2004-08-13 / Front Page

Pigeon-Plagued Hotel Slated For Stores, Condos

By Howard Schwach

The eyesore Lawrence Hotel, once one of the most notorious welfare hotels in New York City and more recently the home for thousands of pigeons, may soon become an anchor for a revitalized Beach 116 Street shopping area.

Vladimir Prokopov, who bought the blighted property from the city in April for nearly $500,000, plans to reduce the old building to rubble and to build in its place a showcase building that will include either a store or a restaurant on the ground floor and four floors of condominiums or offices.

“It all depends on the zoning and the variances that I can get from the community board,” Prokopov told The Wave. “It is not a large space, but it is an ideal situation for condos or rental units.”

The building is zoned R-5, which allows for multiple dwellings with a commercial overlay – a store or restaurant on the ground floor. That zone, however, does not allow for a building more than 35 feet high, the present height of the Lawrence Hotel.

According to Jonathan Gaska, the District Manager for Community Board 14, the site is a medium-density zone. The proposed new condominium building at the boardwalk and Beach 116 Street, for example, is in a R-7A zone and most of Manhattan is zoned R-11. The R-5 zone is most often used for condos or townhouses.

Prokopov, however, would like to build slightly higher than 35 feet to allow another story or two for some more apartments or condos.

He plans to go to Community Board 14 sometime in the fall for approval of the zoning change.

Gaska, said that he has yet to see any plans or requests submitted by the new owner.

“Without seeing the plans, it’s hard to say what the board would do,” Gaska says. “All things being even, however, I can’t see the redevelopment of that building becoming an issue. Most people will be glad to see something done in that area.”

John Lepore, President of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways, agrees.

Anything that gets rid of the Lawrence Hotel, which is both a health risk and a fire risk, is alright with me,” Lepore said. “The new owner can do nothing but make the street better than it was with the Lawrence hotel.”

Lepore added that the hotel did “psychological damage” to the shopping street.

“People would look at that building and think nothing of dumping garbage on the street,” he said.

He hopes that Prokopov or another developer would purchase the other hotels on the street for development.

“I never thought that I would be present for the revitalization of Beach 116 Street,” Lepore said with a laugh. “I think now that I’m seeing the beginning.”

There is one stumbling block, however, to the development of condos on Beach 116 Street proper. That is the zone’s requirement that 85 percent of the units come with one parking space. Parking is a premium on Beach 116 Street, particularly during the summer months.

Prokopov declined comment on rumors that he offered John Baxter, the owner of Baxter’s Hotel, which is adjacent to his property, more than a million dollars for that property and was rebuffed.

“There are other nearby properties that could become a benefit to the community,” Prokopov said.

John Baxter, contacted by The Wave on Tuesday, declined to comment on the rumor as well.

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