Saturday, August 4, 2007

Some old story ‘saving’ Ridge

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

If you listened to enough Van Halen as a teen, you quickly realized that all their songs were the same; only the words changed. But this affliction is not limited to ’80s power rock.

Local preservationists’ anger over a developer’s plan to tear down a beloved structure on Fourth Avenue and replace it with condos also sounds familiar, a war between some residents and some builders akin to showdowns between Rosie and Donald, Bush and 75 percent of the American public, or those in the “Less Filling” camp and those who prefer a beer with “Great taste.”

The newest controversy is over a plan to demolish the Bay Ridge Funeral Home, at 7614 Fourth Ave., and replace it with a seven-story, 28-unit apartment building. You didn’t need to be a weatherman to know the way this wind would blow: A downzoning two years ago covered most of Bay Ridge — but not Fourth Avenue, and now developers are eying the wide, two-way street.

Of course, this is an important story, and a serious community concern, but it’s hard to discuss it until residents confront exactly what the real issues are and what is at stake.

It won’t be easy.

The schism hits at the very heart of the two most prevalent community concerns; the skyrocketing cost of housing and the maintenance of community integrity. Most residents believe that part of what makes Bay Ridge the greatest place in Brooklyn is the unique architecture, the open spaces, and the small-town feel, but they also want to be able to afford it.

The problem with being anti-development and pro-affordable housing is akin to wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. As the population continues to grow, the demand for housing increases, and if it isn’t matched by an increase in supply, the price goes up in direct proportion. It isn’t rocket science, just too many hungry people and not enough cake.

But not all is lost.

There is only one solution, albeit an unconventional one, which would allow Bay Ridge to thwart developers and bring the price of housing down — make Bay Ridge an undesirable place to live.

Yellow Hooker has three quick suggestions right off the bat: 1. replace the best restaurants with banks and 99 cent stores; 2. infest the community with undesirable vermin, like skunks and raccoons; 3. don’t bother to fix the stench coming from the Owls Head sewage treatment plant.

If that plan fails (it has), new people will still want to come to Bay Ridge, so the community will just have to accept that its biggest curse is its own success. Some bullet is going to have to get bitten — but which one remains unclear.

Until then, the addresses might change, but the war between developers and preservationists is all just the same ol’ song.

Matthew Lysiak is a regular contributor to The Brooklyn Paper

The Kitchen Sink
The Duane Reade at Senator Street and Fourth Avenue recently closed. The “Phantom” who chronicles his opinions at Bay Ridge Blog, is pushing for a Walbaum’s supermarket to fill the vacancy. …

If state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) was out of the spotlight for a few days, we might have an explanation: A source tells The Sink he hasn’t been able to put down the new Harry Potter book. …

One Ridge heavyweight wants to be a big loser. “Fat March,” a new reality television series featuring Bay Ridge’s local legend Will Millender, premieres on Aug. 7 at 9 pm on ABC. …

Our pal Sam Carrion just got cited for “outstanding academic achievement” in his Spanish class at Dartmouth, which ain’t a bad school if you ask us. His mom, Kathleen, is psyched.

Locals say new supermarket stinks, literally

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Would you prefer paper, plastic, or sewage?

After locals complained about too much trash, traffic and noise, Great Wall Supermarket on Fort Hamilton Parkway near 67th Street has agreed to clean up its waste, load and unload produce more efficiently, and quiet its machinery.

The trouble began shortly after the Chinese market opened at the end of June and began selling fish on the sidewalk, making the whole block smell, well, like fish were being sold on the sidewalk.

“The smell was just awful and it was everywhere,” said Joan Mulroy, who lives across the street from the market, which is housed in the former Fortway movie theater. “But it wasn’t only fish. There was also lot of rotting trash that would be left outside attracting all kinds of vermin.”

The fish and garbage weren’t the only thing that stunk; the noise of the air conditioner and traffic problems caused by deliveries also irked residents.

“Their stock deliveries run seven days a week resulting in double- and triple-parked trucks idling in wait outside our homes,” said resident Nina Batiato.

“By using the avenue and sidewalks adjacent to residential properties to warehouse and peddle produce, they have imposed upon us a constant debilitating noise from the beeping of their motorized forklift,” Batiato said.

Residents quickly mobilized an effort that included a petition drive, and contacting community officials.

Last Tuesday, concerned residents took their case to Community Board 10, where they tried to hammer out an agreement with representatives of the supermarket, who were also on hand.

The sweet smell of compromise was in the air.

The supermarket agreed to replace a noisy beeping forklift, to try to create a new loading zone for trucks, and to determine how the storage of trash could be improved, according to Dana Beecher, who is representing Great Wall.

“We had a productive talk and I am confident it will lead to a resolution,” said Beecher. “It is important that this business thrives, and we are planning on having more talks with the community.”

Officials were happy to see an open dialogue, but would like to see the sidewalk produce kept inside.

“People felt very happy about the grocery store’s willingness to meet with them,” said CB10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “I think they are trying to be good neighbors, but if they don’t agree to keep all their produce inside the store, some people going to have a problem with that.”

The current state of pessimism is a far cry from the triumphant press conference touting the grocer’s arrival.

At a February press conference to announce its opening, owner Spirro Geroulanos promised that his supermarket would be a cut above the average greengrocer (thanks to 20,000 square feet of space). And residents cheered a plan that would bring fresh food to a wide supermarket-free zone.

The School Construction Authority originally eyed the site, but plans to build a school hit a snag when some residents raised concerns about the site’s proximity to a popular shooting range, which is in the basement of the adjoining building.

Push Hurst bike path fix

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The restoration of the Shore Parkway Greenway is only half finished, Rep. Vito Fossella charged this week.

The hefty $20-million repair of a crumbling seawall from the 69th Street Pier to the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge was fast-tracked by the city, but now needs to be extended all the way to Bensonhurst, said Fossella (R–Bay Ridge).

The section of the path between the Verrazano and Bay Parkway is a chronic headache for bikers, who can’t enjoy the beautiful waterfront view because looking away from the path for even a second could lead to being swallowed by a hole.

Hence, Fossella’s July 13 letter to the city Parks Department that said the earlier repairs presented “a unique opportunity to continue the renaissance of the waterfront and enhance our green spaces by renovating the Bensonhurst leg of the promenade.”

The letter did not promise any federal funds to make the repairs happen, but Fossella vowed to “work with” the city to reach that end.

Bikers hope he does.

“It is ridiculous how broken up the path is,” said Chad Nardine. “I thought they were repairing the entire path. I had no idea they were planning on only repairing part of the path.”

In March 2005, pressure from Fossella forced federal and city agencies to get moving on the seawall repairs. Almost two years to the day after work began, the greenway was again open for business.

But only halfway.

And that’s like jabbing a stick into the spokes of Bensonhurst bikers.

“For too long, the Bensonhurst leg has been neglected, and we’ve received many complaints from residents,” said Community Board 11 Chairman Bill Guarinello.

“This stretch is heavily used by walkers, bicyclists and families throughout the year.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Piece of cake: Dyker downzone is official

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Dyker Heights will have its re-zoning, and eat it too.

A city plan to block over-development in the low-rise neighborhood was approved by the City Council on Wednesday, and community officials heralded the news by cutting into a cake decorated with icing that detailed the new zoning changes.

“The cake is unique because it has the entire zoning map on it,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, which covers part of the downzoned neighborhood. “And it tasted good, too.”

The bill, which is expected to be signed by Mayor Bloomberg given that it was his Department of City Planning that pushed the idea, would bar high-rise development in the 160-odd blocks between 62nd and 86th streets.

“This plan [places] more emphasis on contextual development,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge).

Dyker Heights is just the latest neighborhood to demand that the city protect its character by downzoning. Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Fort Greene have also completed or are working on similar zoning changes.

Opponents say that downzoning results in less housing — which is critically needed as Brooklyn grows.

Despite this opposition, residents of Bath Beach have begun researching a possible downzone.

Stay tuned.

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