Archive for the tag 'loehmanns seaport plaza'

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.

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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.

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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.

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Bullet Points” is our format for Community Board 15 meeting coverage, providing takeaways we think are important. Information in Bullet Points is meant only to be a quick summary, and some issues may be more deeply explored in future articles.

Loehmann’s expansion postponed: An expected vote on an application to expand Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza (2027 Emmons Avenue) was tabled by Community Board 15 at their meeting this Tuesday to allow hearings and public input throughout the summer.

The Board was scheduled to vote on the proposal, which seeks to add an additional floor of office space totaling 10,000 square feet to the building. As the first item on the agenda, the Board’s Zoning Committee chairperson, Ronnie Tawil, made a motion to table the item until the group’s next meeting in September.

“Since this property is at the centerpiece of Sheepshead Bay and is of such high significance for the entire area, I’m of the mind that we should table this matter so that we can have more public hearings and more opportunities to discuss the ramifications of this particular application,” he said before the Board.

Normally, postponing such a hearing before the summer could open the door for an end-run around the Board. The group’s recommendation is advisory, and is requested to come within 60 days before the landlord’s appearance before the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), which has final say. If the Community Board tables a motion, it could forfeit its right to provide input.

However, the group’s chairperson Theresa Scavo said that won’t happen in this case. She met with the landlord’s attorney, Eric Palatnik, who frequently comes before the group on zoning matter and requested that he postpone the appearance before the BSA so that public hearings can be organized. He agreed, and has frozen the application, Scavo said.

“I’m asking him not to go ahead without us, he said he would not, and everything is put on hold. He’s giving it until September,” said Scavo.

Public hearings are expected to be scheduled in July or August by Councilman Deutsch’s office in conjunction with local groups like the Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association. The item will be back for a vote before the Board in September.

As Sheepshead Bites first reported in March, the landlord is planning to add a new floor of commercial offices. Because it falls outside of the special zoning district‘s permitted uses, and the building is already subject to a variance, the BSA must review and approve the project.

Its initial construction was a lightning rod for community activists in the 1990s, when many locals mobilized to stop it from being built. It succeeded in going forward, and many credit the development as being the death of the special zoning district.

“It’s the same thing all over again. The use exceeds the zoning by 800 percent. It was granted specifically for Loehmann’s and Loehmann’s went out [of business]. So that’s it. Unbelievable,” said Steve Barrison when he learned the news in March. “We’re talking about a special district. We’re talking about the waterfront. We’re not talking about any where else in the community. It’s disgusting.”

Zoning items:

  • 1112 Gilmore Court - The board voted 28-to-5 to approve an application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling. The landlord is seeking to upgrade a one-story bungalow into a two-family house, saying he needs more space for his family and needs the second unit to cover the costs of construction. The construction will not result in decreased side yards, as they plan to build back into the rear yard and to increase the front yard space.

Elected officials:

  • Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein briefed the Board on the end of the legislative session, specifically touting her record of domestic violence initiatives. She added that her bill on special education placements did not pass, but that was in fact good news since a deal had been negotiated with Mayor Bill de Blasio to initiate the changes at the Department of Education anyway.

Other notable information:

  • A motion by newly appointed boardmember Ed Jaworski, also the president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association, was rejected. The motion was to approve a resolution of “no confidence” in the Board of Standards and Appeals, which he said has been effectively upzoning neighborhoods on a lot-by-lot basis by rubber stamping special applications for variances that come before it. In the coming days, the BSA will lose its current chairperson to term limits, and Jaworski hoped to send a message that would result in an appointee he would consider more inclined to listen to local communities. The Board ultimately rejected the motion after choosing not to table it, with members saying that it would “disenfranchise the relationship we’ve built over time,” and that there were other ways to weigh in on the selection of a new BSA chairperson.
  • The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, through their partnership with the Family Justice Center, informed the area that they are establishing walk-in centers in every borough for domestic violence victims. The centers have free attorneys, social workers, children’s counselors and more on-site, and it’s open to all regardless of gender or immigration status. Community Board 15 is ranked 39th citywide in domestic violence calls, roughly in the middle of all communities.
  • The Department of City Planning announced the launch of the Southern Brooklyn Resilient Neighborhood Study, a two-year plan to examine the Sheepshead Bay area (specifically Plumb Beach and Gerritsen Beach) to identify strategies to strengthen the area from future storms. Some attendees complained that the new study doesn’t help with ongoing issues with Build it Back, FEMA or other agencies, and is yet another in a long line of studies and initiatives that they feel are not moving forward.
  • The Board welcomed the appointment of five new members, at least two of which were not in attendance, and at least one of which has never been seen at Board meetings previously. Board appointments are made by the borough president, often at the recommendation of local Council members.
  • Doreen Garson, representing the local CERT team, noted that the Office of Emergency Management has issued new evacuation maps and a related website.
  • A representative for Councilman Mark Treyger announced that his office would hold an unclaimed funds event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at their 2014 Stillwell Avenue office on July 10. You will be able to search state databases for funds owed that you may have forgotten about or lost track of.
  • The Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach branches of the Brooklyn Public Library will participate in the Department of Education’s summer meals programming, offering kids free lunch during the day, beginning on June 27.
  • The July 4 holiday is a Friday. There will be no recycling picked up that day, but garbage may be put to the curb. Alternate side parking will be suspended.
  • The Department of Consumer Affairs asked the Board for input on the installation of bumper cars at Land o’ Fun at 2955 Coney Island Avenue. The Board voted to recommend its approval.

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ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: The owners of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza (2027 Emmons Avenue) have submitted plans to the Department of Building to construct a new extension to the controversial building, leaving those who fought its initial construction nearly 20 years ago in a state of shock.

The proposed extension would add a new story of commercial offices, totaling 10,000 square feet. The plans are in violation of zoning and the property’s current variance, and will soon be considered by Community Board 15 and the Board of Standards and Appeals.

One of the property’s owners, Alex Levin, confirmed the expansion.

“We’re looking to expand office space,” he said. “We’re going to bring the elevator up to [a new third] floor. We have our reasons.”

The project’s architect, Robert Palermo, declined to discuss the plans.

“It’s privileged information. When it comes before the board, it’ll be public,” he said.

There is no date set yet for a public hearing at Community Board 15, the first step to obtaining any variance. Chairperson Theresa Scavo said she had not yet been notified by the Board of Standards Appeals.

As a resident, though, she was shocked to learn of the plan.

“Speaking personally, it was against the special Sheepshead zoning district to begin with, and to add a floor is a slap in the face to the people of Sheepshead Bay,” she said. “I cannot believe that adding another floor is going to give the Bay a better look with that monstrosity there.”

The building sits within the Sheepshead Bay special zoning district, which limits the size and use of structures along the Emmons Avenue waterfront. The area is limited to waterfront and tourist-related activities, and special density and height limits govern development.

Many longtime Sheepshead Bay activists credit the development of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza in the 1990s as the death of the special district, having won a variance that, according to those who fought it, resulted in it being 800 percent larger than legal limits. The exception was won due to the promise of the retail giant Loehmann’s as an anchor tenant, justifying jobs and commercial draw in exchange for its waiver.

Loehmann’s went bankrupt and vacated the property last month.

Bay Improvement Group Steve Barrison, one of the development’s most vocal opponents, said the new application is history repeating itself.

“It’s the same thing all over again. The use exceeds the zoning by 800 percent. It was granted specifically for Loehmann’s and Loehmann’s went out. So that’s it. Unbelievable,” he said. “We’re talking about a special district. We’re talking about the waterfront. We’re not talking about any where else in the community. It’s disgusting.”

Barrison added that there’s little legal justification to allow the variance simply for office space. According to the law, a developer must show that they suffer from certain hardships, as found in section 72-21 of New York’s Zoning Resolution.

“It’s insensitive to the whole community after Sandy,” said Barrison. “All of the people who haven’t moved in or are still rebuilding and trying to get their lives together. Now [this developer] wants to go and build and increase zoning some more when people can’t speak up.”

If Bay Improvement Group decides to fight the variance, they’ll be fighting a different developer than they did in the 1990s. The building was sold to Levin in 2008 for $24 million, a local real estate record at the time.

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Loehmann’s discount clothing store at 2027 Emmons Avenue closed for good on Wednesday, wrapping up its seven-week-long closeout sale.

We first announced the impending closure of Loehmann’s in early January, after the retailer filed for bankruptcy and won a court decision permitting it to sell of inventory and holdings.

Thirty-nine stores in all are now closed, ending a nearly 100-year-long presence in the borough where it all began.

The Sheepshead Bay Loehmann’s opened its doors in the 1990s after a long and bitter battle between the property developer and locals who feared it was an inappropriate use of waterfront land. A special zoning district was enacted for the Sheepshead Bay waterfront in the 1970s, reserving the land for waterfront- and tourist-related activities.

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It looks like the controversial and eponymous tenant of the Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza building on Emmons Avenue will soon vacate, following approval from a bankruptcy judge to sell off inventory and holdings.

The discount designer apparel retailer is shutting its doors after filing for bankruptcy in December. A judge on Tuesday gave the green light to conduct at “Going out of Business” sale of merchandise at the retailer’s 40 locations across 11 states.

In Sheepshead Bay, it means a prime waterfront commercial space at 2027 Emmons Avenue will now go vacant, after being one of the strip’s prime attractions for local shoppers. It also means that nearly 100 employees at the local location will be looking for work, an employee told Sheepshead Bites over the phone today.

The storefront is set to close its doors for good some time in March, the employee said. Until then, shoppers can enjoy bargains between 10 and 40 percent off, with the sale kicking off today.

The Sheepshead Bay Loehmann’s opened its doors in the 1990s after a long and bitter battle between the property developer and locals who feared it was an inappropriate use of waterfront land. A special zoning district was enacted for the Sheepshead Bay waterfront in the 1970s, reserving the land for waterfront- and tourist-related activities.

The Loehmann’s space was renovated in 2010 after a fire in a neighboring restaurant caused damages. Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 shuttered the location once again, and it reopened doors to shoppers in February.

The three-story, 280,000 square foot retail center came under new ownership in 2008, setting a local real estate record with a sale price of $24 million.

Founded in Crown Heights in 1921, Loehmann’s has struggled to compete in recent years, filing for bankruptcy two previous times. It follows the trend of other discount apparel retailers, including Filene’s Basement and Daffy’s, both of which filed for bankruptcy in the past two years.

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Baby’s Dream NY, a children’s apparel retailer, has reopened nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy doused the store last October.

Located in the Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza sublevel, at 2027 Emmons Avenue, the business opened its doors to customers within the last few days.

It is one of the last businesses left to reopen in the building. New Cats Cafe, to be redubbed Cats on the Bay, will be reopening within the next few days, and we saw them working on a new sign when we stopped by this afternoon. Sweika, the German-themed bar and restaurant occupying the corner of the basement level, does not appear to be reopening.

Welcome back, Baby’s Dream, and best of luck in the future!

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Shuttered since Superstorm Sandy flooded the ground level at Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza, Cats on the Bay (2027 Emmons Avenue) is almost ready to reopen, marking the comeback of one of the last restaurants still shuttered by the storm.

It’s also a bit of a rebranding for the establishment, as it was formerly known as New Cats Cafe. After struggling to get back up and running after the storm, the owners worked out a deal to keep their employees working by taking over a Bay Ridge nightclub called Amnesia, and dubbing it Club Cats.

No word if they’ll continue to keep on their Bay Ridge location, but their return to Emmons Avenue is a welcome sight.

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It’s a tremendous pleasure to see new businesses opening along the waterfront, especially in Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza, where the below ground level has seen little revival since Superstorm Sandy.

That’s why we were happy to stumble across Yogurt City yesterday, celebrating its first day open to the public. Located in that below ground level, next to where Sweika once was, Yogurt City is the third frozen yogurt shop to open in the Sheepshead Bay Road – Emmons Avenue area, the other two being Arbuz and Yooberry. (Arbuz, it’s worth noting, has grown out of its frozen yogurt britches and has a much more expansive menu now.)

Yogurt City appears to be more in line with Yooberry, selling its yogurt by the ounce rather than standard small, medium and large sizes, and has an equally wide range of toppings to its competitors.

Congratulations to Yogurt City on the opening, and welcome to the neighborhood!

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