First Playhouse Project seeks help from Nassau IDA

First Playhouse Project seeks help from Nassau IDA
A presentation of the First Playhouse Project in the Village of Great Neck Estates. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

The First Playhouse project in Great Neck Estates is in financial distress, according to the attorney representing the developers who are now seeking tax breaks from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency.

Paul Bloom from Harras Bloom & Archer LLP, the attorney representing the applicant, told agency board members that the 20-unit, mixed-use apartment building cannot be constructed without financial assistance.

“We need all the help we can get,” Bloom told board members during a public meeting.

The application from First Playhouse of Great Neck Corp. requests payments in lieu of taxes for a total of 23 years, which would freeze taxes for the first three years. The sales tax break, according to the application, is $1.27 million with a mortgage tax benefit of more than $116,000.

The agency board voted to set up a public hearing to discuss the application and hear from members of the public on the matter. The next meeting of the agency is set for April 27.

The plans to have a mixed-use building that includes a floor of retail have been presented to the board for years, but prior plans from other developers have been under discussion for more than a decade.

Plans for the proposed five-story, mixed-use structure were approved by the Great Neck Estates board in January 2020, but modifications presented by Bloom and project developer Albert Shirian of Lions Group NYC in January 2023 had the building decrease in size while expanding the number of bedrooms.

The fifth story of the project, which included a penthouse, will be removed under the revised plans and the number of bedrooms will be increased from 35 to 40, while maintaining the same 20 units previously approved. The total height of the building will be reduced by nearly nine feet with the removal of the fifth floor.

The square footage for the individual units is also reduced in the proposals, ranging from roughly 900 to 1,500 square feet. The overall shrinkage in square footage for the building would be roughly 7,000 square feet, officials said. This cutback would save $2.8 million, Shirian said, citing the increased cost of construction materials as to why the reductions were being presented.

“The price of everything has gone through the roof, the price of construction is too high,” Shirian said in January. “We are not asking to add anything to this project, we are asking to reduce it and make the building smaller.”

In February Shirian said all of the “hard work,” including the demolition of the pre-existing building and the foundation construction, is out of the way. Shirian said he expects the building to still be constructed, pending any delays from consultant approval, within the 27-month deadline from when the building permit was issued in August. 

Mayor William Warner said if the construction is not completed within the 27-month deadline, the building permit would expire and the process to obtain a building permit would have to start from scratch.

“The biggest concern of this board is that this project gets done on a timely basis,” Warner said.

Trustee Howard Hershenhorn expressed his displeasure with Shirian and Bloom returning to the board in January after previously ensuring village officials that there would be no further modifications to the plans.

“You told us you wouldn’t be back here and you told us this was it and promised us that you had considered all these other things,” Hershenhorn said last month. “And because you told us this was it, we gave you a lot of what you asked for, if not almost entirely what you guys asked for.”

In its heyday, the First Playhouse on Middle Neck Road showcased Broadway-bound plays and vaudeville acts starting in the mid-1920s, including the works of the Marx Brothers and F. Scott Fitzgerald. United Artists bought the theater in the 1930s, but it closed in 1983.

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