CB7 approves big box option at Federal Building #2

September 27, 2012 Heather Chin
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Members of Community Board 7 board voted on September 19 to recommend that developers of Federal Building #2 on the Sunset Park waterfront be allowed to bring on a “big box” retail sore as an anchor tenant, should they so choose.

The vote was to eliminate themaximum size variance for a single retail store – currently set at 10,000 square feet per store, which is too small for a large tenant such as Bed, Bath & Beyond or Burlington Coat Factory – two of the national chains being floated as prospective tenants.

Even if a big box store moves in, though, it can only take up a maximum of 15 percent of the entire building. This limit was agreed to by the city and developer Salmar Properties when the deal went through in August, 2011. The rest of the 1.1 million square foot building must be used for manufacturing and industrial businesses, which is part of the city Economic Development Corporation’s plan to re-develop industry and bring jobs back to the community.

The vote came after impassioned debate from board members over whether the benefits of a big box store — between 1,200 to 1,300 new jobs – would outweigh the potential costs — such as increased traffic, need for parking and possible gentrification.

“These big stores are coming in, and pushing mom and pop businesses out,” said Marcela Mitaynes, a housing advocate with Neighbors Helping Neighbors. “The hardware store is closed. The one near Petland is closing because of Home Depot and Lowe’s. We had 20 people come in on Monday, saying they can’t afford the rent because of gentrification. See the bigger picture and the ramifications on the community.”

Other board members insisted, however, that this would help, not hurt, the community. Board member Joan Botti noted that “since Costco came, there has been increased volume, it’s cleaner, and it did not affect mom and pops on Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues.”

CB 7 Landmarks and Land Use Chair John Burns also said that many of the jobs will hopefully go to local residents, mitigating the need for employee parking.

According to Burns, the current building plan is to have a garage that fits around 500 parking spots for employees.

The building is also home to the world’s largest rooftop garden, with 100,000 feet of space on the roof of the nearly century old structure.

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