A new seven-story apartment building will rise at 625 New York Avenue in East Flatbush, the site of the longstanding, family-run Kings County Nurseries, building department records show.
The beloved nursery and landscaping business was opened by the Merola brothers in 1955 and has since been run by generations of the family. According to the city’s records, Joseph Merola Jr. still owns the site and the building on it. The family also owns a second site on the western corner of New York Avenue and Fenimore Street that the nursery uses for parking, which has a pending permit for a second seven-story building.
Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Brownstoner reached out to Merola to confirm the nursery’s closure and the sale of the sites, but did not hear back.
The permit application for the nursery site says the seven-story development on the 15,400 square foot lot will have 45 apartments and will include a full cellar and rooftop structures, as New York Yimby was the first to report. The person listed as the owner on the application is Nigel Boydon of Croxdale Real Estate.
The smaller seven-story development planned for the 4,500 square foot parking lot site will have 10 apartments and a community facility, the permit filing shows.
Back in 2016, the Merola family listed the site for $10.5 million, but decided at last minute to take it off the market much to the joy of locals. This time, it looks like sale plans won’t be pulled, with an unusually sparse number of plants filling the nursery and a store-wide sale taking place.
A thread in a neighborhood Facebook group on the nursery’s pending closure has 75 comments, with one local commenter saying: “Was just a matter of time. They’ve changed this neighborhood, overcrowded, no more personality, to herding folks in. Every empty space becomes a development, and the neighborhood is losing and has lost its character. Can’t even buy a house here anymore. It’s a wrap!!”
Meanwhile another wrote: “Sad news IMO, even though we need more housing. IIRC the owners turned down a multi-million dollar purchase offer a few years ago. I guess they now want to retire. At least we’ll still have Shannon, which isn’t that far away. They’ve long been my alternate source for things I can’t find at Kings County.”
In a comment on the nursery’s Facebook page, a local commenter wrote: “I suspected when I read Mamma Louise public sale notice the nursery would be the death knell of the Italian side of Nostrand Ave. Enjoyed your service and your family’s all these years (even fighting the slugs).”
The building that houses Mamma Louise, a deli at 609 New York Avenue, two sites down from the nursery, is listed for sale with Ariel Property Advisors for $1.3 million.
Over the past few years a number of New York Avenue’s small businesses and vacant lots have been bought up by developers and converted into apartment buildings. Some recent new builds include a six-story, 40-unit complex at 651 New York Avenue; a six-story, 37-unit building at 665 New York Avenue; and a six-story, 22-unit building at 601 New York Avenue.
The Merola brothers first opened Kings County Nurseries in 1955 with a commitment to the beautification of Brooklyn, the store’s website says. “It all started with three brothers and their love for gardening. That love turned into a neighborhood foundation that has been family owned and operated for over 65 years.”
The site states further that over the decades the smell of Sunday tomato sauce from the predominantly Italian immigrant households became overpowered by spicy Caribbean stews. “Our customers began to ask us to grow things like scotch bonnet peppers and broad leaf thyme. As the community began to grow, so did Kings County.”
“From beautiful brownstones to high rise buildings, we have contributed to making houses become homes. From ‘Pigtown’ to Flatbush to what we now know as Prospect Lefferts Gardens, we have embraced the growth of this amazing community.”
It is unclear when the nursery will close and whether the family’s landscaping business will continue after the site changes hands.
A version of this story first ran in Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Brownstoner.