It’s been over three years since the city passed a contextual rezoning of Bay Ridge to limit "out-of-character development" in the low-rise neighborhood, but tensions between nostalgic residents and developers who continue to squeeze three- and four-story apartment buildings into plots once occupied by single-family homes show no signs of abating.
The "Green Church" looks like it is slated for demolition despite the last ditch-effort of local activists; a seven-story apartment building will soon rise from the site of the Bay Ridge Funeral Parlor; and the board of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center is shopping for a buyer.
To Bay Ridge lifers like Steven Diahy, these developments and the squat, tightly packed generic brick buildings scattered among the rowhouses off Third and Fourth avenues signal the neighborhood’s transition from a sleepy, suburban community into a mini-Manhattan, and, equally important, make finding a parking spot nearly impossible.
Mr. Diahy still lives with his mother Lorraine in the house he grew up in on 77th Street between Third and Fourth avenues, which she bought from her mother 49 years ago.
He used to know everyone on the block, he said, but over the years his elderly neighbors have passed away and their homes have been sold. A gleaming, nine-unit McCondo has replaced two single-family homes down the street that had fallen into disrepair, but still sold for upward of $900,000 so they could be demolished, Mr. Diahy said. Though he doesn’t fault the sellers or the young couples who have moved in, he is "not very happy" about the building itself.
"It’s an eyesore, first of all," Mr. Diahy said on Sunday evening. "And, if you take down two houses and put nine in their place, you don’t have parking for all of them."
Whether or not the apartment buildings are to blame, Mr. Diahy, like many other people born and bred in Bay Ridge, misses the smalltown of his childhood.
"We were just telling my brother’s kids about how all the kids in the neighborhood used to play stickball in the street when we were young," Mr. Diahy said. "Now all the kids are inside playing those electronic games. The whole neighborhood thing is really changing."
OTHER LOCALS FOCUS ON the quality of life issues the condo development boom has exacerbated. In an incident heavily covered in the local media last September, the Basile Group enraged residents of 74th Street when it reneged on its pledge to restore three century-old Victorian homes on the block, and demolished them to make way for five three-unit townhouses occupying nearly every inch of the subsequent site’s16,200-square-feet of usable space.
The Basile Group owns seven other condo buildings in Bay Ridge, according to The Brooklyn Eagle, which locals have dubbed "Feders" because their most distinctive architectural attribute are the Feders, air conditioning units jutting from the windows.
A 28-year resident of 74th Street accused the construction crews of placing buckets of cement or building materials in parking spots in front of the construction site at 318-334 74th Street to block other cars from parking, and endangering the safety of the multiple elderly and disabled residents of the block by obstructing the sidewalk with exposed building material.
She would not allow her name to appear in this story because she "did not want to get in trouble with the contractors" at the site and provoke a "flat tire" or something.
Her neighbor, John, said he had called 311 early Sunday, because the fence surrounding the construction at the Basile Group’s site had collapsed. By Sunday night, it had not been repaired.
Joseph Cerrano, a project manager at Basile, was reluctant to comment, but did say that “nine times out of 10 we have permits from the [Department of Transportation] to occupy spots in front of our projects.” The Corcoran broker for the 74th Street condos would not comment
Though the McCondo boom has certainly strained Bay Ridge’s infrastructure, some preservationists are loath to compromise to accommodate the needs of a new population drawn by the boom.
Nancy Morgan, who lives on 80th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues with her husband, the Reverend Craig Miller of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge, played a leading role in the neighborhood rezoning a few years ago. She appears to have distanced herself from local preservationists since then.
"There is a delicate balance of needing to supply housing so that the local population is not priced out of the city, versus making sure that a neighborhood’s buses, subways, and parking can accommodate more people," she said on her front porch.
"A lot of the activists in the neighborhood don’t want things to change, which is impossible; but I don’t see anyone working to find solutions to ease the pressure, like building new parking garages."