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Fear of heights! Community panel fights six-story condo project

Operation condo: Developers want to turn this Mill Avenue lot into a 64-foot-high, six-story condo, but they’ll have to do it without the support of locals, who want the neighborhood to remain one- and two-family homes.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

For residents of Mill Island, six stories is three too many.

Residents blasted a developer’s plan to build a six-story condominium on Mill Avenue near Strickland Avenue, claiming that the leafy neighborhood should have one- and two-family homes — or none at all.

“We’ll accept nothing other than one- or two-family homes,” said Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park) at a recent Community Board 18 meeting, where developer Mark Scharf’s plans were presented. “We rezoned this property 15 years ago in order to make sure the character of the community was maintained. We’re not going to allow this aberration to go in.”

Attorney Joshua Rinesmith, representing Scharf, showed off blueprints for the proposed 84-unit building, which will feature commercial space appropriate for a small retail outlet or restaurant.

Rinesmith also came armed with a sob story, telling CB18 members that various hardships in remediating the contaminated property, which was used for various manufacturing purposes over the years — including gun powder manufacturing and petroleum storage — left an environmental quagmire that requires more than $1 million in rehabilitation.

Because of these hardships, building low-density, one- and two-family homes just isn’t worth the expense, Rinesmith explained.

“It’s infeasible to build one- and two-family homes,” he said. “You have to remember, [this property] was originally zoned for the most obnoxious and intense manufacturing purposes in the city, so the cost of cleaning up the site is going to be difficult to offset the cost with single family homes.”

Yet board members weren’t moved by Reinsmith’s tale of woe.

“The profit wouldn’t be as large, but he would definitely make a profit,” said Dorothy Turano, CB18’s district manager. “It doesn’t belong there and the landlord is not sincere in looking to further the whole neighborhood concept.”

Board members agreed, claiming that a six-story condo would drastically conflict with Mill Island’s landscape.

“I think it would be the biggest eyesore I’ve ever seen,” board member Barbara Beaver said.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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