A developer wants to turn a sleepy shopping plaza in Brighton Beach into Brooklyn’s next hipster enclave — complete with a Trader Joe’s on the ground floor of a 40-story residential tower — but neighborhood seniors who have lived in the area for years say the last thing they need is the skinny-pants set moving in on their turf.
A spokesman for developer Rubin Schron was roundly and repeatedly booed by locals Wednesday night when he introduced a plan that had been making the rounds in the rumor mill for months, and when their greatest fears were realized — that the local stores they now depend on could be closed forever — they told him where he could take his plans.
“You want to make money?” said Vitaly Slobodskoy, one of the many residents of nearby Trump Village who turned out to hear about the plan. “Do it in Manhattan.”
But the spokesman, Dennis Hasher, insisted the plan would change the neighborhood for the better, bringing in better retail and younger residents that will transform the neighborhood in at way many couldn’t believe is possible.
“I never thought Williamsburg would be as popular as it is,” said Hasher. “It is our hope and our vision that this will be the same.”
The project does not have a start date yet, but shops in the center have already started closing. Kurt Cleaners, a dry cleaner, shuttered at the beginning of the month, and Walgreens is scheduled to close in February. Hasher said some of the shops will be relocating to 614 Sheepshead Bay Road, a bathhouse one block away from the current complex, though he would not say which businesses.
Hasher said the vision for the new retail space, which would have a mix of “upscale” and “neighborhood” stores, includes tentative plans for a Trader Joe’s and doctors’ offices.
The site used to host a manufactured gas plant — and is still contaminated with cyanide, mercury, manganese, selenium, and an array of other chemicals and pesticides — so the state Department of Environmental Conservation also attended the meeting to discuss the clean-up required before construction begins. The agency also invited the public to a follow up meeting on Jan. 28 where it would go into more detail.
Hasher said the influx of residents — which he assumes will be mostly single people without children — would add an “overall investment” of $450 million for the community, which would revamp the neighborhood.
But city Comptroller Scott Stringer said that building a high-end residential development on a toxic site could end badly for both the developer and its neighbors.
“It also raises serious fiscal concerns to me, because when you pop a 40-story building into a community and think that it is going to spur economic development and that is going to create jobs — that is going to create livability — that is usually not the case,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer. “We need community based planning. We need to have rational development.”
An elected official who grew up in the area said that local should not have to bear the burden of disastrous developers, who historically haven’t factored in the long-term consequences projects would have in the area.
“There is nothing wrong with the people of Coney Island,” said Treyger (D–Coney Island). “What is the problem has been poor planning and reckless development that has destroyed the neighborhood.”
Trump Village Shopping Center Public Meeting featuring the Department of Environmental Conservation at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brighton Beach (2800 Ocean Parkway near West Avenue). Jan. 28 at 6 pm.