Estates weighs theater revamp

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A decade-long effort to turn the historic First Playhouse Theater into apartments received a hearing before the Great Neck Estates board of trustees last week, with the developer requesting an extension on revision plans.

“I believe this board and this community would like to see this building come forward,” Village of Great Neck Estates Mayor David Fox said.

Brian Newman, head architect of the project to transform the historic theater into a residential building, presented the building revisions for a six-month extension period . The new design scraps the original building due to design flaws. 

Newman said the new building will replicate the original and will house 20 apartments.

Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender also attended the meeting to express her views on the project, which is located on Middle Neck Road.

“The construction impacts are a major concern, and we’ve sat down and had many meetings to discuss how are we going to have flagmen, how are the construction impacts going to be mitigated, and we still have those concerns – and they’re exemplified because I’m just hearing tonight that it’s a knock-down of the entire building,” Celender said.

The towns of Great Neck Estates and Great Neck Plaza first started to work together on the construction of this project in 2007, but the genesis of the project goes back to 1999.

A Manhattan development group planned at that time to convert the theater into 12 luxury apartments, according to the New York Times.

The theater has a long history, but its silver screens have lain dormant for decades. United Artists began showing movies at the theater in 1930, according to the Times, but by 1982 the theater’s lower level had been renovated into an indoor parking lot.

Fox suggested lengthening the extension to nine months instead of six months to smooth out the plans for the new building.

The board suggested the plans be looked over to ensure compliance with town code, such as meeting the measurement requirements of parking spaces.

The Village of Great Neck Estates also moved a step closer to approving the 2013-2014 budget at their board meeting on Tuesday night. 

Fox endorsed the proposed 2.97 percent budget jump, the lowest such increase in four years. Fox also pointed out the budget is under the state’s tax cap. The board adopted it as its final budget and will vote on passing it at the next meeting on May 6.

“We feel relatively comfortable that budget will be able to give us all the amenities the town has enjoyed,” Fox said.

The board also voted to accept an amendment to a bill that extends the number of days to file a parade permit from 10 to 20 business days.

For public works, Superintendent Ernest Garvey from the Department of Public Works requested funds to repair a storm drain on Stewart Drive and a missing culvert. The board approved $7,500 to repair both. Garvey informed the board he will have a list of roads that need pothole repair at the next meeting.

Dan Glaun contributed to this report.

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