Still no consensus on Manhasset Isle apartments

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Manorhaven Board of Zoning Appeals Chair Patrick Gibson attempts to calm the crowd during Tuesday's meeting. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

For almost four hours, the Manorhaven Zoning Board of Appeals listened Tuesday night while architects, lawyers and village residents argued for and against apartments proposed for Manhasset Isle. But at the end of the night, the board still had not reached a decision.

“The latest update we have is of Nov. 7, so my understanding is that we are not going to be able to take a vote on this tonight as a result of that,” said board Chairman Patrick Gibson.

Only three of the board’s five members were present. John DiLeo and Joe Zimbardi were absent, much to the disapproval of some residents.

The building will contain residential and commercial space on a 26,000-square-foot lot owned by Peter Dejana, the former owner of Dejana Industries. The lot, purchased by Dejana in 2011, is bordered by Yennicock Avenue to the north, Sagamore Hill Drive to the west and Secatoag Avenue to the south.

Since the last Board of Zoning Appeals meeting in September, architect David Mammina of H2M had made some major changes to the proposed structure. The apartments, originally intended to be four stories, were reduced to three. The height of the building dropped from 52 feet to just under 35.

Accordingly, the number of apartments has been reduced from 18 to 16. The apartments will be housed in two separate three-story structures, connected by a newly added one-story commercial space.

“Now all of the parking is completely¬†screened by the buildings,” Mammina said. He added that the commercial space was 1,300 square feet, much larger than the 400 square feet per commercial unit in the original design.

Mammina and attorney Howard Avrutine were seeking eight variances. Among them was a special permit to build a mixed-use structure in the E1 zone, a variance to build above 26 feet, a variance for the commercial section to be less than one and a half stories and a variance to the 20-foot setback requirement.

The group also sought a variance to the requirement of 83 off-street parking spaces, saying the requirement was “onerous” and that the 33 proposed would provide each apartment with two spaces. The remaining variances concerned spacing between ceiling and roof beams and construction methods.

But the reduced height of the building did little to quell the concerns of the crowd, which numbered more than 100. Few in the audience at the Port Jewish Center, which was chosen to host the event after Village Hall was deemed too small for the crowd, wanted to see the structure built.

One resident said the village was being “bamboozled.” Another said it would change the character of Manhasset Isle, which is mostly two-story, single-family homes. Other said the isle, which has only one outside connection (Manhasset Avenue), could not handle the increase in population.

Frustration between the residents and the board occasionally bubbled over into shouting matches. At one point, Lucretia Steele, a resident, took the microphone even though Gibson had not called on her to speak.

“You are not the advocate for Mr. Dejana, you are here for the residents, and so far you haven’t been,” she said to a spattering of applause.

Gibson had her comments struck from the record.

“You are not going to be allowed to just hijack the meeting,” he said. “I don’t know why you think you’ll be allowed to do that because I can speak louder than you can and I can speak longer than you can.”

Peter Dejana, who sat silently through the September meeting, occasionally sparred with some of the residents and spoke at length toward the end of the meeting.

“Lucretia Steele said … the entire village is against this. That is not true,” he said. “It is a gross exaggeration.”

Manorhaven Mayor Jim Avena is the grant administrator for a charitable foundation run by Dejana. Avena was not in attendance.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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