Eat this Marty: new Gravesend waterfront retail center won’t have a restaurant

The Beep won’t be getting a burger with his BJs!

Joe Sitt, the controversial developer behind a planned Gravesend BJs Wholesale Club is backing away from his promise to put a restaurant into his waterfront retail center, despite Borough President Markowitz’s recommendation that it should include one.

“The restaurants we’ve spoken to haven’t seemed interested in opening [inside the shopping center],” Sitt’s lawyer, Ethan Goodman, told this paper, although he refused to name the eateries his boss had contacted.

Goodman said the upstairs portion of the yet-to-be-constructed space is “too big” to attract most restaurateurs.

The second story, part of the proposed waterfront strip mall Sitt dubbed the Brooklyn Bay Center, is slightly larger than a football field.

Sitt hopes to put at least three businesses on top of BJs, so, theoretically, a brand name restaurant such as Legal Seafoods (a Markowitz favorite) could share the 69,000 square foot space on Shore Parkway. Legal Seafoods already has a restaurant that’s about a third of the Brooklyn Bay Center’s footprint: a 20,000 square foot outpost in Boston that can seat 600 diners.

Legal Seafoods could not be reached for comment, but the fish hawker has opened in three New York malls, though none of them are in the city.
The perpetually hungry Markowitz made it quite clear that he wants the Brooklyn Bay Center to feature waterfront dining. He even inserted his request in the proposal for the Brooklyn Bay Center filed with the Department of City Planning. Sitt can’t build his shopping center until the city changes the zoning around Gravesend Bay.

“Having such a dining opportunity would benefit the publicly accessible area by bringing more people to enjoy the waterfront,” Markowitz explained. “With the right sales pitch and minor modifications to the site plan, restaurants will flock to the location.”

Some residents agreed with Markowitz, claiming they’d be disappointed if Sitt failed to provide a restaurant with a view of the Narrows.

“There’s definitely a need for a restaurant in that space,” said Tom Paolillo. “I’m a big fan of Legal Seafood so I’d be thrilled if it came in.”

That said, local mom-and-pop eateries would be thrilled if Sitt ignored Marty’s hunger for chain dining — but at least one neighborhood eatery owner refuted Goodman’s claim that a restaurant wouldn’t be a good fit for the Brooklyn Bay Center.

“I want to see a restaurant owned by someone from the community, not some big corporation taking over,” said Robert Cicero, owner of the legendary John’s Deli on Stillwell Avenue. “In fact, I’d like to open there.”

Sitt’s failure to adhere to Markowitz’s request won’t torpedo the project which, so far, has met little resistance.

Community Board 11 voted in favor of the plan 25 to 1 on May 18, hailing BJ’s as a way to bring about 250 jobs to a parcel of land that’s currently a school bus depot.

No one spoke out against the venture at a sparsely attended July 13 City Planning hearing on the project.