Locals oppose lucrative variance for long-derelict lot

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Residents in Homecrest say a foot-dragging developer is trying to pull a fast one.

The owners of a long-blighted lot on Avenue S are asking the city for a second extension of a variance first granted in 2006 with promises that they’ll finally build on the land — but after a “For Sale” sign popped up on the lot, locals say the extension will simply help the owner sell the land at a premium.

“The Board of Standards and Appeals is being asked to be a marketing tool and a purveyor of blight,” said Ed Jaworski, president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association.

The developer, Samuel Kahan, is seeking the second four-year extension of a 2006 variance that would allow him to build a six-story condo on the plot, which would otherwise be zoned for two-story homes.

The lot between E. 16th and E. 17th streets has sat empty over the last eight years — first because the city slapped the site with a stop-work order, and later because Kahan did not want to build during the Great Recession. In the interim, the site accumulated trash and racked up dozens of building-code violations, and the sidewalk went un-shoveled and fell into disrepair — leaving neighbors in the lurch.

“It’s been a hell of an eight years with these people, and we feel abused,” said Dr. Budd Heyman, who owns a house a few doors down from the site.

Jaworski said granting the variance would reward bad behavior, setting Kahan up to sit on the land for another four years or make a mint off it in a sale.

Kahan’s attorney told the city he plans to build on the site, but the “For Sale” sign on the property portends otherwise.

The sign appeared on the lot in March, but a week before the developer went to the board, someone flipped the sign so it was not legible from Avenue S, Jaowrski said.

A city spokesman said the board is aware of the for sale sign, but did not say whether the presence of such a sign would affect the panel’s decision. Kahan’s attorneys sent a letter to the city promising he had the financial backing to start construction once the extension was granted, but Jaworski pointed out that testimony and evidence presented to the Board of Standards and Appeals don’t have to meet the same legal standard as sworn testimony — though he put it more bluntly.

“Unless they take you to court, you can just lie to the BSA,” he said.

Indeed, the developer fudged the numbers when he applied for the original variance in 2006. An engineer working for Kahan self-certified that the foundation was done by the deadline even though the city later found swaths of the slab were missing.

A phone number on the “For Sale” sign rings to Kahan’s office, but he has not returned requests for comment. The attorney filing for the extension on behalf of Kahan would not comment on whether he planned to flip the parcel.

The Board of Standards and Appeals is set to rule on the issue June 10.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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