If you listened to enough Van Halen as a teen, you quickly realized that all their songs were the same; only the words changed. But this affliction is not limited to ’80s power rock.
Local preservationists’ anger over a developer’s plan to tear down a beloved structure on Fourth Avenue and replace it with condos also sounds familiar, a war between some residents and some builders akin to showdowns between Rosie and Donald, Bush and 75 percent of the American public, or those in the “Less Filling” camp and those who prefer a beer with “Great taste.”
The newest controversy is over a plan to demolish the Bay Ridge Funeral Home, at 7614 Fourth Ave., and replace it with a seven-story, 28-unit apartment building. You didn’t need to be a weatherman to know the way this wind would blow: A downzoning two years ago covered most of Bay Ridge — but not Fourth Avenue, and now developers are eying the wide, two-way street.
Of course, this is an important story, and a serious community concern, but it’s hard to discuss it until residents confront exactly what the real issues are and what is at stake.
It won’t be easy.
The schism hits at the very heart of the two most prevalent community concerns; the skyrocketing cost of housing and the maintenance of community integrity. Most residents believe that part of what makes Bay Ridge the greatest place in Brooklyn is the unique architecture, the open spaces, and the small-town feel, but they also want to be able to afford it.
The problem with being anti-development and pro-affordable housing is akin to wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. As the population continues to grow, the demand for housing increases, and if it isn’t matched by an increase in supply, the price goes up in direct proportion. It isn’t rocket science, just too many hungry people and not enough cake.
But not all is lost.
There is only one solution, albeit an unconventional one, which would allow Bay Ridge to thwart developers and bring the price of housing down — make Bay Ridge an undesirable place to live.
Yellow Hooker has three quick suggestions right off the bat: 1. replace the best restaurants with banks and 99 cent stores; 2. infest the community with undesirable vermin, like skunks and raccoons; 3. don’t bother to fix the stench coming from the Owls Head sewage treatment plant.
If that plan fails (it has), new people will still want to come to Bay Ridge, so the community will just have to accept that its biggest curse is its own success. Some bullet is going to have to get bitten — but which one remains unclear.
Until then, the addresses might change, but the war between developers and preservationists is all just the same ol’ song.
Matthew Lysiak is a regular contributor to The Brooklyn Paper
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