Great Neck Estates moves on First Playhouse, Clover Drive

Great Neck Estates moves on First Playhouse, Clover Drive
The First Playhouse of Great Neck project is being divided into four phases. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

By Rebekah Sherry

The Great Neck Estates Board of Trustees approved actions on the First Playhouse, Clover Drive housing development and a stipend for employees of the village court on Monday night.

During a meeting, trustees voted to approve extending the amount of time needed for developers to get the necessary permits for the First Playhouse site. Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Farkas said the project should be “moved along.”

Ely Sakhai, the chief executive officer of First Playhouse of Great Neck Corp., has planned to redevelop the site with a 20-unit, 35-bedroom apartment building with retail space. The plan, which keeps the building’s original facade and foundation, was approved in its original form in 2007 but has been contemplated since the early 2000s.

William Bonesso, an attorney representing the developers, previously said that because the 2007 approval was based on a contemplated building different from the present version, they needed to amend the permits.

At the meeting, members of the Great Neck Historical Society also asked the board to suggest that the property owners pay tribute to the building’s history somewhere in the lobby of the completed building.

“We would like a section of the lobby that would be available to the public and used as a museum for things like theater programs, newspaper articles and the history of the playhouse.” Alice Kasten, president of the Great Neck Historical Society, said.

In the early 1920s, Broadway bound shows were tried out and tweaked at theaters like the First Playhouse. During its heyday, the work of greats like the Marx brothers and F. Scott Fitzgerald was performed on its stages. United Artists bought the theater in the 1930s, and it was shut in the early 1980s.

The board also approved using the Village of Great Neck’s State Environment Quality Review Assessment (SEQRA) findings in future decisions on the proposed Clover Drive housing development.

The proposed development would be built on three acres on the border of the Village of Great Neck and Great Neck Estates. Ten of the proposed homes would be in the Village of Great Neck and one in Great Neck Estates.

In 2010, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation designated the Village of Great Neck as the lead agency in charge of conducting SEQRA findings for the property.

Mayor William Warner stressed that the board’s approval was an approval of the SEQRA findings, not of the project itself.

The board also approved a night court stipend for employees of the village Justice Court. The court is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekdays unless night court is scheduled to be in session. On the days when there is night court, employees do not come to work until 1 p.m.

Mayor Warner said these limited hours of operation on court dates prevent people from coming in to do business for a significant amount of time. The stipend would pay employees an extra $100 on days if they come in at 9 a.m. and must stay later than 4 p.m. for night court.

The board also approved a $3,700 storm water management proposal and the 2018 day camp and 2018 summer tennis agreements.

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