Is Sheepshead Bay ready for the Riviera?Developer Stephen Jemal, president of SSJ Development LLC, thinks so.Last week, Jemal introduced a proposal to construct luxury housing at 2433 Knapp Street along Shellbank Creeka site where a previous developers grand housing plans were scuttled following community opposition.Jemals $15 million project, called The Riviera at Sheepshead Bay, calls for the construction of 18 loft-style one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet.Ultimately, the Riviera brand will become synonymous with luxury waterfront living, Jemal said.Each apartment will feature its own boat slip, and offer views of the creek. Plans also call for the creation of a waterfront promenade along the site.Jonathan Jaffe, an SSJ spokesperson, said the building will stand 35 feet tall.Project planners said the site is located in a tranquil beach and fishing community that comes alive at night with a lively mix of restaurants, bars and theaters.The site is also less than a block from a wastewater treatment plant.Asked about the propertys close proximity to the facility, Jemal said it is, not even a part of the site, and completely away from it.This is an unbelievable site, Jemal added.Construction is expected to begin this summer, and will span one year.Pre-construction prices will begin at $799,000, Jemal said.Aside from Sheepshead Bay, SSJ is also planning to construct luxury waterfront housing in Gerristen Beach, Bergen Beach, Bensonhurst and Mill Basin.A $20 million project in Mill Basin calls for the construction of luxury homes at the site of the former Bergen Beach Yacht Club.Jemal said the Sheepshead Bay project will be a place where future tenants could live their dream.Local activists and residents did not view the project in such sunny terms.In general, said Joe Foy, a local activist and member of Community Board 15, if youre going to come in and build a structure that is multi-unit like that, and then create the perception that its wonderful and never been done before I would have to approach this with a degree of skepticism.This is located near a gas station, a wastewater treatment plant and a sanitation garage, Foy added.Foy, who has not seen the plans for the project, said he was concerned about the impact any new development would have on already scarce parking spots, as well as the strain on infrastructure.Steve Barrison, president of the Bay Improvement Group, said that without seeing the plan, it was difficult to make a concrete analysis of the project.Even so, he, like Foy, is skeptical.Past experience has shown us that when a developer doesnt come to community groupseven if it is as of rightthen peoples antennas must go up and be suspect before the plans are revealed, Barrison said.Back in 2003, developer Donald Lentnek proposed the construction of a six-story, 28-unit residential building at 2433 Knapp Street, a project that required the blessing the citys Board of Standards and Appeals.The initial project was criticized for being out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood, and was rejected by Community Board 15, whose vote is advisory.When SSJ purchased the property, it was done with the BSA application already in place, but the application was amended, calling for a three-story property.BSA gave its approval to the amended plan in January, 2005.We always hope that a developer will do the best thing for Sheepshead Bay, Barrison continued.Most of the time, we discovered that developers did what was expedient, [bringing them] the biggest bang for the buck, ignoring the communitys interests.Jemal said he is not looking to upset or change any neighborhood.All Im looking to do is enhance their waterfront and give them pride in their waterfront, the developer said.Unfortunately, this particular area has not been properly developedand thats what I intend to do, he said.Jemal said, nobody wants to see towers blocking the waterthat doesnt help the neighborhood.For his part, Barrison, an attorney, remained optimistic.We always hope that the next developer to come along will surprise us and do the right thing.
©2006 Community News Group
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