Nassau IDA plans to discuss 733-41 Middle Neck Road proposal on March 31

Nassau IDA plans to discuss 733-41 Middle Neck Road proposal on March 31
The Nassau County IDA's Board of Directors said they plan to address the mixed-use apartment proposal on 733-41 Middle Neck Road next meeting. (Rendering courtesy of Oz Bencetin)

Plans for a proposal for a four-story mixed-use apartment in Great Neck could be approved by the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency’s Board of Directors on March 31, officials said.

The IDA’s agenda for Thursday night’s meeting listed the project, developed by Gesher Center LLC, as subject for an approval resolution for its plans and proposed tax breaks.

IDA Chairman Richard Kessel, during the meeting, said the board decided to table the resolution so that discussions between the client and the village stakeholders.

“I know that there are a lot of people in the village and throughout the Great Neck peninsula who are interested in the project,” Kessel said.

Kessel said it is the board’s intention to address the application during the board’s March 31 meeting.

The project is a proposed four-story, mixed-use building that would stand 44 feet high and contain 60 homes — including 56 two-bedroom apartments and four one-bedroom apartments — along with 93 below-grade parking spaces, a recreation center and a public art gallery. Five buildings riddled with chipped and faded paint currently occupy the space that the plans encompass.

In December 2019, the project started out as a 25-unit complex with 12 incentives later granted by the Board of Trustees in February 2020.

Village officials later said that the original proposal was ultimately withdrawn by the developer, and plans for the 60-unit complex were taken directly to the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals later that year.

With the expansion of the proposal, the project overlapped with the village’s Residence C and Residence E, or apartment, zones.

According to Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral, the project was resubmitted to the zoning board rather than the Board of Trustees due to the zoning approvals that the Board of Trustees could not grant the developer.

“Changing zones is not within the scope of the Board of Trustees and only the Zoning Board of Appeals is able to make those changes,” Bral said in a September interview with Blank Slate Media.

Because the plans were changed, the incentives initially granted by the Board of Trustees became null and void, Bral said.

In March 2021, the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved the site plan for the updated proposal, which also included a meeting room, two recreation rooms and a storage unit on the sub-level floors.

The Board of Trustees approved updated architectural and facade plans for the proposed complex in May. Updates featured French balconies, a more compartmentalized appearance and ornamental lighting on the building’s exterior.

Residents expressed their concerns about the proposed structure to IDA officials during a September meeting at Village Hall. Some spoke on their displeasure with the project and advocated that the developer not be granted any tax breaks in the form of payments in lieu of taxes, also known as PILOT relief.

“Simply put, we cannot afford to further excuse developers from contributing to that which makes any town viable and attractive,” village resident Karen Bardash said. “We need to have money coming in, we need money in the way of taxes. If builders cannot afford to build without incentives, they should not build.”

“At some point, I want to know why the rest of us, who own private homes, have to take up the slack for the reductions in taxes to people who are only making a profit,” village resident Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar said. “Either you want to put up a 60-unit building and you’re willing to pay for it, or you’re not.”

A week after their meeting at Village Hall, the IDA board addressed the proposal and the various resolutions packaged with it during a public board meeting. The resolutions included a 22-year tax break package, approval for the project under state environmental law and an overall approving resolution.

John Farrell, a lawyer for the project’s developer, Gesher Center LLC, said he and the developer were aware of the residents’ concerns but added that the project was something that the village wanted to incorporate into its community during the board’s Sept. 21 meeting.

“I’m familiar with the residents’ comments and concerns,” said Farrell, who works with the law firm of Sahn, Ward, Braff, Koblenz PLLC. “This is something that the village wants. We would not be here right now if the village wasn’t supportive of this project.”

Farrell also acknowledged concerns about the proposed first-floor art gallery and assured members of the IDA board that it would not be used for any religious services or alternative operations. Farrell said this project has the ability to “kickstart the redevelopment along Middle Neck Road.”

Carrie-Anne Tondo of Ingerman Smith LLP, representing the Great Neck School District, spoke during the Sept. 21 meeting about the lack of concrete information that was presented by the developer in terms of how schools throughout the area would be affected by the building.

“The payments to the district from the applicant are significantly less than if that property were put onto the tax roll as an approved project,” Tondo said. “Additional analysis concerning costs for projected school-age children was also absent in any of the documents that were submitted.”

Farrell told the IDA board that the project does not anticipate more than seven children living in the building. Tondo said that if the building had 10 school-age children, the annual PILOT payments would not cover the cost of those students until 14 years into the PILOT relief the developer seeks.

The IDA’s March 31 meeting is scheduled to take place at 6:45 p.m. in the Ceremonial Chambers of the county’s Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building.

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