Another small factory in Brooklyn is attempting to obtain legal residential approval, just outside of an Industrial Business Zone in Williamsburg. Nicholas Scire-Chianetta, head of NSC Architecture, submitted plans for a building with 8,660 feet of commercial space and 24,897 square feet of residential space at 222 Varet St., according to YIMBY.

  • The loft portion of the property would be divided into 20 apartments, each averaging 1,244 square feet.
  • The first floor of the building would remain commercial.
  • According to media reports, 222 Varet St. was resident-occupied long before the state re-opened applications to landlords.
  • Based on the city planning maps, 222 Varet St. falls just outside of one of the Industrial Business Zones.

Another small factory in Brooklyn is attempting to obtain legal residential approval, just outside of an Industrial Business Zone in Williamsburg. Nicholas Scire-Chianetta, head of NSC Architecture, submitted plans for a building with 8,660 feet of commercial space and 24,897 square feet of residential space at 222 Varet St., according to YIMBY.

The loft portion of the property would be divided into 20 apartments, each averaging 1,244 square feet.

The first floor of the building would remain commercial. Currently, a consignment shop called Fox & Fawn sits at the ground level, with the entrance located in the alley.

According to a 2005 piece in The New York Times highlighting illegally converted lofts in Brooklyn, 222 Varet St. was resident-occupied long before the state re-opened applications to landlords. Now, owner Jack Guttman hopes to formally convert the building into a commercial-residential space.

222 Varet St./Google Maps screenshot

222 Varet St./Google Maps screenshot

Williamsburg and zoning for factories, manufacturing

Call it cost effective or fashionable to live in a Brooklyn loft, but the government could call it illegal. Without the proper residential certification, tenants are more at risk for fires and safety hazards, especially given the layout of former manufacturing properties not built with occupancy in mind.

But small manufacturing facilities no longer carry the demand of residential properties, especially in New York City. Some have taken the opportunity to occupy former industrial spaces, circumventing inflating rent prices in one of the priciest markets in the nation.

In early 2006, Mayor Bloomberg enforced zoning laws prohibiting residential use in various Industrial Business Zones across the city, which were ratified again in 2013.

Based on the city planning maps, 222 Varet St. falls just outside of one of the Industrial Business Zones. While residential property is banned on the block between Bushwick Avenue and White Street, the Varet Street property falls on the east side of White Street, toward Bogart Street.

Not the first attempt for the Guttmans

The owner of the property, Jack Guttman, and his father, Joshua, are well-known landlords throughout Brooklyn.

Joshua Guttman’s property at 247 Water St. in Dumbo was vacated in 2000 by the Department of Buildings for illegal conversion. But when 20 out of 60 tenants were allowed back in, they claimed Guttman’s workers made conditions unlivable. In a story by the New York Times, one recalled an incident of the front door being pulled off the hinges by a pick-up truck, and others said garbage was left piling in the hallways, allowing mice and rats to infest.

After tenants were bought out for $30,000, Guttman applied for residential zoning in 2003. The community board advised against it and one week later, the building burned. No definite cause was determined, but the New York City Fire Department said workers may have been using acetylene torches at the time of the incident.

The Guttmans could not be reached for comment.

Loft Law: protecting Brooklyn tenants

The 2010 Loft Law was closed in March of 2014 and then reopened again in 2015. It allows tenants and landlords to apply for loft legalization, but there are a few provisions that must be met:

-Units have to have at least one window that faces a street, courtyard or yard.

-Units must be at least 400 square feet.

-Apartments can’t be in cellars or basements.

-Units cannot be located in an industrial business zone, with the exception of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, North Brooklyn, and certain areas of Long Island City. (Varet Street falls within the North Brooklyn zone.)

-The building must not have been used for activities “incompatible” with residential use since June 21, 2010.

These laws only apply to units in commercial or manufacturing buildings where three or more families lived independently from one another for more than 12 consecutive months, starting January 1, 2008 through December 21, 2009. Further, the building must already lack a residential certificate of occupancy.

The city established the New York City Loft Board to regulate conversions back in the early ‘80s. Lofts, also referred to as interim multiple dwellings, can take years to legalize, but the process is worth it to some tenants. Legal loft dwellers can receive benefits like rent stabilization, protection against unlawful eviction and yearly rent increases regulated by the Rent Guidelines Board.

Email Jennifer Riner

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