Developer Andrew Kohen — who wants to build a new Home Depot and hundreds of units of lucrative housing along a vacant Bay Ridge rail yard — was forced to stand silently for an hour as members of Community Board 10 committee slammed him as greedy on Monday night.
And then, in the end, the committee voted against Kohen’s request for a zoning change on the commercial land in the rail yard at 62nd Street and Eighth Avenue. The developer has already cleared the land, but needs the rezoning so he can build the profitable residential units in the complex, which would consist of an 11-story building with 216 apartments (43 of which will be below-market-rate), office space, and the 100,000-square-foot Hoe Depot.
The vote by CB10’s land-use committee came after board members took their best shots at the developer, who was asked to stand by silently.
The two main points of contention were the height of the building, and the cost of the so-called “affordable” housing. Kohen said a three-bedroom affordable unit would cost $1,700 per month.
One member called that rent market rate.
“That’s what we are paying now, [so] how is that affordable?” one member asked. “This is nothing except for you trying to make a profit.”
Kohen will be eligible for a tax abatement, a government subsidy for developers who include low-income housing in their buildings. He defended his right to make a profit.
“I am walking on thin ice,” Kohen said. “At the end of the day, if there is no profit, what is the incentive for me?”
Making a profit is one thing, but committee members accused Kohen of greed.
“Isn’t that what this is all about?” asked board member — and former congressional candidate — Steve Harrison. “You are going to be getting subsidies when my constituents will not. This looks like a win for you and a loss for the community.”
Harrison also complained that Kohen ignored the board’s earlier request for a decrease in the building’s height.
“I just have to say, I am baffled by you,” said Harrison. “Two years ago, you came to us asking for approval and we told you to do something about the size, then you come back again without making any changes.”
To add insult to insults, Kohen also found himself attacked by Community Board 7 Chairman Randy Peers, who stopped by to offer his disapproval.
“All the feedback I am getting is very negative,” said Peers.
It wasn’t all bad. Land-use committee Chairwoman Joanne Seminara offered kind words — then withheld her support.
“You are a quality developer who builds good buildings,” said Seminara. “I know you are disappointed. But when I look at traffic, overcrowding, and the height of this building, I cannot give my support top this plan.
When the exasperated Kohen was finally allowed to speak, he offered a compromise — though it didn’t appease the beast.
“I have heard the wishes of this honorable committee and I will take a floor off the building,” Kohen said, before being interrupted by one angry board member.
“Yeah, take off the penthouse,” said board member Ron Gross.
Kohen soldiered on. “Nothing in the law compels me to [include the affordable housing],” said Kohen, as some members rolled their eyes. “I took a big chance and volunteered to do this.”
Kohen’s one ally in the room, CB10 Chairman Dean Rasinya, warned that if the board didn’t work with Kohen, the city could rezone the land anyway, giving CB10 no negotiating power.
“Listen, this is a hole in the ground,” said Rasinya. “If the city changes the zoning, we will have no control, and the truth is, we can always use the jobs and housing.”
Community Board 10 will have one more meeting on the subject, on July 11, at a location to be determined. Call (718) 745-6827 for information.
©2007 Community News Group
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