Developer Gets Board’s Support For Additional Floor At Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza
The owner of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza (2027 Emmons Avenue) received Community Board 15’s seal of approval for a plan to expand the already out-of-scale building by an additional 10,000 square feet on a new third floor.
The Board voted 13-to-9 in favor of recommending the plan to the Board of Standards and Appeals on February 3, despite objections from several community groups and members of the Board itself.
The plan, which was first reported by Sheepshead Bites in March 2014, calls for crowning the building with a new 10,000-square-foot floor of office space. As part of the proposal, the developer is asking for a waiver on the amount of parking needed if it goes through.
According to attorney Eric Palatnik, who represents owner Alex Levin, the proposal reflects both the changing needs of the community, as well as the financial hardships faced by the owner in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
“[Recent variance applications including the one for Cherry Hill Gourmet Market] are quite indicative of what’s occurring in your community. As you see, there’s a large population of people that have moved here within the last two decades and they’re crying for services,” said Palatnik. “Unfortunately, the zoning on Emmons Avenue doesn’t allow for that to occur.”
Palatnik depicted the special Sheepshead Bay zoning district, which limits the use to recreational and waterfront-related activities, as out of touch with the interests of those who’ve moved here. He said the new residents want shopping and office-space along the waterfront.
While Palatnik portrayed the number of variance requests the Board hears as part of shifting attitudes, he noted that Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza suffers an additional set of circumstances: the financial burdens caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Since the storm, the landlord has had to slash the below-street-level rents in order to attract tenants. Building a new story would compensate for the loss in revenue and keep the building solvent, he said.
But opponents are saying tough luck.
After purchasing a building across the street from Sheepshead Bay with “its history of overflowing, what a surprise, the building was flooded. What in the world did the owner expect?” said Manhattan Beach Community Group President Judy Baron, in a letter to the Board read by a member of the civic. “Now he comes to the Board and states that he is not making enough money on his investment and he wants to be bailed out. All because of Sandy. This Community Board should not be placed in the position to determine how much if any profit should be made by any business.”
Baron’s letter went on to state that there were too many unknowns for the Board to make a decision on such a request, saying that no information has been shared regarding the landlord’s financials or whether or not he has made a good-faith attempt to lease the storefronts.
“Using the vacancy as an excuse to say he isn’t making a decent profit, begs the question: if he rents the space after getting the variance, he would be doing very well,” her letter said.
Bay Improvement Group Steve Barrison called the proposal a “Sandy variance” that would set an unfair precedent for out-of-scale zoning wherever Sandy’s storm surge caused damage.
“Are you saying that every single property owner that got flooded gets to build more? Is that what you’re saying? You’ve got to think about the consequences. This is about the future of our neighborhood,” said Barrison.
Some on the Board questioned the developer’s parking and traffic analysis. While the developer said no additional parking is needed as it’s currently underutilized during the week, members noted that the study had been done when vacancies – including the anchor tenant’s space – were abundant.
The Board’s recommendation is advisory only, and will be sent to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which will hold another public hearing before ruling on the matter.
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