The Flatbush Savings Bank building on Monday, March 8th, 2020. (Image: Dann Lawrence)
Demolition has started on the historic Flatbush Savings Bank building, despite some last-minute efforts by advocates to preserve it. A new, mixed-use building is expected to rise at the location, which is adjacent to the Kings Theatre.
The city’s Department of Buildings approved a renewed demolition permit on March 2nd for the 94-year-old structure at 1041-1049 Flatbush Avenue by Duryea Place, after a permit issued in late 2019 expired. Representatives for the owner, Nehalkumar Gandhi of 1045 Flatbush Avenue LLC, said interior demolition had already begun.
“Men are already at the site working on it,” said Anish Gandhi. “I don’t know the exact timeline yet.”
Another representative, Victor Rathod, said the building had been in “an unsafe condition” and estimated demolition was about 60% complete.
The news comes despite a push by local advocacy group Respect Brooklyn to get the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to preserve the building, an effort that was supported by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the architecture firm that originally designed the Renaissance Revival-style structure, now known as Mancini Duffy.
Those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. In a March 4th letter responding to the request, LPC research director Kate Lemos McHale told Respect Brooklyn that while the building “may merit consideration as an individual landmark,” work already authorized by the demolition permit “can still be carried out even if the building is designated a landmark.” In other words, it was too late to stop the building from being knocked down.
In a statement to Bklyner, Respect Brooklyn’s Henry Bobbins accused the LPC of dragging their feet on the landmarking request, and of failing to live up to the agency’s recently-announced “equity framework” intended to prioritizing designations that highlight diversity and are located in areas with fewer landmarked properties.
The group has also complained about the relative lack of landmarks in the area; the most recent landmark designation was of the nearby Sears Roebuck building in 2012.
In Flatbush, Bobbins said, “There is a clear imbalance of preservation and development that is leading to displacement and loss of valuable cultural and architectural character.”
A 1940 tax photo of the Flatbush Savings Bank. (Photo: NYC Department of Records & Information Services)
Gandhi has filed construction permits for a new, nine-story, mixed-use building at the site, totaling 86,021 square feet. Of that, 43,395 square feet is designated for commercial use, 15,377 for residential use, and 519 for a “community facility.”
Documents submitted to the DOB in December show plans for a mix of 39 hotel guest rooms, 23 apartments, and space for an “ambulatory diagnostic/health rehabilitation” facility. The filings also indicate plans for an underground parking garage of 56 spaces and bike parking of 17 spaces. No renderings were included with the documents.
The Gandhis have been prolific hotel developers, proposing and developing projects everywhere from Williamsburg to Sheepshead Bay, East New York and the Bronx, though many remain unfinished. Completed projects include the Vue Hotel in Sunset Park as well as 2384 Atlantic Ave, which houses facilities for the homeless service provider ICL.
Another Flatbush-area Gandhi hotel, a Best Western Plus that replaced a Jiffy Lube building at 928 Coney Island Avenue, is theoretically set to open sometime this year.
A Gandhi-developed Best Western Plus hotel, which replaced a Jiffy Lube building at 928 Coney Island Avenue, is theoretically set to open sometime this year. (Photo: Liena Zagare/Bklyner)
Bobbins has speculated Gandhi’s could try to rent the hotel rooms at the Flatbush Avenue site to the city’s Department of Social Services (DSS) as temporary homeless shelters, a practice the city has looked to end even as the pandemic has prolonged its use.
Anish nevertheless told Bklyner that his team “hasn’t decided yet” how the building will be used.