Archive for the tag 'voorhies ave'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes are needed.

More History

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

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

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

Let’s Not Lose an Opportunity

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

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

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

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

In Other News

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

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

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

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

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In a neighborhood of one- and two-family homes, with buildings that max out at seven stories, it’s really hard to get an idea of the scale of a 30-story building.

Fortunately, an anonymous amateur drone enthusiast got curious and dispatched his flying machine over the building site at 1501 Voorhies Avenue, where Muss Development is planning their luxury residential tower. The rest of us schmucks in our itty bitty homes and low-rises will appear as ants.

Our tipster filmed during one of last week’s overcast days. He said he hopes to visit the site again during clearer weather. But even with the foreboding clouds obscuring the view, the drone hovered at just under 330 feet, illustrating the views to be enjoyed by the residents of the building’s penthouse. It clearly dwarfs all buildings in the area, making even the tallest structure – the St. Mark Roman Catholic Church steeple – look like a children’s toy.

The jaw-dropping view goes out for miles, and the thin outline of One World Trade Center makes an appearance in the video. On a clear day, this tower will be visible from just about anywhere you can see the skyline south of Prospect Park.

Our tipster also turned the camera down, snagging an aerial shot of the lot.

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Highlighted portion is the part to be demolished.

Highlighted portion is the part to be demolished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Click to enlarge

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

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

The approximately footprint of the combined properties now owned by Muss Development. (Source: Google Maps)

The development site, with Voorhies Avenue to the south and Sheepshead Bay Road to the north.

The developers behind the 30-story residential tower slated for 1501 Voorhies Avenue are envisioning a luxurious haven for the area’s wealthiest residents, housed behind a gated entrance on Sheepshead Bay Road and with units starting at $700,000, Sheepshead Bites has learned.

Muss Development and AvalonBay, the development team behind the planned 280,000-square-foot, 333-foot tall proposal, briefed community stakeholders at an off-the-record, behind-closed-doors meeting a week before Sheepshead Bites shed light on the plans. Several people at the meeting shared details with this publication on the condition of anonymity, since the meeting was considered a courtesy and not required by the developer.

What emerged from their description is the first glimpse of a luxurious project that will change the physical and, potentially, the socio-economic landscape of the Sheepshead Bay Road area.

The most immediate effect of the plans is an impending demolition of a storefront on Sheepshead Bay Road at East 16th Street. Where the prior developers sought to create a street that runs through to Voorhies Avenue, Muss and AvalonBay will create a pedestrian walkway. Attendees at the meeting said renderings shared with the group showed that the walkway was a gated private entrance to the complex’s grounds.

Behind the gates was a roundabout that caps off a long driveway from Voorhies Avenue, where vehicles will enter. The 52 outdoor parking spots will be to the east, the building, with its 124 garage spots, will be on the west, abutting the subway station. It’s unclear if the Voorhies Avenue driveway will be gated or have a security booth like Muss’ Oceana Development.

The building itself will soar 333 feet into the sky at its highest point, but a portion of the building – possibly the garage – will only be a few stories tall, capped off with an outdoor common space that could have a pool and be connected to a gym and health spa. They’re considering alternative amenities for the outdoor space as well, including a dog run. The building will be pet-friendly.

Three other developments by the same architect, Perkins Eastman, for the same developer, Avalon Bay (Source: Perkins Eastman) (Click to enlarge)

Three other developments by the same architect, Perkins Eastman, for the same developer, Avalon Bay (Source: Perkins Eastman) (Click to enlarge)

The price is not for the weak of wallet. Our sources said that units are designed to be comparable to the Oceana Development, and will begin at $700,000 for a one-bedroom. One attendee told Sheepshead Bites that prices are based on a $700 per square foot rate, though this couldn’t be confirmed by others in attendance (most of the details shared here were corroborated by multiple sources). None of our sources could provide the proposed price for the building’s most expensive units, but at the Oceana they were marketed for approximately $2.1 million when the building first opened.

All of our sources say that the building will be split between rentals and owned condos, with Muss selling the condos and AvalonBay managing the rental properties. One of the sources said the bottom two-thirds of the building will be rental, while the top third will be owned condos. No proposed rates were given for the rentals.

Rental tenants and condo owners would enter using the same entrance and use the same parking lot. However, of three elevators, two will be for both renters and owners, and one will be owners only.

Each attendee that we spoke to emphasized that the developer stated that the plans are far from set in stone and are only drafts; they’re subject to change.

Our sources told us that little opposition to the plan was raised by those in attendance, which included representatives for local elected officials and members of Community Board 15. Instead, they questioned specifics of the development that could be problematic.

Multiple attendees asked about affordable housing units, and were told “absolutely not.”

Parking was also a key issue raised by the stakeholders, with some saying 176 parking spaces for 250 units plus office spaces, although the minimum required by zoning, was far from sufficient for the neighborhood.

The developer responded saying that the building’s proximity to the subway station would make it unlikely tenants would have cars. One source told us that the developer said they believed much of the parking lot would sit empty most of the time.

This was described alternately by almost all of our sources as “bullshit” and “horseshit.”

Parking wasn’t the only vehicle-related issue raised. Voorhies Avenue is often at a standstill during the day, especially at that location where vehicles stop to pick up or drop off commuters at the train station, and a constant flow of cars depart the Belt Parkway at the exit ramp directly across from their proposed driveway.

The developer told attendees they’re working with the Department of Transportation to figure out the best road configuration to accommodate vehicles entering and exiting the property’s driveway. A Stop Sign on the property is being considered.

Sound and vibrations from the subway, just feet away from the property, was also discussed. The developers told attendees that the building would have special windows to block out the sound.

Among other concerns that came up was the additional stress that the highrise would place on sewage infrastructure, already criticized by some as deficient to handle the number of homes and businesses in the area. The developer said they’re conducting an environmental impact study. One source said the developer completed the study and found that there would be no problems to the infrastructure, but this was contradicted by another source. Other sources could not recall.

The building’s plans are still being reviewed by the Department of Building, and one source said they expect it that it will be put to a more vigorous process than most – although it will likely pass. The building is as-of-right and completely within zoning, so it will not need approval from the Community Board.

The developer told attendees they expect to begin construction by spring 2015 if all goes smoothly.

Demolition of the Sheepshead Bay Road storefront will happen within the coming days.

The approximately footprint of the combined properties now owned by Muss Development. (Source: Google Maps)

When developers proposed a 22-story development at 1501 Voorhies Avenue, the community balked at the sheer scale of the project. After sitting silent for five years and a change in ownership, new plans have been filed for a whopping 30-story residential development.

Muss Development and AvalonBay submitted the plans to the Department of Buildings yesterday outlining a 333-foot tall building, with 266,244 square feet of residential space spread across 250 units. At 30 stories, it will be approximately four times taller than anything else in the area except the St. Mark Church belltower.

The building will have a lounge, playroom, bike storage, and outdoor recreation space, according to plans filed with the agency. There will be 14,530 square feet of office space and parking for 124 vehicles inside a split-level garage, and another 52 spaces available outside.

The building’s basement level will be used for storage in addition to parking, with mechanicals and utilities elevated to the first floor to protect against flooding. The lot was overwhelmed with water during Superstorm Sandy.

The plans are being designed by the architecture firm Perkins Eastman, a top-tier outfit that has done a number of ultra-modern luxury apartment developments in New York City and elsewhere. They previously teamed up with AvalonBay to build Avalon White Plains and Avalon Riverview North in Queens.

Avalon White Plains (Source: Eastman)

Another development by the same architect and developing company, Avalon White Plains (Source: Perkins Eastman)

And if Muss Development sounds familiar, it should. Muss made a name for itself in outerborough residential development when it built Brighton Beach’s Oceana Condominium complex. It appears they’re trying to replicate that success with luxury market-rate apartments in Sheepshead Bay.

As we previously reported, Muss and AvalonBay snatched up the 110,028-square-foot lot in July for $20.2 million. Originally it appeared the lot was split in two, with the former Verizon parking lot taking up 87,500 square feet and a commercial strip along Sheepshead Bay Road at East 16th Street comprising the rest. The latest plans appear to indicate that the development will encompass both sites, but it’s still unclear.

The land was sold by Acadia Realty Trust, which purchased them for $20.3 million in 2008. Acadia, in partnership with PA Associates had planned a two-building complex dubbed Station Plaza that included a 22-story mixed-use tower. There was to be mall with four floors of shopping, a new public street that cut through the property at East 16th Street, and more than 650 parking spaces – anchored by 16 floors of residential condominiums.

The plans are currently under review to see if they exceed zoning. We’ll keep you posted.

Addition (September 25): The development was also covered by Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY).

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Galina and Lev Berenshteyn in front of Lady Liberty

A retired limo driver from the former Soviet Union is building a 16-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty in his East 21st Street front yard as a tribute to his adopted homeland.

Lev Berenshteyn, 68, began working on Lady Liberty approximately two weeks ago. It’s built of a 7.5-foot-tall replica they picked up from a business in Southampton, Long Island. It sits atop a custom 8-foot-tall concrete base that Berenshteyn is sculpting himself.

If it seems unusual, the purpose appears to perplex even Berenshteyn’s wife, Galina, 65.

“Why [build it]? I don’t know. Just because my husband wants to do this,” she said.

Her husband gave a more definitive answer.

“Why? America. I like it,” he said.

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The 16′ tall statue towers over the fence, a beacon of freedom for anyone passing by on Shore Parkway or East 21st Street.

The two became part of the huddled masses to which Lady Liberty beckons when they fled the portion of the former Soviet Union that is now Uzbekistan. Stateside, she worked as a computer programmer, while he was a limousine driver that frequently shuttled passengers to the Circle Line ferry that serves the Statue of Liberty.

The Berenshteyns purchased the rustic corner house at East 21st Street and Shore Parkway in 1996, and are now working on that part of the American Dream in which you build 16-foot-tall statues of French women in your front yard.

And it isn’t cheap: Galina Berenshteyn said it has cost them about $3,500 so far. Soon the statue’s torch will shine, and they will install lights at the base to illuminate the statue, catching the freedom-loving eyes of passersby on Shore Parkway.

“Lights, everything, soon we will make like original. We’ll finish, a couple days it will be nice,” Lev Berenshteyn said. “It looks like the original because we made many, many pictures of the original and made it like that.”

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The couple say they still have a few more days of work before it’s completed.

The real Statue of Liberty, dedicated in October 1886, was a gift to the United States from the people of France. A beacon of freedom and welcoming signal to immigrants, it has a long history of inspiring duplicates, including in Paris, the U.K., Germany, China and Israel, among others. The oldest replica in New York City, at approximately 114 years old, is a 55-foot-tall statue that originally stood at Liberty Warehouse, and has since been moved to the Brooklyn Museum.

Little do the Berenshteyns  realize, just around the corner on Voorhies Avenue is the former home of the Circle Line’s founder. Where Sheepshead Bay once brought visitors to the Statue of Liberty, now, thanks to the Berenshteyns, the Statue of Liberty comes to us.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Reader Mike N. wrote to point out what he believes is a waste of NYPD resources: catching fare-beaters on the Voorhies Avenue side of the Sheepshead Bay subway station.

Do you know that since the token booth, which became a non-selling booth, was removed from the Shore Parkway entrance, police stand at the other entrance watching the TV monitors, and when someone jumps a turnstile (no high gates here) they then walk up to the platform and surprise them with a ticket.

Often there are two to three officers watching at one time. Yes, it’s a violation to avoid a fare, but wouldn’t it be more prudent to put gate-style turnstiles that can’t be jumped at all unattended stations?

This would 100% solve the fare avoidance problem…however, it would stop the sweet flow of $105 tickets into the MTA coffers. And why are there no policemen ever stationed at the unattended turnstiles? Wouldn’t it make more sense for public safety to have officers where the ‘eyes and ears’ of the booth clerks are absent? (I know…the booth clerks aren’t much help).

Briefly, rather than the practical use of officers to guard an unwatched, potentially dangerous entry (I do understand that they technically are watching, but nobody sees them, so they do not deter crime), the officers are used to generate revenue.

It doesn’t sound like Mike believes the problem is going after fare beaters – who should be caught for stealing from all taxpayers. But he thinks the problem can be solved more easily and those NYPD resources redeployed for something more useful. What do you think?

Is there an issue you’d like to sound off about, or a problem you want to shed light on? E-mail editor [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com and we’ll consider publishing it!

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The following is a press release from Councilman Chaim Deutsch:

Council Member Chaim Deutsch is pleased to announce the success of his first community clean-up event that drew nearly 100 volunteers to Sheepshead Bay Road on Sunday. Armed with rakes, shovels and brooms, volunteers turned out to pick up trash from neighborhood streets.

“We’re taking pride in our neighborhoods – block by block across our district. Coming out and volunteering is sending a message to violators that we demand a clean neighborhood,” Deutsch stated. “Cleaner streets promote social and economic improvement, whilst giving our children and families a clean, safe place to reside.”

This event, the first in a series of clean-ups in Council Member Deutsch’s district, aims to promote unity and community activism, all the while drawing attention to the Council Member’s top priority: cleaner streets. Council Member Deutsch is proud to have funded various clean-up initiatives in this year’s budget and is actively reaching out to local small business owners to educate them on ways to keep storefronts clean.

“Many thanks to the Department of Sanitation for their commitment to working with me to promote cleanliness, as well as for the donation of gloves and garbage bags and the loan of brooms, shovels, dustpans and rakes,” said Deutsch. “Together we are making our neighborhoods an even better place to live, work, and do business.”

Please contact Council Member Deutsch’s office at 718-368-9176 to learn more about future community clean-up events or to share suggestions that will help Deutsch address problem areas.

The next Community Clean-Up Event will be held on August 17th on Avenue U.

View photos from the cleanup.

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By now, we all know the area has a garbage problem. But it’s time to stop griping and start pitching in to make the community better.

Here’s your chance: Councilman Chaim Deutsch is organizing the first street clean-up Sheepshead Bay has seen at least since Sheepshead Bites launched more than six years ago.

The local pol is providing everything you need to lend a hand: shovels, brooms, rakes and bags. All you need to do is show up in some grubby clothes and put in the work.

The clean up kicks off at 10:00 a.m. and lasts until 4:00 p.m. Volunteers will meet at Sheepshead Bay Road and Voorhies Avenue, and the group will go up and down Sheepshead Bay Road and to Emmons Avenue bagging trash and litter for the Department of Sanitation to pick up.

See the flier above for details.

Oh, what’s that? You’re dieting on a Sunday? Too bad, buddy. Taken at Donut Shoppe (a.k.a. Sheikh’s) (Source: roboppy/Flickr)

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI): What’s this? A Sunday post on Sheepshead Bites? Yep, we’re doing that now. You’ve got a big week ahead of you because you’re an important person. So we’re going to make your life a little easier and refresh your addled-brain with a roundup of some of the big stories you may have missed this past week.

Of course, you can keep up with what’s going on in the neighborhood all week long. Just follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for our daily newsletter. If you have any news tips, story ideas, questions or anything else, e-mail us at editor [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Here are the big stories on Sheepshead Bites from July 7 – 12:

Have a great Sunday, and if you’re looking for something new to eat, try Anatolian Gyro’s octopus salad.

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