BSA – Board of Standards and Appeals

Decisions Posted on Site:
Resolutions (January 1, 2002 – Present)

Link to Board of Standards and Appeals web site 

Created as part of the City’s system for regulation of land use, development, and construction, the Board of Standards and Appeals was established as an independent Board of thirteen members in 1916 pursuant to an amendment to the Greater New York Charter. Subsequent amendments and the 1991 Charter fixed the Board at its current complement of five full-time commissioners appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the City Council for terms of six years. By law, the Board must comprise one registered architect, one professional engineer, and one planner. The remaining commissioners need no professional qualification, however no more than two commissioners may reside in any one borough.

As a board of “appeals,” the Board hears and decides appeals from property owners whose applications to construct or alter buildings or establish new uses have been denied as contrary to law by the enforcement agencies – the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department and the Department of Business Services. In such instances, the City Charter confers the power on the Board to interpret the meaning or applicability of the provisions of the Building Code, Fire Code, Multiple Dwelling Law, Labor Law and the New York City Zoning Resolution. In certain cases, it is given the power to vary these regulations for specific sites or projects. The Board is also given the power to grant special permits and to make other determinations under the Administrative Code and Zoning Resolution and to hear applications from the Buildings Department and Fire Department to modify or revoke certificates of occupancy. This broad range of powers brings before the Board a large number of issues that affect the development of the City and the effectiveness of its building safety regulations. Among the functions of the Board which is most visible is its zoning power, particularly its power to grant variances and special permits, which cases are frequently of vital interest to Community Boards, civic organizations, and neighborhood residents.

The Board is a quasi-judicial body, which means that it 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 general opinions or interpretations, and it cannot grant a variance or a special permit to any person who has not first sought a proper permit or approval from an enforcement agency. Further, the Board does not have equity powers, which only the Courts can exercise. Thus, 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 meets regularly in public review session and holds public hearings to vote on applications as described above.

All of the Board’s Resolutions beginning in 2003 are available on the web site and are posted as issued.