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The Brooklyn Bar gets a lesson on air and development rights

January 27, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Bar Association hosted a CLE meeting called "The Sky and The City: Development Rights in NYC" on Monday night. Pictured from left: Amber Evans, Michael Pavlakos of East Coast Appraisal Service, Kevin Dwarka and Mark J. Caruso. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

From the hotels in Williamsburg and the towers in Downtown Brooklyn to the condos along Fourth Avenue, it seems like the buildings in Brooklyn are getting taller every day. So it was appropriate that the Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) hosted a land-use attorney and urban planner for a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar on Monday covering development rights.

Kevin Dwarka, whose law firm focuses on helping cities revitalize through different strategies of land use and economic development, hosted the session, titled “The Sky and The City: Development Rights in NYC” on Remsen Street.

“Kevin is a specialist in the area of land use. He’s lectured with us before and he’s a great speaker,” said Mark J. Caruso, chair of the Real Property Section of the BBA. “It’s something that, as a real estate practitioner, I would like to know more about. It’s a CLE that I wanted to attend, so we were thrilled that he agreed to do it.”

The seminar was not only a lesson in air rights, but also a history lesson in zoning laws and how the laws surrounding development rights evolved over the years. Dwarka also made good use of examples of how larger scale issues can often affect a single building.

It’s an issue that all real estate lawyers should be well versed in, Dwarka explained, because even someone purchasing a single-family home can be affected by unexpected development rights.

“It will empower you, as attorneys practicing in the realm of real estate, to better advise your clients about what they need to know as they undertake the acquisition of properties and attempt to maximize their whole value through development rights,” Dwarka said.

“Even if your client does not want to exploit full air rights, it’s still valuable for you to understand how development right transfers work; because maybe the property that your client wants to buy is in fact encumbered in a set of restrictions in its development that are not transparent, not clear and are only understandable by going deep into the decades of the zoning history and evolution.”

As part of the lecture, Dwarka covered the differences between air rights and development rights, reasons for re-allocating air rights and some of the controversies involved. He also went through the history of zoning codes from the 1916 zoning code, the 1961 zoning resolution and the 1977 zoning amendment.

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“Whenever you go to a CLE like this, I always feel like if you leave with at least one bit of information that you didn’t have when you came in. It was worthwhile to attend,” Caruso said. “I came with a whole list of information that I didn’t know about and now I know have a greater understanding of what air rights are, how they function — and I understand more about the things I don’t know and need to know more about if I encounter this in practice.”

The BBA’s next CLE session will take place on Feb. 18 when attorney Carmen Jack Giordano and detective Eric Grimes will give a lecture titled “Video Evidence: Legal Standards and Practical Considerations.”

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