A plan that was a day-after-Election-Day shocker from the city administration was stopped in its tracks by outrage from local elected officials.
The legislators, who had asked for a meeting with the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) regarding the development of the parking lot adjacent to Toys R Us on Flatbush Avenue, were told — to their amazement — that another item had been added to the languishing proposal, a one-acre gas metering station for a new pipeline that National Grid plans to install to meet increased demand in Brooklyn and Queens.
The retail development, which has been under discussion for several years, had previously encompassed the relocation of the Kristal car dealership to a portion of the Toys R Us parking lot, as well as the construction of a small strip mall on an adjacent piece of property that is owned by the city.
The metering station was a no-go from the beginning, said City Councilmember Lewis Fidler, who revealed the situation to members of Community Board 18, gathered in the community room at Kings Plaza, Flatbush Avenue and Avenue V, for their November meeting.
When the officials were told by EDC that there would be a meeting with National Grid, so that the company could explain its proposal, Fidler told board members, “We said we would listen to them before we told them no.” The metering station, he added, would “absolutely kill the project that we have been working on for years.”
After the Friday meeting -- which was attended also by State Senator Carl Kruger, Assemblymember Alan Maisel and CB 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano -- Fidler told this paper that the metering station idea was “now dead.
“We told them it was not happening,” he explained. “To do it in Gateway (National Recreation Area), they would need an act of Congress. To do it on parkland, they would need an act of the legislature. To do it on this land, they would need the approval of the City Council, which was not happening. On Monday, I got a call from Deputy Mayor(Robert) Lieber’s office, followed on Tuesday by a call from EDC saying that this aspect of the proposal had been withdrawn and that they were going to proceed to certify the remainder of the application so they could begin the community review process next year.”
The potential danger represented by the metering station clearly factored into the response evinced by the officials.
“It’s close to housing, and right by Kings Plaza, so a major disaster would be catastrophic,” explained Maisel. “They also acknowledged that it would be something that would have to have been protected from any kind of threat. Why do we need it here? I understand their concerns, but there are other alternatives.”
“It would have been on the NYPD’s anti-terrorism watch list,” Fidler added. “It was, A, dangerous, B, unsightly, and C, an inappropriate location and an inappropriate use. What also got my dander up is that we have been talking, for longer than I have been councilman, about the project, and it’s far from a done deal. We had reached the point where we were okay with them going to the community input stage, and nothing was happening.”
In fact, he went on, he had learned that the idea of the metering station had first come up in June, but, “It wasn’t disclosed to any community group or elected official. A lot of us believe that it was deliberately kept on the QT till after Election Day had passed.”
“It’s quite a situation where you wait till the day after Election Day,” noted Maisel, stressing, “If the mayor’s position on this had been revealed before the election, he might not have done so well in the area.”
This is not the first time the administration has sided with a developer over residents, Maisel went on. During the building of Lowe’s, he contended, “The city worked with Lowe’s at the expense of the community because they are looking for development, so it’s very hard to trust EDC or their intentions.
“Of course, once something happens, it’s we should have done this, we should have done that,” Maisel continued. “But, do you think if the civic organizations had been told, they would have been happy about this? So, of course they didn’t say anything.”
Contacted for comment, EDC spokesperson Janel Paterson would only say, “We are finalizing the site plan and hope to begin our environmental assessment soon.” Paterson declined to speculate as to when the public review process would begin. “We have to do the EAS first,” she stressed. “When depends on what the EAS tells us.”