An enormous commercial development slated for Coney Island Avenue in Midwood is facing opposition for its proposal to cut out 74 required parking spaces, but its backers say it’s moving forward regardless.
The construction site at 1504 Coney Island Avenue, at Avenue L, is to be the largest retail development in the neighborhood, according to boasts from its leasing team. Councilman David Greenfield is calling it a “mega development,” saying it will feature more than 160,000 square feet of space. Zoning requirements call for a minimum of 346 parking spaces, but the owner has requested permission from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals to scale that back to 272 spaces.
That’s unacceptable, according to the pol. The intersection is already home to one of the neighborhood’s most popular markets, Pomegranate, and adding more development without sufficient parking would bring that stretch of Coney Island Avenue to a standstill.
“I frequently drive by Avenue L and Coney Island Avenue and am stuck among double and triple-parked cars. It’s really ridiculous that anyone would suggest that the lack of parking is not a problem in this neighborhood. That is why I am fighting to make sure the community gets the required amount of parking for this new mega development,” Greenfield said in a press release.
The project’s developer expects the site to be a shopping destination, with a 50,000-square-foot department store as its anchor, with 25,000 square feet of additional retail and 3,400 square feet of office space. A 56,000-square-foot section of the building will be set aside for ambulatory medical care, and another 28,000 square feet will serve as community space and home for a non-profit, the developer’s representative, attorney Howard Goldman, explained during a meeting last week of the BSA. (The BSA is empowered to grant waivers to zoning regulations if the situation meets certain conditions.)
The parking would be underground, served by an entrance on Coney Island Avenue, and the building will use a robotic system to store and retrieve vehicles. According to Goldman, the system won’t requiring any on-street queuing which would otherwise lead to congestion.
Greenfield, who is also chair of the City Council’s powerful Land Use Committee, and Community Board 12 District Manager Barry Spitzer, who is also Greenfield’s deputy chief of staff, testified against the developer’s application, saying that the parking just isn’t sufficient in the neighborhood. Greenfield spokesperson Jane Carey, who testified on behalf of the councilman, and Spitzer both focused on double parking and truck traffic caused by Pomegranate, which only has 40 parking spaces. Though that may be Pomegranate’s fault, the BSA should enforce the parking minimum at the new, unrelated development to prevent the problem from getting worse.
Their plea appears to be in vain. Goldman said they’re going forward with the stated amount of parking whether or not the Board approves it – they’ll just reduce the medical office’s square footage, which requires more parking than other uses.
“If the request is not granted by the Board, it doesn’t mean the project won’t be built. What it means is that instead of the medical office, we will have the non-profit office space,” he said before the BSA. “So, matter of fact, it’ll be the same amount of spaces but a different mix of uses.”
Goldman added that, for all the bellyaching about parking, the new project will help ease the burden created by Pomegranate.
“This is a congested intersection. And the reason it’s congested is because there’s a very popular supermarket across the street called Pomegranate,” Goldman said, noting that their analysis showed congestion was worst on Thursday evenings and Friday afternoons. Pomegrenate’s parking “is really insufficient. Our garage’s excess capacity can handle some of that excess overflow from Pomegranate and the net result will be a benefit to the neighborhood, not a detriment to the neighborhood.”
The developer submitted a letter of support for the project from Pomegranate’s owners. The BSA has another hearing on the development scheduled for September 9.