Out of place: East Flatbush residents protest ‘out-of-character’ apartment block

Out of place: East Flatbush residents protest ‘out-of-character’ apartment block
Photo by Trey Pentecost

There goes the neighborhood.

East Flatbush residents are up in arms over a proposed seven-story apartment building on their block of Victorian houses.

The development near the corner of E. 28th Street and Foster Avenue would replace a more than 100-year-old house with a 22-unit apartment building, which one resident said would completely violate the character of the quaint block.

“We need to have some kind of consistency with the Victorian homes that we have now,” Bill Tingling, who lives next door to the development site, said at an Aug. 2 rally against the project.

The Department of Buildings issued developer Solomon Feder a permit for the demolition of the stately Victorian house on 486 E. 28th Street on March 7. At the end of July, construction workers put up scaffolding around the boarded-up Victorian house, according to the neighbors.

The house is not located within any of the historic districts designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, so Feder needs no additional approval for the demolition, according to the buildings department.

But it’s not just the impending loss of the irreplaceable antique architecture, or the threat of an out-of-place eyesore, that’s irking locals.

Some of the bracing poles shoring up the scaffolding are blocking the driveway of the house next door, where the neighbor used to rent out a parking space in the now-inaccessible garage behind her house.

“One of the garages I used to keep for storage and the other one I rented out,” said Joan Gooding, who has lived in the house next to the site for 45 years. “And naturally, who is going to decide to go in there now?” she said, adding that she had to give up renting out that space after the scaffolding went up.

Feder submitted an application for the construction of a new seven-story residential building on May 18, but the department disapproved the plan because it was incomplete and missing required items. The owner will have to schedule a new application in order to go ahead with the development, according to the department.

Seven floors would be allowed under the local zoning regulations, but the building could even exceed 60 feet, provided it had set-backs to compensate for the extra height.

But legal or not, the scale of the development would destroy the fabric of the community in an area already squeezed for space, according to a neighborhood leader.

“This is a lively, independent community, every house is detached,” said Yves Rene, president of a neighborhood group which covers Foster Avenue, E. 28th Street, Rogers Avenue, and Newkirk Avenue.

“You’re going to increase the population by 22 apartments and we’re already crammed for parking, so you can imagine the madness of parking, double parking, all driveways being blocked on a regular basis,” said Rene, who said that his group would even be willing to buy the house back and restore it.

The community on the block has always been very close-knit, according to a mother-of-two who grew up here.

“All the neighbors grew up knowing each other, saying hello and helping each other out,” said Simone Nicolas, Gooding’s niece, who now lives on Long Island but returned for the rally. “When it snowed, up the block they would come shovel snow. That’s the kind of community it is.”

Tingling said he is concerned that due to the current building’s age, the demolition could release dangerous particles into the air, which could be a risk to neighbors and nearby schools and churches.

“There is a church and a school nearby and another school on the other side,” he said. “Could you imagine the carbon particles and the asbestos that would be in the air? This is gross negligence.”

But a recent asbestos inspection by the buildings department concluded that the structure was free of asbestos-containing materials.

As it stands, the development will likely proceed, said Gooding, but she hopes that it will be more in line with the neighborhood.

“On busy streets like Brooklyn Avenue or Farragut Road, they’re putting up five stories, but here they’re putting up seven,” she said. “All we ask is that they give us something decent — just be reasonable, that’s all,” she said.

Solomon Feder did not respond for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Not here: Bill Tinglin, who lives next door to the site, would like developers to reconsider their plans.
Photo by Trey Pentecost