At Mineola hearing, most residents against development

Jame Galloway

Shortly after 7 p.m. at Mineola’s third hearing on a proposal by Lalezarian Developers to build a nine-story mixed-use building in the village, a woman stood at the microphone to tell the Board of Trustees the sentiment most repeated over the next two hours: “I think it’s high – way too high.”

The size of the Village Green project, and its likely effects on traffic, taxation and village aesthetic, was the target of most residents at a lengthy, crowded and often tense hearing.

A choice few residents, however, praised the proposal as a potential shot in the arm for a stagnating Long Island.

The New Hyde Park-based development company had initially proposed  a nine-story building with 296 apartment units, a restaurant and retail space on the ground floor at 199 East Second Street

At the hearing, representatives of the company – which is currently building a 315-unit complex being on Country Road – said the company could eliminate 30 apartments in the front of the building so it would appear to have only eight floors, and reduce 45 parking spaces.

Despite the reductions, most residents remained opposed.

“Taking one floor off is an insult,” said the woman who called the proposal “way too high.”

Many also used the hearing to raise concerns about Lazarian’s 250 Country Road project and a 275-unit development by Mill Creek Residential.  

“We’re looking at almost 1,000 units. How confident are the developers that the rents are going to be strong enough to lease those out at the rate they want to lease them out?” one resident asked. “The 250 building is huge, a building of that size doesn’t belong on Second Street.”

Jack Majkut, a member the Long Island union IBEW 25 for electricians, said that the electrical workers for Lalezarian’s other project were from the Bronx and questioned why local residents were not offered the positions.

“I can tell you at the people working on this project are not from Nassau or Suffolk,” he said.

Suzanne Gibbons said the proposal should be put to a village-wide vote, a request echoed by several later speakers.

“It is much too much of a decision for five men to make,” Gibbons said, referring to the village’s board of trustees. “It is our decision, and it should be our decision, not the decision of a board.”

Nearly every speaker had something to say about traffic, ranging from feelings that a mostly residential building would cause less congestion than a completely commercial one to concerns people visiting the complex would cause parking problems in the village.

Village of Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said Mineola is “looking to conduct traffic studies” not just to determine traffic patterns but also to “see if we can figure out road configurations and better manage our roads.”

During the hearing, Strauss mostly opted to listen to the speakers rather than respond with his own opinions, often just thanking somebody for addressing the board and offering a point of clarification here and there.

“It’s important for us as a board to get the input of the residents, and that’s why we’re here,” he said at one point.

Several residents also called for the preservation of a Citi Bank building at the development site that would be razed if the project were approved.

“I want to see the Citi Bank building maintained,” said Susan Ghetti, a Mineola resident. “It may not be an historical landmark, but it’s part of our history.”

Ben Oliva was one of a handful of speakers in support of the proposal. He read from a Newsday article about a recent study saying that Long Island could “stagnate over the next 25 years” if it does not expand multifamily housing.

“There are some positive things from these downtown revitalizations,” he said. “We can’t be afraid of it…we’re losing our young people. That’s our labor force; that’s our future.”

But even among those that were open to development of some sort, their concerns frequently returned to size.

“I am against this for the size,” village resident John Colbert said. “The majority of people here tonight are not going to say they’re disfavoring the apartments; they’re saying they disfavor the size.”

Mineola school board President Artie Barneet and Superintendent of Schools Michael Nagler have in previous meetings expressed sharp opposition to the development, citing the tax breaks Lalezarian has applied for that they said would tighten the financial burden on the Board of Education and taxpayers.

Strauss has responded during a series of sharp exchanges with school officials that the number of school-age children who would live in the Village Green development was limited and the tax breaks would not pose a financial burden on the school district.

Strauss and other trustees have said the project is consistent with the village’s master’s plan to revitalize downtown Mineola.

A fourth hearing is scheduled for March 11.

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Jame Galloway

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