Shunning its Land Use Committees recommendation, Community Board 6 this week rejected a proposal to convert a trash-strewn Red Hook lot into a residential building. The lot, located at 146 Conover Street, is sandwiched between two buildingsone of which is owned by board member Greg OConnell, a local developer who spoke out against the conversion. The lot sits in an area zoned for manufacturing useand in a zone included in the mayors proposed Industrial Business Zone, a citywide initiative designed to retain the industrial sector. To be converted to residential use, the project must receive public approval for a use other than the current zoning allows. The board voted 18-9, with two abstentions, to recommend disapproval of the variance to the citys Board of Standards and Appeals. The community boards vote is strictly advisory. On Jan. 26, the property owners attorney, Emily Simons, successfully argued before the boards committee that the lots small size and its position between the two existing buildings, make it unsuitable for anything but residential use. Only a residential building will yield a profit for her client, she said. But OConnell and the boards majority were not convinced. Theres no hardship here, OConnell told the board at its Feb. 8 general meeting. Its a perfect place for business to expand, which we hope will happen, he said. OConnellthe former police detective who, as a developer, wore a wire and helped cops nab City Councilmember Angel Rodriguez on extortion and other chargesowns 144 Conover, a vacant, formerly residential building, according to the citys Department of Finance. OConnell told the board the sites proximity to Manhattan makes it a great location for a service type of business. Asked about the existence of a conflict of interest, CB6 Chair Jerry Armer said he did not believe one existed. I dont think it benefits him one way or another, Armer said. Considering the way residential development is going, people can get much more with residential than commercial, he continued. However, Armer said that OConnell, probably should have declared his ownership [of 144 Conover]. But, he continued, there was no legal reason for him to do so. I didnt know he owned it, the boards chair added. The owner of 146 Conover, John Pellegrino of King Street-based Atlas Packaging Solutions Holdings Inc., said his neighbor is interested in one thing: profit. He [OConnell] has his own ideas about what he wants to put there, Pellegrino told this paper. Its all for his own advantage and profitability. I think he wants to convert [his property] to offices, Pellegrino continued. He doesnt want residential near him if hes going to put offices there. At press time, OConnell did not return calls for comment. Pellegrino said he had a conversation with OConnell about a year ago. I said, Greg, what are your thoughts, Pellegrino recalled. He said that its better to have a building there than to have an empty lot. Board member Lou Sones, a Conover Street resident, urged the board to accept the committees recommendation. Red Hook is a mixed-use community, he said. More people living here means better city services, and the growth of small business, Sones said. We have to deal with reality, not myth, he said. Of the boards vote, Sones said, I was disappointed that so many people that dont lay their head down in Red Hook want to decide the fate of Red Hook. Pellegrino said he has spent a lot of money already on lawyers and architects, but he is not optimistic the BSA, which has official say over the conversion, will approve his request. The alternative is nothing gets done there. To me, thats not progress, he said.
©2006 Community News Group
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