Great Neck Estates board unanimously approves Playhouse modifications

Great Neck Estates board unanimously approves Playhouse modifications
Albert Shirian of Lions Group NYC, the developer for the First Playhouse project. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

The Village of Great Neck Estates Board of Trustees unanimously approved plans to reduce the height of the First Playhouse building during Monday night’s public hearing.

Plans for the proposed five-story, mixed-use structure were approved by the Great Neck Estates board in January 2020, but modifications presented by project developer Albert Shirian of Lions Group NYC and attorney Paul Bloom of Harras Bloom & Archer LLP last month 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.”

Shiria said Monday that 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 that 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.

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.

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.”

Village residents previously commented on how the construction is affecting their lives and how they would like to see the building be erected as efficiently as possible.

Liang Liu, a Maple Drive resident who lives right next to the construction, said she would also like to see the project be done as quickly as possible because of the noise from drilling, decreased air quality and potential hazards to her child.

“At this point, I’m just so exhausted living by a construction site and want it to be done as soon as possible,” Liu said during the January meeting.

Fellow Maple Drive resident Mitchell Siegel said his road has become a thoroughfare for large equipment and visitors who come over have a difficult time finding parking. His driveway, he said last month, has also been used as a makeshift U-Turn for vehicles needing to turn around.

“I spent a lot of money a few years ago putting down tiles in my driveway and putting up new railings and things are getting damaged by people using my property as a turnaround.”

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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