Williston Park civics to host forum discussing Willis Avenue development, ‘Welcome Wagon’

Williston Park civics to host forum discussing Willis Avenue development, ‘Welcome Wagon’
The development of a vacant lot located at 615-621 Willis Avenue will be one topic of discussion at an upcoming Williston Park Civic Association meeting. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

Members of the Williston Park Civic Association will moderate a forum to discuss neighborhood issues on Wednesday, including a proposal about a controversial mixed-use, multi-story building on Willis Avenue where its developer will answer questions.

The Sept. 17 meeting at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Post. No. 144 will not serve as a replacement for any official village board of village zoning board meetings, civic association member Umberto Mignardi said.

“This is the opportunity for neighbors to ask their own, personal questions,” Mignardi said in an interview. “This isn’t about how high … or other aspects reserved for the village, this is more about neighbors talking to neighbors and finding out what’s going on.”

The development of the vacated lot located at 615-621 Willis Ave. has drawn a significant amount of public opposition.

As of mid-July, more than 400 residents signed a petition opposing Christopher Lazos’ proposal to build a mixed-use, multi-story building on the land abandoned after a July 2014 fire, according to Steve Mikhlin, a village resident who started the petition.

Mignardi said the civic association agreed to host the forum after several community members reached out to the association for answers.

Lazos, an Albertson resident, also asked the association if he could speak at a meeting, Mignardi said.

The civic association will allot about 20 to 25 minutes for Lazos to present and answer questions.

Although it is expected that the development issue will draw large crowds, Mignardi said that it is just one item on the meeting’s agenda, and will not be turned into a “marathon session.”

“There is other business to take care of, but we do believe that having a question and answer session is worth dedicating some time to,” Mignardi said.

Mignardi added that the association is committed to holding a civil meeting. People will “speak respectfully to each other” and there will be “no yelling or screaming,” Mignardi said.

Anyone who does not abide will be asked to leave, Mignardi said.

Mignardi also said that while the association is allowing the question and answer session during its meeting, the civic association takes no stance regarding the development.

Other topics on the meeting agenda include the re-introduction of the “Welcome Wagon.”

Mignardi said when he moved to Williston Park about 17 years ago, he received a little package when he arrived.

Other residents who’ve been in the village for more years told him residents used to “really roll out the welcome wagon,” by baking, preparing coupon books and a giving newcomers a little history of the village, Mignardi said.

Mignardi said he’s unaware of exactly when the Welcome Wagon started fading out, but the association is looking to re-establish it if enough residents volunteer.

“It’s a nice touch, and a lot of people always ask us about it,” Mignardi said. “… I think that kind of sets Williston Park apart. The neighbors are still wanting to do that for people, so it’s just a matter of organizing.”

Also during the meeting, the association will discuss ongoing traffic and public safety concerns on village streets.

There will be a 50/50 raffle and refreshments at the Wednesday meeting.

Update: A previous version of this story stated the meeting would be held on Sept. 13., the meeting has been moved to Sept. 17. 

Reach reporter Rebecca Klar by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 204, or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaklar_.

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