PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — Scoops, an ice cream parlor and vegetarian shop in PLG that opened in 1984, faces eviction in an area undergoing rapid gentrification and neighbors are upset.
The news first broke on a closed Facebook group. Stefan Sirucek posted that the business, located at 624 Flatbush Avenue, was in danger of closing after 30 years. Sirucek learned of the encroaching closure Saturday when he walked by Scoops and saw someone collecting signatures for a petition that read “STOP OUR EVICTION.”
Within minutes, neighbors trickled in to sign the petition, some vowing to rally in the coming days. Virginia Bechtold, a local resident, started an online petition after she and fellow PLGNA member Brenda Edwards stopped in on Saturday afternoon. Combined, the signature count hovered at more than 1,500 by late Monday.
“Even with all of our differences, Scoops remains one of the key examples of what it means to have cohesiveness in our community,” said Edwards who has lived around the corner from Scoops for 20 years. “His diverse clientele lined up outside of the shop speaks for itself.”
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Owner Anthony “Scoops” Fongyit, said he was ignored when he tried to negotiate a lease renewal with new landlord nearly two and a half years ago. In November, the rental agreement terms changed from a yearslong lease to month-to-month. Then, on April 16, attorney’s representing the uncommunicative landlord, Lawrence Bernstein of Jeremy Properties LLC, served Sweet Sops Inc. dba Scoops and Plates with a 30-day notice to vacate.
“It just makes me feel sad,” said Fongyit, 69, who emigrated from Trinidad in the 1960s. “I’ve had this place for years.”
News of the longstanding business brought a flurry of emotional testimony on social media.
“Oh wow! I used to always get cookies and cream and some cashews from there,” user tqbk, who now resides in Florida, commented on Instagram. Katie Merz, a local artist, also chimed in. “No, wait that’s so messed up! No way,” she posted on Instagram.
Members of IMPAACT Brooklyn, a nonprofit committed to sustaining Brooklyn neighborhoods, have unsuccessfully tried to broker a deal with the landlord since 2017, according to Dale Charles, director of economic development and commercial leasing. This after the nonprofit intervened and negotiated a lease for a new space on behalf of Dr. Cuts, a thriving local barbershop, who was forced out and then relocated to another location in the area.
“We’re not trying to strong-arm anyone,” said Charles who’s been instrumental in helping local business owners to navigate the new economic realities. “We’re trying to do what’s right for the community.”
But the non-profit’s relocation success with Dr. Cuts is the exception. Closures along the Flatbush Avenue business district have spiked in the face of development. Bklyner reported that as of March 23, 2019, 11.3% of businesses were shuttered along Flatbush Avenue.
Scoops opened with 24 Caribbean ice cream flavors, including soursop and mango. Fifteen years ago Fongyit brought in vegetarian food and has become popular for his dairy-free treats. The New York Times and other news outlets have featured the jam-packed yet cozy 500 sq. ft. icecream and vegetarian take-out. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, of Flatbush, doled out a proclamation in 2012 recognizing the shop for “its healthy food and drink.”
The small shop sits at the northern end of Little Caribbean, a commercial corridor along Flatbush designated in 2010 to acknowledge Caribbean influence and contributions in parts of Central Brooklyn.
“The iconic storefront was part of my childhood and reminds me of home,” said Shelley Vidia Worrell of caribBeing, a cultural institution that drove the designation of Little Carribean. Worrell, a Flatbush native and daughter of immigrant parents went on to say that the shop’s loss would be a “tremendous loss” to the community.
Matthew Ross, an attorney for the landlord, would not comment when Bklyner called for a statement.