The owner of a Bergen Beach lot hosting a notoriously noxious bus depot is holding locals’ heath hostage to force them to accept a condominium development that residents rejected more than five years ago, according to residents.
The attorney for owner Alex Forkosh shared new plans at a Bergen Beach Civic Association meeting on March 10 for two condo buildings with a combined footprint of nearly six football fields, which he said could replace the exhaust-spewing buses of the New Dawn Transit depot on E. 69th Street near Avenue X — if locals agreed to support the necessary rezoning.
“You don’t want the buses there so we’re going to incrementally reduce the buses as our meetings progress and you incrementally give us your nod of approval,” said attorney Eric Palatnik.
The brazen quip pro quo struck many as blatant extortion.
“There is no doubt it is a blackmail technique. They moved those buses there on purpose,” said Joe Ragusa, who lives across the street from the depot. “He is just trying to get what he wants in the end and it is disgusting.”
Forkosh has been trying unsuccessfully to sway residents into supporting a rezoning for more than five years. But residents may now relent in order to rid the neighborhood of the buses’ ferocious fumes, which local say are causing chronic health problems for local children and adults.
The tentative renderings for the two condo buildings include 225 to 300 units. There will be indoor parking with 290 spots, though locals have requested that the developers increase the amount of parking since each tenant will most likely have multiple vehicles. If approved, the project is slated to begin in about four or five years, which residents have speculated is when the bus depot lease ends.
But Palatnik said that once residents start supporting the condo plan, Forkosh will incrementally reduce the number of buses — the more support residents show for the condos, the more buses he will remove from the packed depot, which residents say is already operating at overcapacity.
“So as we progress and you come to an understanding of what you like and don’t like — and if it is something we can live with — the first step will be 20 percent of the buses will be gone,” Palatnik told the civic group.
One longtime local said he is open to supporting a “reasonable” condo plan if Forkosh promises to remove all the buses by the end of the school year instead of slowly removing the diesel-spewing vehicles.
“These people are choking on a daily basis, people are getting sick,” said Michael Benjamin, the president of the civic. “The 20 percent — that is just nickel and diming for up for four years.”
But Benjamin said the community is interested in discussing the condo plans because the buses need to be relocated so the residents can all breathe a little easier — literally.
“It is just an inherently dirty, disgusting use when people live across the street,” said Benjamin. “These people on 69th Street live across from a toxic nightmare.”
But Ragusa said he won’t bow to bus-based blackmail. He said some of his neighbors plan on hiring their own lawyer to try and banish the buses without making a deal with the devil.
“We’re going to get rid of these buses without their help,” he said.