Over 1,100 residents petition against Brookfield rezoning

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Macy's has been partnering with Brookfield Properties to transform its Manhasset property into a mixed-use development. Over 1,100 area residents have signed a petition opposing rezoning to ready the area for the development. (Photo by Teri West)

Over 1,100 residents of the Manhasset, Great Neck and Plandome areas have signed a petition calling on the Town of North Hempstead not to rezone the Manhasset property owned by Macy’s and Brookfield Properties, and Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said she shares her constituents’ concerns.

The area is currently the subject of discussion among the owners and local civic groups. If rezoned from its current commercial status to residential, the owners plan to build “Manhasset Square,” a $400 million development with three apartment buildings, a hotel and a number of smaller shops and restaurants.

The plan would require a number of variances from the town, representatives said upon presenting it to the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations in May.

While the plan has not been heard by the Town Board yet, it has has received criticism from civic associations and the Manhasset school district. Now, over a thousand local residents are expressing their own thoughts through the petition, titled “Stop the Re-Zoning of Macy’s from Commercial to Residential Use” and created on the website GoPetition on June 20 by an anonymous user.

Manhasset resident Eric Linder later confirmed that it was started by the Concerned Citizens of Manhasset.

The petition was one of several links sent in an Oct. 30 email to Bosworth and copied to Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, who represents the unincorporated areas of Manhasset and the Village of Great Neck. Lurvey was unavailable for comment.

Written by Linder on behalf of the Concerned Citizens of Manhasset group, the letter addressed concerns about the project with which the petition’s 1,193 signatories took issue, and asked for Bosworth’s position on the development.

Linder, CEO and president of the financial software firm SavaNet LLC, argues that the development would “cause massive 49% overcrowding of Manhasset schools,” which would negatively affect taxpayers.

“Using the developer’s own proposed number of apartments, re-zoning would increase student enrollment in the Manhasset School District by an additional 21%,” Linder wrote. “Given that the district is already 21% overcrowded, this would cause the Manhasset secondary school to be overcrowded by an unimaginable 49% (1,999 students with a capacity of 1,340).”

Tables obtained from the Manhasset school district show that district enrollment has decreased by 159 students in the past five years, but Linder says capacity is a more important issue.

“The trend is not the issue, the issue is whether the school can accommodate the students coming in,” Linder said in an interview.

Linder also wrote in the email that the cost to taxpayers per year would be “an additional $20 million annually in property taxes.”

“The taxpayers in the school district are just going to be paying Brookfield properties,” Linder said.

The estimates were conducted under the assumption that all proposed units would be occupied by two parents and the national average of 1.9 children, Linder said.

“It’s just going to be worth more to families that have children,” Linder said. “The rents will rise to the level and price out the people who don’t have children.”

Bosworth responded to Linder in an email sent on Sunday. While noting that no application had been submitted yet, she thanked him for informing her of his concerns, “which [she] wholeheartedly share[s].”

“While the Town’s role in the Macy’s proposed development by Brookfield Properties is limited to zoning and permitting, I want you and the rest of the community to know that I hear your concerns loud and clear,” Bosworth’s email said. “I share many of the same concerns about this proposed project including potential increased traffic, school overcrowding, and quality of life issues.”

Linder said that while he “was glad to hear from” Bosworth and that “she sounded like she understood and was taking it seriously,” he would have preferred a firm commitment.

“It would be nicer if she could have made a commitment to not allow any residential rezoning,” Linder said. “There’s really no situation in our minds where it would be reasonable. I do see that as a politician, it’s hard to make an absolute commitment on something she hasn’t seen.”

In the petition’s comment section, which invites signatories to discuss why they signed, residents’ concerns range from rises in traffic to the development “not keeping in nature” with the area.

“Proposed development would be catastrophic to our community traffic and schools would be the most affected,” an anonymous female resident of Manhasset wrote. “My suggestion would be senior condos that are needed here which would have no impact on school population and a lesser impact on traffic.”

“Please stop the re-zoning,” Angela Querci of Manhasset wrote. “The impact would be unsustainable and a financial hardship for current existing homeowners.”

“Leave our small town alone!” wrote Dianne Tolentino of Plandome. “It’s already too crowded.”

An anonymous male resident of Manhasset wrote that even though the area could use new businesses, it would not be worth an influx of people.

“Everywhere you go in this town, you sit in stop and go traffic, there truly is no more room to support a larger number of people,” he wrote. “Our town is small, and because of our ‘town rules and regulations,’ that they seemingly make up as they go, we barely have any places to eat and shop anymore. Because of the way our town disregards new business and growth, our town is shutting more of its doors … unless our town hall actually decides to stop isolating our community from outsiders, our physical town will only get smaller and since our population keeps growing, there will be no room for anyone to breathe at a certain point.”

“I would be supportive of a senior living community here,” Manhasset resident Paul Quinlan wrote. “But our school system is already over taxed and can’t handle this influx of kids.”

“This is another horrible step towards turning our area into Queens,” wrote Leslie Hirschhorn of Great Neck. “We don’t need more people AND we don’t need more business buildings. We can’t fill the storefronts we have now. Enough Urban spread!”

“Unless the entire road system is being redesigned and expanded, this is probably the worst new building plan in the history of Manhasset,” wrote an anonymous female Manhasset resident.

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