High Court Deals Death Blow to East Village MegaDorm

The state’s highest court has nixed developer Gregg Singer’s plan to erect a 19-story dorm on the site of the now landmarked P.S. 64 school building on East 9th Street, just off Tompkins Square.

On Tuesday, the New York Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the city’s refusal to issue Singer a permit for his so-called “dorm for hire” because he has not managed to line up any schools or universities to lease the place.

The 7-0 ruling overturned a split decision by the midlevel Appellate Division, which ruled in Singer’s favor last June.

This time, the Court of Appeals found that it was “more than prudent” for the city to require a developer attempting to make use of the so-called “community facility use” zoning bonus to prove some kind of “institutional nexus” upfront, rather than risk ending up with another oversized apartment building that may or may not house students:

“It would create needless problems if [the] petitioner built a 19-story building, only to find that it could not use it in a legally permitted way. The City would then face a choice between waiving the legal restrictions and requiring the building to remain vacant or to be torn down.”

City attorneys were ecstatic at the news. “We’re very happy because it confirmed the Department of Building’s ability to deny a permit when it believes a proposed use is illegal,” said Gabriel Taussig, chief of the city’s administrative law division. Singer's attorney Jeffrey Glen declined to comment.

The Appeals Court ruling could also put a crimp in Singer's $100 million damages suit against Mayor Bloomberg, the Buildings Department, and various other agencies. In that suit, which has been on hold pending the outcome of this case, Singer alleged that the city's refusal to grant him a dorm permit was part of a political conspiracy against him.

Of course there’s nothing to stop Singer from submitting a new application to for a smaller dorm at the site. But this time, in addition to all the neighborhood opposition, Singer will have to deal with the fact that the century-old P.S. 64 is now a landmarked building.

“His 19-story dorm plan is for all intents and purposes over,” Taussig said.


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