Skeptical residents question developers at Community Board 13 meeting

Representatives from Red Apple Group explain alterations for "Ocean Dreams." Photo by Matt Tracy/Coney Island News

Developers from Red Apple Group returned to Community Board 13 on Wednesday night at Coney Island Hospital to present proposed alterations of their plans for a multiple-building “Ocean Dreams” complex on Surf Ave., but concerned residents repeatedly questioned the group’s intentions in the neighborhood.

The long-discussed plans to build “Ocean Dreams” — a complex at 3514 Surf Ave. between 35th and 36th St., roughly a mile west of the main attractions in Coney Island — stems from billionaire developer John Catsimatidis’ original proposal to build a mixed-use complex complete with rental units, condos, and a restaurant near the Riegelmann Boardwalk. Among others involved with the project include Goldstein Hill West Architects.

Developers announced some slight changes to the floor plans of the complex, such as proposals to build additional floors on some buildings and fewer floors on others. They also announced the elimination of restaurants on the property, noting that it would be “more economical” to go without them. Among other changes, they said they spent “large” amounts of money on engineers to improve the foundation due to the poor soil conditions brought upon by Hurricane Sandy.

A Department of Buildings spokesperson told Coney Island News that a permit application to construct the building was disapproved in March because it was incomplete. The most recent application that was submitted to the DOB showed plans for retail on the first floor, mechanical rooms on the second floor, and residential areas from floors 3 through 21. On June 19, the owners were issued a DOB permit to perform pile load tests in preparation for a proposed new building construction.

A spokesperson for Red Apple Group told Coney Island News that they are planning to have a grocer and a major drugstore in one of the buildings; a retail location on Surf Ave.; and, if room permits, a restaurant or something else in their space — despite their announcement on Wednesday that there is no current plan for one. They also confirmed that there is no retail planned at the boardwalk.

A spokesperson for Goldstein Hill West Architects refused to provide any details to Coney Island News about their work on the complex and said they do not disclose information about their projects.

One by one, local residents — many of whom were visibly frustrated and suspicious — voiced their concerns on issues such as inevitable traffic congestion, affordability issues, and economic opportunities, and at times the developers struggled to adequately address them.

When asked if there would be any affordable housing units, developers said there would only be “no affordable units” — only market-rate units — and that condos would populate the upper levels of the buildings. They said that 42 percent of the units would be one-bedrooms and 25 percent would be studios.

One resident noted that if locals cannot even afford to live there, there should be jobs available to them — a suggestion that was initially met with uncertainty by the developers, who at first had no answer but eventually said they would be “making an effort” to help locals gain employment on-site. Although the community board subsequently encouraged locals who seek employment to sign up on a list, no concrete plans were announced by the developers.

Red Apple Group sought to quell the fears of traffic congestion by introducing the idea of a shuttle bus that would transport residents of the complex to the subway station, but locals quickly reminded them that it would be problematic because of the nearby B36 bus stop across the street on Surf Ave.

The residents continued to ask questions until the community board eventually had to announce that there was only time for one more question before moving on to the next topic.

The immediate timeframe regarding future work on the property is not yet clear. The DOB said that the developers have not yet returned with a completed application and that if they intend to proceed, they must schedule a new plan exam and return with a completed application.

Contact reporter Matt Tracy at matt@coneyislandnews.com 

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About Matt Tracy 159 Articles
Matt is a reporter with experience covering neighborhood news, politics, sports, and more. Send news tips to matt@coneyislandnews.com.

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