Developer Rubin Schron wants to tear down Coney Island's Trump Village Shopping Center to replace it with a 40-story residential tower, andsurprise, surprisethe community is not into the plan. Schron's firm Cammeby's International company bought the property in 2004, and the new building would have three stories of retail, plus a whopping 544 rentals apartments. City Councilman Chaim Deutsch called a town hall meeting at Abraham Lincoln High School to discuss the proposal, and hundreds of neighbors came out to make it clear that they do not want this building. Concerns about toxic materials, overcrowded schools, overdevelopment, and the relocation of existing businesses were raised. One person told the developer's representative he should take his plans to Manhattan, and another wished to throw "a load of shit" at him. Good times were had.
The development, which would feature 544 rental units over 40 floors and 430 feet, would be located at 543 Neptune Avenue near West 6th Street, just half a block from the Neptune Avenue D train stop. The development also includes plans for a 750 space (or more) parking garage. Cammeby's attorney Dennis Hasher presented the proposal; Schron was not present. SLCE Architects and S9 will design the building, while Apex Companies, DeSimone Consulting Engineers, and Consentini Associates will consult on. environmental issues, structural work, and mechanical work, respectively.
Hasher said that the existing businesses would be relocated to a bathhouse at 614 Sheepshead Bay Road, which Cammeby's also owns. City Councilman Mark Treyger, whose district borders this one, told Curbed that some of the business owners told him that the space they'd been offered there is smaller and costs more. Some in the community said relocating any business about a block away would be too far for some seniors.
The $450M investment in this project would result in $1 billion in economic activity, according to Hasher, who said the new retail would include an "upscale level of stores plus local stores." One member of the community said that what they really need is a Chinese restaurant and a pizza place. Hasher said the new tower would be storm proof, and have reserve tanks to capture water, plus he said the plans include environmental remediation.
Remediation is necessary because the site used to hold a gas plant. George Heitzman from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) said the Dangman Park Manufactured Natural Gas Plant operated on the site from the late 1800s until about World War I. The plant baked coal for gas, and the leftover tar was discharged directly into the ground. Heitzman said the coal tar is heavier than water and has sunk about 70 feet into the ground, but there has been nearly no lateral movement. NYSDEC is working with National Grid, which eventually become owner of the natural gas company. Hasher pointed out that demolition of the existing building would not be needed if remediation were to occur, but he outlined three options for remediation: maintaining the contaminants in place, excavation, and/or treating it in place. NYSDEC is hosting a meeting about remediation and the environmental concerns on Wednesday, January 28 at 6 p.m. at Lincoln High.
At the start of the meeting, City Comptroller Scott Stringer expressed his opposition to the project, saying that it would "cast a shadow over cherished open space." He also said that more shopping is needed, but it should be the product of "community-based planning." The environmental impact of construction on the site concerned him, and he reminded the crowd that his office pays out claims against the city. Some accused the NYCDEC of a credibility problem, and several people weren't convinced that ground contamination could be contained. Others worried about the smell.
Hasher said that School District 21 is at 89 percent capacity, but Stringer said the existing schools were overcrowded. Treyger and many members of the community also disputed Hasher's number. But Hasher also said that he didn't expect many families in his building as it would have a lot of studios and one-bedrooms.
One person asked why the developer wants to build this, to which Hasher said it would be a "substantial improvement" for the area. One person very loudly told him, "You should go to Manhattan." Among the reasons Treyger questioned the proposal was that he said the area had become a naturally occurring retirement community.
One member of the community said, "A tree grows in Brooklyn, not a high-rise." Another said this proposal "just doesn't fit," and someone else suggested that a hotel would be better. We overheard a member of the audience saying that Hasher was being smug, and "I wish I had a load of shit to throw at him." (Hasher did remain seated while standing members of the community directed their questions to him). Other concerns included loss of views, the effect on bus lines, and noise. One woman was upset the presentation didn't have detailed plans, including which stores would be relocated, and another community member was worried the electrical grid would't be able to support the tower.
No timeline was presented for project completion.
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· Southern Brooklyn's Tallest Tower Could Rise in Coney Island [Curbed]
· All 532 Neptune Avenue coverage [Curbed]