Former Post Office site developers give up on trying to add height

Ryan Singer, executive director of the Board of Standards and Appeals, tells protesters the application has been withdrawn. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The developers of the former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office site have given up on trying to get the green light to add another story to their planned East 14th Street residential building.

The announcement that Benenson Capital Partners and Mack Real Estate Group had withdrawn their application was made on Tuesday morning. The news, delivered by Ryan Singer, executive director of the Board of Standards and Appeals, to a group of mostly union member protesters across the street from the BSA building on Reade Street, elicited cheers.

“The process worked the way it should,” Singer said. “Based on comments from the board yesterday, they felt they could no longer pursue the variance.”

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Old Post Office site owners reduce height request

Rendering of 432-438 East 14th Street

By Sabina Mollot

The owners of the former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office, who’d proposed a 12-story residential building for the site, have since changed their request, by proposing a smaller, nine-story building instead. In January the owners, Benenson Capital Partners, partnering with Mack Real Estate Group, had gone to the Board of Standards and Appeals to request a zoning variance they’d need to build 12 stories since current zoning only allows for an eight-story structure. Their plan however was fought by community residents as well as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

The owners’ most recent proposal, which would boost height 14.5 feet higher than what is currently allowable, has also already been blasted by the preservation group. The GVSHP has argued that a building that high is out of context for the East Village and has also claimed that the owners’ main reason for wanting the variance — higher than expected construction costs due to underground water and soil conditions — doesn’t constitute a unique hardship.

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14th St. developer grilled on height request

Commissioners of the Board of Standards and Appeals, including (from left to right) Chair Margery Perlmutter, Susan Hinkson and Eileen Montanez Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Commissioners of the Board of Standards and Appeals, including (from left to right) Chair Margery Perlmutter, Susan Hinkson and Eileen Montanez (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Board of Standards and Appeals accused developers of getting ahead of themselves in a rush to get a new apartment building started before the deadline for a lucrative tax break in the project at the old Peter Stuyvesant Post Office on East 14th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A.

BSA chair Margery Perlmutter said in a hearing this past Tuesday that Benenson Capital Partners and Mack Real Estate Group (MREG) “went ahead and, at enormous expense, installed foundation slabs even though their project wasn’t necessarily viable.”

The developers’ attorney John Egnatios-Beene, of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, argued at the hearing that the extra cost for building out the foundation was partially due to the construction of a full basement and the difficulties that resulted in building it due to the ground conditions. This rationale was given in addition to the developer’s previous argument that additional apartments were needed to make the project economically viable due to apartments that would be rented below market rate because of the building’s participation in the 421a affordable housing program.

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Developer of old Peter Stuyvesant Post Office still hopes to build higher

Former Post Office space (pictured last January) (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Former Post Office space (pictured last January) (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The developer of a planned residential building at the site of the old Peter Stuyvesant Post Office is still hoping to add an additional four stories to what was originally supposed to be an eight-story structure.

Benenson Capital Partners, whose request for a required zoning variance to do this was shot down in July by a committee of Community Board 3, will next be heading to the Board of Standards and Appeals.

While the community board’s unanimous vote in opposition to the variance was just advisory, a decision made by the BSA would be official.

The developer had previously argued that an additional few floors was necessary to make the project economically viable, due to costs related to underground water conditions at the site.

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