Letter: Borderlands And Master Plans

What will become of the peninsula? (Photo by Google Maps)

Here’s more on why the section of Middle Neck Road between Clover Drive and Allenwood Road is so interesting.

Starting with Millbrook Court, we’re talking about a proposed project (starting this month?) of three new buildings—luxury apartments, instead of 119 rent-controlled apartments that formed the basis of a tight-knit middle-class community in the heart of the Village of Great Neck. The plan means losing 33 rent-controlled units, while picking up 100 luxury apartments. So, there will be a four-story 58-unit building, a four-story 28-unit building and a three-story 14-unit building, in addition to some remaining brick garden apartments.

How legitimate can a call for affordable housing be when there are plans to eliminate these 33 affordable units at Millbrook Court and an additional 40 affordable units at Academy Gardens? These two projects alone will eliminate 73 rent-controlled affordable-housing units. That means 73 fewer working-class/middle-class families. So, please, give me a break. It’s not, “We need affordable housing.” It’s, “We’re eliminating 73 rent-controlled apartments, so we can build more luxury apartments.”

Just South of Millbrook Court is the Young Israel congregation. This is the southern border of the village. Then, there is Clover Drive; the first road down in Great Neck Estates. You might notice that every store on the next block is sort of empty and whitened out. This entire block is soon to be a 44-unit building. So, a 44-unit project, in combination with a 186-unit project, with literally one building, one shul, between them. Are you going to tell me they don’t affect each other? But, one is in the Village of Great Neck and the other is the Village of Great Neck Estates. These projects get developed in vacuums, instead of as part of a coordinated plan, even though they are virtually next to each other. All I know is that this two-block stretch of Middle Neck Road is going to have nearly 250 new apartments on it.

By the way, this 44-unit project has been held up for years, because of Nassau County’s concerns over traffic.

If you think being separated by one shul is cutting things close border wise, how about straddling the border? Behind Millbrook Court is the last multi-acre parcel of undeveloped watershed land on the peninsula. I repeat, the LAST bit of undeveloped three-acre watershed land on the peninsula. It’s only been undeveloped for…ever. Now, the plan is for 11 houses to fill in this land, with access created by demolishing a house on Clover Drive and having a street paved through where that house used to be, to grant access to this inner three-acre parcel. The developer came up with this to outsmart the covenant he signed to not allow access to this parcel through Versailles Court, another of his projects. Where I come from, “covenants” are not just idle promises, or contracts, they are serious. This end-around is a shonda, an embarrassment—a real FU to the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.

This horror had to make it through all the public hearings, all the planning boards, all the zoning appeal boards, all the trustee boards, of two different villages. And, yet, it did make it through, and it will be there.

And, these projects will have no “significant” affect on traffic? And, they won’t have any effect on the water table? We have good reason to think they will. “No effect on the water” was what we heard when Versailles Court, on the corner of Middle Neck Road and Old Mill Road, was developed. Versailles Court is the very next building north of Millbrook Court. Forget a shul, the only thing between Millbrook Court and Versailles Court is the driveway out from Millbrook Court.

And, guess what? In spite of being told there wouldn’t be any water problems with Versailles Court, there were. It flooded at that corner, and we were all less safe because of it. We’ve all paid money for Nassau County to come and dig and roar and fix. There’s already a long history of sewage and other water problems at Millbrook Court, and that’s without 186 apartments all “online,” overburdening a sewer pipe laid in 1907.

And, to solve the parking problem for almost 250 apartments, they’re planning to dig to put in underground lots.

Thank you for trying to hide the cars, but as you dig remember the water.

Anyone who lives on Wooleys Lane, Chadwick Road or Spring Lane will tell you how the water just comes up. The underground springs that flow, and sometimes overflow, the water table and the purity of our wells are all interconnected.

Any real master plan has to start by figuring out how much the infrastructure of the peninsula can support. Read my next letter to find out what to do about revitalizing the village. But, now, figure out how many more cars can fit and how many more people can fit, from students in Great Neck schools, to people who must get to the LIRR, to drivers trying to get out of town during rush hour. How much garbage must get hauled, how many ambulances called and how much water can get pumped out of the ground? We’ve already had signs that we are reaching the limits of what the peninsula can support. Whether it’s trying to drive out of town, park in town or simply cross the street, we strain the capacity of the village every day.

And, just as real is the limit of what the public will tolerate without pushing back. At these last few village meetings, we saw that push back against taller, denser buildings along Middle Neck Road and against more traffic on East Shore Road, because quality of life has many elements, such as pace and scale, along with fresh air, good schools and parks.

So, what about that border between the Village of Great Neck and Great Neck Estates? It’s an artificial border that must be ignored when planning the future of our peninsula. I understand there are different governing bodies. But, they cannot operate in a vacuum. For the good of us all, and those who follow us all, they must cooperate and coordinate their plans for building on the peninsula.

—Sam Yellis

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