Columbus Village is a commercial and residential developmentbeing built amid the affordable housing complex, Park West Village,owned by PWV Acquisitions. The proposed development plans for morethan 320,000 sf of retail space, an underground parking garage andfive residential towers.

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The complaint, styled Bunten v. DOB et al, requests that theCourt compel the DOB to perform its administrative duty to enforceNew York City zoning provisions, so that the citizens of thecommunity can participate in a public review process to protect thecharacter of their community and their environmental rights. Thesuit asks for an injunction to stop construction, pending review ofthe zoning violations and all environmental issues.

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The central spine of the Columbus Village project is alongColumbus Avenue. It is said that it would create the longest pairof unbroken street walls along any avenue in Manhattan, bisecting alarge-scale planned community known since 1959 as Park WestVillage, which consists of four condominium buildings betweenColumbus Avenue and Central Park West, and three rental structuresto the west of Columbus Avenue.

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"The DOB'S failure to discharge its ministerial duties has shutthe door on the public review process, which should include areview and mitigation of environmental impacts as required underNew York State law," says Jack Lester, the attorney for theplaintiff. "The DOB's gross dereliction of its administrativeobligations is allowing the developer to proceed under a cloak ofsecrecy and causing harm to the community." The DOB did not returnGlobeSt.com queries for comment before deadline.

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The main construction area, which runs between 97th and 100thstreets along both sides of Columbus Avenue, is the most extensivein any residential neighborhood in New York City. Last July, aretaining wall collapse on the site caused a multi-day evacuationof an adjacent building. The DOB concluded that the constructionfailure was the fault of the developer. Manhattan Borough presidentScott Stringer and other local elected officials said the DOBfailed to properly police the construction site and penalized thecontractor.

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Stringer pointed to "system-wide monitoring problems and castnew doubt on DOB's ability to safeguard New Yorkers from thedangers posed by development." According to a statement released byStringer's office, the "Report of Investigation" by the Departmentof Buildings Forensic Engineering Unit reveals failures by DOB withrespect to the competence of inspections; the presence of requiredseismic monitors to check the impact of blasting; the enforcementof Stop Work Orders; and the timeliness of conveying information tothe public. "The Department of Buildings still doesn't get it,"says Stringer in the statement. "We've got a crisis of confidencein this city when it comes to protecting the public from thedangers of construction. This report was an opportunity for DOB torestore its credibility. Instead, we get more of the same." Hecontinues that "the clock is ticking on improving the performanceof the Department of Buildings, and time is running out."Stringer's conclusion was echoed by Lester in a preparedstatement.

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Lester notes that "the retaining wall collapse last summer wasjust one result of the DOB's neglect of its obligations.Potentially worse results are the drastic violations of communityplanning and Federal and municipal land use standards, which thedevelopers are getting away with because the DOB has failed toaddress them. The project will eliminate legislatively protectedopen space, access routes for vehicles and pedestrians,recreational facilities and the contextual planning for thecommunity; and replace them with increased congestion, density,pollution and incidence of asthma. It will destroy the uniqueneighborhood character and livability of the historic Park WestVillage."

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Natalie Dolce

Natalie Dolce, editor-in-chief of GlobeSt.com and GlobeSt. Real Estate Forum, is responsible for working with editorial staff, freelancers and senior management to help plan the overarching vision that encompasses GlobeSt.com, including short-term and long-term goals for the website, how content integrates through the company’s other product lines and the overall quality of content. Previously she served as national executive editor and editor of the West Coast region for GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Forum, and was responsible for coverage of news and information pertaining to that vital real estate region. Prior to moving out to the Southern California office, she was Northeast bureau chief, covering New York City for GlobeSt.com. Her background includes a stint at InStyle Magazine, and as managing editor with New York Press, an alternative weekly New York City paper. In her career, she has also covered a variety of beats for M magazine, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, FashionLedge.com, and Co-Ed magazine. Dolce has also freelanced for a number of publications, including MSNBC.com and Museums New York magazine.