Spring Street Developer Attempts Override of Special Little Italy District Zoning with Courtyard Addition
One developer in the heart of Little Italy remains committed to overriding the special zoning district for commercial gain. Concerned neighbors are likewise rallied in opposition.
Developer Joseph Brunner purchased 55-57 Spring Street in July 2015 for $15.5 million (from Marolda Properties, sued by the state for tenant harassment). Residents and retail were affected much the same. Ceci Cela moved to Delancey Street after 25 years on the block when their lease allegedly wasn’t renewed; Eight Turn Crepe closed down (but was replaced with a Korilla BBQ outpost); and tenants were allegedly harassed with structural neglect techniques and construction as harassment.
In the same breath, so to speak, the owners seek a Zoning Text Amendment to poke a hole in the Special Little Italy District. The goal is a one-story addition spanning the rear courtyard to enlarge the two existing storefronts. This entails changing 55-57 Spring Street from Area A to Area A1 zoning, which is the designation directly to the east, so that the ground commercial uses could cover the entire lots. If the application is approved, a total of approximately 1,750 square-feet would be added to their ground floors.
Preservation-minded area residents are worried about the implications of chopping up the hard-fought Special District. The fear is that Brunner might not only build out the backyard, but combine the two ground floor units. These particular tenements were constructed in 1871, and the rear yard common area was meant for natural light and air for tenants. Furthermore, there are structural concerns if heavy machinery would be used to dig out the backyard.
The matter twice came before Community Board 2 in the last couple years and was denied on both occasions.
Now the measure is punted to City Council for final determination. There is a hearing this morning at 9:30am.
“If approved by the City Council, this would set a terrible precedent, and would open the floodgates to overdevelopment in other parts of the Special Little Italy District,” Bowery Alliance of Neighbors chief David Mulkins stated in a desperate plea. “The Special Little Italy District was created by the city in recognition of its historical, cultural and architectural value and significance. The restrictions on height and bulk (85 feet and with frontage mainly of masonry) were created to protect its unique flow and feel, and low-rise sense of historic place.”
Below is a letter from thirty-seven-year resident Penny Jones to Councilwoman Margaret Chin that details the ongoing situation at 55-57 Spring Street.