Marty wants a BJ’s — if he can get a meal with it.
Borough President Markowitz says that he’ll support Joe Sitt’s planned Gravesend big-box BJ’s Wholesale club if the Coney Island “developer” adds a popular chain restaurant to his waterfront plan.
“This is the perfect site to entice destination restaurants such as Legal Seafood and Grand Lux Cafe,” Markowitz wrote in a June 9 letter to Sitt.
Markowitz made the same request in his recommendations for Sitt’s proposed Shore Parkway shopping center, which he sent to the Department of City Planning as part of a process to determining if Sitt will get the zoning necessary to build the complex on Gravesend Bay.
Sitt has already inked a deal with BJ’s, and the city is currently reviewing his plan that would put retail space atop a four-football-field sized space harbor-front space off Bay 38th Street.
Many locals who are excited about the big-box say they’d be happy to dine with a view of the Narrows.
“There’s definitely a need for a restaurant in that space,” said Tom Paolillo. “And I’m a big fan of Legal Seafood so I’d be thrilled if that came in.”
And Sitt will consider giving a restaurant a space in his two-story Brooklyn Bay Center, a $150 million project that has room for three stores in addition to BJ’s.
“We take every recommendation from the Borough President seriously,” said his lawyer, Jesse Masyr.
Masyr added that Sitt will likely not negotiate with any more potential tenants until after the city approves the shopping center. The Department of City Planning will review the application on July 13 and the City Council gets the final say in the fall, according to Masyr.
But not everyone is hungry for Markowitz’s choice of restaurant for the waterfront. The Beep, who has was thrilled when Shake Shack announced plans to replace Tony’s Pizzeria Downtown and touted the 2007 opening of IHOP on Livingston Street, says a popular chain would be fine, but others think the space should be reserved for a mom-and-pop.
“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.”
Otherwise, Sitt’s quest for a zoning change has been going smoothly.
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 lot that’s now used as a school bus depot.
Of course, there’s still the possibility that Sitt won’t build anything at all.
In 2001 Sitt purchased the now-shuttered Albee Square Mall Downtown and persuaded the city to change the zoning so that he could build Brooklyn’s tallest building. But the project was stalled when in 2007 he sold the DeKalb Avenue site to Albee Development Corporation for $125 million — about 10 times more than he paid for it. The Corporation broke ground on the 65-story tower after the decade-long saga last summer.
Sitt is infamous in Coney Island, where he paid $13 million for a W. 21st Street lot next to MCU Park in 2005, only to sell it a year later to Taconic Investment Partners for $90 million, according to Crain’s New York Business. The property later hosted the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for two summers and is www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/19/bn_martyconcerts_2011_5_13_bk.html“>now home to Borough President Markowitz’s summer concert series.
Sitt’s other People’s Playground projects have flopped: in the summer of 2008, Sitt’s self-described “Summer of Hope” carnival turned into the “Summer of Nope” when the carnies packed up early. That same season, Astroland closed because of a contract dispute with longtime operator Carol Albert.
And in November 2009, the city bought seven acres of property that Sitt had owned since 2005 to pursue Mayor Bloomberg’s redevelopment vision. Buying out Sitt was a key component of the Bloomberg’s plan to jump-start the long-stalled renaissance of Coney Island.
Sitt had his own vision of a $2-billion, 365-day-a-year Xanadu with hotels, malls, new rides and indoor attractions, but city officials refused to discuss him the zoning change he would need for the dream to come true.
Sitt still owns five acres on Coney, but has never built anything there.