Markowitz Approves Bensonhurst BJ’s, Demands “Destination Restaurant” With Waterfront View

Proposed site of Brooklyn Bay Center, featuring BJ's Wholesale Club

Borough President Marty Markowitz gave the green-light to Thor Equities’ plans to build a shopping center near Ceasar’s Bay that would include a BJ’s Wholesale Club, but not without some caveats – the famously food-friendly beep is demanding a classy waterfront restaurant be among the complex’s four tenants. But with a notably toothless approval/recommendation process, we’re not holding our breath.

Bensonhurst Bean, the Bensonhurst news blog, reports that Markowitz issued his ULURP recommendation giving the go-ahead on the project, called the Brooklyn Bay Center at 1752 Shore Parkway. The recommendation included two non-binding conditions: 1) that the developer use Brooklyn-based contractors and material supplies as well as show a “respectable” effort to hire residents and 2) that the developer work with the local community board to develop traffic mitigation strategies, and monitor the situation for one year after opening of the “primary tenant” (that’d be BJ’s).

Aside from the ULURP, the beep also wrote a letter to Sitt urging him to make the location a dining destination – preferably Legal Seafood and Grand Lux Café, he writes – with patrons making use of the planned publicly-accessible waterfront. In the letter, he swoons over the development’s potential, but admits to being disappointed by the current plans for a mobile concessionaire:

I marveled about the potential [Brooklyn Bay Center] would have to incorporate a bay fronting quality destination restaurant … I believe that such a destination restaurant would compliment the required waterfront open space at the end of the peninsula. Having such a dining opportunity would benefit the publicly accessible area by bringing more people to enjoy this waterfront, while the landscaping of the open space would provide the perfect foreground to the marvelous harbor vistas extending from Sea Gate to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  Unfortunately, the gesture in your plans to place a mobile food concession along the pathway does not even come close to achieving the potential for transforming this waterfront location as a destination for Brooklynites.

So does this mean we’re getting a waterfront restaurant in Bensonhurst? Not likely. As Bensonhurst Bean points out, the developer’s supposed “concessions” to the community are tepid at best:

While public utilization of the waterfront is repeatedly brought up in the documents released by the Borough President, the exact words ‘public parkland’ was not.
As we had mentioned in our previous story, public amenities mentioned at  CB 11′s meeting, such as an Eco Dock, were not mandatory for the down-zoning motion’s approval.

In terms of the restaurant, specifically, even the beep noted in his letter that there are challenges. With BJ’s secured as a tenant and the zoning approval only a formality at this point, Sitt is likely to begin construction ASAP. But the current plans don’t include space suitable for a restaurant with waterfront views, meaning construction would have to be delayed while they redraw the plans. Markowitz writes:

Given that accommodating a  destination restaurant would require a shifting of some of your second floor retail space to the outer area of the parking garage, it would be greatly appreciated if you would actively seek such a destination restaurant tenant immediately so as to not delay construction should your requested land use actions be approved.

Well, at least he asked nicely. But we’re not holding our breath.

This, of course, all hearkens to one of the great problems of the ULURP approval process. None of the conditions included by the community are binding, which basically means Thor gets to sit there nodding while everyone amps up his project with brilliant ideas, and then, once approved, he can go ahead and do whatever he wants within the boundaries of the zoning – which is sure to be the most economical, self-serving thing he can think of.

And why not? We can’t blame him any more than we can blame a hungry fox tossed into the hen-house for killing some hens. Even if the hens asked very nicely not be eaten.


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