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High Court Upholds Ban on “Dorms for Hire,” Saves Landmarked P.S. 64

Yesterday, New York State’s highest court upheld a recent New York City rule banning “dorms-for-hire,” effectively ending attempts by a developer to erect a 19-story building on the site of the now-landmarked P.S. 64 at 605 East 9th Street in the East Village (pictured right). GVSHP had joined the East Village Community Coalition (EVCC), Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and many others in fighting hard to uphold the “dorm-for-hire” ban (including submitting amicus briefs in the court case), to block the proposed 19-story dorm, and to preserve the historic former P.S. 64, which had also served as the Charas/El Bohio Cultural Center.

This is a tremendous victory. Not only does it help protect this threatened East Village landmark, but it helps ensure that developers will not be able to abuse zoning regulations by getting the dorm “bulk bonus” the city offers, often allowing dormitories to be almost twice as large as residential buildings, if they have no actual school to occupy the supposed ‘dorm.’ Many developments GVSHP has fought, such as 159 Bleecker Street (the former Circle in the Square Theater site) and 81 East 3rd Street, got these dorm bonuses to build extra large buildings, but then when they were completed, there was no school to occupy the dorm. These projects never should have been allowed to be built in the first place.

In response to this, in 2005 the City finally put in place rules requiring developers have a 10-year lease from an accredited educational institution before they could get the dorm bonus; GVSHP supported this rule, although we fought for it to be even more restrictive, and we continue to push for elimination of the dorm bonus entirely.

After this rule was passed, the owner of the former P.S. 64 sought to build a 19-story “dorm-for-hire” on the site of this historic building, with no school in place to occupy it. The city denied the permit application on the basis of this rule and subsequently landmarked the building. The owner sued in court to overturn the “dorm-for-hire” ban and claimed that it should now be granted the building permit for the 19-story ‘dorm’ which he claimed he was wrongly denied before the landmark designation took place. A state court initially agreed, and overturned the ban.

However, in an appeal to the state’s highest court, GVSHP, EVCC, and many others submitted amicus briefs in support of the ban, citing the terrible damage which would be done, not just at this site but citywide, if it were overturned. Fortunately the Court of Appeals agreed, and the prior ruling was overturned and the “dorm-for-hire” ban was upheld.

Next: 03/03/09
Previous: 06/21/06

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