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Bamboozlement by bus

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Bergen Beach residents are so desperate to rid their neighborhood of a troublesome bus depot that they’re willing to make a deal with the devil — and their councilman says that’s exactly what they’d be doing if they choose to play ball with the site’s liar of an owner.

In response to calls to replace the exhaust-spewing buses of the loud, street-clogging New Dawn Transit depot on E. 69th Street between Avenues X and W, a lawyer for the landowner encouraged the Bergen Beach Civic Association to support a rezoning request that would pave the way to build two five-story condos on the site — a project the community rejected more than five years ago.

But Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park) said that the last time owner Alex Forkosh pitched the condo idea, he lied about a deal to build an airport hotel catering to airline staff in order to scare neighbors into supporting his condo plan.

“He was proposing something horrible in hopes that he would coerce the community into accepting something less horrible,” said Maisel, who represented the area in the Assembly from 2006 to 2013.

The councilman agrees with the popular theory that the owner brought in the unpopular bus company with the aim of convincing locals that anything — even condos — would be preferable.

“He is counting on people being very desperate,” he said.

The latest version of the condo project is more modest than the one rejected earlier, envisioning only 90–150 units across the two 50-foot condo buildings, rather than up to 800 smaller units in the first plan, according to the developer’s attorney, who said the units would have three to four bedrooms to attract wealthy families.

“Now we’re trying to up the number of bedrooms, which would lower the number of dwellings,” said attorney Eric Palatnik. “It is going to for a higher level of income, a luxury-type of development.”

But locals who are still rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy are disturbed at the prospect of luring families to an area that is so vulnerable to flooding. One local who is on the local New York Rising rebuilding committee said that any homes built on the lot would be at high risk in the next superstorm.

“One of the things that New York Rising is doing is we’re discouraging development in at-risk property, and this property being on the waterfront [is] and the majority of the water that hit Bergen Beach came from 69th Street,” said Joe Dai, a co-chairman of New York Rising’s Southeast Brooklyn Waterfront Planning Committee.

Many members of the civic group were receptive to the idea of trading the bus depot for condos, but the association’s president cautioned them to think about the possible impact of a zoning change and the addition of 150 families to the neighborhood, which would be permanent.

“People are better than buses, but we also have to beware. We can’t get smoked out with buses that clog everything and then overdevelopment of condos seems so wonderful,” said Michael Benjamin, the president of the association. “It is almost like, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’ because the infrastructure and parking and everything else — it is something that we’re going to live with forever.”

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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