Concerns over proposed construction of a on a 1.5 acre site adjacent to are nothing new for some Port Washington residents.
Some feel that the public does not know enough information about the project. Some worry about traffic congestion brought on by a new development. And some simply do think it is bad business to develop such a project at a time when Nassau County is in an economic slump.
“Where is the transparency?” asked Myron Blumenfeld, a Port Washington resident and co-founder of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. “I am not saying that I am totally against this project, but I need to know all the facts. More than 30 local residents have signed a petition to keep Alvin Petrus Park, which the proposed senior housing site wants to build on. This is alienation of park land, including the basketball court.”
Located at the southwest intersection of Harbor Road and Port Washington Boulevard, this property is owned by the North Hempstead Housing Authority.
On Jan. 25, the Town of North Hempstead Board of Trustees were to hold a site plan hearing on the application for construction.
When asked Thursday about his thoughts on the project, Councilman Fred Pollack said, “I can't offer any comment on a project that will be the subject of a site plan hearing until after that hearing is held.”
He added, “You should know, however, that Supervisor Jon Kaiman and I will be recommending that the hearing be adjourned until Feb. 15 because we do not think enough information has been provided to the public.”
Blumenfeld welcomes a more open forum about the site. The February postponement, he said, would be music to his ears.
But Matt Cuomo, North Hempstead's Housing Authority’s chairman, said there was never a park and the area has been in disrepair for over 10 years. According to Cuomo, the park is in a public housing zone and state law requires the property to be used for housing.
“There has been drug-alcohol activity and loud disturbances at the basketball site, so the Housing Authority decided to put a fence around it two years ago at the requests of several current Harbor Home residents,” he said.
Cuomo went on to discuss the property's ownership. “Presently the entire parcel is owned by the Harbor Homes Limited Partnership," he said. "The general partner is the Harbor Homes Housing Development Fund Corporation. The Board Members of that corporation are also the Board members of the North Hempstead Housing Authority." JP Morgan is the tax credit investor, the limited partner, he added
According to Cuomo, the project would benefit the community by providing affordable, safe and dignified housing for people older than 55, an age requirement that was recently changed from 62 years of age. “The length of our waiting list for housing at the North Hempstead Housing Authority demonstrates that this housing is desperately needed,” he added.
Yet Eric Pick, retired architect and Port Washington resident, gave several reasons why he is against the building of the proposed senior facility.
“The traffic congestion will become horrific because access to the facility will be coming from Port Washington Boulevard and better access is needed for an active driveway,” he said. “We need to put people where they can function, such as an overlay district on Main Street with commercial property and apartments should be built above it. This [way] several people can walk to work and leave there cars parked. We need to rethink Main Street and the Housing Authority should realize that this is a tough piece of land to build on and will take a huge amount of money.”
Attorney Joe DiBenedetto, who is speaking out on behalf of some Port residents, feels Nassau County is close to being taken over by the State because it is near bankruptcy. In addition, because residents are reeling from the highest taxes in the country, this project should not get the green light, he said.
“Why is Mr. Pollack so intent on more government spending at taxpayer’s expense for a project with so many other negatives,” he asked. “Finally, because this project would be built on dedicated park land, it cannot move forward without an act of the state legislature.”
Sean Rainey, executive director of the North Hempstead Housing Authority, said no one has called his office asking for information about this project.
“I will be happy to explain the senior housing site plan to anyone who would call me,” he said. “We are going to have a lot of amenities at this facility for the seniors, such as a lending library, a computer lab, a patio, solar panels, but the best news is that the rent for these one-bedroom apartments will be reasonably priced between $850-1,100."
He added, "There is a great need for affordable housing and that is what we are trying to provide.”