The businessman who illegally converted a portion of the historic Lundy’s restaurant into an upscale market wants the city to overturn the 1970s-era law that restricts supermarkets from using the landmarked site, infuriating residents who are demanding the store be closed now.
David Isaev opened the Cherry Hill Gourmet Market in a portion of the massive Emmons Avenue building between Ocean Avenue and East 19th Street in 2009 despite the fact that the Special Sheepshead Bay District limits the use of the Lundy’s building to restaurants and retail like clothing stores or bookshops. Now, it has two eateries and the market, upsetting those who say Isaev isn’t above the law.
“He shouldn’t be operating a gourmet market there,” said Steve Barrison, the president of the Bay Improvement Group. “It’s an in-your-face disregard for the law.”
The city slapped building owner George Pantelidis with a $5,500 fine on Oct. 13 when a judge ruled that the zoning was ignored, but so far has allowed the grocery to remain open. In fact, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which cited Isaev with three dozen violations including changing the tile floors and adding an awning advertising the Cherry Hill Gourmet Market on the building’s facade, forgave him in August, when it legalized all the renovations.
Now, Isaev wants to make the whole business legit.
“We’re going to work very hard to prove that we belong in the neighborhood,” said Harold Hornstein, Isaev’s lawyer. “We’re confident the zoning will be amended.”
The building is currently zoned for a wide variety of retail uses such as restaurants, clothing stores and book shops, according to Jovana Rizzo, a spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning. She said a zoning change would have to go through the city’s lengthy land use review process, which takes several months.
Hornstein said if the proposal is rejected, Isaev plans to keep the store open and fight any effort by the city to close the store.
The special district, which stretches from Sheepshead Bay Road to Knapp Street, was created in 1973 to protect the character of the old fishing village. It was supposed to be anchored by Lundy’s, but the restaurant went out of business in 1979.
It sat vacant until 1995, when new owners attempted — unsuccessfully — to revive the Lundy’s brand with a smaller restaurant in a portion of the building on the corner of Ocean Avenue. The eatery closed eight years later.
Isaev’s grocery does include indoor and outdoor seating, but the city says that is not enough to qualify it as a restaurant.
“They still need to bring the property into compliance,” said Building spokeswoman Ryan FitzGibbon, who said that only a court-order could close the shop down.
Residents who were outraged by Isaev’s alterations to Lundy’s promised to fight the attempt to change the rules.
But some shoppers defended the Cherry Hill Market, saying it has a wider selection of specialty goods than the nearest grocery store, a Waldbaum’s located three blocks away on Ocean Avenue between Shore Parkway and Voorhies Avenue.
“I come here every day,” said William Pena. “It’s one of the best stores in the neighborhood.”