Great Neck Plaza trustees, developers, tout benefits of 16 Maple Drive project

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Chris Prior, a legal representative for Spiegel Associates, presents an artist's rendering of its proposed 16 Maple Drive development. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Chris Prior, a legal representative for Spiegel Associates, presents an artist's rendering of its proposed 16 Maple Drive development. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Representatives for Spiegel Associates, which wants to redevelop 16 Maple Drive into a modern mixed-use development, returned to Great Neck Plaza last Wednesday night to discuss the building’s role in revitalizing the downtown.

Right now, 16 Maple Drive – a building on the corner of Middle Neck Road and Maple Drive – is home to a lone barber shop. Developers are pitching a four-story mixed use building, whose bottom floor would be dedicated to commercial use and the top three floors would have 11 residential units.

The fourth floor is set back five feet, giving the illusion that it is the same size as three-story buildings in the area, attorney Christopher Prior said. It would also have nine units of on-site below grade parking and people could access the Maple Drive parking garage via the property, Prior said.

Mark Wolf, a longtime business owner and a resident of Great Neck Plaza since 1950, said he doubts everyone moving into the apartments would come without a car.

While it is possible the development could have sufficient parking, it would be wise to get a measurement of how many cars have come into other complexes, he said.

“Remember, the North Shore of Long Island is a lot different than other areas on Long Island,” Wolf said, suggesting the needs and car use of the area may be unique compared to other parts of the Long Island.

Wolf also pointed out that the building would need at least four variances, including one for height, and said he has “yet to figure out why we have zoning regulations if someone can request a variance for them all.”

Laura Blum, a Great Neck Plaza resident, said she is concerned about overcrowding in the village and its pedestrian safety issue. She also questioned how such a development could help the village alleviate issues with commercial vacancies.

“You get more and more people and the businesses keep going in and out, in and out,” Blum said. “I don’t see how that’s a solution by getting even more people here.”

Trustees agreed that pedestrian safety is an issue in general, attributable to many people driving in and out of the village. Many of the roads are also county-owned roads, trustees said, meaning they have few options.

Michael Sweeney, the commissioner of public services for the village, said other recent apartment complexes like 5-9 Grace Ave. and 15 Bond Street both have sufficient parking and the parking numbers Wolf requested are “moot” when applied to this specific development.

Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said there are a number of site-specific considerations to be made when it comes to variances that the zoning code, which has not been updated since the 1980s, can account for.

Celender also said she believes the building could be “a beneficial use,” spurring increased foot traffic that businesses need.

“We need more people living in the downtown that will come out of their apartments, come down, walk on the streets and avail themselves to the services here,” Celender said.

Joe Yacobellis, an associate of Mojo Stumer, which designed the building, said the lower floor was set back purposely to maximize open space. This will also provide better sightlines for drivers, he said.

The retail components also “egress away” WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? from Middle Neck Road and the intersection and put entrances as far away as possible from the main intersection.

“It’s a really nice continuation of the main street up into the side streets,” Yacobellis said.

Marc Stumer, a Kings Point resident and principal of Mojo Stumer, said people should pay less attention to the details, as the “revitalization of the villages has nothing to do with the architecture and the zoning and all of this.”

“It’s bringing young people back to these villages, bringing people back who will shop, walk the streets, buy food and be a viable asset to the community,” Stumer said. “Do not worry if you have 11 extra cars – it’s not going to matter. Having 11 missing people is going to matter.”

Trustees ultimately voted to continue the discussion into March.

In unrelated business, trustees set a public hearing date for a local law to repeal the override of a property tax cap law and to consider the approval of the 2019 Vigilant Fire and Ambulance service contract of Feb. 20.

Trusteese also adjourned discussions on local laws regarding the removal of trees and telecommunications regulations to the March 6 meetings.

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