Rizzo Group is proud of its track record in helping clients obtaining
city approvals and variances on challenging development projects.
Below are some case studies that provide greater detail into some
complex projects that we have assisted on.
|Case Study 1
Obtaining a Board of Standards and Appeals variance for a residential
condominium in SoHo, New York City.
||Case Study 2
Obtaining a Board of Standards and Appeals variance for increased
floor area in Greenwich Village, New York City.
|Case Study 3
Negotiate DOB interpretation that allowed a historic New York
City hotel to continue its operations when common opinion required
substantial modifications in order to comply with Zoning.
||Case Study 4
Work with building ownership to transform the ground floors
of a historic and landmarked office building into a multi-floor
Case Study 1
Client: Lighthouse Real Estate Ventures
350 West Broadway
Existing building sat vacant in the heart of SoHo's West Broadway
for over thirty years. New owner sought to build a modern residential
tower within this manufacturing district,
where "as of right" residential use is not allowed. Rizzo
Group LLP was hired by Lighthouse to obtain a variance within one
"This particular development was further complicated because
our group only had the net lease on the site, with an option to buy.
Since we were paying rent monthly, we not only needed the zoning change,
but we needed it in a year. Development in SoHo looked daunting with
its surrounding Landmarks, fickle community boards and tricky land
use issues, but the Rizzo Group brought home solutions" Jeff
Ravetz, principle of Lighthouse Real Estate (the developer).
Rizzo Group helped orchestrate a consensus of approval for this unique
project. "In order for rational decisions, all issues and constituents
must be heard. We volunteered to meet with the Community, and the
City early on in the project, in order to find any potential curve
balls. We did find some, but they were addressed from Day 1."
Stephen Rizzo, Esq., attorney with the Rizzo Group.
Rizzo Group succeeded in obtaining approvals for an 11 story residential
tower. The approval was obtained in under 1 year. Rizzo Group and
the developer, architect (Rogers Marvel) continue to work together
on other exciting projects.
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Case Study 2
Client: ReCap Partners
1 Seventh Avenue South
The site is in the heart of Greenwich Village, yet it contained an
underutilized automotive shop with an oil spill registered with the
DEC. The site's R7 Zoning District only allowed for 3.4 FAR, therefore
limiting future development to a "townhouse" type structure.
The developer would have lost money without a significant increase
in FAR. The Greenwich
Village neighborhood has traditionally been a rallying point for anti-development.
Community Board 2 typically opposed all applications for added bulk.
In addition, the Developer's due diligence revealed difficult environmental
issues which had to be addressed before a residential building was
built, or a variance granted. The developer was then in a "chicken
or egg" scenario since they would not clean up the site, unless
they would get a variance, and they couldn't get the variance unless
they had the approval of DEP for a clean up.
Rizzo Group obtained approval from the BSA to increase the Floor Area
allowed by 65%, from the "as of right" 3.4 FAR to the variance
approved 5.5 FAR. Approval was conditioned on successfully completing
The key to this project was collecting all the unique obstacles and
using them as the solution. After we combined the costs of construction
due to the irregular lot size (it was a triangular lot), and the environmental
remediation, it became abundantly clear to everyone that the project
"as of right" was not feasible. Environmental remediation
alone represented 5% of the entire construction project. The Rizzo
Group showed these figures to the Community and the Board of Standards
and Appeals and mathematically proved that extra Floor Area (air rights)
was needed in order to build a project. Secondly, the Rizzo Group
negotiated a deal between the Department of Environmental Protection
and the Board of Standards and Appeals, where the extra floor area
was granted now, contingent on environmental remediation being performed
during construction, as opposed to during the approval phase. This
way the developer knew they had the approval for a 5.5 FAR building,
as long as they successfully performed the environmental remediation
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Case Study 3
Client: Rosewood Hotels
The legendary hotel in Manhattan's Upper East Side Historic District
always existed as Hotels and Apartments all on various floors of the
building. Management wanted these uses reflected on the building's
Certificate of Occupancy. New ownership also undertook several façade
changes which required approvals from a challenging Landmark's Agency.
The Zoning Resolution does not allow for Use Group 5 (Hotels) and
Use Group 2 (Apartments) on the same floor. The Carlyle Hotel, built
in the 1930's, always had this use combination, however did not have
a Certificate of Occupancy reflecting the concurrent uses. Additionally,
the area's Community Board had begun to enforce landmarks regulations
that scrutinized façade and other exterior building changes.
While the Certificate of Occupancy did not reflect the Hotel and Apartment
uses, Rizzo Group showed that the Zoning Resolution in the 1930's
did not differentiate these two uses. Therefore, the floors with Hotel
suites and Apartments were "pre existing non-conforming uses".
Rizzo Group found historical evidence, including newspaper clippings
and old advertisements which proved the continuance and establishment
of both uses since the 1930's. We negotiated a variance reconsideration
from the Department of Buildings for the Use and attended all public
hearings for the façade changes. The hotel got its amended
Certificate of Occupancy and Landmarks approval for the façade
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Case Study 4
Client: L&L Acquisitions
New ownership purchased the building and sought ways to find value
and increase net operating income from this mostly-occupied and mature
commercial office building. A large-scale retail use was proposed
for the lobby which would generate significant revenue from this beautiful,
yet non-revenue-generating ground floor.
The Building was calendared for Landmark Designation and also had
several egress and Fire Protection challenges. Building a retail destination
required significant construction that would require Landmarks approval,
and also cause changes in the building occupant's current egress path
through the existing lobby.
This project required input from all practice areas of the Rizzo Group.
The solution came by producing a retail concept that married Landmarks
suggestions, with Fire Code and Egress Computations. Glass walls with
a sprinkler deluge system were introduced to provide a 2 hour fire
separation, yet not disturb the aesthetic of the existing lobby design.
Rizzo Group recommended "de commissioning" an unused stair
and converted the building to new code egress computation. Rizzo Group,
along with the architect, Gabellini & Associates attended meetings
with Landmarks and the Department of Buildings in order to find a
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