Days after Pride in Port, where locals celebrated Port Washington, many took the stage to oppose a proposed seven-story, 176-unit residential development project with a 29-slip public marina at 145 West Shore Road that opponents say could change their community forever.
While most speakers opposed the project, some residents and union representatives spoke in its favor.
There were over 100 attendees at the four-hour hearing. Some would-be attendees were denied admittance because of overcrowding.
Speakers had three minutes to address the Town Board. Many told the board to reject the project completely, even though there wasn’t any vote taking place that night.
Those opposed argued that the proposal is incompatible with Port Washington.
“The building is just too big for the sliver of land,” said Steven Catrone, a resident and prominent opposition leader. “It’s like 20 pounds of bologna in a 10-pound bag. If approved, I feel like it will change the character of our charming town [and its] small-town vibe.”
Wednesday night wasn’t the first instance of residential opposition. Alongside signs being distributed and planted, an online petition against the project has received over 5,500 signatures.
The petition says that the Port Washington Peninsula cannot support “more overdevelopment.” It adds that the proposed zoning change may set a precedent resulting in nearby buildings of equal scale.
Alongside residents, many groups, like the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, were in attendance. Associate Director Lisa Cashman said the environmental statement, as it stands, is incomplete.
“In our viewpoint experience, so many of the mitigations and technological fixes that are proposed by developers when put into practice don’t perform as expected,” she said. “Even on the base of more frequent and severe storms, the harbor and adjacent ponds and creeks are overwhelmed by inadequate stormwater retention.”
Michelle Lapinel McAllister, the group’s program director, previously told Blank Slate Media that the planned site is in a high-risk coastal area. Increased impermeable surfaces along the shoreline, she said, will increase stormwater runoff.
In addition to increasing the amount of nitrogen and pollutants reaching the sea, McAllister said that the project will negate the past 30 years of advances in water quality. It would also cause increased algae blooms, fish death and beach closures.
An environmental attorney for multiple community groups, Nicholas Rigano, called the environmental statement “grossly deficient.”
“That phase one environmental assessment really only identified primarily one environmental condition, and that’s related to petroleum,” he said. “So what they did in their phase two environmental assessment is only look for petroleum contamination in the groundwater. They did not sample for [per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances] contamination, or [Trichloroethylene], or [Tetrachloroethylene] — contaminants that could be and likely are present in the groundwater at this property.”
He said that these contaminants affect the groundwater. He explained the location’s previous uses as a ship maintenance yard and then as a sand and gravel storage facility may have caused this.
Efforts to reach the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor for additional comments were unavailing.
Most of the speakers opposed the project. Many voiced their general opinions alongside environmental statement comments.
“We are blessed to be on a peninsula surrounded by water and I wanted my children to appreciate the view and not ever take it for granted. These reasons and many others are enough to say no,” said one resident. “The environmental impacts from the additional humans, the unbearable traffic and surely our precious water supply will undoubtedly be unsustainable. The thought that my representative board members would see anything but the smoke and mirrors presented by [Southern Land] is disheartening and very upsetting.”
Other speakers expressed traffic safety worries alongside environmental concerns. In its environmental statement, Southern Land looked at 10 local major intersections and said the proposal would cause one more vehicle traveling on West Shore Road every two minutes, with no obvious negative effects on traffic.
But many said that focusing only on traffic ignores other problems.
“What we all need to understand is what are the current safety conditions on the roads to be most affected by the proposed project, particularly in the Beacon Hill area,” said Nancy Lanis, a resident. “Beacon Hill Road and Longview Road being used as the main arterial routes in and out of town to and from the east where the project will be.”
Projects aside, she said that a safety expert should analyze the current circumstances and traffic patterns.
Even though it was less frequent, several proposal advocates spoke, too.
Residents, like Angela Ferrante, said that very few who are speaking against the project have actually been at the site. She also added there are many misconceptions surrounding the plan.
“I have walked the site. My children have boated in the water. I have boated in that water myself,” she said. “It is nothing short of suburban blight. Southern Land will pay for the cleanup.”
She understands the concerns about the development but argued it is in a position that will not negatively affect the community.
“Cleanup is expensive,” she said. “I feel that this development and site will remain the blight it is for many, many more years [without Southern Land].”
Also in attendance were union representatives. Grant Newburger, director of communications and organizing for Nassau Suffolk Building Trades Council said the project is “unequivocally local jobs for local people.”
“We have 65,000 members, we are the true economic driver for Long Island and for our communities,” he said. “I grew up on Forest Drive here in Sands Point. I truly see the need, both for the local jobs and for the additional housing.”
He also said that Southern Land is dedicated to only hiring union workers on the construction site.
Southern Land’s Northeast director of acquisitions, Joe Rossi, previously said the developer wanted to restore the beachfront for the public. In a statement, he said he was grateful that the Town Board and community got to hear their environmental statement.
“We have been sharing the facts and will continue to do so,” Rossi said. “And it’s important for the Town Board and the community to know that we are listening closely to all comments — those made during the hearing and those that we will receive from the Town Board following the close of the public comment period.”
He said the findings show that the proposed project will have little effect on the school district and traffic patterns. He added it will also have many advantages for the environment and economy.
The town will consider remarks made and submitted for the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which one can send to [email protected]. The deadline for written public comments is Oct. 31.