Loehmann’s expansion to be discussed in September

July 31, 2014 Heather Chin
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Come September, Sheepshead Bay residents will be able to argue for or against the proposed expansion of 2027 Emmons Avenue—the former home of Loehmann’s clothing store—at a public hearing hosted by Community Board 15.

The hearing, scheduled for Monday, September 22, according to CB 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, is important because if the expansion is approved, it “would be a game-changer,” said resident and real estate lawyer Steve Barrison, who believes that it “would set a dangerous precedence for the Rockaways, Queens, South Shore and the entire southern waterfront.”

However, according to Eric Palatnik, attorney for the real estate partnership that owns the building, 2027 LLC, any approval for expansion would only apply for this address.

“A variance is a site-specific application, so any other applicant in the city in the future would not benefit,” Palatnik maintained. “Variances don’t set precedents. They’re analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

“I understand people are afraid it will set a bad precedent, but I know of no other building that has similar below-grade retail, either on Emmons Avenue or nearby,” added Palatnik.

After long-time tenant Loehmann’s closed in January, the property was sold to the new owners, who soon submitted a request to the city Department of Buildings (DOB) for a “proposed building extension of additional [third] story of commercial offices.”

According to the DOB website, a “non-load-bearing. . . proposed interior renovation [of the cellar]” was approved on July 21 “as per plan filed.”

The owner’s application with the Board of Standards and Appeals has been delayed in order to allow time for community input.

According to Barrison, who also serves as president of the Bay Improvement Group, the owner is “crying the [Superstorm] Sandy excuse, claiming they can’t use the basement so he needs a third level. But when you use a sub-basement, you’re already getting more than it’s worth.

“We need to stop increasing density. Constructing a larger building in a flood zone designed for less already would overburden the sewage system. This is not the law and not common sense development,” Barrison said.

However, Palatnik insisted that “just walking in and using Sandy as an excuse is not what we’re trying to do here. . . We’re a local business that is struggling. We’re only adding one more floor and it’s going to be used for offices, which will not drive people in excessive numbers.”

In fact, Palatnik said he believes the additional floor would help boost the local economy.

“There are plenty of people in the area who would like a nice office space to rent. The community doesn’t have much class A or B office space,” he said. “If workers come from other neighborhoods and work and shop and eat and add vitality to the area, maybe they’d see how beautiful it is on the weekend and come back with their families.”

Asked what pros and cons she has heard from residents on the issue, Scavo said she has “heard only opposition [from residents who want] basically to preserve the beauty of the waterfront rather than have high buildings.”

Barrison noted that he supports development, “but not everywhere.

“I support development, but we have got to be smart. There will be more storms. Waterfronts will always thrive, even if it takes three to five years to get past greedy landlords and struggling mom and pops,” he said. “This community is bigger than one development. The future of Sheepshead Bay is very bright, and we don’t need big developers to come and destroy its character.”

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