Developer pushes shop plan, despite rejections

Even after plans to build a small shopping center in Forest Hills were shot down by city officials, the developer still aims to open the complex in six months.

David Koptiev of Gabriel Development Corp. vowed to resubmit plans for the two-story center – with six name-brand stores on the ground floor and offices above – on what is now a vacant lot at 71st and Metropolitan Aves.

“It’s only going to improve the area,” Koptiev said, predicting the Buildings Department would approve his revised plan in coming days.

Koptiev downplayed city records showing his plans had been rejected three times – twice in June and once in July – and called them misleading.

“It was rejected one time, but the building has three lots,” he said. “So they found something wrong with one of the lots, and they automatically rejected all three of them.”

The city rejected the plans because “something small” was wrong with them, Koptiev said.

The Buildings Department generally rejects applications if they do not meet building or zoning requirements, agency spokeswoman Caroline Sullivan said.

Locals wondered about the timing of the plans, which will likely be processed before the city enacts a new zoning code for southern Forest Hills.

“There’s something fishy. The little darlings might be trying to sneak something in,” said Barbara Stuchinski, president of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association, referring to the developer.

Zoning regulations now include a commercial component that would probably allow the proposed shopping center.

Though a new zoning code may soon take effect, Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said the changes would not affect the shopping center as currently planned.

There are also environmental concerns, since the proposed complex site – now surrounded by blue wooden boards – was an auto repair shop for decades.

Stuchinski said she did not see workers remediate the tainted soil, as was done before a nearby dry cleaner was converted into a 7-Eleven.

But Koptiev insisted remediation was done before he bought the land.

“No bank is going to let you purchase a property if there’s contamination,” he said. “Everything’s been cleaned up.”

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