Federal Building #2, located on Third Avenue between 30th and 32nd Streets in Sunset Park, could be home to a few big box stores, including Bed, Bath and Beyond and the Burlington Coat Factory.
Salmar Properties purchased the 1.1 million square foot building from the Economic Development Corporation in August 2011, promising to re-develop industry and bring jobs back to the community.
Community Board 7 held a public hearing on September 12, regarding an application submitted by Salmar to change the use of the first and second floors of the building.
“It’s fairly simple, a project we’ve been supporting for quite some time,” said Jeremy Laufer, district manager of CB 7. “We are supportive of increasing the size of commercial space.”
Laufer explained that the retailers will take up 15 percent of the building, which is roughly 180,000 square feet. The rest of the space is required to be utilized for manufacturing purposes.
The full CB 7 board voted on September 19 to recommend the elimination of the maximum size variance for a single retail store – currently set at 10,000 square feet per store. This would allow a “big box” store — which would need more space — to move in as an anchor tenant.
The vote came after impassioned debate from board members over whether the benefits of a big box store — between 1,200 to 1,300 new jobs – would outweigh the potential costs — increased traffic, need for parking, possible gentrification.
“These big stores are coming in and pushing mom and pop businesses out,” said Marcela Mitaynes, a housing advocate with Neighbors Helping Neighbors. “The hardware store is closed. The one near Petland is closing because of Home Depot and Lowe’s. We had 20 people come in on Monday, saying they can’t afford the rent because of gentrification. See the bigger picture and the ramifications on the community.”
Other board members insisted, however, that this would help, not hurt, the community. Board member Joan Botti noted that “since Costco came, there has been increased volume, it’s cleaner, and it did not affect mom and pops on Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues.”
CB 7 Landmarks and Land Use Chair John Burns also noted that many of the jobs will hopefully go to local residents, mitigating the need for employee parking.
Marvin Schein, co-owner of Salmar Properties, told this paper, “The major problem is that Sunset Park doesn’t have any retail stores and it needs them.” He added that there is not much empty space left in the community. “There are no more buildings in the Sunset Park area that have the room for a retail store like Macy’s or Bed Bath and Beyond, so we need something with more than 1,000 square feet,” Schein explained.
Federal Building #2 was built in 1916 as a warehouse for the U.S. Department of the Navy and was last occupied in 2000. It sits across the street from the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, which was recently announced as being “reactivated” as a “break-bulk maritime port” with uses that include transporting waste more efficiently and cleanly.
The building is also home to the world’s largest rooftop garden, with 100,000 feet of space.
Reporting contributed by Heather J. Chin, Denise Romano, Alex Hajjar, and Melisa Stumpf.