Developer abandons plans after town and neighborhood opposition

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A home at 25 Lambert St. in Roslyn Heights that would have been rezoned commercial under a proposed development plan.

Napoleon Development, a building company, agreed on Tuesday to set aside plans for a retail development in Roslyn Heights that had elicited opposition from nearby residents and Town of North Hempstead officials.

The company will explore alternative plans for the site at the intersection of Lambert Street and Mineola Avenue and present them in the coming weeks, said Raphael Yerushalmi, who owns Napoleon Development along with his brother Ilan Yerushalmi.

“We’ve heard the opposition and we’re attempting to address their concerns,” Raphael Yerushalmi said. “As Town of North Hempstead residents ourselves, we care about the community.”

The company, based in Williston Park, requested town approval last year for a multistore retail development that required the removal of a home at 25 Lambert Street as well as the renovation of a building at 154 Mineola Ave., which will soon be vacated by the music education company School of Rock.

Napoleon Development’s decision to change course came hours after its owners met Tuesday morning with Town Councilman Peter Zuckerman, his legislative aide Jim Moran, town Commissioner of Planning Michael Levine and a senior deputy town attorney, Mitchell Pitnick.

“The reduction of residential parcels in that particular location in favor of commercial is not something  Bosworth and I are looking to do,” Zuckerman said, referring to Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth.

Last year, the Nassau County Planning Commission rejected an application for the same development plan, Zuckerman said.

He said he had heard from approximately 150 local residents who disapproved of the rezoning.

Ken Priest, who lives at 48 Lambert St., was one of several residents who led a petition drive that garnered approximately 75 signatures from neighbors opposed to the plan.

“I didn’t want this to set a precedent,” Priest said. “If someone on the block falls on hard times and has to sell their house, that will become commercial, too. It just keeps inching into our neighborhood.”

He cited community concerns about increased traffic and the threat to children playing on nearby streets.

The possible impact on the neighborhood’s capacity to handle rainfall was also at issue, Priest said.

“Environmentally it’s going to affect water contamination with runoff,” he said. “We don’t have sewers in Roslyn Heights; we have cesspools.”

Napoleon sent local residents a letter about the proposed development plan on Oct. 20.  On Nov. 17, Zuckerman sent a letter inviting residents to offer their feedback about the project.

Raphael Yerushalmi, who lives in Roslyn Heights, said his company’s commitment to maintaining the yard outside the vacant house at 25 Lambert St., which it purchased in February, is evidence of its desire to work cooperatively with neighbors.

“We’re a family business,” he said. “Not a big corporation.”

Priest said the company’s change of course demonstrated that neighborhood residents “had some strength going forward” but he said he would reserve judgment until the alternative plans were presented. 

“It’s not what you build. It’s where you build it and how you rezone the properties,” he said.

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