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Ikea protesters target city hearing - Brooklyn Paper

Ikea protesters target city hearing

Opponents of an Ikea big box store on the Red Hook waterfront protested
outside a public hearing at the City Planning Commission this week.

“Ikea on the highway, not the waterfront,” yelled out Lou Sones,
a Red Hook resident who is leading the fight to prevent the Swedish furniture
retailer from opening a 346,000-square-foot store along the Erie Basin.

Armed with placards, the group of 20 residents circled outside the meeting
at 22 Reade St. in Lower Manhattan Wednesday morning.

“Ikea stinks,” read one sign that was hand drawn by 7-year old
Will Dudine. The boy lives just blocks from the proposed development.

At the same time, a group of Ikea supporters, mostly senior citizens from
the Red Hook Houses public housing project, sat inside, in chairs set
up just outside the jam-packed meeting room.

“I don’t see what they’re complaining about, they’re
going to be the first ones coming in and shopping,” remarked one
Ikea proponent, bedecked as the others in a bright-yellow T-shirt emblazoned
with the words, “Ikea a Great Idea.”

Dorothy Shields, president of the Red Hook Houses East Tenants Association,
sat with them and said the community desperately needs the “jobs
and benefits” Ikea officials have promised.

The home furnishings giant hopes to construct New York City’s first
Ikea store at the former New York Shipyard site between Dwight and Columbia
streets along the Erie Basin.

The plans also include 1,400 parking spaces and more than 70,000 square
feet of additional retail and restaurant space in addition to a 6.2-acre
waterfront public esplanade.

The megastore is expected to create 600 new jobs and Ikea has sold itself
to local residents, primarily from the unemployment-ridden housing project,
by promising to create a job training center a year before the store opens
and to open the hiring process to local residents two weeks before anyone
else.

“We have a lot of teenagers who are just idle, they are out selling
drugs,” said Mable McConey, who has lived in the Red Hook Houses
for the past 39 years and hopes Ikea will offer new opportunities to the
community.

The Ikea proposal has only furthered the divide in Red Hook, pitting the
Red Hook Houses proponents of jobs, whose fellow public housing residents
comprise roughly 70 percent of the neighborhood’s population, against
other residents concerned about the traffic the largely car-dependent
store will bring as well as whether a box store is appropriate development
for the scenic waterfront.

John McGettrick, co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association, said at the
protest rally that Ikea was using the promise of jobs to garner support
for the project.

“It’s being used to divide people on the basis of something
that’s not actually there,” he said.

Sones added, “We would have more jobs if there was proper waterfront
development.”

The group and other anti-Ikea activists have put forth a proposal by Struever
Bros. Eccles & Rouse (SBER) — a development company known for
adaptive reuse projects — for a sprawling, 70-acre, retail, residential
and commercial development that would include the New York Shipyard site.

That plan has been dismissed as impracticable by Community Board 6, Mayor
Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Despite verbal and written commitments by Ikea following Community Board
6’s vote to approve the store’s rezoning application, none have
been legally binding. Those include an agreement to provide job training
before hiring, a review of traffic conditions a year after the store opens,
and a restrictive covenant preventing any development on the waterfront
esplanade.

Jerry Armer, chairman of CB6, has said that those will remain just recommendations
unless City Council members agree to adopt them as conditions of their
approval of the Ikea application when it comes before them this fall.

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