Saving Western Beef
Western Beef like many of the affordable supermarkets in downtown Brooklyn and Crown Heights is being targeted for closure. In the community surrounding Empire Blvd, we have two affordable supermarkets; Western Beef on Empire Blvd and Washington/Franklin Ave and
Associates on Nostrand and Empire Blvd/Sullivan Place.
Associates got a five year lease one year ago. Some believe it was so short because of the anticipated rezoning of Nostrand Ave, which would take about five years! This is the rezoning change that Michael Liburd, (Chairman of the Land use of CB9) is pushing for to “protect” us, despite the fact that as a voting member of the Brooklyn Public Library he didn’t protect the Cadman Plaza Library in Downtown Brooklyn Heights, that is being sold to developers!
Now Western Beef is on the chopping block. Not with a rezoning, because at this moment (March 2016) that is dead, but through extending the land of Western Beef
Currently Western Beef parking lot sits on what is known as a three zoned area. Most of the property is zoned for Commercial (C82) but small sections are also zoned for Residential (R5 and R7). Sometime, when this happens a property owner may want to change the entire zone to the smaller section zone, but they have to do what is called a “Hardship Variance”.
All they have to say that they can’t make money off of the dominate zoning and need to have the property be converted to the lesser zoning to make money. 90% of these variances are approved and the community Board cannot stop it, even though we would be told about it! However, the current zoning that Western Beef would be entitled to is an R7, this has no height limits but in order to build a tall building there has to be a lot of land around it!
Take for example Ebberts Field, where once the Dodgers Stadium was built, that is an R7 zone. However, as anyone can see there is a lot of land surrounding these 25 story buildings. In the case of Western Beef they don’t have enough land to get that kind of height, but if they were to get that triangle that is adjacent to Western Beef they could!
But the City is not allowed to sell off Streets!!! They can sell, libraries, schools, firehouses, hospitals but they cannot sell off streets. Thus they need to first, turn it into a “Real Estate Block”; eliminate the street and connect it to the Western Beef Parking Lot and then they can sell it. Just like they are selling the Armory at Union and Bedford.
With this extended land the owner can now ask for that “Hardship Variance” and turn the whole area into a Residential Area (R7), to build a tall tower of luxury Apartments. Western Beef gone! Another Major luxury Tower in our community.
Alicia Boyd submitted a Freedom of Information request "FOIL" on August 25, 2015 for information about this Empire Blvd reconstruction Project, because the people at the DOT claimed they didn't know anything about it. DOT responded that it would take 8 months to provide the information, which in regards to a Freedom of information Request (FOIL) is classified as a denial, because of its unreasonableness in time response.
The questions starts out with is why would it take the DOT so long to give records about a project that they are trying to push forward for review and consent from the community? It is clear that the information was sitting on someone's desk, because DOT came 5 times within the last 7 months to the community around this project! The information was finally submitted on March 12, 2015 almost 8 months later but was incomplete as will be noted below.
One of the main justifications to convert this land is the fact, that it is a dangerous corner and is apart of the 97-99 percentiles of accidents in all of Brooklyn. However, when you look closer you see that they have included data from across the street, (on the Northern Side of Empire Blvd) the intersections that are not apart of the proposed changes!
Northern Side Empire Blvd
Southern Side of Empire Blvd
It is the triangle that they are trying to change, that is situated on the Southern Side of Empire Blvd
(in the photo Empire Blvd is going from left to right and is the main street)
There were only 5 non-fatal accidents from 2010 - 2015 on the triangle itself, which does not make this a dangerous intersection! In fact if you look at the map it shows that the sidewalk on the Southern side of Empire Blvd, (where the triangle is) along Western Beef and cross Washington/Franklin Ave, is the safest corridor in the whole intersection with no traffic accidents!!!
The first question is why are the accidents from across the street included, (when the changes will not affect this traffic flow etc..). The answer is….. to boost their numbers! Which many people at the Community Board 9 general meeting on October 27, 2015 stated! They now want us to believe that they want to spend 10 million dollars to prevent an average of one non-fatal accident per year! And change a perfectly safe intersection that has no accidents!
Missing Money and Other Information
First, the financial information given states that 6.8 million dollars is being spent on this project, but when DOT presented the information at the Committee meeting, 10 million was quoted, where is the other 3.2 millions, coming from and going to? That is a lot of money not being accounted for.
Secondly, this project is being pushed by Congresswoman Evette Clark and not Major Owens as had been told time and time again at these meetings. Why was her name not mentioned. Why is she trying not to be affiliated with this whole scheme!
Thirdly, the original request to do this project that was suppose to have been presented and approved by Community Board 9, and then submitted to DOT has not been produced via this FOIL. The DOT in a letter dated October 9, 2011, states that "This project has been presented and approved by District Managers for Community Board 9..." However, this approval letter has not been produced by DOT.
This is important, because it is these type of requests that start the ball rolling and give the DOT the justification for doing them, which is a legal consideration. So the question is why didn't they produce this letter when the original FOIL specifically asked for "all communications between the DOT and Community Board 9"! This obviously would include Community Board 9's request for this project to happen!
It seems to be clear that not everything is being presented to the community surrounding this triangle that is next to Western Beef. There is too much money being presented at this intersection and not enough information and manipulation of data to justify spending millions of dollars to reduce streets and eliminate parkings spaces in a growing community, which is already the densest community in Brooklyn!!! Thus the community residents are demanding the following information be presented to the community before the any type of decision is had at the community board level.
A copy of the entire Plan called the “Master Plan” be produced along with the updated financial's of 10 millions dollars for this project. This would give everyone a better understanding of what is truly being planned for this island, because for the life MTOPP, we can’t see why the City and Federal government want to spend 10 million dollars on one small triangle! All in the name of safety!