The New York City Board of Standards and Appeals is an integral part of the City's system for regulation of land use, development and construction and was established as an independent board to grant “relief” from the zoning code. When New York City’s zoning was first established in 1916, it was intended to be generally applicable to large areas or many sites. However, it was anticipated that certain individual parcels of land could be unduly restricted by the regulations, and that the City would be subject to increased claims of unconstitutional taking of private property. Historically, appeals boards were created all over the country when municipalities established land use regulations. By providing relief through the Board, the possibility is significantly reduced for broad constitutional challenges to the overall zoning. The existence of the Board, in fact, protects the ability of the city’s government to regulate development of private property.
The Board is empowered by the City Charter to interpret the meaning or applicability of the Zoning Resolution, Building and Fire Codes, Multiple Dwelling Law, and Labor Law. This power includes the ability to vary in certain instances the provisions of these regulations.
The majority of the Board’s activity involves reviewing and deciding applications for variances and special permits, as empowered by the Zoning Resolution, and applications for appeals from property owners whose proposals have been denied by the City’s Departments of Buildings, Fire or Business Services. The Board also reviews and decides applications from the Departments of Buildings and Fire to modify or revoke certificates of occupancy.
The Board can only act upon specific applications brought by landowners or interested parties who have received prior determinations from one of the enforcement agencies noted above. The Board cannot offer opinions or interpretations generally and it cannot grant a variance or a special permit to any property owner who has not first sought a proper permit or approval from an enforcement agency. Further, in reaching its determinations, the Board is limited to specific findings and remedies as set forth in state and local laws, codes, and the Zoning Resolution, including, where required by law, an assessment of the proposals' environmental impacts.
The Board, pursuant to the 1991 City Charter, contains five full-time, Mayoral-appointed commissioners. By law, the Board must comprise one planner, one registered architect, and one professional engineer. No more than two commissioners may reside in any one borough.
The Board meets regularly in public review session and public hearings.
Local Law 40 of 2011 requires agencies to post certain memoranda of understanding and similar agreements ("MOUs") entered into among governmental agencies. The Board of Standards and Appeals has not identified any covered MOUs or similar agreements to date. Please check back for future updates.