Plans for First Playhouse project approved by Great Neck Estates

Plans for First Playhouse project approved by Great Neck Estates
Plans for the First Playhouse Project were unanimously approved by the Great Neck Estates Board of Trustees on Monday night. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

Plans for the First Playhouse project were approved by the Village of Great Neck Estates Board of Trustees at a meeting on Monday night.

Various plans to renovate the historic building with a five-story, 20-unit, 35-bedroom mixed-use apartment complex have been presented by Lions Group NYC since 2017.

Though none of the representatives from the project were present during Monday’s meeting, the board took questions and comments from residents, closed the public hearing, and approved the updated site plans.

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

Great Neck Estates Mayor William Warner has expressed support for the project throughout its planning and said he was excited to see significant progress being made.

“Nobody wants to see an old and decrepit storefront in their downtown area,” Warner said at a December meeting.  “Especially one that has so much history to it. I am in full support of developers coming in and creating a fixture that is appealing and useful for our residents.”

During the Dec. 9 Board of Trustees meeting, Brian Newman, director of architectural services at Newman Design, presented the updated plans to the board and close to 20 residents.

The developers amended the initial plans by changing the entrance location, adding windows to the west side facing Maple Drive and making the facade of the building a dark gray brick veneer material, providing a more contemporary design.

Warner and the board unanimously granted Lions Group NYC a two-month extension on obtaining demolition permits from the village’s Building Department.

Warner said that the one contingency to obtaining demolition and construction permits is that the Building Department, headed by Barbara Dziorney, must ensure that the developers are doing their work safely without harming neighboring properties.

Dziorney said that the developers, headed by Albert Shirian, are finalizing contracts with the two neighboring properties to ensure that happens.

Warner said that obtaining the demolition permits from the village’s Building Department is the next step in the process, and expressed confidence in the developers to do so promptly.

“This project has been so long overdue,” he said. “The developers have been mindful of deadlines and the board wants them to start working as soon as possible, as long as they are doing it in a safe manner.”

According to Warner, once the developers obtain the demolition permits, they can begin applying for construction permits.

Warner said he believes once permits are obtained, demolition should not take more than five months, though three additional months were granted in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Shirian and his attorney William Bonnesso agreed on a $50,000 deposit on the demolition costs so that if the project was not able to be started after demolition has commenced, the developers or village would be able to properly patch up the area.

Shirian and representatives from Lions Group NYC were not available for further comment.

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