While local groups continue to fight tooth and nail in order to prevent Walmart from opening up a store in New York City, another big box chain isn’t running into any trouble at all in Bensonhurst.
Joe Sitt’s Thor Shore Parkway Developers, LLC has applied for a change in zoning in order to build a two-story 214,000-square-foot retail space near Caesar’s Bay Shopping Center. The four-unit commercial project, to occupy 1752 Shore Parkway (at Bay 38th Street), is being called Brooklyn Bay Center, and the ground floor is expected to house a BJ’s Wholesale Club, with the three remaining retail units on the second flood floor.
There is a land use hearing on the proposal scheduled for today at 5:00 p.m. in Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn.
Thor is applying for M1 zoning, which would actually downzone the area from its current M3 industrial zoning. The proposal was voted on at Community Board 11’s May 16 meeting, and District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia said only one person spoke against the plans, while many more approved of it.
Elias-Pavia said she thinks the new use fits because the proposed development would provide over 250 jobs and eliminate the existing high manufacturing use.
“I think a retail use there, and the opportunity to provide jobs, is beneficial for everyone,” Elias-Pavia told Bensonhurst Bean.
Development of this site has apparently been held up since at least 2009, when Thor hoped to do their groundbreaking (as their website still notes). They bought the property in November 2005 for $10 million.
A lone dissenter to the project at Community Board 11’s May 16 hearing on land use applications was Stanley Roher, former President of both the Bensonhurst Board of Trade and Kings County Boards of Trade. He asserted that new businesses should be moving into vacant storefronts on the area’s existing main streets, rather than on undeveloped waterfront property.
Roher said the development would take away foot traffic from small businesses in the heart of the neighborhood.
“At least the [large chain] drug stores are on the same streets as the small businesses,” Roher told Bensonhurst Bean. “You still have a chance of one of their customers coming into your store. Where [the development] is, they won’t even walk by.”
Pedestrians might not walk by, but at least one lawmaker is trying to make it easier to drive by: State Assemblyman Peter Abbate may be seeking state taxpayer funds to relocate the eastbound entrance of the Belt Parkway to alleviate potential traffic snafus. The plan would be to move the ramp east from its current location at Bay Parkway.
Roher thinks that moving the ramp would do little to ease congestion on Shore Parkway.
“[Brooklyn Bay Center] is not a good entity, especially where they’re putting it,” Roher told Bensonhurst Bean. “You have a one-way street there. Caesar’s Bay, what used to be Nelly Bly (now called Adventurer’s Amusement Park), the sanitation trucks, a motel, car dealerships. It’s too much.”
Also mentioned in the motion voted on at the May 16 hearing was a recommendation that Thor Shore Parkway work with government agencies to look into the possibility of water access by visitors, as well as a combination of ecologically-friendly plantings with a recreational pier, known as an Eco Dock. There is nothing in the motion that makes the inclusion of water access or an Eco Dock mandatory.
In addition to the BJ’s, Thor is seeking a restaurant or concessionaire tenant, and there will also be a three-level 690-car parking garage and 2.5 acres of publicly accessible parkland. Elias-Pavia pointed out that, with downzoning, the rather noxious specter of a manufacturing zone could be replaced by fishing and sunbathing.
Community Board 11 has made its recommendations to the Borough President, who will review the project today. The Borough President will then forward the project to the Department of City Planning, which will hold another public hearing withing 60 days.
Have an opinion on this development? Share it in the comments, and make sure you submit any objections at the public hearing in the Borough President’s Community Room, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street today at 5:00 p.m.