Community Board 18 will present new plans for the Four Sparrow Marsh area, a sliver of parkland in Mill Basin that may be turned over to commercial developers for a shopping center.
The meeting will take place tomorrow, January 18, at 8:00 p.m. in the Kings Plaza Community Room (enter near the garage on Flatbush Avenue; the community room is to your right).
It was about this time last year that we first wrote about the Four Sparrow Marsh, a nature preserve near Kings Plaza that the city was considering developing into a shopping mall. A key component of the plan includes a commercial building to go on the left side of the existing Toys “R” Us building, housing Kristal Auto Mall. That building will house the dealership, showroom and the service space, and there are also plans to expand an existing marina.
On the other side of Toys “R” Us is where the controversy emerged. Two options were being considered. The first was for two commercial structures that would house multiple commercial tenants. The second option was for one large commercial structure that would house one tenant. They’re also planning on-site parking for approximately 820 vehicles.
This proposal required eating up a portion of marshland. This is important, as Four Sparrows Marsh Preserve is the larger and older of the two remaining salt marshes on the north shore of the Jamaica Bay estuary system. It serves two critical roles besides nesting habitat. It is a rest stop for up to 326 species of migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway, and filters pollution and excess nutrients from the Bay.
Those plans were eventually nixed under the shadow of corruption allegations against disgraced State Senator Carl Kruger. The project was mentioned during conversations recorded by the FBI between Kruger and Forest City Ratner-connected developer Aaron Malinsky, who was trying to get state funds directed towards the project.
Community Board 18 is hoping to rekindle public interest in the project with a new plan that still includes the auto mall and marina expansion, but leaves a huge question mark over the fate of the marshland segment – a strip of land that was supposed to be handed over to the Parks Department, but apparently never was. An advocate promoting community involvement in the project wrote to Queens Crap:
There is an additional strip of land south of Toys R Us that is also included in the development. We need to see if this will intrude on the parkland of Four Sparrow Marsh.
We also need to insist that the remaining 60+ acres of land is OFFICIALLY turned over to the Parks Dept. Otherwise, there is a good possibility that sooner or later this site will be turned over to developers.
We lost the Vandalia Dunes to the Gateway Mall. Let’s make sure that Four Sparrow Marsh does not suffer the same fate.
UPDATE (1/18 at 1:50 p.m.): City Councilman Lew Fidler left a comment below that clarifies on the situation, and we’re bumping it up here to make it more visible:
To clarify, the current proposal no longer affects the marshland. The strip mall, which was to be on the marsh land has been removed. A tiny sliver of the marshland will be utilized as a perimeter, but it will only be used for the planting of tress along the perimeter. Additionally, there will be a 20 year use restriction on the Vornado piece that will keep it from being used as a big box store. It will have to essentially remain a toy store.
Please come to the Community Board meeting to hear the actual details and express your opinion. However, I wanted the presentation here to be accurate.
It should be noted that one of the claims that the advocate made regarding the project is that a portion of the parkland was never handed over to the Parks Department, despite the fact that Parks Department signage marks the area. If this is true, it’s an issue that still needs to be addressed whether or not the marshland is to be developed or not.