Cherry Hill is open

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Cherry Hill Gourmet is marking its first full week in business inside Lundy’s landmarked building, despite findings from Department of Buildings that the enterprise is operating contrary to zoning.

DOB inspectors were dispatched to the site at 1901 Emmons Avenue soon after Cherry Hill opened its doors last Tuesday.

The DOB says that Cherry Hill is now operating with an expired Certificate of Occupancy and has an upcoming court date at the Environmental Control Board to address the violations.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, meanwhile, says that Cherry Hill has until May 29 to remove the tiled sidewalk and metal railings installed outside the Lundy’s building.

None of this, however, is deterring Cherry Hill operators from keeping the market going 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

On Tuesday, Cherry Hill manager Michael Rabinovich sat down with this newspaper inside the upstairs dining room where operators soon hope to open a 218−person capacity restaurant.

Two other sit−down eating areas on the lower levels are already in operation.

“We want to have a good relationship with all agencies, with the community and we will step back a little bit,” Rabinovich said. “Even though we have the right to move on, we’ll step back out of respect and just work with them [DOB] because we don’t want to step on any fingers or toes.”

According to Rabinovich, the 400 diners Cherry Hill will ultimately be able to accommodate if and when they become fully operational only gives credence to Cherry Hill’s belief that they are, in fact, a restaurant with “accessory use.”

“We were approved from day one,” Rabinovich said. “There’s a misunderstanding that somehow we were deceptive, and there was no deception in anything.”

As it stands now, Rabinovich believes the controversy has become a question of definition about “accessory use” and the relevance of the Sheepshead Bay Special District.

“I think that the special district was a good idea,” said Rabinovich. “I think it’s impractical right now in terms of where we are in this area.”

With empty condominiums, clothing stores and racy nightclubs lining Emmons Avenue, Rabinovich, who grew up fishing in Sheepshead Bay and now lives in Manhattan Beach, finds it hard to believe that a popular place to buy and eat wholesome food is the biggest threat to the Sheepshead Bay Special District.

“I don’t know why they pinpoint us when there’s so many other different problems,” he said.

Opponents like Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo insist that Cherry Hill is a major problem.

“They are breaking the law,” she said. “There’s something very pathetic about our system that the Department of Buildings can’t do anything.”

According to the DOB, Cherry Hill has the option of either restoring the Lundy’s building to legal use or applying for a variance from the Board of Standards & Appeals.

“I hope that the city will allow us to move to either applying −− if they want us to −− for some kind of special permit,” Rabinovich said. “I don’t believe we need to − I believe we fall under the category of accessory use. I hope they define accessory use as what it is.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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