It was 1999 when opportunity opened a vital horizon for the future of the prestigious 86th Street shopping strip in Bensonhurst.
One full block south of Bay Parkway was abundantly bestowed with very busy food shopping marts — so many fruit and veggie stores, stacked high with fresh fruits and veggies by skilled merchants and helpers, pitching mauled or spoiled fruits into waste barrels. Shoppers crowding each other in the check-out lines, delivery trucks sought parking spots and meter agents checked each parker with pads in hand. Parking was New York’s problem then — as it still is today. But a sad failed business restored hope for business survival — and even expansion.
Merchant leaders hoped that the city would buy the lot left behind by the closed store and turn it into a parking lot that would aid both the shoppers and the avenue, already full of nationally renowned shops.
The motion was defeated before the Community Board, who believed the dope they were fed: “they’ve got plenty of parking spots now for these schlock stores.”
Luckily we lashed out at the false testimony, arguing that the only empty spots were either driveways or hydrants, and we itemized all the non-schlock nationally renowned shops on one black that then had the Wiz on one corner and four Gap shops on the other.
The decision came in eight weeks later, we won.
But they appealed and a second hearing was held. Again we testified, along with any homeowners that also needed added parking.
It was sheer delight to return for a decision six weeks later and find that we won once again. But angered politicians filed for a third hearing with an allegedly revised plan, this time one that provided stores and housing and offices with an underground parking garage for occupants only.
That time I was not there to listen — or to testify. I was on vacation in Puerto Rico. I came home with a good shade of tan and deep chagrin. They won.
They then built it their way, a brick building running from Bay Parkway frontage to Bay 29th Street where there is a bank in front. We have an account there and when we renew our CD, I always chide the teller to put a sign in the window: “Depositors wanted. No experience necessary.”
But this week we went to the back of the same building, fronting Bay 29th Street, and there we saw the parking that they lied about. Their underground garage is not accessible to me — the public. Only for residents who live behind on the Bay 29th Street side is there a separate entrance; a combination residence and a few medical offices. The indoor parking is evidently for residents only and a disabled medical client like me had to park at a meter, two distant blocks from their blood center.
That councilman is long gone; so was the salaried community board manager who engineered the deal that kept Brooklyn’s busy merchants from offering parking on a very prestigious shopping street.
A recent Letter to the Editor of this newspaper concocted that I disparaged 86th Street. I have always fought for 86th Street. Just look at an old Channel 7 video of a Christmas Eve newscast where I sat on a cold roadbed entrance to the E.J. Korvette’s shopping center, where they were running unlicensed shoppers from New York City streets into their shopping center even after a five-month battle against their law team we won, we the people, and their bus was defaulted and E.J. Korvette’s closed down while 86th Street was still holding on.
Meanwhile the MTA takes forever and a day trying to repair its decaying train pillars.
Neighborhood shopping strips need to survive so desirable neighborhoods can survive.
This is Lou Powsner.