A plot of land at the corner of 57th Street and Park Avenue in West New York will remain a parking lot for the time being, since a group of residents successfully fought a bid by a developer to construct a 22-story residential/commercial building there.
After a two-year battle between the developer and neighbors of the potential project across the street from 5701 Park Ave., the Appellate Division of the state Superior Court ruled in favor of the residents on Jan. 17.
Between Nov. 9 and April 5, 2010, the West New York Zoning Board held five public hearings to address Park Terrace’s application for a development that was to include 243 residences, 6,770 square feet of office space, and an attached six-story parking garage with 446 spaces.
The board approved the application, which requested four zoning variances, or approvals to deviate from zoning guidelines. The lot was zoned as “medium-density residential,” which normally restricted apartment buildings to 12 stories and 69 residences.
Neighbors brought the case to court – and lost to the developers and Zoning Board. However, they appealed and won.
Thus, the area will remain a parking lot with 100 spaces for nearby residents, including those at Overlook Terrace at 5701 Park Ave. across the street. That building is also owned by the same developers (Park Terrace LLC).
“It leaves no alternative for a developer other than to comply with the existing zoning ordinance.” –Dominic Sico
“I didn’t care to have a 22-story building in my neighborhood,” West New York resident and primary plaintiff in the case Dominic Sico said last week. “Not also to mention there were an inappropriate number of variances required for this project.”
Sico and seven other concerned residents were the ones who banded together to fight the board’s decision. They were represented by attorney Cynthia Hadjiyannis.
“Any single resident would never have the kind of resources required to go up against such a big developer,” Hadjiyannis said. “It’s great that they banded together.”
On July 21, 2010, the group filed an appeal to the Zoning Board’s decision.
“We didn’t expect to have much success,” Hadjiyannis said.
She added that in her experience, trial courts tend to see things the same way as the municipalities, “so you really have to get up to the appellate level to get a good shot.”
According to the appeal, the variances approved by the board included a height variance that changed the allowable height from 135 to 220 feet, an allowance for a commercial parking garage not normally permitted in a residential medium density zone, and a density variance that changed the per-acre unit allowance from 80 to 280.
“I don’t think there’s anything they could have said to justify high-rise in a mid-rise district that fit with the law,” Hadjiyannis said. “It’s a fallacy that when you build a really big project and there’s a high population density that it will bring in revenue. In the long run it can actually end up costing the town more than they’d imagined.”
Examples of this, she said, would be education costs for residents’ children and the extra maintenance involved with such a population increase.
Park Terrace LLC’s attorney, J. Alvaro Alonso, did not return phone calls over the last three weeks to see what the developer plans next. Former and current zoning attorneys for the town did not return phone calls for this story.
Sico and his fellow residents said they were pleased with the outcome.
“I think the way the judges worded their opinion,” he said, “it leaves no alternative for a developer other than to comply with the existing zoning ordinance.”
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