Objections rise as environmental draft for Port’s $130M rental released

Objections rise as environmental draft for Port’s $130M rental released
A lawn sign denouncing the project on 145 West Shore Road. Southern Land Company's draft environmental impact statement has been made public by the Town of North Hempstead. (Photo courtesy of Steven Catrone)

The Town of North Hempstead has made the draft environmental impact statement for Port Washington’s $130M rental project available to the public alongside growing residential opposition to the ambitious undertaking.

A DEIS examines potential environmental effects and proposed solutions tied to an application.

The multifamily and mixed-use project would be at 145 West Shore Rd. beside North Hempstead Beach Park. The developers, Southern Land Company, also plan to build a public marina and promenade for the currently deteriorated site.

The proposal seeks to have the zoning for the property changed from R-AAA to Multiple Residence (RM). This is essential for the planned development.

The residential structure would have 80 one-bedroom homes, 82 two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units of varying sizes, as well as 17 affordable/workforce units. They expect 378 new residents based on this layout mix.

“The rezoning would allow the provision of public amenities that would serve as a northward extension of the Hempstead Harbor Shoreline Trail and that is consistent with the town’s overall master plan for Port Washington,” reads the DEIS.

Among the benefits listed are additional public recreational and educational opportunities and diversification of the housing stock through the construction of high-quality, multi-family housing. There would also be an improvement to the area’s current sewer infrastructure that would benefit North Hempstead Beach Park.

A few of the unavoidable negative effects that are highlighted during the construction phase are temporary air quality issues, the usage of equipment vehicles that could affect traffic, and potential disturbances to tidal habitats located farther afield within Hempstead Harbor.

Several long-term effects of the proposal have also been identified. There may be an uptick in traffic and noise, alongside a new permanent population in the community. Although the drawbacks are defined as inescapable, the developer deems them “not necessarily significant.”

But for the residential opposition, their problems are much greater, setting a collision course for impending public hearings.

Joe Rossi, Northeast director of acquisitions, said communication with the community has been critical. In that same interview last month, he called opponents to the project a loud minority.

Rossi’s opponents partially agree with him — in that they’re loud.

“We have a really strong group and we’re going to be fighting this on multiple levels,” Port Washington Park Civic Association President Steven Catrone said. “This is just the beginning.”

Over 4,000 people have signed an online petition against the project. The petition says that the Port Washington Peninsula cannot support “more overdevelopment.” It adds that the proposed zoning change will create a precedent for the two pieces of land next to it, which may lead to two or more apartment structures of comparable size.

Edda Ramsdell, a Beacon Hill Residents Association board member, said this isn’t Southern Lands’ first attempt at this on Long Island. In 2016, they tried to build apartments on the site of the administrative offices for the Smithtown Central School District. They backed out in 2017.

“Southern Land tried to do this in Smithtown — Smithtown threw them out,” she said. “Smithtown has a population of about 117,000 people approximately. They had a petition which was signed by 700. We have 4,000 [signatures] for a population of 16,000 in Port Washington.”

The Beacon Hill Residents Association, alongside eight other neighborhood and civic groups, urged North Hempstead to hear their concerns. In a letter, they ask that Southern Land not “bury the cost of cleanup.” They also want them to begin a self-funded environmental cleanup of the property immediately.

“We fully understand the developers’ rights to a hearing and you, as election officials, must allow them due process,” the letter reads. “We respectfully request that as the procedures unfold, the quality of life of the residents who live and work in Port Washington and the residents of all of the Town of North Hempstead who visit the parks be given primary consideration.”

Similar calls aren’t only coming from resident organizations. Local environmental groups, like the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor are skeptical, too.

The non-profit group seeks to promote public support for restoring the harbor to its full ecological potential. They also advocate for actions that will protect the communities near Hempstead Harbor.

The group agrees with the developers that the project area has to be cleaned up. But they argue that the incentive shouldn’t be a seven-story apartment complex.

“Aside from this critical question of private ownership of underwater lands, the proposed project will require numerous zoning variances or waivers, including for height, multi-unit construction and parking inadequacy,” Water-Monitoring Coordinator Carol DiPaolo said. “Zoning laws are enacted to manage urban/suburban development in a well-thought-out plan. Our concerns about allowing variances to zoning regulations in this instance are amplified given the potential adverse impacts this project will create for Hempstead Harbor.”

Michelle Lapinel McAllister, the programs director, said the proposed site is in a high-risk coastal area. She said increasing the number of impervious surfaces along the shoreline will increase stormwater runoff. This will increase the amount of nitrogen and pollutants that reach the sea.

She added that this would reverse the improvements in water quality from the previous 30 years. It would also result in more algal blooms, fish fatalities and beach closures.

“If we want to see thriving habitats and the opening of shellfish beds, this isn’t the way to do it,” she said. “The land in question is less than half of what is required by current zoning for a multi-unit development. If there is anywhere an exception should not be made to population density, it’s on the shoreline. Particularly when a zoning exception here will set a precedent for adjacent lands.”

If the Town approves the project, Southern Land would build it in one phase over a 30-month construction period.

“As more multi-unit developments crop up, access to clean drinking water is an increasing concern that does not get the holistic approach it requires,” said McAllister. “There are emerging contaminants, saltwater intrusion and overall long-term sustainability that must be considered.”

The Town had not announced public hearings on the proposal as of presstime.

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