I attended the Feb. 5 meeting at the Village of Great Neck Hall where the consulting firm VHB presented its proposal to village residents for what they call “revitalization” of our Middle Neck Road corridor.
This proposal presented by VHB would demolish several commercial blocks in our village and replace them with a number of four- or five-story luxury apartment buildings along Middle Neck Road from Old Mill Road past Steamboat Road.
Among the proposals is the construction of a 20-unit apartment building on a one-family lot on Arrandale Avenue and the construction of a large assisted living facility on the corner of Hicks Lane and Middle Neck Road. The VHB consultants stated that they did not see a meaningful impact from any of these buildings on traffic, pedestrian safety or any other public concerns. Many village residents disagreed.
We are all concerned about the empty stores on Middle Neck Road. But building luxury apartments is not a solution. Great Neck Plaza has many apartments and it has the same problem as we do with empty storefronts. Many Great Neck residents do not shop in our town.
It is possible that in our village many landlords have decided to force out small businesses by raising the rents too high and then warehousing the empty properties to wait for rezoning from commercial to multi-family zoning for large apartment projects like those above that are more profitable. A luxury four- or five-story apartment building could generate a lot more profit than a few retail stores.
What our village needs is moderately priced workforce housing and better conditions for our small businesses. Some of this workforce housing already exists at Academy Gardens on the corner of Steamboat Road where there are many vacancies, but the landlord has allowed these garden apartments to deteriorate. This is one of the properties that the VHB proposes to turn into luxury housing.
The Feb. 5 hearing took place on the Chinese Lunar New Year while Great Neck schools were closed for the holiday and at the same time that many Chinese families were in the midst of celebrating with family and friends. As a result, there were very few Chinese residents who were able to attend this very important meeting.
This scheduling was disrespectful to our many friends and neighbors who are Chinese and want to be heard. In addition, the next and final scheduled hearing is on Feb. 19 when the schools are closed for winter break and many families will be on vacation. At that time, the village board of trustees will do its final vote on whether or not to start to implement this plan.
This issue is too important to leave up to one mayor and a board of trustees to decide on Feb. 19. Before any decision is made we need more input from our residents, the local planning board, zoning board, water board, the Nassau County Planning Board, and other villages in Great Neck. We need to know if the builders of this luxury housing will be getting tax abatements or exemptions. Who will live in these buildings?
The future of our village must be determined by all of our residents, whether Persian, Chinese, Hispanic or other. We all live here and have a right to say what we want in our town. I urge Mayor Bral and the board of trustees to defer their vote and schedule more public hearings on this proposal at times when there are no conflicts with the school calendar or religious holidays.