Plot on Steamboat Road sparks debate between zoning board and public

Plot on Steamboat Road sparks debate between zoning board and public

A heated dispute has erupted between the Great Neck zoning board and concerned members of the public over a proposed development on 187-195 Steamboat Road, which was applied for by Allen Hakim and The United Mashadi Jewish Community of America.

The controversy stems from a change in architects earlier this year, rendering previously granted variances null and void, thus restarting the zoning process for a planned mixed-use religious and educational Jewish community center.

With already approved plans by the Great Neck Board of Trustees and some waiting to be seen, the community is concerned about the process is working and specifics such as traffic studies, greenery, and a proposed shuttle bus.

One of the main points of contention revolves around the change in architects, which has led to the dismissal of previously obtained variances, and the renewed public eye on the project which many disagree with.

The zoning board, led by Chairperson Dennis Grossman, emphasized that the variances were specific to the original architectural plans and that more planning needs to be done before any decisions can be made.

“They’ll be more work to be done. We don’t know yet. So, when you’re saying you want to be there, we’re not there,” Grossman said to building inspector Raffaella Bertucci when she remarked how the plans are not the same.

Bertucci acknowledged that she had not received traffic study approval from Nassau County and highlighted the need for new drainage study information.

Grossman explained to a frustrated audience over the misinformation circulating because of the architect swap, “I just want to bring this to light that when this board is sitting through various administrations and various groups that work in the building department, everybody’s doing their best job. Everybody’s doing their interpretation, how they read the code and how they calculate. There are differences from time to time. We’re not equipped to research and actually pull out those differences.”

Charles Segal, another member of the zoning board, clarified that they are basing their decisions on the plans submitted on February 13, 2023, which were approved by the board of trustees in April.

These plans had already been granted special use permits for religious and school purposes, but final approval from New York State for the school is still pending. As the project moves forward, it will require additional variances from the zoning board.

The height of the proposed building remains a contentious issue, with the current plan allowing for a height of 33.25 feet, plus an additional 1.55 feet from a previous decision. The structure will consist of three floors and has eliminated the catering hall and pool from its original design. More adding and subtracting is to be expected, Grossman said.

A prominent concern voiced by the community is the lack of greenery on the two-acre plot.

Daniel Capruso, a vocal critic of the development, expressed the need for trees to absorb some of the light since the building materials are reflective.

“If you add trees, you’re going to reduce the amount of glare and reflected light and heat on all the neighbors and all the people around that building. I just think it’s extremely ill-advised to not have trees,” Capruso said.

He expressed further concerns about keeping the charisma of the village.

“The other aspect of it is the character of the Village of Great Neck,” he said. “We want to have trees, and certainly, this is a two-acre plot. I don’t see any rationale that the applicant has for a two-acre plot not to plant trees, other than that we just want to max out our plot, which I think is a selfish way to approach building something in terms of your neighbors. All religions, as far as I know, prescribe that you should give consideration to your neighbors.”

Capruso also expressed concerns about potential traffic and parking problems resulting from the development.

“I know you’ve addressed this already; I know you don’t believe it, but I want to give you some feedback from the community because there might be a credibility problem here,” he said. “No one that I’ve spoken to really believes that this isn’t going to create tremendous traffic and parking problems.”

Grossman made note of how similar complaints were made when the Avalon on Shore Road was and how nowadays the traffic has been mostly unaffected.

Another transportation issue mentioned is the idea of a shuttle bus. A rumor residents asked about was the idea of a shuttle bus going through Kings Point, which has yet to be verified.

Even if it was true, the jurisdiction of Kings Point would have to vote on what plans are before them only, similarly to how the zoning board only looks at what the plans in Great Neck are.

Attorney Andrew Filipazzi of Harras, Bloom & Archer LLP addressed the busing issue.

“There will be a shuttle bus, the issue of parking that was discussed a number of times, there is no variance before this board for parking,” Filipazzi said. “The Board of Trustees set the parking requirement on this at 77. We provide 78 parking stalls. So, we’re complying with the parking requirement. The shuttle bus plays a factor in that we have off-street parking at the other property down on Steamboat Road, and the old bus to get people back and forth. So, we do not have insufficient parking.”

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