CONEY ISLAND – Despite strong community pushback, the homeless outreach organization Women In Need (WIN) is moving forward with plans to construct a seven-story homeless shelter at 2200 Neptune Avenue in Coney Island.
Although no formal announcement has been made by Women In Need yet, the first signs that the project was slated to move forward came forward as permits for a new seven-story commercial building were filed with the city last month.
Residents of the community have been vocal in opposing the homeless shelter since the project was proposed over a year ago. The community felt they weren’t consulted about the facility, and expressed concerns over its location in a residential area, just two blocks from an intermediate school.
The business that may be most directly affected by the project, however, is New York Bread Inc., a neighborhood bakery and grocery that occupies the west end of the structure at the corner of Neptune Avenue and West 23rd Street.
Viktor Verebeychik, one of the store owners, has been working with Brooklyn Community Board 13 with the support of Senator Diane Savino to petition against the project since it was announced. Now, he feels defeated. “What else can we do? We’ve taken this all the way up to Albany but they don’t listen to us,” he said.
New York Bread is a bright, tidy neighborhood bakery with a wraparound deli counter and well-stocked shelves. Customers wait patiently in line at the deli to order cheeses, cold cuts, and Russian-style zakuski and cold salads. The scent of toasted grains immediately greets you at the door, as does the entire wall of freshly-baked loaves that face the entrance.
The well-manicured interior is a direct result of the store being gutted by Hurricane Sandy five years ago. The entire first floor was washed away in the surge, leaving Verebeychik and his business partner unsure if they would be able to reopen at all. However, thanks to help from friends and family, the store was rebuilt and remodeled to its current state.
The story of the bakery’s near destruction and rebuilding adds to the ties the owners feel to the store’s location. The store occupies only a small area of a much larger structure that was once the Brooklyn Yarn and Dye Company, but now stands vacant. The new homeless shelter will occupy most of the structure but leave the bakery untouched. However, the owner did purchase the entire plot, including the space the bakery occupies.
The architecture firm listed on the application, SWA Architecture PLLC, was tight-lipped about the project, saying that no information could be given per request of the client. Additionally, the owner Gal Horowitz did not return multiple calls.
Meanwhile, business as usual continues at New York Bread although a sense of uncertainty clouds Victor Verebeychik’s eyes as he thinks about the future. “The project can’t be good for business, but we are not going anywhere,” he said.