Richard Bentley, who leads the conglomerate of all of Manhasset’s civic groups, described it as “everybody’s worst fear.”
A development with three rental unit apartment buildings, an office building and hotel added along Manhasset’s Northern Boulevard and Community Drive proposed by Macy’s and Brookfield Properties is simply far too big, he said.
After Brookfield and Macy’s debuted the plan for the Manhasset Square project to the Council of Greater Manhasset Civics Associations in May, discussion in Manhasset neighborhoods has manifested in early opposition.
A digital petition against rezoning the property from commercial to residential has 1,145 signatures despite a formal application not yet reaching the Town Board.
“I don’t think anybody around the table has gotten any feedback from any resident that said, ‘Oh this is beautiful,’” Bentley said at the June meeting of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civics Associations. “The scope was far too large.”
Since meeting with the civic leaders, Brookfield Properties has continued to meet with groups including the Manhasset school district administration and town council members.
“Through early interactions with town officials, our team heard the concerns raised about the project and we have tailored the program and modified the scope in response,” said Aanen Olsen, vice president of mixed use for Brookfield Properties. He did not specify any changes.
Brookfield is also planning a website that would allow for question or feedback submissions and project updates, he said.
Residents’ concerns include adding students to the Manhasset school district, which already struggles to fit students in Munsey Park Elementary School, increased congestion on Northern Boulevard and Community Drive and a jarring change to the character of Manhasset by bringing in taller apartment buildings.
The Town Board is listening, Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey said at the greater council’s June meeting.
“It’s very important to the town to listen to what residents say,” she said. “I mean you saw what happened with MedMen, right, and that was a tiny little portion of this.”
The center of the MedMen commotion was just up the hill from the Macy’s location. An application to convert a mattress store into a medical marijuana dispensary resulted in a protest, three townwide laws regulating such facilities and the application ultimately being withdrawn.
The Town of North Hempstead government is aware of residents’ concerns about the Macy’s project, said town spokesperson Carole Trottere.
“The Town’s role in the Macy’s proposed development by Brookfield Properties is limited to zoning and permitting,” she wrote in a statement. “We want the community to know that we hear your concerns loud and clear and the Town is watching this issue very closely. However, at this time, the Town’s Building Department has not received any applications, nor has the developer reached out to the Town to ask for any zoning changes, which would be required under the proposed plan.”
Though much of Manhasset is unincorporated and under the Town of North Hempstead’s jurisdiction, several villages, including the Plandomes and Munsey Park are down the road from Macy’s.
Munsey Park has its eyes on the project, said Mayor Lawrence Ceriello.
“At the appropriate time, the Village of Munsey Park looks forward to sharing our concerns with the Town of North Hempstead over the impacts that the proposed development will have on Munsey Park including, but not limited to, an increase of traffic in the Village, potential overcrowding in the schools in the community and generally a negative impact on the quality of life in Manhasset,” Ceriello wrote in a statement.
The village is in the process of forming a committee that would “help protect the interests of Munsey Park residents,” according to its summer update on its website.
It cites the MedMen store and Macy’s development as projects that “might fairly be viewed as threats to the quality of life in Munsey Park.”
The Manhasset school district has had multiple meetings with Brookfield Properties to learn about the project, said Superintendent Vincent Butera. Brookfield has not yet offered an estimate for the development’s impact on the district’s enrollment, he said Tuesday.
A resident who attended the Manhasset Board of Education’s most recent meeting urged it to form a committee to evaluate the issue and “overreact.”
The schools are not inclined to overreact, Butera said. In a statement this week, he said the schools are continuing to monitor the plans.
Donald Davret, who lives in Searingtown, is one voice in favor of Manhasset Square.
It would provide much needed housing opportunities for older residents who no longer want to pay for a home for a larger family as well as needed housing variety, he said.
“You don’t build for density and the homes become more and more expensive,” Davret said. “Obviously since Nassau is the first suburb and devoted itself so much to single family housing it’s coming back to haunt you, and you’ve got to change.”