IDA seeks more clarity from 733-41 Middle Neck Road developer, tables resolutions

IDA seeks more clarity from 733-41 Middle Neck Road developer, tables resolutions
The Nassau County IDA again tabled draft approvals for a mixed-use proposal on Middle Neck Road on Thursday. (Rendering courtesy of Oz Bencetin)

The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency’s board once again tabled resolutions to approve a four-story mixed-use apartment complex at 733-41 Middle Neck Road in Great Neck, with members requesting more concrete answers on certain aspects of the proposal.

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.

John Farrell, a lawyer for the project’s developer, Gesher Center LLC, again presented an overview of plans for the 60-unit proposal at the agency’s Thursday night meeting.

Richard Kessel, agency chairman, said he requested Farrell make the presentation again since some of the board members were not appointed the last time a discussion was held on the project in May.

The resolutions included a 22-year tax break package, approval for the project under state environmental law and an overall approving resolution.

Timothy Williams, agency secretary, pressed Farrell and the applicant, Yosef Shemtov, for how the art gallery would be used.

Farrell said the tentative plan would be “to operate it ourselves and showcase local artists.” Farrell said he was hesitant to commit to saying that the space would be used for retail in the event of a local artist wanting to sell their art to someone else.

“If we’re showcasing a local artist who sells a piece of artwork, I don’t want to be in violation of the terms of approval,” Farrell told the board.

Farrell did commit to not running the space for profit and emphasized that it would not be classified as a retail space, since it would be in violation of the village’s zoning laws.

The project overlaps with the village’s Residence C and Residence E, or apartment, zones.

Farrell also said they did have Shelter Rock, LLC as the general contractor when they first came to the IDA seeking approvals but said circumstances have changed and that Shemtov is looking for another general contractor.

“A lot has transpired in that time, obviously rates have gone up, cost of materials have gone up,” Farrell said. “My client is exploring options with other  [general contractors] because he wants to get the best price, but he hasn’t settled on one yet.”

Farrell told the IDA in prior meetings that the project does not anticipate more than seven school-age children living in the building, but said on Thursday that figure has increased to around 10. 

Carrie-Anne Tondo of Ingerman Smith LLP, representing the Great Neck school district, spoke during a September 2021 meeting and said that if the building had 10 school-age children, the annual payment in lieu of taxes, PILOT, would not cover the cost of those students until 14 years into the PILOT relief the developer seeks.

Farrell said that he and the school district were in a “good place” as of Thursday’s meeting, though no representative from the district was present to comment.

Village of Great Neck resident David Zielenziger said the size of the apartment and its proximity to what he said was a treacherous intersection at Middle Neck Road and Hicks Lane are reasons the agency should not aid in the construction of the building. He also questioned if the “specious” art gallery is something the community truly desires.

“I’m not sure if there’s really demand for this,” Zielenziger said. “I realize it’s a permitted use, but I’m a little skeptical about that.”

Several individuals did express a desire for a mixed-use structure in Great Neck, especially for young families and older individuals who want to downsize without moving out of the peninsula to remain close to family and friends.

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

Village officials later said that the original proposal was 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.

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 an interview with Blank Slate Media last year.

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.

Williams made a motion to table the resolutions, which passed 6-1 with board member Reginald Spinello the only one voting against the motion. The IDA is next scheduled to meet on Dec. 15.

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