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Gerritsen Bearchers prefer empty lot to eyesore

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Sometimes nothing is better than something.

Entrepreneurs looking to build a four-story self-storage facility on a long-vacant Knapp Street lot has run into resistance from Gerritsen Beach residents who would rather look across Plumb Beach Channel and see nothing, than a “big, ugly something.”

“The only argument I’ve encountered in support of building this thing is that it’s been empty for a long time and that having something there would be better than nothing,” said David Stevens, a Gerritsen Beach resident and member of both Gerritsen Beach Cares and the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association.

“I ask ‘why?’ I’d rather have nothing than a big, ugly something,” said Stevens.

The Knapp Street lot has been vacant since the 1980s, in no small part due to a zoning declaration that the city placed on the property in 1984 that restricts development there to big-box retailers and maritime facilities, like a marina, but which excludes other businesses, including those that lease storage lockers.

But proponents of the storage facility say that a big retail outlet is the last thing they’d want to see built along the already over-trafficked Knapp Street, which would devolve into a grid-locked quagmire if a shopping destination was erected, according to George Broadhead, the president of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association.

“If you have retail establishment there, it’s going to be a mad house,” said Broadhead.

In order to get around the zoning obstacle, representatives from Metro Self Storage presented their plans to Community Board 15 on Jan. 29, asking for the board to recommend that the Department of City Planning revoke the restrictive declaration that has left the property barren for 30 years.

The vote passed with overwhelming support of 33 to one, which is a good thing for Brooklynites with precious heirlooms, and soggy basements, according to Manhattan Beach resident and board member Edmond Dweck.

“After the storm, everybody’s looking to put their personal possessions in locations that are dry,” said Dweck. “I see them as being busy. They’ll be filled up not long after they move in.”

But its bad for boat owners, who say the borough’s precious reserve of shore-front property could be put to better use than as a warehouse for a bunch of landlubbers.

“There’s only a small amount of waterfront property, and I think it should be reserved for a waterfront use,” said Stevens. “You can put a storage facility anywhere, you can’t put a marina in the middle of land. You can’t go to a park and look at boats go by in the middle of Brooklyn.”

The facility will have a low profile and won’t be an eyesore, according to Howard Goldman, a land use attorney representing Metro Self Storage.

“Those houses are not close,” said Goldman. “They’re across the water. I don’t know the exact number of feet, but they’re a fair distance away. Also, there won’t be any illumination, or visible signage facing the community.”

Regarding the nature of the seaside lot, Goldman said that both Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach have more than enough marinas and docks.

“There are other marinas in the immediate area, there’s certainly no shortage,” he said. “There’s one due north of this site and there’s not a huge demand for it.”

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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