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Madison-Marine Shines Spotlight On Construction Abuses

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Maintaining that local elected officials have “dropped the ball” on special permits, Madison-Marine Civic is refusing to ease up on its campaign to stop out-of-scale development in their community. With over 1,000 names on a petition asking government to reassess the issuing of special permits, Madison-Marine Civic and its growing list of supporters are endeavoring to convince Community Board 15 that there is a problem. Community Board 15 is one of only a handful of districts citywide that uses the special permits process allowing homeowners to build beyond existing zoning requirements. Critics of special permits charge that the process, which was originally intended to allow for modest home expansion, has turned into a license for some homeowners to turn zoning regulations inside out. “This business of out-of-scale development is spreading,” said Jaworski. “But the opposition to it is spreading like wildfire.” Community Board 15 Chair Jerry O’Shea, however, has gone on record with the borough president in favor of maintaining special permits in the district. Supporters of the process, which began back in 1998, say that special permits have made it possible for Brooklyn to hold on to many prosperous families who might have otherwise fled the borough if they were not allowed to greatly expand their homes. But others say that that concession comes at the cost of next door neighbors living in traditional one- and two-family houses who suddenly find themselves literally in the dark in some cases overshadowed by soaring new construction. While stating that he is in favor of the “general concept” of the special permit process, State Senator Martin Golden has agreed to look at the practice as it now operates across Community Board 15. “Senator Golden and his staff have had discussions with local civic groups who have advised us that in fact there is abuse of these permits happening in our neighborhood,” said John Quaglione, director of public affairs for Golden. “We have asked that specific examples be provided and we will have those looked into and investigated thoroughly.” That’s good news for Madison-Marine Civic as they prepare to present their petition to Community Board 15 during the public portion of their January 31 meeting at Kingsborough Community College, scheduled for 7 p.m. At that time, the board is also expected to take up the matter of community notification when a homeowner is applying for a special permit. Critics of the board’s existing policy say that the notification is inadequate in informing neighbors about upcoming public hearings. “The board is moving in our direction because we have been there for the last nine months,” said Madison-Marine Civic’s Kathy Jaworski. Barbara Berardelli, representing the Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association, urged Madison-Marine to keep up the fight against out-of-scale development. “There are many builders in Sheepshead Bay who will not come back because we made them bleed green,” she said. Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic was at the forefront of the effort to down zone parts of Sheepshead Bay now set to go before the City Council. “Know this,” Berardelli added, “You are fighting a monster.”

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