M & I International, the “mecca of Eastern European food” at 249 Brighton Beach Avenue, shuttered its doors in September with plans to renovate and enlarge the building, but neighbors are threatening to oppose the construction if the landlord fails to add required parking spaces.

A rendering of what M&I International’s digs will look like when complete. (Click to enlarge)

The plans were revealed during Community Board 13′s meeting last Thursday, where the landlord’s attorney, Eric Palatnik, requested the community’s green light to build a larger than permitted structure that lacks 76 required off-street parking spaces.

“[The owner] would love nothing more than to put 100 parking spaces underground below that property. It would improve the value of his business exponentially … but he can’t. There’s water,” Palatnik noted, referring to the neighborhood’s high water table.

Palatnik said the landlord – the owner of M & I International – hopes to enlarge the two-story structure to four stories, and increase square-footage from 22,800 to 45,600 – or 11,400 square feet more than zoning allows. The two new floors will be used as a daycare and  medical office, and the rent will be used to offset the renovation of the building, which suffers from a sloped first floor and varied ceiling heights, as the space has assimilated multiple buildings on five tax lots as it has grown over the years.

The landlord is also seeking to legalize the second floor restaurant, which has been operating contrary to zoning laws for years.

But residents balked at the possible influx of cars two new businesses would bring without adequate parking.

“There’s a reason for having the parking requirement. And to say that 76 parking spaces which you would be required to provide [is unnecessary], you’re dismissive of the fact that there will be a significant increase,” said one resident, receiving an applause from attendees.

Palatnik, though, said the lack of parking is a longstanding issue, and the construction of an enlarged building with two new businesses won’t add to the neighborhood’s woes. He also claimed that a daycare and medical center have no need for parking, since most clients will be locals.

“Nobody is traveling from midtown Manhattan or Southern Jersey or New England to come to the medical offices. It’s all going to be local people,” said Palatnik. “You’re right on top of the subway line. You’re right in the most densely populated part of Brighton Beach. We’re going to be drawing the customers for the medical from the immediate community. Same thing with daycare. Nobody is running around the city dropping their children at a daycare that’s 35 miles away from their home.”

But that comment sparked protest from Ida Sanoff, a 35-year Brighton Beach resident and longtime business owner, who said she “knows something” of being a neighbor to exactly the kind of businesses Palatnik’s client wants to attract.

“If there’s one thing that Brighton Beach has more than enough of, it’s medical facilities,” she said, noting that she has a medical facility near her residence, and that “98 percent” of the time there’s ambulettes in front and drivers can’t get by.

Palatnik could not answer questions about where ambulettes would drop patients off or how frequently they would do so, but claimed, “we don’t believe it’s going to be such a substantial impact that it will block the roads.”

Sanoff also said her business was hurt when a daycare center opened on their block. Even though all the clients were local, they still crammed the roads twice a day as parents would line the street during pickups and drop-offs, blocking access to her storefront.

She also warned the Board that they would be setting a precedent, allowing a 58-foot-tall building in an area of mostly two- or three-story structures.

But Palatnik defended the plans, suggesting that the area is booming because of business owners like his client.

“Brighton Beach is a victim of its own success,” he said. “I think it’s a blessing to have someone coming into your community and building up to what’s allowed to be built to, and investing such massive amounts of money into your community.”

Community Board 13 will vote on the proposal on October 17, during a meeting at their office at 1201 Surf Avenue, 3rd Floor. If you would like to comment on the proposal, call the Board at (718) 266-3001 or e-mail cb13chair@gmail.com.

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  • engteacher

    How refreshing that a local businessman actually applied for permits in the first place!
    Witness the illegal parking lot– currently on work stoppage for lack of permits– being built on Z and East 16th Street.
    Cynicism– Alive and well in Sheepshead Bay.

  • Arthur Borko

    This is a good opportunity for compromise and change. You’ve got a business doing their best to grow where they are. They seem to be trying to do it the right way by involving the community and at least explaining why they deserve an exemption.

    I think a situation like this requires everyone to put their heads together and work with the local authorities and businesses It’s a great opportunity to foster real community advancement.

    So lets look at what we’re dealing with here. The parking and street congestion seems to be the biggest issue. The business is very close to the beach and water line, it’s in a flood zone during hurricane season. Building a waterproof basement for parking here would be too costly and too much a disruption to the surrounding businesses. Instead of reinforcing the existing structure and adding more levels they’d have to demolish the building(s) on the tax lots and excavate a basement. You know invasive that can be.

    So, what’s the solution/compromise? How about adding parking somewhere nearby so it benefits the entire community. There are two parking lots one block south. One is municipal and I think the other is private, not 100% sure.

    However this where the opportunity comes in. Instead of building the parking below his store he could put down funds to build additional parking spaces here. Turn the ground level parking lot into a multi-level parking lot.

    To those that complain about changing the character of the area, well, times change! However, we can maintain some character and change it for the better. The building doesn’t just have to have parking. It could contain new bathrooms for beach goers, and lockers. It could have a park on the top floor so we have a green area right across from the beach.

    Free parking could be set aside mornings and afternoons for the daycare center so they can park and walk down the block to drop off their kids. The area directly in front should be reserved for loading/unloading of commercial vehicles and medical vans. With the extra spaces 1 block away you can stand to lose 3-4 on the street.

    In a situation like this everyone wins. The business owner, the community, even the city….of course I doubt it will turn out like this….too many close-minded and self interested parties…

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      Not that I disagree with anything you said, but, just to clarify, he is legally required to come before the Board.

    • Arnie the K

      Who’s going to pay for the parking facility you propose? The property owner? Or would taxpayers defray cost?

      • Arthur Borko

        Well, since the business property owner is the one who needs to add the parking then yes. My suggest presumes that it would be cheaper to build the parking above ground then below ground so he should end up saving money right? The guy is looking for permission to ignore the law as written. One of his reasons is the prohibitive cost.

        So, if the city would play ball with the municipal parking lot then he could build it there.

        Here’s where the opportunity comes knocking. So, lets say the board ok’s this plan and the city goes along with it. Why stop there? The city/taxpayer could certainly chip in additional money for additional improvements to the area. Since it’s their property i doubt they’d start charging meter rates for parking there, so if they city is going to make money on the deal too they can invest in infrastructure.

        It doesn’t end there. What if we went over what other variances local business are after? Similar compromises might be made. If they pitch in money to this project, or other local improvements, then they can have the variance.

        Everyone wins. The taxpayer gets privately funded improvements to infrastructure and the city saves, even makes money as the businesses bring in increased tax revenue.

        These are just rough ideas. If real professionals were willing to sit down, go over the relevant laws, figure this out, if the city was willing to play ball, then we could actually live in a better place…

  • Arnie the K

    Just what Brighton needs-more vehicular traffic, especially in the summer months. Brighton Beach Avenue will become a gridlocked nightmare despite the property owner’s assurances that congestion won’t increase.
    The owner’s attorney has acknowledged the second floor restaurant is operating in violation of city regulations. Now he suddenly wants a zoning variance to legalize it? Where has the owner been all these years? The proposed expansion is nothing more than a greedy property owner looking to enrich himself further and the community be damned. The community board should overwelmingly reject this proposal.

  • BK

    Why not build parking lot on top of the building, same as Marshalls did on Sheepsheadbay?

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      It would make it too tall. Also, there’s no place to put the access ramp. One side of it is on Brighton Beach Ave, which is not a place for a driveway, one side is on one of Brighton’s “lanes” – which are 20-foot-wide pedestrian walkways – and then there is a teeny, tiny portion of the building on the side street. I don’t think it’s any wider than one car, so you couldn’t make access there.

  • Mike

    They should buy a land for off site parking just like they did on ave Z.
    But they will go to BSA and cry a river to built without parking and how it will benefit comunity bla bla bla.

  • osito57

    The sad thing is that the community, supposedly fearful of cars and traffic, is actually encouraging cars and traffic by their actions.
    If you add more parking, you get more cars and traffic. This is traffic engineering 101. That’s why the new Barclays Center, which has no parking, also hasn’t caused much traffic. If you want monumental traffic gridlock in downtown Brooklyn, you could have gotten that by making it easy to drive to the arena (by providing parking). Don’t provide parking, and people generally walk or take transit. Same concept applies here, or really anywhere on earth where transit is an option.
    So if the community really, truly is fearful of gridlock, they should support the variance, and support removal of mandatory parking minimums in Brooklyn. Thankfully they don’t exist in Manhattan, and they’re being removed in parts of Brooklyn already.

  • New Yorker

    IT’S A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE THAT WANTS TO EXPAND TO ILLEGAL MEDICAL BILLING OFFICES. PUT THESE MOBSTER RUSSIANS IN JAIL ALREADY.