New York City and a future developer must take into account community priorities after withdrawing a proposed project at Baychester Square from a City Council committee agenda on Aug. 9, City Councilman Andy King said. The proposal for the vacant city-owned property that is being leased to the MTA would have included a shopping complex spread over seven buildings as well as two public plazas, on-site parking and, separately, 180 affordable senior housing units.
“I’m very proud of the work that was done trying to establish something on this site and I'm equally thankful to my neighbors ... who voiced their concerns ... (and) I stand with my neighborhood,” he said. “There was a sentiment that this was not in the right fit for our neighborhood, so we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and get a developer and say yes to a project that brings quality jobs, good housing, economic stability, (and) more important, is aesthetically pleasing to everyone’s eye.”
Everyone involved in the five years of conversations could not come to an agreement, he said, adding that a new RFP should deliver what the community is asking for. “The community said we have a mall (nearby), and the mall still has 200 square feet of vacancies, so they didn’t want another mall built,” he said, also citing a broader trend of “dying” malls due to e-commerce. The added senior housing component “wasn’t a game-changer for the amount of retail space that was being offered.”
The community had suggested amenities such as a school, a film studio, a spa, a park or a community center to better tie into the surrounding private houses, he said, fearing traffic and health impacts.
“I have no problems with some retail, but the 425,000 square feet that was being offered was ... just too much for the community,” he said. All the players, including another developer, should quickly get “in sync” for future conversations about the site, he said, to ensure a smoother process. “It can’t be all about the money, because (then) we’ll never ever find the right project … You can’t put something there for a quick hit.”