Developer Andrew Kohen wants to build a new Home Depot and hundreds of units of housing along a vacant Bay Ridge railyard, but faced an Atlantic Yards–sized backlash from local preservationists and Community Board 10.
In fact, Bruce Ratner’s taxpayer-underwritten antics have inspired an uprising by community boards against developers.
Locals fear that Kohen’s ambitions are too large for the surrounding area’s infrastructure and that the developer is more concerned about his wallet than the interests of the community (sound familiar?).
Of course, Kohen isn’t Bruce Ratner and Home Depot isn’t Atlantic Yards. In fact, in many ways Kohen is the anti-Ratner: he is accessible (he even speaks to reporters), has a proven track record of keeping his word (at least according to CB10), and isn’t looking to boot anyone out of his house or have the state seize private property and turn it over to him.
But that hasn’t stopped the Ratner cloud from blowing over Kohen’s proposal.
The cynicism of local officials towards developers has hit a new high (which is really saying something in Brooklyn).
Board member — and failed congressional candidate — Steve Harrison even accused Kohen of greed at CB10’s land-use committee meeting last month.
Harrison and others have seized on one aspect of Kohen’s project to deride it as Atlantic Yards-lite: Kohen needs a zoning change before he can build residential units on the commercial land of the railyard at 62nd Street and Eighth Avenue. The resulting complex would consist of an 11-story building with 216 apartments (43 of which will be below-market-rate), office space, and the 100,000-square-foot Home Depot.
CB10 members chewed him out — but mostly because they could, unlike the three boards around the Yards site, which never got to quiz Ratner directly because his project is sponsored by the state and, thus, has no local oversight.
When members finished their anti-development sermons, ranging on everything from the height of Kohen’s buildings to the size of his carbon footprint, they privately said that the real problems can be boiled down to two things: trust and accountability.
“[Like we’re learning with Ratner], we know what Kohen is telling us and what actually happens could be two different stories,” one member said. “These projects have a way of spiraling out of control.”
No one could blame local officials for being a little gun-shy to greenlight Kohen after details keep emerging about that other developer’s development in that other part of Brooklyn.
Despite Ratner’s promises to the contrary, it becomes increasingly clear that taxpayers are actually footing the bill for his “privately built project,” and local officials who approved of the deal are learning they have no way of holding Ratner accountable now that they’ve approved the project.
So it’s no wonder that other communities are now asking a lot more questions.
But Kohen has an answer for them. “This is not an extension of Atlantic Yards, and those who may take that view are sadly mistaken,” he said. “Unlike Atlantic Yards, there is no vehement opposition to this project, and in fact, there is very strong community support.”
Late Wednesday night, CB10 actually surprised me by approving Kohen’s rezoning request (see page 4), but the board did as the hard questions. So I guess we can thank Bruce Ratner for one thing: the current climate of developer distrust could at least force developers to start giving answers if they want local support.
Al Gore is coming to Bay Ridge, or at least his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” is. Gore’s cinematic war against carbon dioxide will unspool on July 12 as part of the Narrows Botanical Gardens free Summer Cinema Series. Bring a hemp blanket and some organic snacks. …
Little Cupcake Bakeshop at 9102 Third Ave. has a great red velvet cupcake, but if you order a piece of Oreo cookie cake, be prepared to loosen your waistbands — the slice sizes are absolutely monstrous! …
State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) may be limping into the Mayor’s race. Our source tells us the bum knee that he hurt a few years ago on an elliptical machine has been giving him problems again. That sure didn’t stop him from shaking every hand and kissing every baby at last week’s Independence Day Parade on Third Avenue. …
A country-club Democrat? Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) recently got funding for some new tennis courts and free tennis lessons in the PS 229 schoolyard. The program runs from July 2–Aug. 24. For information, contact Gentile’s office at (718) 748-5200. …
The Bay Ridge Hum is back! The Stoop is getting reports that the hum that keeps residents along Shore Road awake on some summer nights, is back and as annoying as ever. Many believe it’s the mating call of the Oyster Toadfish, so if you’re interested in a little frog action, head to the waterfront.