Giles Place development goes on despite zoning

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The Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association has lost a seven-year battle with the city over the development of 3333 Giles Place. 

The Board of Standards and Appeals decided on Tuesday that developer GRA V, LLC has a “vested right” to continue constructing the 63-unit, five-story apartment building with a two-story underground parking garage in Kingsbridge Heights, despite the fact that the zoning for that street was changed in 2004 to only allow one- and two-story buildings.

“It’s disastrous. It’s going to change the face of our neighborhood.  I feel extremely disappointed,” said Judy Baier, secretary of FIPNA, who lives across the street from where the building will be constructed.

In 2004, the developer hastily poured part of the building’s foundation because, members of FIPNA believe,  it was trying to get it finished before new zoning regulations went into effect. Construction stopped when FIPNA contended that the building was set too close to the street, violating old and new zoning regulations. The Board of Standards and Appeals agreed and it seemed as though FIPNA had won.

For years, the unfinished foundation of the building sat behind a blue plywood fence while GRA V, LLC and its lawyers regrouped. In 2009, the fight resumed when the developer argued that only the plans violated zoning regulations and the actual laid foundation was in compliance. 

They said the building could be moved farther from the street and the Department of Buildings agreed, opening the door for the developer to claim a “vested right” to continue construction even though zoning changes meant the building was now too large for the site. 

Attorneys representing the developer claimed the money sunk into the construction prior to the change gave the developer the right to continue building. On Tuesday, the Board of Standards and Appeals ruled in his favor and against FIPNA and Community Board 8, which had supported the group. 

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