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Controversial BJ's Development Near Wetlands Approved by City Council

By Nicholas Rizzi | November 1, 2017 10:44am
 The City Council voted to approve a retail complex on a patch of land residents sought to block over environmental concerns.
The City Council voted to approve a retail complex on a patch of land residents sought to block over environmental concerns.
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Josif A. LLC

MARINERS HARBOR — A proposed retail hub that will get the borough's first BJ's Wholesale big-box store was approved Tuesday by the City Council, despite residents' concerns of the impact on nearby wetlands.

The near-unanimous Council vote came with only one objection to approve developer's Josif A. LLC's application to de-map several unbuilt streets in order to build a nearly 92,000 square-foot retail space on a 28.3-acre lot at South and Forest avenues.

"They’re very excited about moving forward," said William Farrell, spokesman for the developer. "It's been a long process, the Councilwoman [Deborah Rose] worked very hard on the project to secure what the community wanted."

The project was previously voted down by Community Board 1 and fought vigorously by residents and conservationists who held a rally over the weekend to stop it. They fear it would negatively impact the wetlands on the site and did not want the nearly 2,000 trees there to be removed.

"This retail space, if it lasts 20 years, that will be a lot, especially when you have retail spaces closing up and barely able to function," said Beryl Thurman, president of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy.

"You have short-term goals, when you should be looking at this for the long haul."

However, Rose testified during the council meeting the plans would actually benefit the local environment and urged its approval.

"This land-use agreement is a win for protecting this environment," Rose said. "After months of negotiation, we have a project the represents smart, forward thinking, environmental planning."

The development could have been built with no approvals as long as it doesn't touch the wetlands itself, but it would have been a much smaller project.

With the zoning change, developers could add more stores — including a grocery store — and promised to add resiliency features to the project in return, Rose said.

Thurman said she hoped if the entire area was preserved they could build storm protection for the entire neighborhood, which was flooded during Sandy. However, she fears the planned upgrades will only help save the stores themselves.

"Water is going to find a place to go," she said. "It's going to end up being in the basement of the homes."

The application will now move to the mayor's office for final approval before construction can start.