Community Bashes Sheepshead Bay Rd Developments

Residents, board members and local politicians chewed out a developer’s plans to construct a nine-story, 115 foot tall building wedged between Sheepshead Bay Road and Avenue Z at this week’s meeting, amidst concerns about parking, traffic and safety.

The board voted unanimously to turn down a request for special permits to reduce the amount of parking required for two buildings by the same owner. The special permits sought to combine the parking for both buildings (1401 Sheepshead Bay Road and 1501 Sheepshead Bay Road), and reduce the number of required spaces by 40 percent.

But the height, location and car capacity of the new building, as well as the developer’s own statements to the Board of Standards and Appeals, came under attack during the Tuesday night meeting.

“When we bring up downzoning in this area, this is the kind of project we’re talking about,” said a representative for Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz.

Like many residents, the local pol is concerned that a 101 car parking garage will add significantly to traffic along Avenue Z. Worse, according to Cymbrowitz, is that the developer attempted to mislead the BSA by asserting that a traffic study wasn’t needed because the garage would have no effect.

“Anyone with even a vague familiarity of the area knows that this is misleading and just disconnected from reality,” Cymbrowitz’ representative read from a statement from the Assemblyman. “I’m not sure what they’re basing their conclusions on … no traffic study has been conducted. The developer failed to study these transportation issues and now is misleading the Board of Standards and Appeals by letting them know they don’t need to look at traffic at all. This gives the facts, no chance. This gives shoppers, riders, residents and existing businesses no consideration.”

Cymbrowitz has called for a traffic study of the blocks surrounding the development, and has met with DOT’s Brooklyn Commissioner Joseph Palmieri about the issue. Councilman Nelson also submitted two letters to the board “strongly opposing” the project.

According to the owner’s attorney, Eric Palatnik, 1401 Sheepshead Bay Road was mistakenly built several years ago without the required number of spaces. It needed 77, but as construction went forward the contractor discovered water underneath the surface that prohibited them from building a basement lot that had been planned. Without informing the building owner, the contractor altered the plans to include a small garage for eight cars and built up to the third floor before the error was discovered. Now, the building owner has been refused a certificate of occupancy – a required document to secure financing from a bank.

To correct the error, the owner is planning four floors of parking in a nine story building a block away, at 1501 Sheepshead Bay Road (the garage part will be accessed at 1508 Avenue Z). City regulations allow accessory parking in another location within 600 feet, according to Palatnik. But in order to have enough parking for the nine story building as well as what’s needed at 1401 Sheepshead Bay Road, they’ve asked to reduce the amount of required spots from 178 spaces to just 109 (101 in the new building, eight in the old building).

Residents echoed concerns that cars would be forced to line up along Avenue Z. But Palatnik said a queuing space for 17 cars existed on the first floor, and that the building’s eight valet attendants would have ample room to jockey cars without removing them from the property. However, the 17 queuing spaces are included in the plans as part of the 101 spaces, and Palatnik said they’ll be filled once the rest of the garage is full.

The bus stop at Avenue Z and East 15th Street – which serves the B4 and B49 – sits in the way of the garage, and the developer’s representative said they were in discussions with the Department of Transportation to move it. Some at the meeting said this would inconvenience handicapped commuters who transfer from the B/Q subway lines.

The Community Board’s vote is a recommendation to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which has final say in whether the project can go forward. Palatnik said he plans to take the community input back to the drawing board and tailor the project and will also consider a traffic study.

But even with the plan going forward as of right, which includes the same 101 parking spots but would not legalize the problems at the 1401 Sheepshead Bay Road property, residents can’t see how it won’t be a problem.

“[Sheepshead Bay Road] is a very busy commercial strip, and this will only add to the congestion, and the concern is that granting the developer’s request will result in more noise, more traffic, more accidents,” said the representative for Cymbrowitz. “We cannot put 100 cars in one elevator without engaging in some kind of car Tetris.”

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