Readers Write: Problems with biz districts in G.N. not related to housing

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Hi, I’m a Great Neck mother and I write regarding the article that appeared in The Island Now on Oct. 9 under the headline “Great Neck public officials meet to discuss downtown revitalization.”

With respect to Great Neck community members that oppose adding residential apartment complexes to their beautiful and beloved suburb, you printed the following quote from architect Mark Stumer. “The amount of time it has taken to put up just two 12-story apartment buildings in the past three years is ridiculous. You have to give them a reason to want to build here, don’t worry about the 20 something people who show up here and have nothing but complaining to do.”

I am hopeful that The Island Now is open to publishing facts and information refuting this inaccurate view by Stumer. The reality is, there is widespread opposition to adding residential apartment buildings to Great Neck and compelling bases for the opposition:

– Over 1400 people signed a petition opposing the addition of residential apartment buildings in the Village of Great Neck because of the overcrowding and harm it would bring to our community and public schools. See https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-village-of-great-neck-zoning-code-change?recruiter=936655421&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial.pacific_post_sap_share_gmail_abi.gmail_abi&recruited_by_id=cca03590-321e-11e9-9971-21bda7ccdb50&utm_content=fht-14306047-en-us%3Av6

– While certain developers, architects and public officials seem to think adding apartment buildings and concomitantly people to Great Neck will revitalize the commercial district, available data indicates otherwise.

Specifically, publicly available census data shows that Port Washington, Roslyn, Scarsdale and Short Hills (N.J.) all currently have less people than the Village of Great Neck. And these areas have successful commercial districts! So adding people is not the answer. We already have enough people.

It’s about bringing in the right businesses! (Population per square mile: Great Neck Village (7,516), Millburn, NJ (2,161), Scarsdale (2,578), Manhasset (3,392), Jericho (3,441), Port Washington (3,786), Garden City (4,197), Roslyn (4,456); Source: 2010 U.S. Decennial Census.). Well over 20-something Great Neck residents understand this.

-The large influx of students that comes with adding residential apartment buildings poses serious risks to Great Neck’s top rated public schools. Current class sizes in Great Neck are not small and its top ranked school district is already looking to earmark millions of dollars for construction in an effort to accommodate more students (that money could go to educational programs).

If Great Neck schools are suddenly hit with increased students flowing from new residential multistory buildings, what about the significant overcrowding threat posed to the schools? Study after study shows that as classroom populations rise the quality of education goes down.See e.g.,  http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB08_ClassSize08.pdf; https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/class-size/; http://www.newyorkschools.com/articles/class-size-and-your-childs-education.html.

Plus, it is both common sense and well documented that areas with top rated public schools have higher property values. This community is very desirable to families leaving the boroughs in search of a forever home because our school district has an excellent reputation.

If we harm our public schools via overdevelopment and overcrowding, we risk tanking our property values. For context, as I understand it, when the apartment building known as the Avalon was added to East Shore Road, elementary school children in that building were initially “zoned” to attend EM Baker Elementary School (given the Avalon’s address) but were diverted to JFK Elementary School in Kings Point to meet concerns associated with student population growth.

The Avalon is one building. What if Great Neck public officials say “yes” to the two residential apartment buildings being proposed – one at 777 Middle Neck and the other by where Middle Neck Pharmacy used to stand – and then more from there?

More than 20 people in Great Neck care about protecting Great Neck’s top ranked public schools from the risks associated with overcrowding. In fact, Great Neck is a community that has shown it will come out to support its top notch public school district– in numbers much larger than 20.

-Plus, school districts need additional resources (staff and space) to accommodate student population increases which means costs and likely taxes go up. More than 20 “complainers” in Great Neck are opposed to tax increase risks.

-There is already deficient parking at the train station for commuters. Traffic and road safety issues are also common sources of frustration and concern among residents. Adding more people and therefore cars to Great Neck could certainly further exacerbate these problems. Many more than 20 people in Great Neck are aware of this reality  and rightfully worried about it.

-As for the insinuation that there is a need for apartments (currently referred to by many as “affordable housing”)- where is the evidence of this need? Great Neck just added or is adding well over a hundred residential apartments!

For example: (a)  15 Bond Street. https://www.buzzbuzzhome.com/us/15-bond-street; (b)  Millbrook- 101 residential units are being added for a total of 186 residential units– on Middle Neck Road in the Village of Great Neck at 240-250 Middle Neck Road (Section 2, Block 354, Lot 138). See https://theislandnow.com/great_neck/great-neck-trustees-approve-millbrook-review-other-plans; (c) 5-9 Grace Ave.

Plus when public officials reference this “need” for apartments they do so without mentioning the number of current vacancies in the preexisting apartment buildings all over Great Neck. How can Great Neck residents support meeting “a need” that no one has demonstrated exists! More than 20 people in Great Neck “are hip” to this question.

-The aforementioned list of community concerns around overdevelopment is not comprehensive. It doesn’t even even touch on risks such as  – (a) strain on resources like potable water, sewer infrastructure and related costs/tax increases, (b) crowding at public parks and pools, (c) public officials taking campaign money from real estate developers and becoming beholden to them at the expense of the Great Neck public. Again, more than 20 people care about these things and not just because they like to complain.

I am happy to discuss the above issues at greater length if you think that would be productive. Thank you in advance for your time.

Jenni Spiritis Lurman

Great Neck

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. “Specifically, publicly available census data shows that Port Washington, Roslyn, Scarsdale and Short Hills (N.J.) all currently have less people than the Village of Great Neck. And these areas have successful commercial districts! So adding people is not the answer. We already have enough people.”

    This is a false correlation. Aside from that, I’m not sure how much apartment dwellers add to the pupil population.

    ‘Overdevelopment” is a relative term. But if people think they can freeze their neighborhoods in amber without economic consequences, they’re kidding themselves.

  2. Overdevelopment is not relative term. It’s development without planning. It can be very precisely measured in the class size increase or in the time lost in traffic jams. It also can be measured in overcrowded parks and swimming pools, in air, noise and water pollution.
    Nobody wants to “ freeze their neighborhoods in amber ”, but if changes are coming they must be sustainable.

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