Town approves sale of empty lot for senior housing, medical care facility
The case for the proposed new building seemed a “slam dunk.”
Instead of an empty, town-owned lot that was tax-exempt, there would be an attractive three-story, mixed-use structure. The 10 one-bedroom senior apartments, a credit union and a family/urgent medical care facility proposed to be part of the new building would replace an ugly, boarded-up former motorcycle garage on the corner of Prospect and Brooklyn Avenues in the New Cassel area of Westbury.
Not so fast, said residents and neighbors, who showed up at the Jan. 30 Town of North Hempstead Town Board meeting to express their concerns.
The town’s Community Development Agency had, in the course of this decade, bought two lots on Prospect and three on Brooklyn. The public hearing that evening was to discuss changing the Brooklyn lots from Residence-C to Business-A to match those on Prospect. The combined 100×167 lot would then be sold to EuroAmerican Funding Group, who had successfully bid to have the chance to turn it into a viable development.
It’s going to fit squarely into the New Cassel Visioning Plan and is going to bring some commercial uses that are underrepresented in the community.
Kathy Deegan Dickson
Lawyer Kathy Deegan Dickson, who represented EuroAmerican, called the proposal “a vibrant development that’s going to be complementary to the area. It’s going to fit squarely into the New Cassel Visioning Plan and is going to bring some commercial uses that are underrepresented in the community.”
The apartments will be restricted to those 62 and older, and no one younger than 18 will be allowed to live in them.
Dickson also mentioned a traffic study released a few days earlier. It concluded that the project would not have a significant impact on traffic patterns.
Summing up her client’s proposals, Dickson said it “was designed to fit very well on and be complementary in this .”
Housing And Parking
Robin Bolling, a school board member in the Westbury district, commented, “To bring another three-story structure to this already congested area bothers me because not only do we have an issue with parking…a bank and medical center would bring in more people.”
Bolling also objected to the senior housing, stating that her community needed more workforce units.
“[If we] keep catering to our senior population, we’re never going to have our young people coming back into our community,” Bolling said.
Supervisor Judi Bosworth responded saying, “whenever we have any kind of building proposal, we keep hearing that people are concerned about children coming into a very crowded school district. You’re saying that you’d like to see workforce housing?”
Bolling mentioned her college-age daughter and young people in general needing affordable housing.
“When are we going to rejuvenate [our community]? New Cassel is aging,” she stated.
Councilwoman Viviana Russell, whose district includes New Cassel and who sponsored the resolutions under review, affirmed that the community had plenty of workforce/affordable housing. She added that residents’ sentiments were that senior housing was needed because seniors would not impact school district enrollment.
Pablo Sinclair kept the focus on parking and congestion, speculating on customer/patient traffic for the two commercial entities.
Planning Commissioner Michael Levine said the combined residential/commercial components of the building, per code, needed 21 parking spaces. Of these, 17 were on the property itself and four would come from street parking.
Speakers were skeptical, again pointing out that the commercial properties already in the area drew traffic and took up parking spaces.
“When are we going to rejuvenate [our community]? New Cassel is aging,”
For Sinclair, the issue involved more than the proposed building in question. He believed the New Cassel Visioning Plan needed to be updated, and wanted to make Prospect Avenue “look like a downtown.”
“I’m not happy with what’s been going on throughout the years as far as visioning and how much money has been spent [in New Cassel] and nothing has changed,” he said.
Edwin Benitez lives next to the property in question, on Brooklyn Avenue. He said, “I believe this is a great plan and a great idea, but not for our community.”
He argued that it would be too close to the Park Avenue School and was worried about the influx of more people and the safety of the students, as well as increased traffic. Benitez said he worked at a medical facility in Bethpage and questioned Levine about the parking, knowing from his own experience that with medical visits, the proposed spaces might not be enough.
“It depends on how well they manage their appointments,” acknowledged Levine. “That’s why our code sets parking at medical centers higher than for any other use. So, if it’s managed well, this is enough parking. If it’s not managed well, then cars will have to park on side streets.”
Resident Vicki Sylvain questioned Levine about where the medical center’s employees would park.
The commissioner said that the “overflow would park on the street. It is a neighborhood that does have street parking.”
Sylvain disagreed, stating, “street parking is tight right now. I’m not seeing how you’ll be able to accommodate the [apartments’] residents and those coming in to frequent the businesses.”
After the hearing was closed, the town board voted unanimously for the zoning changes and to go ahead with the sale of the lot to EuroAmerican.