CB3 denies request to build higher at old Post Office site

The former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A Community Board 3 committee recently shot down a developer’s request to build higher than zoning allows at the site of the former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office on East 14th Street. The board’s Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee last Wednesday unanimously voted against the zoning variance for a 12-story building. City zoning laws allow the developer to build up to eight stories at the site.

Representatives for Benenson Capital Partners, which is working on the development at the site, 432-438 East 14th Street, previously asked the committee for the variance in June. The company argued that construction costs related to the groundwater conditions made complying with affordable housing unfeasible unless the development could be built larger, the blog EVGrieve reported at the time. With the proposed change in height, the building would have 31 units of affordable housing and a total of 155 units. CB3 had asked the reps to return after the June meeting after looking into alternatives to increasing the building height.

A number of community groups spoke against the plan last week to make the development between First Avenue and Avenue A higher, including the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), the North Avenue A Neighborhood Association, the 12th Street Block Association and the 13th Street Block Association, as well as residents of East 13th Street.
Harry Bubbins, who works with GVSHP as the East Village and special projects director, gave testimony against granting the variance because he felt it was “out of context” with the other buildings in the area.

“The general character of the community is something that is important to maintain,” Bubbins later told Town & Village. “They did not make a convincing case that they needed a variance. It will be a terrible precedent to offer a variance to any developer that claims there’s wet soil around here because it’s a well-known condition. This would be a terrible precedent in general.”

Bubbins said that a rep for the developer had showed a photo of buildings across the street in Stuy Town for height comparison but that argument was shot down because most of the buildings on the other side of First Avenue in the East Village are three to six stories.

“The community as well as the community board found that to be an inappropriate comparison,” he said.

While Bubbins naturally cheered the committee’s decision, the board’s role is only advisory and he acknowledged that the landlord could still go to the Board of Standards and Appeals for approval. “But we’re hoping they heed the board’s recommendation.”

Representatives for Benenson Capital Partners did not respond to a request for comment.

Susan Stetzer, district manager for Community Board 3, declined to comment on the committee’s decision only to say that it would be posted to the board’s website.

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