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Development pits cars versus sparrows

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The long-awaited expansion of a Mill Basin auto mall is finally underway, but locals say the plan is a lemon.

The city has finalized its sale of a 110,000-square-feet parcel along Flatbush Avenue near Toys ‘R’ Us and the Four Sparrows Marshland, marking the end of a more-than-two-year process to expand the Kristal Auto Mall, but environmentalists say that the last thing the city needs to do after Hurricane Sandy is pave its coastal wetlands.

“The city should be ashamed of itself,” said Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resource Protective Association. “If we learned one thing in Sandy, it’s how important open space is in preventing flooding. If you look at the Jamaica Bay area, the areas that were vegetated sustained less flood damage than areas that were developed.”

The Kristal Auto Mall in Canarsie is the largest minority-owned car dealership in the city, and its development of the new facility, just south of Kings Plaza, is expected to cost $30 million and generate 80 construction jobs, according to a spokesman for the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

As stipulated in his agreement with the city, Kristal Auto Mall owner Sammy Bical has to build new parking spots to replace those his facility will gobble up from the big box toy retailer, and Sanoff says that extra pavement is going to cause floods in the future.

“If you think there’s not going to be more floods, then you have another thing coming,” said Sanoff. “If they’re building more parking, they’re taking over more park space at a time when people are more worried about flooding than ever.”

Back in 2011, before Community Board 18 gave the auto mall’s expansion its blessing, members of NYC Audubon showed up at hearings in an attempt to block the development from the Four Sparrows Marshland, which provides a home for four types of sparrows that require an undisturbed marshland for nesting. Audubon members claim toxins flowing into the marsh from the auto lot will destroy the nesting space, and birds will kill themselves by flying into the building’s huge bay windows.

“About 90,000 birds die in New York City from collisions with glass,” said Susan Elbin, the Director of Conservation and Science at NYC Audubon. “Any kind of construction development there will have to be bird friendly,”

But not everyone’s upset to see Kristal Auto Mall’s expansion, and Borough President Markowitz praised everyone involved in making the project happen.

“Bravo to EDC led by President — and Brooklynite — Seth Pinsky, Councilman Lew Fidler and to Sammy Bical and Bical Development for their perseverance in ensuring that this project will further enhance the Flatbush Avenue gateway into southern Brooklyn,” said Markowitz.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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