Mashadi community center returns to village agenda, sparks debate

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A rendering of the proposed recreational center for the United Mashadi Jewish Community of America sits in front of the Village of Great Neck Board of Trustees. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
A rendering of the proposed recreational center for the United Mashadi Jewish Community of America sits in front of the Village of Great Neck Board of Trustees. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Representatives of the United Mashadi Jewish Community of America presented revised site plans for a recreational center in the Village of Great Neck on Tuesday night, reducing  its size but still sparking concerns among some residents.

Village of Great Neck trustees approved a parking waiver for 123 spaces, contingent upon completion of a shuttle bus agreement, determined it would have “no adverse environmental impact” under state environmental quality review and approved the site plan.

The community center planned for 189-195 Steamboat Road would be considered a religious – and exclusive – use for the United Mashadi Jewish Community of America, home to basketball courts, a pool, meeting rooms, an auditorium and other features.

It was scaled back from four floors to three stories, trimming the facility down several thousand square feet to feature 74,427 square feet of usable space, following a recommendation from the Nassau County Planning Commission in December that the plan be rejected.

Joe Yaccobellis, a representative from the architectural firm Mojo Stumer, and Paul Bloom, an attorney for the applicant, said the building is 116 feet from the road with considerable setback. Sophisticated drainage systems and extra greenery will also be present.

It also appears smaller due to the incline, they said, with four nearby houses starting at a considerably higher elevation.

“We want it to look as small as possible, not as big as possible,” Yaccobellis said.

Residents, however, raised questions and concerns about occupancy, traffic and safety, as well as whether there was adequate notice about the meeting and easy access to information about the proposed development.

Two residents, including Jean Pierce, raised safety concerns about possible traffic “chaos,” despite the findings of a submitted traffic study, citing a busy summer period.

Some residents like David Zielenziger said that the late posting of the agenda online – it came on sometime between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., he noted – did not give fair notice to residents about the meeting.

“People had no idea this was going to be heard,” Zielenziger said.

Mayor Pedram Bral said that legally there was no requirement to have a public hearing on a development like this, there have been meetings about it in the past, and this is not the last trustees meeting on the subject.

The development for 189-195 Steamboat Road has not been on a Board of Trustees agenda since Oct. 23, 2018, according to agendas on the village website. It was also a subject of trustees meetings on Oct. 9, Sept. 4, and Aug. 21.

Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar, a civic activist, said the questions residents were asking were relevant to the matter at hand and that the applicant has a responsibility to come prepared to answer questions about the development.

Additionally, Gilliar said that questions on fire safety, plans for a shuttle bus and occupancy should be relevant to the Board of Trustees.

Gilliar also said the property’s tax status is relevant because when a property is taken off the tax rolls, other property owners make up for the shortfall and Great Neck has 48 properties off the tax rolls – for comparison, Great Neck Estates has seven and Kings Point has six.

Judy Rosenthal, saying she was speaking on behalf of “a lot of residents,” said State Environmental Quality Review documents should have been made available in advance of the hearing.

Harold Citron, a Great Neck resident and recent trustee candidate, said he is not seeking a full presentation and also asked that if the scope of the meeting would be limited, “What is the appropriate forum?”

Bloom said it is not the responsibility of the development team to “rehash hours and hours” of testimony and that a complete record with answers to several questions is available with the village.

He also said that, with two other Mashadi facilities nearby and a shuttle service being offered, there is “more than sufficient parking.”

Asked about access to the complete record, Bral and Deputy Mayor Bart Sobel said the documents could be obtained by a Freedom of Information request.

Gilliar said she didn’t plan to bring her FOIL request issues into the public space, but said a FOIL request from Feb. 26 and two from April were never responded to and the appeal process was never presented to her.

“When he says I want to have this information and you say it’s readily available, I’m saying show me yours, because I’m not seeing it,” Gilliar said.

The full Board of Trustees meeting can be viewed on the Village of Great Neck’s Facebook page.

The United Mashadi Jewish Community Center will be taken up again at a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Thursday, July 11, at Village Hall.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 16, at 7:30 p.m., where representatives said they would present more details about the shuttle bus plan.

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