FORT WADSWORTH — A last ditch effort to halt the controversial Mount Manresa project by burying it in red tape has been launched by Staten Island's Borough President.
James Oddo — who recently forced developers to give their streets names inspired by greed and avarice — is now trying to force the project to be part of the official city map.
Builders The Savo Brothers plan to apply for an exemption to a city rule that says homes can't be occupied unless they face streets that are on the map. If they are successful, it would effectively mean the streets are private.
But Oddo asked the city's Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) to refuse to give an exemption, the Staten Island Advance first reported.
The rejection would force the project to go through the city's lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a process that could cripple the developer's plans.
"Staten Islanders drive past a project and they say 'How the hell did that happen, who allowed that to happen?'" Oddo said.
"We would be making the same mistake with the Manresa site if we didn't compel it to go through what [city law] really was intended for."
Under General City Law 36, homes have to front streets on the city map before they can get a certificate of occupancy from the Department of Buildings.
Developers can get exemptions for hardships or practical difficulties.
Last month, the DOB rejected 132 applications for homes at the property because they didn't have exemptions from the law, the Advance reported.
A site plan filed with the BSA shows 163 homes in the project and the developer would have to file an application for each house not on a mapped street, said Ryan Singer, executive director of the agency.
A line of 18 homes front Fingerboard Road and might not need the waiver.
Oddo argued the size of the development and sheer number of homes means it should be on the city map and go through the ULURP process.
"We've been making the case for a long time," said Oddo, who has recently pushed back against several developments with private roads.
"Now you have a case of a development of this scope and this magnitude, I think the BSA is going to agree with us."
He added that his office regularly gets complaints from residents who live on private streets who are unaware that the city doesn't fix the roads and Department of Sanitation vehicles can't drive on them.
Singer said the Savo Brothers have not filed all the necessary applications for the development with the BSA and the agency will review the project once they have them all.
An attempt to reach the developers for comment was unsuccessful.
If an ULURP is triggered, the Savo Brothers' application will have to go before Community Board 1, Oddo, City Planning Commissions, the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio to get approval.
It will likely meet with strong push back. The project, which took over the former Jesuit retreat's land and ripped up ancient trees, has been strongly opposed.
In 2014, Councilwoman Debi Rose introduced a resolution to push the Savo Brothers to preserve the former Jesuit retreat house and de Blasio has criticized the city's handling of the project at a town hall meeting this year.
"This was a tremendous lost opportunity," said de Blasio, adding that if his administration was in office it would've worked out differently.
"The reason that it was lost to you is greed, plain and simple."
De Blasio reached out to see if the developers would sell the land to the city afterwards, but they said no.
The Savo Brothers won a hotly protested battle to tear down the 103-year-old retreat house and replace it with condos.
Oddo attempted to halt work by not issuing street numbers for the homes while an investigation into asbestos found at the site was carried out.
A judge ordered him to issue the numbers and he fired back by assigning the project street names including Cupidity Drive, meaning inordinate desire for wealth, Fourberie Lane, defined as trickery and deception, and Avidity Place, which is derived from avidita, meaning greed.
While his creative names grabbed headlines, Oddo said that his office knew the private road exemption issue would become a fight.
"We knew there was something much more substantive at play and that is the issue of private roads," he said.