Community Board 15 helped clear the way for a new storage facility on Knapp Street, voting in support of a waiver to existing zoning restrictions at their meeting last Tuesday despite objections from community groups.
Metro Storage NY came before the Board in a process to repeal a “restrictive declaration” on the property at 2713-2735 Knapp Street, a wedge of land that juts into Plumb Beach Channel at Voorhies Avenue. The 28-year-old declaration prohibits any use other than a retail and marina development, a clause that has caused the land to stay desolate since the original plans fell through years ago.
“It’s derelict. What do I see here? I see some trucks, I see some cars,” said Metro Storage’s attorney, Howard Goldman, before the Board.
Goldman said the restrictive declaration and the lot’s proximity to the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant means that few plans can get through the process to make use of the property. In 1996, an application was submitted for a two-story retail development was squashed, and, in 2005, a plan for a residential development was opposed by the Department of Environmental Protection.
Metro Storage claims to be offering a way to spruce up what they call a garbage-strewn eyesore by placing a four-story self-storage facility wrapped in landscaping and bioswales. It would also fill a need, as other area self-storage facilities, including nearby competitor Public Storage at 2461 Knapp Street, are either full or near full.
But waterfront activists blast the plan, saying “not now.”
“The question is what’s the rush right now? No one wants to block off the water view, no maritime use, no complementary use at this point. We’ve had enough of the empty promises,” said Bay Improvement Group President Steve Barrison, who said he was representing the Preserve Our Waterfront group, a coalition of five community groups formed in 2004 to stop a retail development from being built near the United Artist’s theater on Harkness Avenue.
Barrison said it was unfair to raise the issue so soon after Superstorm Sandy, since many who would be affected were still busy dealing with the aftermath of the flood.
“If there’s a fair or reasonable discussion to be had on this or any other development particularly on the waterfront, this should happen in the future. This sudden rush we were called here to meet and discuss … it’s disturbing and something kind of smells,” he said.
In the weeks before Sandy, Metro Storage reps made the rounds with several local groups, including the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners’ Association and the Sheepshead Bay Plumb Beach Civic Assocation. They briefed them on plans and took into consideration requests for additional landscaping and a potential walking path. They also noted that the use does not rule out a future marina operation. None of those suggestions, however, made it into the proposal that came before the Board last week.
Despite the outreach effort, Barrison said Bay Improvement Group was not consulted because of Superstorm Sandy, and that the neighborhood has other needs.
“Why not a park? Why not a public service place? What Sandy has demonstrated is that Sheepshead needs some kind of community center,” he said.
Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association President George Broadhead said a storage facility would be an improvement, and there are worse offenders already operating on Knapp Street that should be given the boot.
“If there’s a park that we would like to have, I think it’s time we looked at the Sanitation Department, which was supposed to be on that water temporarily,” he said, referring to the local Sanitation garage which has long-delayed plans to move to a facility near Coney Island Creek. “We have already gone through issues with them and toxicity running into our creek.”
And to mariners who are still waiting for the 1984 plans of a marina to be implemented, Broadhead suggested they get with the times.
“To have a marina there? Great. But all the marinas have been selling themselves out to make money off the land they have, ” he said. “We have the opportunity to do something about a lot on which trucks have been sitting for years, dripping oil, dripping whatever.”
The Board voted 33-1 to support the plan, and it will now be reviewed by the Department of City Planning.