Are The Suburbs Worth Preserving?

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Great Neck Residents at odds over new proposed complex

 

733 Middle Neck Rd. in Great Neck. (Photo source: Google Images)

The Zoning Board of Appeals (BZA) of the Village of Great Neck met on Thursday, Oct. 1 via Zoom to hear the request of case 2522 for variances on properties located at 733-741 Middle Neck Rd., 6 and 8 North Rd. and 7 Hicks Ln. This meeting was a continuation from an application reviewed on Sept. 3.

The project is a four story, multifamily dwelling apartment complex complete with amenities and parking to be built across three property plots. Since the proposal was presented last month, the BZA has highlighted several issues, including building height, lack of substantial parking and building distance from property lines.

Originally approved for 25 units and 28 parking spaces, the project plan has since expanded with the addition of two properties. This increased the number of units to 60 with 93 available parking spaces.

Other changes made to the proposal addressing the BZA’s concerns include a recess of five feet to the fourth floor at the front of the building. This change was made so the building height doesn’t appear imposing or noticeable from Middle Neck Road. In the rear of the building, space was cut back five feet by eliminating a walkway in favor of a green planted space of trees, long enough to shield the building from residents to the east.

The board and attendants were able to see visual renderings of all changes made to the property, shared by the applicant’s attorney, John Farrell.

On behalf of the applicant, Yosef Shemtov, Farrell expressed the attraction this project would bring to the community. With its proximity to local businesses and included amenities such as a gym, library, community center and lounge area within the building for residents, this project is attractive and provides walkability.

Many of the potential residents, older couples and young families, are expected to not use their cars often. The proximity would generate more foot traffic for local businesses, which would benefit the village.

But not everyone is eager for this new addition. With the floor open for public comment, several residents of Great Neck shared both support and disapproval for the proposal.
Amy Glass, a resident, was concerned with the size of the building, in both height and density. Glass cited the growth of the project proposal from 25 to 60 units in just a month.

“It has significantly expanded to the east and that bothers me a lot that we should build a large building that goes so far off Middle Neck Road,” Glass said. If at all possible, she’d like to compromise and pull the building back more, possibly using the setback space for more amenities such as a patio or more parking.

Many concerns over the “looming” nature of the tall building were expressed. A shadow study of the proposed building, shared by Farrell, showed that the building would not block sunlight from residents in the east and would not appear as dark and looming as expected.

Yet the concerns remained.

Judy Rosenthal, a longtime resident of Great Neck, was concerned with the changing nature of the project, and asked, “Are these the suburbs and are they worth preserving?”

Many of the arguments for new projects like this, Rosenthal noted, point out the “old, decrepit state” of areas in the community to show how the proposed project could be better. “The BZA shouldn’t feel that they have to choose an option that overwhelms the streets,” she said. Rosenthal believes the rundown storefronts still pose many opportunities for the community.

As someone who resides in a single family home that has been appreciated for 23 years, Rosenthal doesn’t want to her village to be compared to Mineola, Patchogue and Huntington, and thinks that Great Neck residents would feel the same. “It’s not at all my vision to turn into [those places],” she said.

Younger members of the community disagreed, and are eager for change.
Ben Nazmiyal, a resident and father, finds the project appealing in terms of creating opportunities for the community to thrive, especially for the youth. Nazmiyal recalled his childhood and not having a community center or comfortable place in the village for the youth to go to, avoiding loitering. He believes the proposal is a “tremendous thing for the community” and for its youth.

“I’m very excited for the project and hope it can be a great thing for our children going forward,” he said.

Joe Altin, who lives two blocks from the project site, is also excited for an improvement to the area. “As a young head of household in the community, I can empathize with a lot of young people that want to stay in the community and they just can’t buy a house,” he said.

Altin believes the project is beneficial to keep the young families in the community so they don’t move out to other places in Long Island.

Keeping people within the community to allow it to blossom is what this project makes an opportunity for, according to John Ghemezian, a developer with family members residing in Great Neck.

Ghemezian gave praise to the project, saying, “We should be celebrating the interest of our own community heavily investing back into [it]. Any community that has success should be able to invest in its future.”

Resident Dr. Touba Abdyan emphasized that the younger members of the community are in favor of developing the area.

“If the young people are the future and are all for this, then why are we stepping on the toes of what it is the community is wanting and looking forward to?” she asked. “I hope we can move forward and welcome the change that is really needed in the community.”

Chairperson of the board, Dennis Grossman, thanked everyone for their comments, saying the duty of the BZA is to hear the opinions of the people in the community.

For documents, items and minutes pertaining to this application, residents can visit greatneckvillage.org. The next BZA meeting will be held on Nov. 5.

 

 

1 COMMENT

  1. This article does not clearly represent what has been taking place at these meetings. There was no mention of a “community center” or anything remotely resembling a place for youth to gather in this proposal. What was first presented as a synagogue when the project was initially presented last year was then amended to a “library” on the lower floor of the proposed building, and when questions were raised by residents at the September meeting about why a library was needed when Great Neck has such a wonderful public library, it then got amended to a “reading room.” Nobody has mentioned a community center or a youth center in this building. What is really being planned for this area of the building? The developers just present vague generalizations, and the Mayor and the Zoning Board are just approving all the requested variances, some of which are major changes which probably should have gone through a rezoning process instead of simply asking for a variance. The developer is asking for an unprecedented number of variances to complete this project. Shouldn’t this raise a red flag?
    In response to those residents such as Ben Nazmiyal, who is quoted as recalling not having a community center or place for youth to gather when he was growing up… I have to wonder, did he really grow up in Great Neck? If so, how did he not know about Levels? This groundbreaking program has been a part of the Great Neck Library for over 40 years and has provided Great Neck youth with a safe community center and opportunities to learn computer skills, participate in theater programs, and so much more. Additionally, every synagogue and church in Great Neck has youth programming. It is a complete fallacy to claim that the village is lacking a place for youth to gather to “avoid loitering.” If youth are loitering in Great Neck, it’s not for lack of somewhere to go.
    And for those young families who complain that they cannot afford to buy a home in the town they grew up in… welcome to the real world. None of us could afford to buy a home in Great Neck when we were starting out, not even our parents. And does anyone really believe that these new buildings are going to be offering “affordable” housing to young people? There are already plenty of vacant co-op and rental apartments in Great Neck. Why aren’t the young families looking to buy a home in town buying or renting those?
    There are real concerns regarding transportation with this proposal, as well. It’s unrealistic to simply state “many of the potential residents are expected not to use their cars often.” Unless there are walkable supermarkets and other essential services nearby (which there are not), people will continue to use their cars daily, as they now do. And since Middle Neck Road is basically the only way out of town, traffic congestion will increase.
    Yes, the village needs revitalization. But pushing through oversized, potentially unsafe projects against residents’ objections and without proper oversight is not the answer. However, the Zoning Board has, over the objections of many residents, approved the application for the premises at 733-741 Middle Neck Road, 6 & 8 North Road, 7 Hicks Lane in Great Neck for the 60 apartment project.
    There is still time to stop this unwelcome development from being built. If enough people appeal to the Nassau County Planning Commission, it is possible that a public outcry could stop it from moving forward. I encourage all concerned citizens to write a letter to the Commission, with CC to the newspaper/elected official of your choice. Nassau County comments and questions should be submitted to jperrakis@nassaucountyny.gov. Please indicate to forward to the Nassau County Planning Commission.
    Let’s keep Great Neck a great place to live.

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