Nissan Koeppel - BSA Variance
On February 15, 20018, representatives from the Nissan Koeppel car dealership at Northern Boulevard and 75th Street outlined to Queens Community Board 3 its application for a 20 year extension to a variance authorizing an auto storage facility and parking lot on property zoned for residential use. Nissan Koeppel submitted the application to the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for property located at 32-45 75th Street.
Nissan Koeppel's original variance expired on November 22, 2014. See the new variance application here.
- 1 Vitals
- 2 Why A Variance Is Needed
- 3 BSA Process and Public Review Requirements
- 4 Alternative Visions For The Property's Use
- 5 Enforcement of the Variance Terms
- 6 Complaints Submitted via 311, 911, etc.
- 7 References
- 8 External Links
- Address: 32-45 75th Street, Jackson Heights
- Borough: Queens
- Block and Lot: 01171 0046
- Queens Community Board: 3
- Date Extension Application Filed with BSA: 11/6/2017
- BSA Calendar Number: 171-93-BZII
- BSA Hearing Status: Pending (As of February 17, 2018)
Why A Variance Is Needed
The property at 32-45 75th Street (see blue striped area on graphic), is zoned for residential use (type R4), with homes similar to those on the northern end of the street. The variance seeks to use the property for commercial purposes (type C8-1). See this zoning map.
Appropriate usage for C8-1 and R4 zones are:
- C8 commercial districts, bridge commercial and manufacturing uses, provide for automotive and other heavy commercial services that often require large amounts of land. See typical C8 usage here.
- R4 (or residential housing at level 4) districts are general residence districts that allow a variety of housing types, including low-rise attached houses, small multifamily apartment houses, and detached and semi-detached one- and two-family residences. See typical R4 usage.
BSA Process and Public Review Requirements
What are the public notification requirements for a project of this sort? The following are from the BSA's Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the role of community boards and civic groups in the review of BSA applications?
Community Boards and civic groups can be extremely helpful to the Board when testimony and comments speak directly to the findings, including issues or information on neighborhood character and impact, real estate prices, unique conditions, and other development projects in the area. The Board often asks for more information, modifications and/or other assurances in response to community concerns. However, there may be times when even the most supported projects are poorly prosecuted at the Board, or do not meet the findings of a variance, or likewise, that some projects have met the thresholds of the law, although there may be some opposition in the neighborhood. The Board’s compass is always the law under which we are authorized to make decisions. The Board is subject to legal challenges, and therefore it is imperative that the Board’s decisions are defensible.
What is the public notification requirement of applications to BSA?
For applications that will be heard on the BZ and SOC calendars (with the exception of applications for the extension of time to complete construction), the Board requires that all applicants provide copies of their applications to the local community board, councilmember, borough president, and the Department of City Planning. These entities are also required to be notified by the applicant of public hearings at least 20 days in advance of the hearing date. Additionally, for applications on the BZ calendar, hearing notices must be sent to property owners within a 400’ radius of the application’s address (the radius is reduced to 200’ for applications that involve one- to three-family homes and special permit applications for lots of less than 40,000 square feet).
Alternative Visions For The Property's Use
Should the Nissan Koeppel variance be denied, what might be the consequence? One possibility is that the car dealership chooses to move to an area zoned for car lots, such as the area west of the BQE on Northern Boulevard. In that instance possible reuses of the space include:
- a school (the property is 33,185 square feet, more than 50% larger than the lot the new school on 34th Avenue and 69th Street will occupy)
- much needed housing (perhaps 14 multi-family buildings)
- a neighborhood civic center, library...
Enforcement of the Variance Terms
Community Board 3's review and recommendation, and BSA's approval or denial of the variance application, are key expressions of the public will.
For a variance renewal such as this, the decision on approval traditionally is based on (1.) compliance with the terms of the original variance and (2.) the details of the renewal agreement.
Regrettably, in this instance, it was difficult to discern the public will as the application, as presented by BSA to the Community Board 3, did not include a compliance report on terms of the variance, in particular, public complaints filed with the city through channels such as 311 and 911 were not presented.
Complaints Submitted via 311, 911, etc.
Astoundingly, informing community boards about compliance with a variance's terms is not part of BSA's protocol.
Over the 20+ years the building has been used for commercial auto storage, many complaints of storage of vehicles on the adjacent 75th Street sidewalk - a violation of the variance's terms - have been lodged through various official channels. (See photo and this Discussion/Talk page),
But 20+ years requires a long memory and some recipients of such complaints are no longer available to report on complaints received. For example, 2 city council members have departed office since the variance was issued.
However, since 2002 the 311 system has been the designated recipient of complaints of this nature. And presumably, 16 years worth of 311 complaints could have been presented to the Community Board 3 as part of their review.
Is it possible that the 311 database can be searched for complaints lodged since 2002? As the property"s address is not posted prominently, such a search would need to include the official address, 32-45 75th Street, Jackson Heights, as well as geo-coded indicators. An attempt to do so through the designated 311 search page did not return an informative result - see the "Check Status" search result graphic.
(See this page's Discussion/Talk on for more on 311 complaints.)
What Might be Done?
A good government organizations such as BetaNYC, with its focus on the public interest, open data, and the 311 system, should be contacted to undertake a thorough 311 search for relevant complaints, with the results presented to BSA and Community Board 3.
Neighbors might be contacted via JacksonHeightsLife.com, JHFamalies, and flyers requesting 311 submissions and photos.
Looking to the future, the inclusion of public complaints (311 and otherwise) should become part of the BSA variance renewal protocol, with the city council and mayor establishing a suitable process.
-  From the BSA FAQ
- The variance renewal application as submitted by Nissan Koeppel.
- JacksonHeightsLife discussion on variance, see "A rare opportunity for housing, a school... (Stop the Nissan Koeppel Variance)."
- BSA (Board of Standards and Appeals) website review requirements
- ZoLa - NYC's zoning and land use map
- Department of Buildings denied application
- Video of February 15, 2018 Community Board 3 hearing on extending 20 year variance.
- See the hearing starting at 40 minutes with a presentation by applicant's attorney and Mark Lasher, the property owner.
- The board vote begins at 1:15 minutes of the recording.
- 2018 Google maps photo showing 4 cars parked/stored on sidewalk.
- 2016 aerial image of 3 cars parked/stored on sidewalk
- Nissan Koeppel website