Construction on controversial Kristal Automall underway

Construction on controversial Kristal Automall underway
Photo by Steven Schnibbe

The city’s largest minority-owned car dealership — Kristal Automall in Canarsie — is finally making progress on moving into its controversial new home on Flatbush Avenue in Mill Basin, right next to the big box toy retailer, Toys ‘R’ Us.

The site where it is going up — about the size of two football fields — sat abandoned for the past few years, so any activity there is welcome, said Community Board 18 District Manager Dottie Turano.

“Glad they took up the project again, it was dormant for quite a while. Glad to see there is some activity going on,” she said. “People are curious, want to see some sort of improvement down there.”

Bical Development, the company which owns Kristal Automall, bought the property from the city for $4.2 million in March 2013, city records show.

But before the deal went through, the car dealership’s expansion was contentious because environmentalists worried it would harm the birds living in the nearby Four Sparrows Marsh, and would keep the land from draining properly in the event of coastal flooding.

And what’s more, the Feds questioned Bical Development owner Samuel Bical in 2012 for his involvement with now-disgraced state Sen. John Sampson (D–Mill Basin), who allegedly helped Bical get the land from the city in a sweetheart deal, according to the NY Daily News.

Nonetheless, in June 2015, Bical filed plans for his new three-story car dealership, which will include 154 parking spaces in its cellar, a showroom on the first floor, a repair center, and storage and office rooms throughout the rest of the building, according to city records.

The main remaining concerns, now that the building is underway and almost topped off, is how much more traffic the dealership will bring to Flatbush Avenue, and if there will be enough parking for both the dealership and Toy ‘R’ Us. But neither of those seem to be real problems, said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Mill Basin).

“It’s a very, very long story. There was controversy about the property,” he said. “It’s enormous, absolutely. It’s much bigger than I would have hoped for. A big concern is how much traffic is going to be generated, but I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.”

Bical Development did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.