Manorhaven Board of Zoning Appeals postpones Manhasset Isle variance

Jessica Parks
Manorhaven resident Bob O'Brien speaks out against a proposed variance despite the session for public comment having been closed. (Photo by Jessica Parks)

Manorhaven residents filled the auditorium of the Port Washington Senior Center on Tuesday night to speak out about a proposed project in Manhasset Isle, but the floor was never opened for public comment.

That set off a commotion, with people shouting from their seats and approaching the podium to try to address the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Members of the board said they approved a motion to close public comments at December’s meeting.

A transcript of the exchange that formally closed public comment was made available to residents at the meeting.

Shortly after entering the room, members of the committee voted to adjourn the meeting because they have yet to review the environmental report they recently received from the applicants.

A local businessman, Peter Dejana, is seeking variances to build a mixed-use building with 16 apartments at 22 Sagamore Hill Drive.

Chairman Patrick Gibson also briefly discussed the submission of a letter from Caroline DuBois, acting secretary of the Manorhaven Action Committee, into the record.

The letter cited what it called evidence of conflicts of interest by members of the zoning board and called for them to recuse themselves.

DuBois sent the letter to the Manorhaven Board of Trustees and Board of Zoning Appeals, the New York Conference of Mayors Legal Department, the press and other local officials.

Residents were outraged that they were no longer able to share their opinions on the variances sought for 22 Sagamore Hill Drive.

Committee members left the room briefly during the peak of the commotion.

Bob O’ Brien, a resident of Manorhaven, said to village Attorney Jeffrey Blinkoff: “They are out of order by leaving, I feel insulted, and I think you should consult with them and I think you should tell them to get back in here and listen to the public.”

Francesca Zahner approached the podium and asked Blinkoff what right the board had to close public comment.

“So in other words, the public doesn’t matter,” she said.

O’Brien began yelling from his seat, “This is not America … you guys should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Someone in the room called the police, and O’Brien was seen talking to police outside. A person who met the officers prior to their speaking to O’Brien said he had calmed down by the time of their arrival.

The contested variance is for a vacant lot that sits in the E1 zoning district, which is centered around the waterfront.

Properties in the zone are only allowed two stories, while the variance requested is for three stories and an elevator shaft that would add another four feet.

Residents have raised concerns about how the addition would affect the already stressed water and sewer infrastructure in Manorhaven.

The next meeting of the zoning board is set for Feb. 19, where the variances for 22 Sagamore Hill Drive are expected to be brought to a vote.

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