Archive for the tag 'construction'

e16thst

THE COMMUTESheepshead Bay has been the victim of over-development.

Development itself is not a bad thing. In fact, it is good for the economy. However, when development occurs, the infrastructure must also be improved.

Block after block, the neighborhood has seen one-family homes replaced by six-family condos. Several new mid-rise developments have also appeared on or near Sheepshead Bay Road and more are planned. This has placed a strain on traffic, especially along the narrow 18th Century Sheepshead Bay Road, formerly known as Shore Road.

In the 19th Century, our city forefathers planned a numbered street grid system that revolutionized our roads. Sheepshead Bay Road, however, predated that grid. The surface Manhattan Beach Railway, which operated passenger service until 1922, ran along East 17th Street south of Avenue X, (which is why that portion of the street is wider than the rest) and along the western fork near Jerome Avenue cutting through the super block soon to be developed with a luxury high-rise. The railway extended along the Brighton line and between what is now West End Avenue and Corbin Place to Manhattan Beach, serving the area’s two luxury (Manhattan Beach and Oriental) hotels.

That is the reason East 16th Street dead-ends at Sheepshead Bay Road and does not continue until the other side of Voorhies Avenue.

Normally, when superblocks are created, the adjacent streets are widened to accommodate the displaced traffic from eliminated streets. In this case, no street was eliminated, only some railroad tracks. In 1922, automobile traffic was still sparse and the word “superblock” did not even exist until large housing projects made them commonplace decades later. Sheepshead Bay Road, a street lined mostly with small hotels, was never widened, as traffic increased and those hotels were demolished or as residences were converted to storefronts.

Currently, there are a half dozen vacant storefronts on the northeast corner of Sheepshead Bay Road and Voorhies Avenue, suggesting more development in the near future, increasing traffic even more. Traffic on Voorhies Avenue is already a nightmare every Monday through Friday after 3pm, with a dozen cars lined up on East 18th Street waiting to make a right turn onto Voorhies Avenue. (A left turn is all but impossible.)

Changes are needed.

More History

When I proposed the rerouting of the B49 in 1978 from Ocean Avenue to replace the B1 along Sheepshead Bay Road, I suggested it operate on the circuitous northbound route it currently uses, including Shore Parkway and East 14th Street, because it was three or four minutes quicker than Sheepshead Bay Road. It was tabled for 30 years, and by that point the time saved had been diminished. The roundabout route is just as dreadful as along Sheepshead Bay Road. Instead it was implemented recently due to cars constantly standing in the no standing zone on Sheepshead Bay Road, and, with the lack of traffic enforcement, it became more difficult for two buses to pass simultaneously.

My proposed routing no longer saves three or four minutes. The rerouting from Ocean Avenue, instead of merely adding five minutes to the B49 as it did in 1978, now can add as much as 15 minutes for through riders when compared to the pre-1978 route. Therefore, I now believe we need some special buses during school hours or an additional bus route bypassing the subway station as it did prior to 1978. However, that is a subject for another article.

The point is that with each new development, traffic gets worse. What if the city decides to sell both municipal parking lots and add still more commercial development as they have done on Kings Highway and are doing in Flushing? What if the El Greco site is developed with another high-rise as has been long rumored (with no substantiation)? We will find out about it when it is too late. What will happen to traffic after five new high-rises are constructed near Sheepshead Bay Road? We could have gridlock.

Let’s Not Lose an Opportunity

Right now, with the proposed luxury condos at 1501 Voorhies Avenue, near Sheepshead Bay Road, we have the opportunity to extend East 16th Street to Voorhies Avenue and the north Shore Parkway service road. (A traffic reversal on the service road between East 16th Street and Sheepshead Bay Road would also be required. A redesign of the highway exit would also help.)

We do not need a private pedestrian walkway as currently proposed. A new street could be accomplished even with a gated entrance (though it would be a little more difficult) and should be a requirement before any development takes place there. Our local elected officials must insist on it. (Are you listening, Councilman Chaim Deutsch, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and State Senator Marty Golden?)

A continuation of southbound East 16th Street would enable a conversion of Sheepshead Bay Road to northbound only between the Shore Parkway North service road and Jerome Avenue. It would also permit a simplified B49 bus routing with northbound service returning to Sheepshead Bay Road and southbound service able to use the new East 16th Street. The northbound B4 would be able to use Sheepshead Bay Road as well, with the southbound route also using East 16th Street.

The possibility also exists to widen Sheepshead Bay Road between the Shore Parkway north service road and Emmons Avenue since the Belt Parkway Bridge is slated for reconstruction. All that is required is a slight modification of existing design plans and a few more dollars. No demolition would be required. Note that Nostrand Avenue will be widened when that bridge is reconstructed. Why not widen Sheepshead Bay Road under the Belt Parkway? Extending East 16th Street would have occurred when the Manhattan Beach Railway tracks were ripped up if the city had any foresight. Let us not condemn future generations to saying we had no foresight back in 2014.

In Other News

Last month saw the passing of transit and community activist (and my friend) Dr. John Rozankowski at age 61. If that name is at all familiar, it is because John substituted for me on The Commute on three occasions when I was on vacation. He also wrote for the blog Welcome to the Bronx for the past eight months and for Suite 101 prior to that. He received his PHD in history and was also very active in the successful campaign of Letitia James for Public Advocate, who attended the wake, spoke and stayed until it was over. Obituaries for John appeared in Welcome to the Bronx and the NY Daily News.

His wake was a tribute to race and age relations, an old white Polish gentleman with so many young black and Latino friends. At least 25 people spoke about the man, many with tears in their eyes. At least 50 attended. It was a very moving experience. He was a selfless Republican Conservative who did not let politics get in the way of what he believed in. His only interest was in making the world a better place. That is something we could all learn from.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Scaffolding went up last week. (Source: Lisanne Anderson)

Scaffolding went up last week. (Source: Lisanne Anderson)

Neighbors are raising the alarm over potential plans to tear down a symbol of Midwood’s movie-making history, the 107-year-old Vitagraph smokestack near East 14th Street and Avenue M.

Scaffolding now surrounds the smokestack, which still has the historic silent film company’s name on it, though no plans have been filed to indicate its fate. The appearance of scaffolding has some worried that new owners plan to demolish the structure.

Brooklyn Eagle reports:

The smokestack, at East 15th Street and Locust Avenue, is an artifact from the historic Vitagraph Studios, a silent film company founded by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith in 1897. It is now shrouded in scaffolding after permits were filed to erect a heavy duty sidewalk shed and pipe scaffold at the location.

“It is 110+ years old, and an important part of Brooklyn and film making history,” [neighbor Ellen] Levitt added. “I don’t think this is landmarked, which is a shame.”

Despite the age, passersby could clearly see the Vitagraph name embedded in the brickwork before scaffolding was erected. (Source: Lisanne Anderson)

Despite the age, passersby could clearly see the Vitagraph name embedded in the brickwork before scaffolding was erected. (Source: Lisanne Anderson)

The smokestack is part of the larger property at 1277 East 14th Street, which was most recently the site of Shulamith School for Girls. The complex became part of Warner Brothers after Vitagraph was sold in 1925.

The Encyclopedia of New York City has this on Vitagraph Studios (via Forgotten NY):

An open-air, rooftop motion picture studio, opened in 1898 by American Vitagraph in the Morse Building at 140 Nassau Street [Manhattan]. The film Burglar On The Roof was produced in the studio during its first year. In 1890 the company moved its offices to 110-16 Nassau Street and then opened a glass-enclosed studio in 1906 at 15th Street and Locust Avenue in Flatbush…

…Warner Brothers purchased American Vitagraph in 1925 and used the studio for many of its Vitaphone short subjects before closing it in 1939; it continued to produce film there even after the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) bought the studio in 1952 and began using it for color television broadcasts.

Though a portion of the sprawling complex continued to operate as a studio into the 21st Century, the more historic facility at 1277 East 14th Street was repurposed by Yeshiva University in 1967.

Attempts to landmark the smokestack itself have failed to win approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

A new petition by neighbor Melissa Friedling is making the rounds to save the smokestack.

“Prodigious and proud, the smokestack stands beautifully emblazoned with inlaid brickwork spelling out Vitagraph (visible from the Q train as you approach the Avenue M subway station),” the petition states. “We would like to make a plea for preserving it as a landmark for the the borough of Brooklyn and for cinema posterity.”

The property sold in July 2014 for $20 million. Despite using an anonymous LLC moniker, Sheepshead Bites has learned that the new owner is Hampshire Properties, a Midwood-based manager and developer of residential and commercial properties across the nation. They manage several properties in Midwood, Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach, among others.

Though Hampshire Properties has confirmed ownership, they did not return requests for comment on the plans.

Source: DOT

Source: DOT

Department of Transportation contractors have wrapped up repairs to the eastbound portions of the Belt Parkway between Flatbush Avenue and Rockaway Parkway, and last night kicked off repaving of the westbound lanes on the same segment.

Crews will be milling and resurfacing portions of the westbound Belt Parkway between Rockaway Parkway and Flatbush Avenue from 11pm until 5am, beginning last night.

Full closures of all westbound lanes will occur every night of the week except Saturday night to Monday morning, and will last for approximately two weeks.

Drivers will be directed to a detour that exits at Rockaway Parkway, makes a left onto Flatlands Avenue, continues to Utica Avenue, and then proceeds south onto Flatbush Avenue. See the map above for additional details, including the alternate route using Pennsylvania Avenue.

Work will not occur on the night of Monday, October 13, in observance of Columbus Day, but it will resume Tuesday night.

 

Highlighted portion is the part to be demolished.

Highlighted portion is the part to be demolished.

Demolitions permits have been issued to the developers of the planned 30-story Voorhies Avenue tower for the connected property, 1524 Sheepshead Bay Road, which will be torn down to create a gated walkway for prospective residents.

The application for demolition was approved in mid-August, shortly after Muss Development and AvalonBay purchased the property and more than a month before plans were filed for the tower.

The storefront is actually part of a larger building, all owned by Muss, that spans four storefronts, including the Citibank.

That building, once known as the Soeller Building, is approximately a century old. While city records indicate it was built in 1927, old certificates of occupancy suggest it dates back to at least the 1910s.

Over the years it’s become a patchwork of materials and colors as it has been used, reused, subdivided, and used again. That made it a charming subject for the very excellent blogger at Lost New York City, who wrote about it and its eponymous owner back in 2011:

The Soeller Building was owned by Mary Soeller, who ran a hotel back in the late 1800s. It was thusly described in a legal document at the time (Mary was being sued): “a double  house with a veranda in front, and the veranda roof is extended at the sides so as to cover a room, which is the barber’s shop, at one end of the house, and at the other end to cover a room used as a billiard room.” It was called the Island View Hotel, and probably catered to the beach and racetrack crowd that flocked to Sheepshead Bay during the summers.

Admittedly, the building is hardly an architectural gem awaiting landmark status. But, for what it’s worth, Soeller was interesting cat who helped Sheepshead Bay become what it is today when she went and bought “swampland” by the Sheepshead Bay B.M.T. station to develop. Here’s some reminiscing the pioneer did on her 100th birthday in 1950, courtesy of the Brooklyn Eagle:

soeller

Click to enlarge

Sources tell Sheepshead Bites that the sidewalk fencing will go up any day now and demolition right after that.

As we reported yesterday, draft plans for the 1501 Voorhies Avenue tower reveal a gated walkway from the commercial corridor into the luxury development’s grounds. But with no approved plans to build yet, is demolishing a 100-year-old storefront perhaps premature?

loehmanns

A special public hearing originally slated for tonight on the proposed expansion of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza, whose owners seek to add a new floor of office space, has been postponed to allow further scrutiny of the plans. However, the zoning committee of Community Board 15 is still moving forward with a special meeting to consider nine other projects in the community.

The meeting will kick off at 6pm in the faculty dining room (U112) of Kingsborough Community College (2001 Oriental Boulevard).

The plans for Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza (2027 Emmons Avenue), as first reported by Sheepshead Bites, call for an additional 10,000 square feet of commercial offices on an entirely new floor of the building. The owner said he needs the additional revenue it would create to offset losses from Superstorm Sandy.

Already built far outside of zoning allowances, the building’s developer needs to obtain approval from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, which asks for a recommendation from the Community Board before deciding for itself.

A hearing was added at the last minute to Community Board 15′s agenda for its final meeting before summer recess. With cooperation from the developer, the Board voted to table the matter so it could gather more public input.

With many boardmembers and local community group leaders on vacation, the Board struggled to coordinate an on-site visit with stakeholders.

“[Councilman Chaim Deutsch] and the Community Board want to have the opportunity to really examine this. Over the summer, it was difficult to get the zoning people together and set up meetings,” explained CB15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo. “We want to get all the community groups together and on-site before any decisions are made … and determine any possible downside.”

The developer agreed to postpone his plans again.

Still, the Board is moving forward with a long list of hearings on other projects tonight to make next week’s regularly scheduled meeting more manageable.

Tonight’s agenda will review the following projects:

  • 1601 Gravesend Neck Road – An application to legalize an existing physical culture establishment. This project, for FG Fitness Gallery, was previously denied by the Board after owners failed to send representation in June 2013. The Board at that time also voted to refuse to consider the matter again in the future.
  • 2442 East 14th Street – An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
  • 2137 East 12th Street - An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
  • 4167 Ocean Avenue - An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
  • 325 Avenue Y – An application for a special permit to allow a school within a M1-1 Zoning District
  • 1937 East 14th Street - An application for a special permit to allow the conversion of a two family dwelling into a single family dwelling.
  • 1981 East 9th Street - An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
  • 1977 Homecrest Avenue - An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
  • 2268 West 1st Street – An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement and conversion of an existing two family residence to a single family residence.
Map of the primary and alternate detour routes. Stars indicate presence of traffic agents. Click to enlarge. (Source: DOT)

Map of the primary and alternate detour routes. Stars indicate presence of traffic agents. Click to enlarge. (Source: DOT)

Extensive repairs to the Belt Parkway will cause the Department of Transportation to shutter a section of the highway during nights for approximately three weeks, beginning tonight.

Contractors will be tearing up the asphalt and repaving the eastbound Belt Parkway between Flatbush Avenue and Rockaway Parkway every evening from 11pm to 5am. Work will take place during those hours every day except Sundays.

During the construction, drivers will be guided through a detour route that exits at Flatbush Avenue, continues to Utica and Flatlands avenues, then to East 76th Street/Paerdegat Avenue, to Seaview Avenue before finally returning to the highway at Rockaway Parkway.

Flatlands Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and Knapp Street will provide alternative detours. See the map above for more information.

There will be signs along the detour route for additional guidance.

Work will not take place the nights of Wednesday, September 24, and Thursday, September 25, in observance of Rosh Hashanah, but will continue again Friday night.

dunkin-donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts will soon open at 273 Avenue X, replacing an independent coffee house with a franchise.

The storefront, at the corner of Stryker Street and a block shy of McDonald Avenue, is the former home of Amori Baci,, a nice Italian cafe that served gelato and crepes in addition to standard coffee house fare. Amori Baci opened in 2011, but we’re not sure when it shuttered.

Dunkin’ Donuts appears to be making moves in the area. Another location is popping up on Neptune Avenue in Brighton Beach, as well as on Cropsey Avenue in Bath Beach. Those are the ones we know about, and their website lists dozens of existing locations in the area. With the latest additions, it’s nearly at the point where you’ll be able to find a D-n-D within five blocks of any spot in the neighborhood.

We’re not so sure that’s a good thing. What do you think?

development-1

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) is urging the Board of Standards and Appeals to reject a special permit application by a Sheepshead Bay ambulatory health care facility that would severely impact residential parking.

The applicant, Eric Palatnik, P.C., for 2464 Coney Island Avenue, wants BSA to reduce the facility’s required number of parking spaces in the building’s indoor garage. Thirty-four spaces are currently reserved but BSA can reduce that number to 17. BSA is conducting a hearing on the matter tomorrow at 10 a.m. [Ed. — The meeting has now passed.]

Community Board 15 has already voted against the proposal.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz says eliminating indoor parking spaces will cause parking woes for people on East 9th Street, located around the corner from the facility, in addition to other nearby streets. “East 9th Street consists of attached homes with no garages. Residents here must rely solely on street parking, which is already in short supply,” he said in a letter to BSA.

Curb cuts have been installed on East 9th Street for the health care center’s underground parking garage, limiting parking for residents even further, he said.

Exacerbating the situation is a car rental business on the first floor of the same building, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. The car rental business will use the underground garage spaces when necessary, meaning that patients at the health care facility will need to look for available street parking when the indoor spots are occupied.

“In order to minimize the impact on residents’ quality of life, it is essential that BSA vote against the application to reduce the required number of parking spaces for the ambulatory health facility,” he said.

dunkin-donuts

Brighton Beach will be home to a new Dunkin’ Donuts in the near future, with construction set to wrap up soon at 361 Neptune Avenue, on the corner of Brighton 3rd Street.

The lot has been home to the shell of an old gas station and garage for quite a number of years, and it looks like plans for the franchise coffee and sweets shop have been in the works since late 2012, judging from Department of Buildings records. The plans were finally approved in January and work began thereafter.

It doesn’t look like they’ll have a drive-through operation, but there will be parking for as many as 13 cars in the lot – which has yet to be paved. It looks like they’re still working on the interior, too, and the cracked, weed-covered sidewalk around the perimeter will probably be redone as well.

What do you think – good place for a Dunkin’ Donuts?

The same lot in 2012. Source: Google Maps

The same lot in 2012. Source: Google Maps

The site of the proposed development. (Source: CPEX Retail Leasing)

Rendering of the proposed development. (Source: CPEX Retail Leasing)

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.

The site of the proposed development. (Source: CPEX Retail Leasing)

The site of the proposed development. (Source: CPEX Retail Leasing)

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.

« Prev - Next »