Small Step for Playhouse Project

The way it was: This photo, from a posting on Facebook on the Great Neck Childhood: 60’s & 70’s page, shows the Playhouse the way it looked in 1976 when the Squire Theater wasn’t the only movie theater in Great Neck

Despite another delayed public hearing, the process of restoring the decaying First Playhouse on Middle Neck Road as a multifamily residence, a process that has lasted well over 10 years, seems to be inching forward.

The request by the applicant, First Playhouse of Great Neck Corporation, for a continuation to the June 8 meeting, was granted by Mayor David Fox and the Great Neck Estates Board of Trustees at the beginning of last week’s meeting.

This latest postponement is apparently due to the recent receipt of a letter from Great Neck Plaza officials listing their concerns and conditions about the project since the building sits near the border of the Plaza on Maple Drive. The delay will give all parties more time to consider the Plaza’s requests and comments.

But the receipt of the letter will help move things along as the two villages have been working together on their mutual concerns.

“The goal of the villages cooperating together is that we have similar interests in ensuring the public’s safety, as we share responsibilities along Middle Neck Road in our respective jurisdictions,” said Plaza Mayor Jean Celender.

“We appreciate that Mayor Fox and the board of trustees of Great Neck Estates [have] shared with us the plans and reports for this project and encouraged our input and comments in the development process,” she added. “We are anxious to see a vacant, deteriorating building reconstructed as a viable, vibrant mixed-use project at the north gateway to our village.

At its own board of trustees meeting earlier in the month, Celender addressed her village’s frustrations about the project and the fact that many casual observers mistakenly believe that the long vacant building is actually in the Plaza.

“It looks like it’s in our village, but it’s not,” she said at the meeting, prior to sending the letter of concerns and conditions. “They’ve been working on it for over 10 years, seven years with this most recent application.”

“I think we need to encourage them to move on with it and get it done,” she added. “It’s aesthetically very unappealing.”

Construction activity and heavy vehicle access on Maple Drive and at the point where it intersects with Middle Neck Road, streets where both villages share responsibilities, has been a constant topic of discussion and worry among officials.

“Maintaining public safety at all times is a high priority,” explained Celender. “Thus, we are looking to minimize congestion and the disruption to the community during construction, which we believe can be made possible by developing a joint set of conditions on any approval so that those objectives are achieved.”

The Plaza is also offering to sell a number of parking permits, specifically in the Maple Street garage, less than a block away, to the developer for workers who will be driving to the site. This will ease the already over burdened metered parking situation in both villages where meter abuse has been a long-standing problem.

Added Celender, “When it comes to issuing permits in our garages, the first priority is given to Great Neck Plaza taxpayers, but we also recognize that stores located in Great Neck Estates along Middle Neck Road are also part of our downtown district.”

“To the extent we have available parking spaces and commercial permits to sell in the garages, the goal of getting these business owners and their employees to park in the designated long-term parking spaces in the garages is similar to Great
Neck Plaza stores, and is a goal for the entire commercial district.”


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