Residents oppose plan for Willis Avenue apartments

Applicants are seeking to build a multi-story, mixed-use building at a vacant lot located at 615-621 Willis Avenue. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

More than 400 residents have signed a petition opposing a mixed-use, multi-story building proposed to be built on Willis Avenue, according to Steve Mikhlin, a village resident who started the petition.

Applicants Christopher Lazos, of Albertson, and Akbar Bhojani, of New Hyde Park, are seeking to build on the vacant lot located at 615-621 Willis Ave.

The lot has been vacant since a July 2014 fire destroyed four buildings and five businesses.

Since presenting to the zoning board last Monday, the applicants have decided to resubmit their plans, project architect Jason Mandel said in an interview.

The revised plans are not yet finalized and details cannot be shared at this time, Mandel said.

Mandel said the plan is to create two, three-story buildings. The first floor will be used for commercial use, and above that will be apartment units, he said.

There will be eight apartment units in total, Mandel said.

The project was originally submitted as one application, but will now be separated into two, Mandel said.

Mikhlin said residents are concerned the apartments will cause traffic issues.

Many residents moved from “places like Queens” to avoid searching for parking spots, Mikhlin said.

The three-story, mixed-use buildings will also impact the suburban quality of life, Mikhlin said.

“And most folks agree, we pay a premium to live where we do and that premium is our taxes,” Mikhlin said. “And there’s a level of expectation that we live in a suburban or semi-suburban environment where we enjoy … fewer cars, less commercial type of businesses, etc.”

He added that if approved by the zoning board, the case could serve as a precedent for future businesses to follow and build up.

Efforts to reach Brian Cunningham, zoning board chairman, were unavailing.

The board previously denied a similar proposal by dentist Joseph Locurto, who reopened his office at 623 Willis Ave. two years after the fire, in 2015.

Locurto had requested to build a two-story mixed-use building. When his request was denied he instead rebuilt his one-story dentist office as it stood before.

“If you’re a business person, it makes perfect logical sense to do it, I understand why they want to. It’s hard to make a buck on Willis Avenue on just commercial space,” Mikhlin said.

If that happens, though, it would “change the entire character of the neighborhood,” Mikhlin said.

Mikhlin also noted that he, and other residents opposed to the application, are not “anti-business” and want to see the lot filled for another use.

The applicant will have to appear before the board again, but a date has not yet been set.

Mikhlin said he is hoping the board sets a date in September or October, when more residents are home.

Reach reporter Rebecca Klar by email at, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 204, or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaklar_.


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