate the understanding of the use as accessory.

–         An ice rink provided primarily as an amenity for the use of residents would not violate the understanding of accessory as we see it. Charging for admission without distinction of residential occupancy suggests that the operation would not be accessory. However, ice rinks are permitted in Residential districts as an open community facility use, as are tennis courts (UG 48 open uses). As a community facility use, it would be considered another primary use; however, given the unusualness of this circumstance the specifics of this project would likely need the review of the Department of Buildings.

As you know, the Department of Buildings is the agency responsible for enforcement of the Zoning Resolution, and I would encourage you to direct specific questions regarding potential violations to Commissioner LiMandri as well.

Sincerely,

Amanda M. Burden

 

Letter from Council Member Garodnick to Andrew Mac Arthur, VP of CW Capital, and Adam Rose, dated November 7.

Gentleman:

I was disappointed by your response to my recent letter about the ice rink being constructed in Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 10. Having read your explanation and now seeing the enormous structures being constructed, I am increasingly concerned about the impact this rink will have on surrounding residents.

You have not provided any detail about how you intend to protect residents from disturbances from the rink, beyond a commitment to ensure that noise levels are not “excessive” and to end music at 8 p.m. Such a late end to the music, not to mention the 9 p.m. closing time, strike me as inconsiderate to those who live near the rink and who may have small children, work early hours, or simply seek peace and quiet in the evening in a neighborhood well known for it.

You also noted that you are rarely get complaints from residents in even closer proximity to other playgrounds. This cannot possibly be a serious comparison, as basketball courts and playgrounds don not blare music over public address systems, they close at dusk, and they do not come with equipment that must run 24 hours a day. As for the equipment, you also offered no response to my question of how you intend to mitigate mechanical noise.

I have asked the Department of Buildings and Department of Envirnomental Protection to take steps to ensure the rink’s compliance with all relevant city noise and structural codes.

As for the fees, this is the first time anyone has ever charged a resident for the use of one of the playgrounds, in history of this community. Doing so is of questionable legality, it sets the wrong precedent for the neighborhood’s open spaces, and I encourage you not to be responsible for opening the door to such commercialization. You have said repeatedly that this rink will operate at loss — so take the loss, and provide this service as a free amenity for residents. Assuming the rink can operate legally with a charge —  a subject that we continue to investigate — I ask that you inform me of the exact dates that the rink will be open, as well as when residents can expect the playground to be usable again following the takedown of the rink.

I understand that you are looking for ways to make the property attractive to new tenants, but my constituents are frustrated because they feel that these efforts increasingly come at the expense of their own quality of life.

Thank you for your continued attention to these concerns,

Sincerely,

Daniel R. Garodnick

 

Letter from Al Doyle, President of the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association to Adam Rose, dated November 7.

Dear Mr. Rose,

I am writing on behalf of the Stuyvesant Town Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association (“STPCVTA”) to express its keen disappointment with your response to Council Member Garodnick regarding the ice skating rink being installed in Playground 10. Your response and its failure to address the genuine issues are unacceptable.

Living next to an ice skating rink, which will have music until 8 p.m. and which will subject nearby residents to the noise of the mechanical equipment required to operate the rink, is not the equivalent of living next to a basketball court or children’s playground. The qualitative differences are obvious and your failure to recognize that demonstrates a complete lack of sensitivity for the concerns of the residents of buildings bordering the rink. We have the same concerns as Council Member Garodnick regarding the imposition of a fee for use of recreational space, which is an unprecedented diminution of access to such space, even on a temporary basis.

We are also concerned that some of the electrical lines that appear to support the operation of the rink are strung between the trees from a lamppost and others running from the buildings across the pedestrian pathway to the rink, present potential safety risks. The storage of large drums of chemical coolant on the site is also of concern. Esthetically, the massive tent that has been erected on the south side of playground can only be described as an eyesore.

The STPCVTA intends to closely monitor the operation to ensure that it is operated in a manner that respects the right of community residents to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes and that the rink, including its accompanying café, operates in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including the Zoning Resolution. The Association urges you and CW Capital to seriously consider the many reasonable concerns and objections of tenants regarding this facility.

Sincerely,

Alvin Doyle, President ST/PCV TA

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3 thoughts on “Garodnick and STPCVTA write letters questioning legality of ice rink

  1. As a Stuyvesant Town resident for 20 years (not a new market-rate tenant) with a two children, I’ll offer translations.

    Al Doyle: I know Stuyvesant Town was originally built for families, but I don’t give a crap. There are a bunch of people here who have lived in these apartments for 50 years, or inherited it from family, and they want to live in solitude, pay a fraction of the cost they can afford to pay, and live alone in massive 3-bedroom apartments now that their family has moved on. Many of them are in unions, and they expect to get a lot for nothing.

    Dan Garodnick: Listen, I’m sorry. I need to get votes, so reasonable doesn’t really play into it. These old people and old school union types are organized, and if I don’t get behind them, I don’t get re-elected. They think it is 1974. Just check on the laws, blah, blah, blah, legal language, butt-covering…

    • God forbid an elderly retired person should want to live alone, right? In fact, zoning law should specifically forbid that a person whose family has moved away should be able to continue living in their apartment of more-than-one-room.
      Let’s codify this, STAT. Single elderly people can no longer, by DOB law, live in the apartments they’ve occupied for most of their lives, and instead must be warehoused into one room. Or else they must live together, no less than five elderlies in one apartment. The reasoning behind this? You don’t think it’s fair. And you’re getting your panties in a wad.

      And since you don’t think it’s fair, lets make some laws stating that they can’t live in Manhattan–Manhattan is only for the young and rich! And non-unionized!
      Let it be law!

      You’re a real sharp thinker, buddy.
      What a piece of work.

  2. Dear Mr. Rose,
    When did you plan to “do everything possible to minimize the disturbance that may be caused by the ice rink to the buildings that surround it” as stated in your own letter?
    The compressor has been running non-stop since 3 p.m. yesterday; no one in our household in an apt. right across from the rink got any sleep last night. Workers told us the compressor will keep running and I’m sure it will since the temperature is in the 60s, not exactly ice weather.
    How about minimizing that disturbance before tonight? We’re incredibly tired.

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