Great Neck Plaza trustees granted three conditional-use permits on Wednesday night, including one to a bank that will take over space once occupied by a longtime retailer.
HSBC, a banking and financial institution, plans to close its current location at 529 Middle Neck Road in Great Neck and open at 57 Middle Neck Road in Great Neck Plaza.
The space previously housed Lonny’s Wardrobe of Great Neck, which operated there for three decades before the company said it “lost its lease” to a bank.
Joe Bastone, a senior account executive at Metropolis Group, a consulting firm representing HSBC, said the bank is “well established in Great Neck,” having been at their 529 Middle Neck Road location since 1984. But they wanted a more convenient location, he said.
“The game plan from HSBC’s perspective is to get into the smaller branch and focus their business operations to mortgages, financial services, teleservices – to really service the continuing need in the community as they have in the past,” Bastone said. “There’s nothing new that they’re proposing or anything unique other than traditional banking operations at this location.”
Bastone later said they’re currently looking for a 10-year lease with an option to go longer.
Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said “we hate to lose a retail accessory store that’s been here a long time,” but noted the “change in dynamics of the downtown” and said it’s good that the bank finds it “attractive to move to a more centrally located facility.”
“We’re sensitive to the fact there’s going to be a loss of a merchant there providing apparel and accessories, but we hope we can fill a void and make banking for the HSBC more convenient, to be accessible in the downtown,” Bastone replied. “It’s a very warm, small branch. It’s not a dominating branch.”
Terry Eckstein, a Great Neck Plaza resident, expressed concern about the location. While it would have “good visibility for somebody driving by,” there isn’t a lot of parking and that with banking, he’d rather “pull in, make a deposit, and go.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” Eckstein said. “I’d rather see retail there.”
Celender called the location “accessible” and disagreed with Eckstein’s assessment of 57 Middle Neck Road as a “bad location” for a bank.
Trustee Pam Marksheid also asked if he’d rather have the space be empty.
“We’re responding to what’s presented to us, Terry,” Celender said. “We didn’t go out and ask this bank, ‘please come and locate here.’ We are responding to an application that came before us.”
“It would not be appropriate for us to deny that application that meets all the requirements because we have some hope that perhaps if it sits vacant for a while, some retail store would come along,” Deputy Mayor Ted Rosen added. “That would not be an appropriate usage of our power.”
Trustees ultimately approved a conditional use permit for HSBC.
The Board of Trustees also approved an application from BNB Bank to move from its 200 Middle Neck Road location in Great Neck Estates to 98 Cuttermill Road, which is currently listed as being home to Sterling National Bank.
In other business, trustees approved an application from Aaron Bernstein to open F45 Fitness Studio at 45 Middle Neck Road, the former home of Tennis Junction.
Bernstein said the franchise gets its name from the type of training, which is “functional,” and the amount of time the total workouts would be: 45 minutes. The facility would feature classes involving people rotating between different stations, he said, mostly before and after work hours.
In unrelated business, trustees approved the final assessment roll of $38.45 million but adjourned a public hearing on a tentative budget and salary schedule for the next fiscal year, which would go from March 1, 2019 to Feb. 29, 2020, to Jan. 16.
Celender said this was because the cost of a contract with Vigilant Fire Company and “some other numbers” are “still being determined.”
Trustees also adjourned a public hearing on regulating telecommunication facilities and set a hearing date for a law about tree removal for Feb. 6.
The tree removal law would likely require someone to replace any cut-down trees with one comparable in size and go through an application process, village attorney Richard Gabriele said.
The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m.