Great Neck Residents at odds over new proposed complex
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.