Great Neck officials OK mixed-use religious and educational building

Great Neck officials OK mixed-use religious and educational building
The United Mashadi Jewish Community of America application for a mixed use educational and religious building to be constructed on 187-195 Steamboat Road has been approved. (Photo by Karina Kovac)

The United Mashadi Jewish Community of America has received approval from the Great Neck Board of Zoning Appeals for their application to construct a mixed-use educational and religious building at 187-195 Steamboat Road.

Attorney Paul Bloom spoke in front of the Village of Great Neck Board of Trustees Oct. 5 asking them to grant approval for on-premises parking, construction of a retaining wall and landscaping buffer.

All were approved unanimously.

In compliance with Village Code, the Village Board gave approval for the building, subject to specific conditions. These conditions encompassed stormwater management, erosion control, ground coverage, and plant maintenance. The nod of approval comes with the requirement of compliance with relevant laws and the endorsement of Village Superintendent of Buildings Stephen Haramis.

Approval has also been granted for 83 parking spaces, contingent upon the successful execution of a Shuttle Bus Service Agreement. This agreement aims to mitigate vehicular and pedestrian traffic concerns.

The green light has been given for a retaining wall, provided it maintains a minimum one-foot distance from the property line, as outlined in the Village Code.

This approval represents the culmination of a multi-year process that started in 2018 when the applicant initially sought approvals from the Board of Trustees for a Special Use Permit. This permit was specifically intended to designate the property for religious use, including the construction of a community center and classrooms for religious instruction, a project referred to as the “Prior Proposed Action.”

The application began with the Board of Trustees taking on the role of lead agency under the state Environmental Quality Review Act in Sept. and Oct. 2018. Initially categorized as an unlisted action under SEQRA, the prior proposed action was later reclassified as a Type I Action due to its proximity to publicly owned parkland.

After consideration, on July 2, 2019, the Board of Trustees issued a Negative Declaration for the project, indicating that it was not anticipated to result in significant adverse environmental impacts. Additionally, they granted a Special Use Permit exclusively for religious purposes, encompassing classrooms for religious instruction.

Between Dec. 2018 and July 2019, the applicant appeared before the Village’s Board of Appeals, seeking variances related to the proposed construction of a religious-use community center. On July 11, 2019, the Board of Appeals approved several variances associated with the project.

In 2023, significant modifications were introduced to the original application, with new plans crafted in collaboration with a new architect. These revisions aimed at altering the project’s use, site plan, architecture, facade, and variances.

On March 21, 2023, the applicant returned before the Board of Trustees with an amended application, which included the addition of a parochial private school. The Board of Trustees determined that the prior environmental analysis had already accounted for the possibility of a parochial school use, avoiding the need for a new environmental review and approved the amendment.

A public hearing on the application spanned the period from May 4, 2023, to Sept.7, 2023, before the Zoning Board of Appeals. During this period, the Applicant made further amendments in response to directives from the Board of Appeals and public input.

On Sept. 7, 2023, the Board of Appeals granted approval for several variances requested by the applicant in light of their application amendments.

Due to these substantial changes in the application, the applicant was compelled to seek approval from the Board of Trustees for various aspects, including the site plan, on-site parking, construction of a retaining wall, and landscaping within the buffer zone, all in compliance with the Village of Great Neck’s municipal code.

The application was also referred to the Nassau County Planning Commission, which, on Aug. 17, 2023, deferred the matter back to the Village. The commission’s decision was based on the assessment that, while the site plan and building design had evolved, the core nature of the project, including its activity level, intensity, and parking requirements, had not substantially shifted since their initial determination in April 2019.

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