Community Board 3 To Consider Samy Mahfar’s Request For Zoning Changes

255 East Houston St.
255 East Houston St.

Lawyers representing Lower East Side developer Samy Mahfar will try to persuade members of Community Board 3 tomorrow evening to support zoning changes on East Houston St.

He wants to build a 13-story residential and commercial building at 255 East Houston St., near Suffolk Street. The project would involve tearing down a four story structure that once housed a daycare facility. Action for Progress Daycare was forced to evacuate after construction on an adjacent lot destabilized the building.

Rendering: 255 East Houston St.
Rendering: 255 East Houston St.

Mahfar is planning a project with 63 apartments and 7,240 sq. ft. of ground floor retail. Utilizing the city’s voluntary inclusionary housing program, 20% of the residential units (12 apartments) would be affordable.

The problem is this: A zoning text amendment enacted in 2008 prohibits commercial uses in this area. Mahfar is asking the city to map a C2-5 commercial overlay in the current R8A district to allow retail and restaurant/nightlife uses on the ground floor.

The change, if enacted, would not only impact Mahfar’s development parcel but 20 lots stretching two-and-a-half blocks along East Houston St.. CB3’s land use committee is weighing in tomorrow night as part of the city’s land use process (ULURP). The community board will be called on to issue a non-binding advisory opinion.

zoning map

According to a 120-page document filed with CB3, there are two other potential “development sites” included in the proposed rezoning area. One is 249 East Houston St., a three-story mixed use building. The other is 253 East Houston St, a three story mixed-use building that houses the longstanding and much-loved gallery, Participant.  Mahfar’s attorneys note that the structures are expected to remain, while the commercial uses change.

It’s likely going to be a long and contentious discussion tomorrow. First off, Mahfar isn’t the most popular figure on the Lower East Side, especially among affordable hosing advocates (some of whom sit on the land use committee). Second, the 2008 rezoning initiative was a painstaking process that involved many issues and local stakeholders. Changing the zoning ordinance is something the board will not take lightly.

Click here to see the full document filed with CB3. The land use committee with meet at 6:30 p.m. at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge St.