TimesLedger Newspaper reader Henry Euler is correct in his Nov. 10-16 letter to the editor “Reform BSA after it allowed second house on lot,” decrying how the city Board of Standards and Appeals operates, often in blatant disregard to the interests and desires of the local community.
Suggested legislation would require advance renewal notices when variances become due, and an appeals process through the City Council if a BSA decision contradicts recommendations of a community board and/or the borough president.
These suggestions have merit, but more is needed, specifically to remove the politicization of the board that, when all is said and done, dictates its decisions. A case in point is Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While his philanthropic activities as a private citizen are to be applauded, as mayor he has demonstrated an indifference to the needs of small business owners, the middle class and the poor while bending over backward to give his real estate friends everything they seek and the public be damned.
Several years ago, Daniel Doctoroff, then a high official in the Bloomberg administration, bragged before a group of real estate moguls that under Bloomberg more than 90 percent of real estate interests in sought zoning changes have been granted. Since it is the mayor who appoints the five commissioners who head the BSA, it should come as no surprise that real estate interests will prevail.
A mayor should be removed from appointing BSA commissioners. One commissioner from each borough should be appointed by a majority vote of Council members from the borough that commissioner resides in. BSA hearings should be held in the borough hall of the borough where the property involved is located. A decision that contradicts the recommendations of the local community board and/or the borough president may be appealed to the full Council with open hearings that permit the public to be heard.
One can hear the howls of the real estate interests that with the above nothing will get done. Nonsense. There will always be real estate developers standing in line ready to pursue legitimate developments and particularly when they often come with city aid and tax breaks.
Benjamin M. Haber
©2011 Community News Group
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