Hills & Gardens: Uncertainty About 158 Baltic

February 8, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Trudy Whitman

Once owned by a popular extended family of Palestinians by way of Australia, the storefront at the corner of Henry and Baltic streets (158 Baltic) has been vacant for years. The deli/convenience store was a friendly hub, but family feuds led to lawsuits that led to its unfortunate demise, at least that was the story told at the time.

Neighbors finally saw some work progressing on the place, and conversations with workmen led to the belief that a sandwich shop was on the way. We envisioned an asset like Clinton Street’s Ted & Honey’s, where parents might stop for a muffin, coffee, and conversation after bringing children to school at P.S. 29 across the street.

Then remodeling stopped abruptly. The most recent plan for the space was a Mexican restaurant. Word on the street was that a liquor license was asked of the city, a move that has upset some parents and those who live close by. By law, establishments that sell liquor must be a certain distance from public schools. A license for selling beer and wine is a different kettle of fish, and the local community board would not have to be notified about this type of application.

In an email response to concerned neighbor Joe McCarthy, CB 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman noted that operators for 158 Baltic had withdrawn an application for consideration scheduled for a November meeting of CB 6’s Permits and Licensing Committee. No steps to obtain a liquor license have been taken since then, Hammerman continued.

According to Cobble Hill Association president Roy Sloane, also a member of Community Board 6, things have been quiet on the corner; he hasn’t heard anything recently about a liquor licensing procedure. The Cobble Hill Association will oppose a liquor license request, Sloane added. He finds the argument about the store’s side door on Baltic Street being the requisite distance from the public school a specious one. “Both doors [Henry Street and Baltic Street] empty into the same space,” he noted during a telephone interview.

Uncertainty seems to be the operative word regarding this property. When I walked by last week, workmen were at the site again after another hiatus. I asked one what the space would become. “I don’t know,” he replied. “We just started working again.” But he asked me to please come by when it was finished. I assured him I would.

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In September we reported on the fate of 364 Henry Street and a connected carriage house, 129 Congress Street. The owner, who has allowed the vacant properties to deteriorate, has been tussling with the Landmarks Preservation Commission since 2005. In 2010, LPC filed a lawsuit to compel the landlord to fix the buildings or face considerable fines. Some non-compliance penalties were paid by the owner, but it was hoped that in September, State Supreme Court Justice Sylvia G. Ash would resume hearings.

That has not happened yet, according to John Weiss, deputy counsel with LPC. The watchdog group will be back in court this week asking for resumption of the compliance hearings and a revised schedule for the owner to make the necessary repairs.

The property owner “has filed applications, but that was months ago, and they’re still incomplete,” Weiss noted.

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As part of a hardy campaign to render the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library a more relevant institution, Friends of Carroll Gardens Library will host New York Times bestselling author Patrick Taylor on Wednesday, February 29, at 7 p.m. In his exclusive New York appearance, Taylor, author of the Irish Country series, will discuss and sign his novels. Among his beloved books are An Irish Country Village and A Dublin Student Doctor.

About the upcoming event Taylor said, “Although I have visited New York often, I am really looking forward to my first visit to Brooklyn — even if Ebbets Field is gone and the Trolley Dodgers who hired Jackie Robinson in 1947 have long been in L.A. And where better to go than a library in a borough that has 58 branches of its public library system?”

The Carroll Gardens branch is at 396 Clinton Street, corner of Union. Seat reservations may be made at http://patrick taylorinbrooklyn.eventbrite.com. A $10 donation for the Friends of Carroll Gardens Library is suggested.

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