Archive for the tag 'emmons ave'

Preliminary rendering of the new building to replace El Greco at 1801 Emmons Avenue. The view is from Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road. (Source: Sergey Rybak)

Preliminary rendering of the new building to replace El Greco at 1809 Emmons Avenue. The view is from Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road. (Source: Sergey Rybak)

EXCLUSIVE: A seven-story condominium building with ground-level retail, abundant parking and a 9,000-square-foot landscaped public plaza will soon be constructed at Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue, replacing El Greco Diner, the new owners told Sheepshead Bites in an exclusive interview.

Buyer Sergey Rybak detailed his preliminary plans following the $13 million sale of the 1809 Emmons Avenue property on Friday, which he purchased with partner Jason Reznik under the name 1809 Emmons Avenue LLC. Rybak’s company, Rybak Development, is overseeing construction.

Rybak Development already has a track record in the area. The company is part owner of the MatchPoint NYC sports complex on Shell Road, and is developing several luxury condominium projects in the area, including 3041 Ocean Avenue and 104 West End Avenue, as well as commercial projects like 1810 Voorhies Avenue. Their roster of developments is almost exclusively in Southern Brooklyn.

At the moment, all plans shared with Sheepshead Bites, including the plaza and the layout of the building, are subject to change. The final project, he hopes, will be as-of-right, meaning no approval from the Community Board or Board of Standards and Appeals will be required – but that can change, too.

See more renderings, and learn details of the plan for 1801 Emmons Avenue.

elgreco

UPDATE: See the exclusive renderings for the building the new owners have planned for this space.

El Greco Diner is bustling with nostalgic patrons since news of its impending closure after 40 years of business became public.

“It’s been crazy since you ran the story,” owner George Venetoklis told Sheepshead Bites. “Lines to get in. Too bad we are closing. Packed as we speak.”

Venetoklis said the deal for the 1821 Emmons Avenue location officially closed Friday morning. He declined to name the buyer or the sale price, but Sheepshead Bites learned that Rybak Development purchased the property for $13 million with plans to build a mixed-use property and public plaza. An auction to sell off the restaurant’s equipment is scheduled for late December.

Venetoklis said a sale has been in the works for some time, as he, his brother Peter and mother Anastasia put blood, sweat and tears into keeping it going in a changing community and economy.

“We had a really good run. A lot of businesses, at some point the model just changes. Our model was large portions at good prices. Our food prices were beginning to skyrocket and we couldn’t keep up,” he said. Other economic factors were also at play. “Real estate taxes, labor costs, everything took its toll. As a family, we realized we put in our time. Forty years, it was time to move on.”

A final breakfast of two eggs over easy with sausage and English muffin for this reporter.

A final breakfast of two eggs over easy with sausage and English muffin for this reporter.

El Greco’s owners did mount a search prior to the deal to sell the business and keep it in operation, but they said businesses like theirs have a shrinking place in communities.

“We were looking for a more modern version of the El Greco family to come in and take over,” he said. “I think that [Sheepshead Bay] has been doing well, but it’s just that the larger corporate-run businesses are the ones that have greater longevity and more backing and more ability to do things in a different way. That’s just what the nature of the beast is.”

It wasn’t an easy decision to close the diner. Founded by George’s father Minos in 1974, El Greco’s remained a true family business, where the two brothers were raised and eventually worked to keep the elder Venetoklis’ memory alive 20 years after his passing.

I was three-and-a-half when it opened, and my mother is fighting off tears.” he said. “I have four children … and they were heartbroken. I can understand it because I was basically their age when I was growing up in this restaurant. My 8-year-old turned to me and said, ‘Dad, what are you going to do?’ I said ‘I’ll spend more time with you.’”

Venetoklis said it’s the relationships he makes with customers, employees and business suppliers that he’ll miss the most.

“The highlights have been the customers and the friendships we made. This place has never closed, the business has a life of its own. It doesn’t sleep. And I’ve worked every shift in this place; I’ve seen the neighborhood change. I’ve seen the menu change – we had items that we’ve had to remove because the customers weren’t around to eat them,” he said.

The restaurant, recently named one of the borough’s best diners, was teeming with longtime regulars on Saturday afternoon. Chatter about the pending closure could be overheard at almost every table.

Among the regulars were Marc and Zoya Baroda, a Mill Basin husband and wife who met at the restaurant nearly 20 years ago and who now visit regularly with their three children, ages 6 to 15.

“I worked here as a hostess, and he was the pickle man,” said Zoya. It was 1995, and she got the job because she was a frequent patron. “I grew up here. I came here before I met him, before I worked here, and this was the place to go after a club or a night out and this is where to meet up.”

Marc and Zoya Baroda with their three kids. They say they'll be back again before the restaurant closes for good.

Marc and Zoya Baroda with their three kids. They say they’ll be back again before the restaurant closes for good.

Her future husband made the regular deliveries for Mr. Pickle – which he’ll continue to do until the closing this week.

“He’d flirt, of course. He delivered, and would come to the cashier and I’d have to pay him and he’d flirt,” she said.

It took a vacation out of town to work up the nerve to ask her out, said Marc.

“I was talking, talking and one time when I went on vacation to Mexico, one of the guys who works for me, I told him to tell Zoya when I come back I’m going to be looking for her,” boasted Marc.

He did, and they married two years later. They took their wedding photos inside the restaurant.

“There’s an old joke I used to do with Peter and George after we got married. Every time she got pregnant, I’d tell them the price of the pickles went up,” he laughed.

When they found out it was closing, “I was shocked. I was completely distraught. And my phone has been going off non-stop. My friends who moved out of Brooklyn saying that they have to come to New York to have that last breakfast or lunch or whatever,” said Zoya. “I’m very sad to see the place go, but all good things must come to end.”

“I’m not just losing a diner, I’m also losing a client. But I’m not losing a friend,” he said of Peter and George.

Venetoklis said such sentiments have been endlessly echoed by regulars, and that’s what they’ll remember the most when they lock the diner’s doors for a final time.

“It’s bittersweet. It hurts, but at the same time it feels good,” he said.

Photo By Erica Sherman

Photo By Erica Sherman

UPDATE: See the exclusive renderings for the building the new owners have planned for this space, and hear what the current owners and some patrons will miss the most when El Greco closes.

Sheepshead Bay’s iconic El Greco Diner is set to shutter next week after the property has gone into contract for a sale, making way for a new residential tower with ground-level commercial space, sources tell Sheepshead Bites.

El Greco Diner, a waterfront staple at 1821 Emmons Avenue, will soon serve its last burger and breakfast, an employee confirmed by phone today.

“Yes, we’re closing. By the end of next week. We’re not sure yet [what day],” the employee said.

The worker added that she and colleagues were told just yesterday. She hung up the phone when asked for additional details.

The sale of the property and its closure are not yet public. Owner George Venetoklis did not return calls for comment, but sources with knowledge of the deal confirmed social media chatter, and said that the land has sold to a local developer with plans to construct a new building.

The building was put up for sale in March 2013 with an asking price of $17.5 million. An associate for Massey Knakel Realty Services, the listing agent, told Sheepshead Bites that the company no longer represented the property, but that El Greco’s owners had gone in-contract with a private buyer.

A source with knowledge of the pending sale said the deal hasn’t closed yet, but is in contract for between $13 and $15 million. The source requested anonymity to preserve business relationships with the owner.

“They should be closing shortly,” the source said.

No plans have been filed with the Department of Buildings, and since the deal has not closed there has been no paperwork filed notifying the city in a change of ownership.

El Greco has served Sheepshead Bay patrons since the 1970s, and has been named one of Brooklyn’s best diners. Employees were hit hard by the news of its impending closure, according to diners who visited this morning.

“My wife was there this morning and the employees were all devastated,” said Michael Goldstein, the director of marketing at Kingsborough Community College. “They also told her in secret.”

UPDATE (December 12, 2014 at 2pm): The deal officially closed this morning, confirmed owner George Venetoklis. He did not disclose the sale price or the buyer, but did add that El Greco’s last day of operation is slated for Friday, December 19.

Flooding on Lake Avenue (Photo by Missy Haggerty)

Flooding on Lake Avenue (Photo by Missy Haggerty)

While a rainy day for most of us is just a pain in the neck, it’s an absolute hazard in the Sheepshead Bay courts – the bungalow colonies lining the eastern end of Emmons Avenue.

The below-street-level communities, which date back about 100 years, have long been prone to flooding. Neighbors are getting fed up, today sending us photos and video to illustrate just how bad it is.

Today’s nor’easter was forecast to bring about three inches of rain to the area. But due to runoff from the streets, Lake Avenue – a court just east of Nostrand Avenue between Emmons Avenue and Shore Parkway – was four inches under water by noon, according to resident Missy Haggerty.

“Flooding always happens during heavy rains. So do the other six courts,” said Haggerty. “It has gotten worse since [Superstorm Sandy].”

The problem is that the streets – which are pedestrian only and approximately eight feet wide – is not that they are just below the city’s street level, it’s that there’s no real drainage to speak of. There are small drains peppered throughout the blocks, but they go down into a shallow dirt well. They were never connected to the city’s system when it was laid out in the first half of the 20th century, also when streets were raised.

Another Lake Avenue resident, Ellen Chang, filmed the flooding as she attempted to take her dog for a walk. Without rain boots, the walkways are positively dangerous and her pup – not a small dog at all – is submerged nearly up to his chest:

Cheng said in the video that she was never informed of the flooding issue when she bought the house 14 years ago.

“I didn’t know my house had flooding like this when there’s heavy rain. All the neighbors are suffering,” she said.

Cheng and other neighbors are calling on the city to construct proper drainage connected to the city’s sewer system.

“I pay taxes. I have a right to a sewer system, and the government didn’t do anything,” she said.

“All we need is to just dig a sewer connection to Emmons Avenue sewer system. That won’t cost the city a lot of money,” she added by e-mail.

The problem is that the city considers these streets private – a justification they’ve also given for not replacing worn out street signs in the area – and in the past has claimed that residents need to band together and pay for it themselves.

The unique layout of the courts has also caused Sandy recovery issues. Build it Back chief Amy Peterson said at a Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association meeting last week that the narrow streets, lack of vehicle access and close proximity of houses is causing delays in the construction process, and leading the agency to explore a neighborhood-wide approach.

We’ll be pinging city agencies to see if they have an approach in mind to address the ongoing flooding concern, and will update you when we hear back.

Photo by Soo Koon Lee

Photo by Soo Koon Lee

Do you miss the days of heading down Emmons Avenue to Brown Street for some Chinese food at Hong Kong City? Well, the former owners are back with a new place in Bensonhurst.

Hong Kong City, the one of the only places to get Chinese fare on the waterfront, shut down some five or six years ago. The 3081 Emmons Avenue storefront has since served up Turkish food, Mexican-American food and, most recently, Italian food in the shape of Vittoria Seafood & Grill.

Owner Peter Wong is now in a new space at 2332 86th Street with a soon-to-be-opened Cantonese eatery named Shun Deck Restaurant.

Our sister site Bensonhurst Bean reports:

Long-time restauranteur Peter Wong told us he teamed up with chef Karmon Chan to build a restaurant that served the food of his hometown in the Chinese province of Guangdong. Wong had previously owned and managed the popular Hong Kong City in Sheepshead Bay (3081 Emmons) as well as a Chinese restaurant in Bay Ridge. His latest venture, Shun Deck, will be open for business on Monday, December 8.

Chan says the restaurant will serve “home-style” Cantonese recipes from Guangdong, China. The menu will include items like fresh seafood and fish, casseroles and soups, as well as rice congee for lunch.

Shun Deck Restaurant

Photo by Rachel “GimmeCredit” Silberstein

Best of luck to our former neighbors!

wolf-cave

Photo by Bob De Thomas

Emmons Avenue has a new restaurant in Wolf Cave, a decked out eatery and lounge on the corner of Batchelder Street.

Located at 3099 Emmons Avenue, the business opened its doors to diners about two weeks ago. They’ve yet to launch a website, but a waiter told us the menu includes salads, sandwiches, barbecued meats and sushi. In sum, he described it as “American-style barbecue.”

Photos on their Facebook page show a fairly cozy, almost hunting-themed restaurant. It’s decked out with warm colors, murals of wolves and trees, a fireplace and even a mounted deer head.

It’s also got a fairly rad, yet familiar, logo, seen on the awning above, which also declares Wolf Cave to be the place for “Good Natural Food”. They have live music in the evenings, Thursday to Sunday, which the waiter described as Russian-American.

The location has gone through a number of iterations the past few years. It housed a sushi spot, a Ukranian restaurant, and then, most recently, an Italian – Turkish pizza joint.

We wish Wolf Cave more success than their forbears, and hope to stop by soon to check it out!

loehmanns-rendering

Rendering of the proposed expansion. Provided by architect Robert Palermo.

Community and civic leaders met with representatives for the owners of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza to discuss a plan to add a new floor to the development. The heated discussion boiled down to whether or not the plan was an investment in the community’s viability post-Sandy, or a bailout for a landlord who made a bad buy.

The invite-only meeting, organized by Councilman Chaim Deutsch, was attended by the owner’s attorney, architect and traffic engineer to explain the project and its impact. Members of Community Board 15′s zoning committee were in attendance, as well as members of the Bay Improvement Group, Manhattan Beach Community Group, and the Sheepshead Bay Plumb Beach Civic Association – all of which have expressed concerns about the project.

loehmanns

What’s the plan?

The property’s owner, Alex Levin, filed plans in March to add a new story of commercial offices to the building, totaling 10,000 square feet, as Sheepshead Bites was the first to report.

The news reignited a contentious fight with roots back to the early 1990s when the building was first proposed. Far outside the size limitations for the area’s zoning, and with proposed uses that didn’t match the Sheepshead Bay special zoning district, community groups fought to limit the scale of the project – largely without success.

The new plan to go even larger requires a recommendation from Community Board 15 and approval from the Board of Standards and Appeals. Originally set for a hearing in June, the developer agreed to two postponements to meet with concerned community members.

“We are sympathetic to your neighborhood; we’re part of your neighborhood.”

 

–Robert Palermo, architect.

The proposal asks not just for additional office space, which will fit four to five tenants, but also a waiver on the number of required parking spots. Zoning requires a minimum of 215 parking spaces with the additional office. There’s currently parking for about 183 cars, and they plan on increasing that to 198 spaces.

Although locals who live off Emmons Avenue said parking remains a top concern, the reps said this would have no significant impact on the surrounding area, since the offices would be used during the day when the building’s garage is nearly empty. According to their studies, parking peaks in the evenings and on weekends, when visitors come to patronize local restaurants and cruise boats.

The design includes 15-foot setbacks for the new floor making it invisible from the street, and is done with gabled roofs to keep it in line with a fishing village theme, said architect Robert Palermo. He shared a rendering of the proposed addition, seen at the top of this story.

“It’s impact visually on the neighborhood is minimal,” Palermo said. “We are sympathetic to your neighborhood; we’re part of your neighborhood.”

Construction would take a year or two to complete after approval, the representatives said.

Councilman Deutsch led a tour of the vacant Loehmann's space, where the meeting was held.

Councilman Deutsch led a tour of the vacant Loehmann’s space, where the meeting was held.

“This building is on the verge of failure.”

The purpose of the plan, the developer’s representatives said last night, is to make up for income that will never be regained after Superstorm Sandy devalued the sub-level storefronts.

“If this building fails … it’s not going to help a soul.”

 

–Eric Palatnik, attorney.

The 14,000-square-foot basement level of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza, which houses the Seaport Buffet and New Cats Cafe, among others, turned into an eight-foot-deep pool following the storm. Since then, the landlord has had to slash rents by 40 percent in order to attract businesses back to the area.

The bottom line, said attorney Eric Palatnik, is that the building is no longer commercially viable.

“We’re having a hard time of it,” said the owner’s attorney, Eric Palatnik. “We’re here to tell you that we lost income as a result of downstairs. And in order for us to make up that income, we need space upstairs.”

The 10,000-square-foot space will bring in about 60 percent of the rent the basement commanded prior to Sandy, while the basement will continue to draw about 40 percent.

“It’ll never get market rent again,” said architect Palermo.

In sum, they said, the expansion plan is necessary because if the project goes belly-up the entire community will suffer.

“If this building fails, which it’s on the verge of failing, it’s not going to do anything for this community. It’s not going to help a soul,” said Palatnik.

The landlord has been unable to find a new tenant for Loehmann's since they went bankrupt nine months ago.

The landlord has been unable to find a new tenant for Loehmann’s since they went bankrupt nine months ago.

“Why should we bail you out?”

The argument that the exception ought to be granted for the building’s viability has historical roots, Palatnik noted. The basement level was opposed by community advocates like the Bay Improvement Group as well as by City Planning, all of which warned that a flood posed a significant risk. But the Board of Standards and Appeals agreed with the developer in 1995 that it needed commercial space in the basement in order to make the project viable.

“[Loehmann's] was a failure. We now know, the experiment is over.”

 

–Steve Barrison, Bay Improvement Group.

To the project’s opponents, this is a case of buyer’s remorse and they shouldn’t be rewarded for a bad investment. Levin and his partners bought the property from the original owners in 2008 for $24 million, a local real estate record at the time.

“We’re not saying it after the fact. We’re not Monday morning quarterbacks,” said Bay Improvement Group President Steve Barrison. “[The owners] bought it with their eyes wide open, and now they’re saying, ‘Oh we bought it. Look what happened. I’m a schmuck, I got stuck.’ And the community is saying ‘Why should we bail you out?’… Nobody is bailing any of us out.”

Some expressed skepticism that there was demand for office space in the area, but both Palatnik and Palermo said that the increasingly white-collar, Eastern European demographics are looking for professional spaces near their homes – and other projects prove it.

“Offices will rent. The B’ay Tower that I did two years ago proves it. You give a quality office environment in a good location in Sheepshead Bay, there’s a need for office space,” said Palermo, referencing the new tower at 1733 Sheepshead Bay Road that he designed and is now fully leased.

Palermo and Palatnik argued that the community must grant the waiver because it will help stabilize commercial property values. As a bonus, area businesses stand to gain from the expansion, since office workers will provide a new lunchtime client base for restaurants and other small shops.

But Barrison said that’s the same argument used to allow Loehmann’s department store into the space contrary to zoning, and it no longer holds water.

“It was a failure. We now know, the experiment is over. Loehmann’s came in, people shopped, and they left,” said Barrison.

Loehmann’s went bankrupt nationally  and vacated the property in February. A new tenant has not been found, though Palermo said it will remain a department store use.

Councilman Deutsch said he’s yet to take a stance on the project.

“I think it’s important for the members of [Community Board 15's] zoning committee and the community groups to know what they’re voting on, and that why went to take the tour,” said Deutsch. “I still have to discuss it with everyone, see what their position is, and their feeling is, and then I’ll take my position if need be. Or maybe I’ll just let the Community Board zoning committee vote on it, because that’s what they’re there for.”

Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo said much the same.

“I see a difference on Emmons Avenue [after Sandy,] and there isn’t really the life that used to be two years ago,” she said. “So I understand it probably is a heartache [for the landlord]. Down the road, let’s see what happens. I want to hear from the general population of Sheepshead Bay.”

The project is not yet scheduled to come before Community Board 15, but Scavo said it’s likely to come up in January.

loehmannsThe owner of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza, who is currently trying to expand the Emmons Avenue property to overcome what he says are financial hardships created by Superstorm Sandy, just doled out $16.5 million for a struggling mall in Milwaukee.

Alex Levin, the owner of Loehmann’s at 2027 Emmons Avenue, was identified last week as the top bidder on Shops of Grand Avenue, a 298,109-square-foot mall in the city’s downtown area  - shutting out a local nonprofit that hoped to turn it into a community space for higher educational institutions to collaborate and offer programming.

The mall had gone to auction following a foreclosure, as its previous owner struggled, like many malls, to retain national retail tenants. Levin confirmed to the Milwaukee Business Journal that he was the top bidder, using an anonymous LLC called Grand Avenue Mall LLC, which shares its address with Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza.

“We do want to bring new life to this mall,” he told the outlet, but declined to elaborate.

Levin made the steal after a bidding war in the auction’s final moments, climbing by $100,000 increments from $15 million to a final total of $16.5 million.

The group that had hoped to revitalize the mall for community purposes, WAM DC LCC, had won approval from the city’s economic development corporation to receive up to $20 million in city-backed bonding before it was out-bid. The idea for a collaborative space, spurred on by a similar successful project in Phoenix, was regarded as a key component to the downtown area’s renewal efforts. WAM’s proposal was called the “most vocal hometown interest in the property” by the Milwaukee Business Journal.

A scene from last year’s Light up the Shore event. Photo by Ned Berke

The following is a press release from the Bay Improvement Group:

Elected officials, recovery organizations, community leaders, and residents of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, will gather on Wednesday, October 29 at 7:30pm to remember the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated South Brooklyn, including this waterfront community.

The remembrance, part of a city-wide initiative “Light the Shore” spearheaded by the long-term recovery groups, will be held overlooking the water on the deck of the Baron de Kalb Knights of Columbus, located at 3000 Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay.

In addition to residents impacted by the disaster, elected officials Councilman Chaim Deutsch and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz; representatives of nonprofits involved in Sheepshead Bay’s recovery, including the Bay Improvement Group (BIG), Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), Kings Bay Y, and Resurrection Brooklyn Relief; and religious leaders will attend the event, now in its second year.

A brief memorial ceremony will be held alongside the bay, or inside, in the event of rain. Light refreshments will be offered afterwards, when residents will also have the opportunity to meet disaster assistance representatives and learn more about recovery services they are still offering.

No reservations necessary. All welcome.

Questions about the event may be addressed to Bay Improvement Group at 718-646-9206 or by emailing bayimprovementgrp@gmail.com.

Photo by Erica Sherman

Photo by Erica Sherman

Investigators believe the two people found dead in an Emmons Avenue apartment building yesterday afternoon ended their own lives as part of a suicide pact.

Cops responded to 3030 Emmons Avenue at approximately 12:44pm for a “wellness check” – a response to concerns from loved ones. When they arrived, they found a 43-year-old man who lived in the apartment dead on the sofa. A 44-year-old Texas woman was dead on the floor.

On the table was a plastic bag of white lumps that looked like soap pellets; the Department of Environmental Protection later confirmed the substance was the highly toxic chemical cyanide.

The man’s cell phone had the woman listed under the name “Kim Suicide,” according to the Daily News. Investigators now believe the two agreed to die together, with the Texas woman flying to the Brooklyn apartment to do the deed.

The man’s internet history showed he had researched how to use cyanide to commit suicide.

No criminality is suspected.

Warning signs of a suicide include talking about wanting to die or feeling as if you have no purpose, displaying extreme mood swings, withdrawing or becoming isolated, talking about being a burden on others, sleeping too little or too much, acting recklessly or increasing the use of drugs or alcohol. If someone you know shows these warning signs, do not leave the person alone, seek help from a medical or mental health professional, and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). Find more information here.

Next »