Archive for the tag 'theresa scavo'

Oberman

Oberman

The Trump Village co-op board headed by former City Council candidate Igor Oberman filed a libel suit against a tenant who established a blog to vent criticism of the board’s actions.

Oberman filed the suit against resident Yuliya Bezvoleva on behalf of the Trump Village Section 4 board last month, claiming that her website, TV4News.org, was causing financial harm by getting in the way of potential sales according to the New York Post.

The website has been active since the spring of 2012, documenting perceived violations of co-op board bylaws and other abuses. The oldest post on the site claims one boardmember was actually ineligible to hold the position, and was also bumped to the top of the list for coveted parking spaces. Such privileges for boardmembers are a frequent complaint, with another post alleging that the board used the co-op’s money to construct a personal, fenced in garage.

The site also shared news during Oberman’s 2013 campaign for City Council regarding concerns over his fundraising, which included donations from firms doing business with the board. That election ultimately saw Chaim Deutsch elected to replace Michael Nelson.

Another post took issue with co-op funds used for events on the 1,114-unit property that were open to the public. (Full disclosure: two such events, as noted on the website, were marketed with paid advertising on Sheepshead Bites. The ads were paid for by the Board.)

The lawsuit claims several of the site’s posts include false information, and specifically flags a story from October 2013 questioning why some board candidates were disqualified without explanation, and another from November of that year pointing out Housing Court cases against residents.

Oberman claims in the lawsuit that the website is scaring off potential buyers, and is also ruining his reputation.

“Several potential employers have asked me about . . . the Web site,” Oberman said in an affidavit, according to the Post. 

He declined to comment to the newspaper, but his attorney called the website’s claims “pure fabrications.”

Bezvoleva said the lawsuit is just another illustration of the board’s heavy-handed tactics against critical tenants.

“There is no freedom of speech, and there are no public meetings,” Bezvoleva told the Post. “When we do have them, we have lots of security guards. Sometimes police officers get invited to make sure nothing happens.”

Last year, as Oberman ran for Council, it was reported that the board was mired in lawsuits from former employees and critical tenants who were served eviction notices, allegedly to strengthen Oberman’s control over the board.

Bezvoleva was one of the residents fighting off an eviction notice at the time, after she launched an anti-Oberman petition drive.

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.

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.

loehmanns

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.
polly

Deutsch with Trottenberg, Palmieri and other DOT representatives on Coney Island Avenue.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg stood at the base of the Coney Island Avenue overpass at Guider Avenue last Tuesday, as cars whizzed around her, made illegal turns, crossed into oncoming traffic and failed to get out of the way of emergency response vehicles. She stood there for approximately 20 minutes, visibly perplexed at the apparent lawlessness of one of Southern Brooklyn’s most convoluted intersections.

Trottenberg was there at the request of Councilmember Chaim Deutsch, alongside Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri and a handful of aides for each. She had already toured other problem spots in Manhattan Beach and said the agency would consider changes requested by the community, but the scene at this intersection – where Coney Island Avenue meets Guider Avenue, Banner Avenue, a service road and a Belt Parkway entrance ramp – prompted a more firm commitment.

“This one certainly,” said Trottenberg. “We have to do some major work here. It’s terrible.”

Within days, the commissioner had ordered a traffic study of the intersection, and Deutsch’s office confirmed that traffic engineers will visit the site to assess new traffic safety measures, including turn signals and medians.

Until more permanent changes are implemented, Deutsch worked with the agency and the NYPD’s Transportation Bureau and he 60th Precinct to bring traffic agents to the intersection. The agents deployed for the first time today, and will be there during peak hours, Deutsch told Sheepshead Bites this morning.

Traffic agents were at the intersection today. (Source: Deutsch's office)

Traffic agents were at the intersection today. (Source: Deutsch’s office)

The councilman and the DOT hope the measures will go a long way to reducing traffic accidents at the location. Since 2014 began, there have been 11 collisions so far, including two pedestrians struck by vehicles and three occupant injuries, according to data obtained from the DOT by Deutsch’s office.

It’s not the first time local officials have raised issue with the intersection, or the DOT’s first stab at fixing it.

Community Board 15 has been a long-time advocate for improvements to the area, and was baffled in 2009 when the agency proposed a plan to reconfigure it that illustrated an utter lack of familiarity with the area.

A year later, then-Congressman Anthony Weiner also took the agency to task for the same plan. Both requested left-turn signals to restore order, but received a cold response from the former commissioner.

In the end of May 2012, the agency surprised locals by installing “No left turn” signs on southbound Coney Island Avenue. We stood there days later, and filmed car after car dangerously ignoring it in the span of just one minute.

As for the other sites that Trottenberg toured during her visit last week, the agency is studying some of the proposals, including turning Oriental Boulevard’s flashing yellow light at Ocean Avenue into a full-fledged traffic signal. Deutsch said he will work with the Parks Department to determine the feasibility of moving the Oriental Boulevard bike lane to the sidewalk on Shore Boulevard. A traffic study is also being ordered for Coney Island Avenue and Avenue O.

“I think it’s great that they came down here,” said Deutsch. “We had all three commissioners here to collaborate, and this is just the beginning.”

Ocean Parkway (Source: AMRosario/Flickr)

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.

Sign-onara, DOT: The state Department of Transportation was sent back to the drawing boards by Community Board 15 last night after delivering a presentation on Ocean Parkway safety improvements that left boardmembers underwhelmed.

Representatives from the agency came before Community Board 15 to share a draft report for improving pedestrian safety along the high-speed corridor. Approximately a year in the making, the agency began working with their city counterparts after being criticized following the June 2013 death of a senior at Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway, according to Streetsblog.

The first phase of the project moved quickly to address concerns, adding crosswalk timers, pedestrian islands and other improvements along the northern section. The state then turned its eyes to the south, extending through all of Community Board 15′s section.

But the proposals on display last night were largely a collection of potential ideas, without pegging which would be deployed where.

Boardmembers also shared concerns that the studies it is based on were examining the wrong things; main roads instead of the service roads, for example.

“Youre missing the points where the accidents occur. I think your evaluation sucks, to be honest with you,” said boardmember Ira Tepper. (Tepper later apologized to the DOT rep for his wording, but stood by his sentiment.)

Ultimately, boardmembers were left wanting more before signing off on the project.

“You’ve definitely got to refine your presentation” said Chairperson Theresa Scavo. “What I think is you should come back and tell us, on Avenue P what are you planning, on Kings Highway, Avenue V, every street that is in our district. Bring us what you plan to do on every intersection, and then we can tell you what we think.”

The criticism was received warmly by DOT rep Charles O’Shea, who said he’d do just that.

“We knew the plan was rough. We know there’s a lot more to do,” said O’Shea. “But the whole reason we’re here is to make Ocean Parkway safer. We’re not going to impose any solutions on the community.”

Zoning items:

  • 3743-3761 Nostrand Avenue - The Board agreed to approve an application to extend the term of the special permit on a gas station and mechanic, which has been operating with a waiver in one form or another since 1959. The vote was 26-to-2.
  • 148 Norfolk Street - In 2012, the Board approved an application to allow this homeowner to add extra square footage to their home. After Sandy rolled through and new regulations were put into effect by Department of Buildings, the agency told them to take their plans back to the drawing board, sealing off the basement and elevating the house four feet. The new application does just that, and takes the space they had hoped to use in the now-sealed-off cellar and moves it to the attic, meaning a larger house, but with the same amount of livable space as originally planned. The Board approved the application in a 28-to-1 vote.

Other information:

  • On unveiling the slate of executive boardmembers and officers, the nominating committee kicked off a small tizzy as several members with dismal attendance records have been nominated to reappointment in leadership positions. Activist Ed Jaworski and boardmember Joseph Dorinson spoke against their reappointments. Scavo, the chairperson, noted that the Board cannot control who is appointed to the Board, as that is done by the councilmembers and borough president. Dorinson maintained that it was still inappropriate to nominate them for leadership positions. “To do so is an insult to the intelligence of the community,” he said.
  • A representative from the Department of Consumer Affairs came to tout the Paid Sick Leave law which went into effect on April 1. The law requires employers of five or more employees to provide paid sick leave on an accrual basis. More information can be found here.
  • Sanna Ezri, director of the new Master Theater, formerly the Millenium Theater (1029 Brighton Beach Avenue), introduced herself to the Board and talked about the theater’s new offerings. There is also a new upscale restaurant in the building, and plans to open a Russian heritage museum.
  • A resident complained about Parks Enforcement Officers enforcing the law in Manhattan Beach over Memorial Day weekend, when they chased ice cream trucks out of the “No Standing” zone. “People in line were told to get away from the truck, myself included,” he said.
  • A representative for Councilman Chaim Deutsch invited the community to the pol’s “Participatory Governing” meeting tomorrow. Information is here.
  • Doreen Garson, for Senator Marty Golden, told the board that the annual Concerts in the Parks series will begin July 8. More information to come.
  • Garson also noted that the Office of Emergency Management has issued new evacuation maps and a related website.
  • A representative for Borough President Eric Adams said that notifications about Community Board appointments are “being mailed out as we speak.”
  • A representative for Councilman Mark Treyger’s office announced that their new district office at 2015 Stillwell Avenue is now open, and that the elected official will soon kick off the process for participatory budgeting.
  • There will be no Alternate Side Parking on June 4, in observance of Jewish holidays.
  • On June 1, Sheepshead Bay Road from East 15th Street to Emmons Avenue will be closed to traffic between noon and 5:00 p.m. for the Sheepshead Stroll, sponsored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Community Board 15, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’s office, Kings Bay Y, Empower Sheepshead and Sheepshead Bites, among others.

bedford

As our tipster Andrey G. wrote to us with the photo above, “Finally, a left turn signal on Bedford & Emmons – It’s finally here!”

A new left turn signal is the first of a few traffic safety improvements coming to Emmons Avenue and Bedford Avenue after years of complaints from residents that low visibility at the intersection frequently causes accidents.

The signal was installed some time in the last week. It was approved months ago, according to Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo.

The agency agreed to a traffic study at the intersection in 2012. Previous requests to get additional safety measures had been denied by the agency, but they finally reversed course after a spate of accidents that year – including one that left several people injured just a week after receiving the request from the Community Board.

Now that the signal is installed, the Department of Transportation will implement daylighting at the median. Daylighting involves eliminating one or two parking spaces from the edge of the intersection so that turning cars can better see oncoming traffic.

Scavo said the agency is likely just waiting for the weather to improve a bit before laying down the stripes and “no parking” signs.

Source: retrofresh! via flickr

Source: retrofresh!/Flickr

Sixteen months have passed since Superstorm Sandy, and the damaged lights on the Belt Parkway from Knapp Street to Mill Basin remain in the dark. But not for much longer if the Department of Transportation keeps its word.

According to a Daily News item last week, the city will begin bringing lights back to the area in April. It’s a $400,000 project that should be covered with federal funds, and the project is slated to be completed in May.

“This is a huge problem, especially due to the potholes, which made it difficult for motorists,” City Councilman Alan Maisel told the paper. “It’s outrageous.”

Of course, the DOT’s word is hardly its bond. The DOT had previously promised then-Assemblyman Maisel and his Council predecessor Lew Fidler that the lighting situation would be permanently fixed by fall of 2013 – and that temporary lighting would be provided in the interim. Neither of those things happened.

Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo has stated at meetings the she was told by the DOT that the plan for temporary lighting was ultimately nixed because they required gas generators. The city did not want to dispatch employees to keep them stocked with gasoline.

loehmanns

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.

Ed Eisenberg at the 2010 Sheepshead Bay Memorial Day Parade

For more than 40 years he was entwined in the fabric of the Southern Brooklyn community. He was ever-present at community meetings, where he was frequently recognized for stellar attendance. He was a member of numerous civic groups; so many that no one can list them all. He rubbed elbows, and sometimes chewed out, politicians including every Brooklyn borough president from Howard Golden to Eric Adams, and too many councilmembers, state legislators and congressmen to count. He charmed with self-deprecating jokes, and had a habit of starting conversations smack-dab in the middle of it. And he loved his local parks, his waterfront and his community up until he drew his final breath.

Longtime community activist Edward “Eddie” Eisenberg passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 79 years old, after being admitted to Maimonides Medical Center with heart-related complications.

“It was just his biggest passion to have everything clean and safe around here. To the very end. Lord knows, even when he was losing it at the end, he wanted his attache case because he had the results of the previous Community Board elections in there,” said Leigh Eisenberg, 42, the younger of Eisenberg’s two sons.

Born in Flatbush in 1934, Eisenberg attended private high schools before obtaining an associate degree at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.

Eisenberg in Fort Ord, Salinas, California

As armistice negotiations were being finalized on the Korean peninsula, Eisenberg enlisted in the United States Army and served at Fort Ord in Salinas, California, where he worked as an information specialist from 1954 to 1956.

He returned to his home borough and began his career as a salesman of packaging supplies. He met his wife, Eileen, now 74, at a singles event and the two married in 1965. They moved to Manhattan Beach shortly afterwards.

Eisenberg took to civic involvement in his adopted neighborhood with a fervor “as soon as they moved into the neighborhood,” said Leigh. “He loved Manhattan Beach and he really just always wanted to see it well maintained and safe from the moment he moved into the area.”

No one can recall exactly when he joined Community Board 15, but the lowest estimates of his tenure from friends and family put it at 38 years, easily making him the longest-serving member of the 50-person body – and perhaps the most passionate.

“I just remember as a little kid, he was so involved taking us kids fishing at Kingsborough Community College, sharing his passion for the water around the neighborhood. He just couldn’t help out in the community enough,” said Leigh.

His chief concern, Scavo said, was in lobbying the city to invest in parks.

“He always, always wanted parks – that was his shtick in life. Not transportation, parks. That was it. Every meeting, you had to support the parks, he was very, very, very involved with Parks Department issues,” said Scavo. “He was always crazed with parks.”

Former Councilman Lew Fidler, who recommended Eisenberg for reappointment to the Board in recent years, added that Eisenberg stood out for his eagerness to go above and beyond in considering Board matters.

“He was always vocal about getting to the bottom of every land use issue that came before the Board. He was so committed that when an application came before the Board he would visit the site and talk to neighbors about what they thought about the project,” said Fidler. “It really didn’t matter to him if it was across the street in Manhattan Beach or all the way in Homecrest. It makes you wonder how good a Community Board could be if every member took it as seriously as Ed.”

Local elected officials have issued statements on Eisenberg’s passing.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz posted on Facebook:

He knew the details of every community meeting and neighborhood event, almost before they were scheduled. He was generous of spirit, always eager to help and ferociously proud of the community he called home. My condolences to his wife, Eileen, and everyone who knew and loved him. Ed, you will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch said the following in a press release:

“I’ve known Ed for a long time, and have always admired the passion he held for his favorite part of Brooklyn,” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, his two sons, and all the friends he’s left behind. Manhattan Beach will never be the same.”

Borough President Eric Adams issued a statement as well:

My sincerest condolences go to out to Ed’s wife, children and relatives, as well as the larger South Brooklyn family that knew and loved his commitment to the community. From his service to our country to his deep civic engagement, Ed left a legacy for all of us to admire. He was the epitome of the volunteer spirit, an example for Brooklynites today and tomorrow to follow.

Eisenberg’s idiosyncrasies and sense of humor will be as well remembered as his advocacy.

“Ed was, if nothing else, a unique character,” Fidler remembered. “And for whatever else people want to say about Ed, he really cared about his community and his family. He used to speak about his son in Australia all the time. Quirky, of course, but you couldn’t really question where his heart was. Community was his whole life outside his family.”

Scavo remembers the costumes, stuff of legend among those involved in local civic life. Eisenberg kept a closet full of costumes, which he donned at annual gatherings over the years.

“Night Out Against Crime was always the Keystone Cop. When it came to Memorial Day, he always used to pull out Army uniforms. He always had Halloween masks and costumes, and no matter what he had a costume to go with that occasion,” she said.

His quirks did not escape his family’s notice, and they remain fond memories in the wake of his passing.

“Everyone knew him. Lord knows the man was eccentric but he had a heart as big as the moon and everyone knew it,” said Leigh Eisenberg.

Eisenberg is survived by his wife, Eileen; his eldest son, Glenn, 46, who with his wife Simone gave Eisenberg a grandson, Aaron, 2; and his youngest son, Leigh, who with his wife Jill gave Eisenberg two granddaughters, Raya, 11, and Anissa, 9. Eisenberg is also survived by his sisters Marianne and Lisa, and his brother Steve.

A service will be held for Ed Eisenberg on Tuesday, March 4, at 1:00 p.m. at Parkside Memorial Chapels (2576 Flatbush Avenue, at the corner of Avenue V). The family has chosen not to direct donations, saying that Ed had cared for too many things to pick just one, and requested that anyone wishing to make a donation send them to any community-oriented charities or groups.

Update (March 3 at 2:30 p.m.): A statement from Borough President Eric Adams was added to this post.

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