Sunset Park’s community board has signalled to the developers of a massive mixed-use project that it won’t be easy getting the neighborhood’s blessing.
Community Board 10 voted on Nov. 19 not to support the renewal of a special permit allowing developers to build a residential tower on manufacturing land at Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street. The chair of the board’s land use committee said the project’s size gave the board cause for pause, and green-lighting the permit renewal would make it easier for the developers to get a permit to build an even bigger project down the road.
“We wanted to give the indication that this is already a massive project,” said committee chairwoman Ann Falutico.
In 2007, the board supported a special permit on the site allowing an 11-story residential tower and a Home Depot, despite strong pushback from board members over the project’s size. The city approved the permit and issued an extension in 2011, but developer Andrew Kohen sold the property in May of this year without building on it.
Now the new owners, a consortium of investors represented by Queens architect Raymond Chan, want to build a complex that exceeds even what the 2007 special permit would allow. Chan intends to apply for a new special permit for the larger project, but said he believes that getting it will be easier if the current one doesn’t lapse.
The lot is the size of three football fields and is adjacent to the N Train at Eighth Avenue. Chan’s new project, called the Eight Avenue Center, includes a “Chelsea Market-style” mall, a hotel, and two residential towers with floor area equivalent to six times the lot’s size, he said. Chan has not formally filed the new plan with the city, and said he was seeking the extension based the plans Kohen filed in 2007.
The board is concerned that hundreds of apartments and several thousand square feet of retail space will snarl traffic and clog the already busy Eight Avenue subway station adjacent to the site, members said.
Shooting down the permit ignores the work done in 2007, according to a lawyer for the developer.
“A hasty disapproval doesn’t respect the work of the previous board and committee,” said attorney Rich Lobel.
The community board’s red light is only a minor setback for the developers, because the City Planning Commission has the authority to renew the permit regardless, Lobel said.
But the board’s thumbs-down indicates that it may try to block Chan if he comes back for a permit for the bigger project later on.
Chan has said he hopes to include a public school in the project as an offering to the community, and his attorney said any development would be a boon for the neighborhood.
“Right now, it’s a hole in the ground, and it’s been a hole in the ground since the ’60s or ’70s,” Lobel said.
©2014 Community News Group
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