Proposed Warner Ave. development ‘too big’ for many locals

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A rendering of the proposed development on Warner Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Mojo Stumer)

While residents of Roslyn say they are in favor of a proposed mixed-use development on Warner Avenue, many are concerned with the proposed four-to-five-story building being too big.

The residents made their thoughts known at the Village of Roslyn’s Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, conducted over Zoom.

Last October, the board passed a change of zone for 281-301 Warner Ave. from commercial to mixed-use. The property currently houses a strip mall of empty storefronts and was zoned for commercial use only. J.K. Equities, headed by Roslyn resident Jerry Karlik, has submitted an application for a transit-oriented mixed-use development on the site, comprising one floor of retail and either three or four floors of 54 residential apartments.

The plans have been widely discussed due to the Roslyn school board’s stance against the proposal since July 2019, when President Meryl Waxman Ben-Levy claimed that the district was “functioning at capacity.” Ben-Levy also successfully asked the board to change the date of a public hearing on the zoning change in 2020.

Mayor John Durkin, among the first to speak, noted that it had taken over a year for the project to properly come before the board.

“Although this is an application that seems like it’s a new one … I want to note that we have been hearing this for several years now, and began, I believe, this process in 2019, when they submitted an application for a [transit oriented mixed-use], and at that time we started looking at this project very carefully,” Durkin said.

Joe Yacobellis of the Greenvale-based architectural firm Mojo Stumer said that the proposed development would align with the nearby buildings on Warner Avenue.

“While on our site alone it does represent itself as a four-story building, five when you look at it from the rear in relationship to the context of the rest of the street, there really is a nice alignment and some harmony with how our building stacks vertically,” Yacobellis said.

Patrick Lenihan, director of transportation at VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture, touted the proposed development’s proximity to the Long Island Rail Road station in Roslyn, and said that the multifamily rental housing would generate significantly fewer car trips than single-family homes.

“The proximity to the train will reduce personal vehicle travel,” Lenihan said. “[It will] allow many to forego a second car and perhaps even a first car, and the retail uses will be patronized by train commuters, meaning fewer trips and less parking than development located elsewhere.”

He further said that “no real impacts to the traffic flow [and] no impact of school operations will occur.”

“We’ve heard from the school a couple of times with their concerns about potential impacts due to this project,” Lenihan said. “One of the comments is that we should analyze additional intersections. So we did evaluate intersections that I submit are appropriate for something of this size. However, I took a look at the volumes out closer to the school at the end of Lincoln Avenue and Roslyn Road, based on published information from the Nassau County Department of Public Works.

“That’s a county road, and our site traffic that would make its way to Lincoln Avenue in the morning peak hour represents one half of 1 percent of the traffic that goes through the intersection right now. So, from that, the only thing that could be concluded is that this development will not have any impact on the school’s operation.

“In fact, I would submit that if you were to stand on the side of the road and we could flip a magical switch, and all of a sudden this development would come online, you wouldn’t notice the difference.”

Lenihan finished by saying that in his opinion “at the approval and operation of the site this proposal will not result in any significant impacts on traffic and parking conditions.”

A further study from VHB regarding the number of school-aged children residing in the apartments was presented by David Wortman, the firm’s senior environmental manager.

“The range of results from these three studies predicted that between two and seven school-aged children attending public school would be expected to reside in the proposed 54 apartment units,” Wortman said.

Only four apartment buildings in Roslyn housed school children, he said, at a ratio of 0.09 public school-aged children per unit.

“Based on that multiplier from the school district, we would project approximately five students to be generated by the proposed 54 residential units, which just so happens to align just squarely in the middle of the range of other results that we had,” Wortman said.

Applicant Karlik said in comments made following the experts’ presentations that his firm had “listened to the concerns of the board and our neighbors.”

“[We] have reduced the density, eliminating one residential one floor, decreased the retail component by 50 percent, increased parking, and I’ve reserved 20 percent of the apartments as affordable workforce housing,” Karlik said. “We will also be making a sizable monetary contribution to the village to defray costs associated with this project, as well as other municipal expenses enclosing this project [which] will be a significant improvement to this area of the village, and a benefit to the areas beyond the village’s border.”

During the public comment session, Roslyn Gardens resident Randi Beatus, who lives near the proposed development, said that she was wary of what the building would do to her area’s taxes.

“This is going to raise the taxes, it’s not going to be good for the people around [here], even the Roslyn Gardens people who have lived there for a very, very, very long time,” Beatus said. “And the prices, when I moved in about 16 to 17 years ago, the prices hadn’t gone up for like 20 years. When I got there and bought, in three months time they went up. What’s gonna happen when this building comes to light? What’s going to happen with
our taxes?”

Maureen O’Connor of Roslyn Heights took issue with the building’s size and what she perceived as an addition to parking problems in the neighborhood.

“This latest design for the building continues to be too large for the location as Randy stated, it’s too tall, there are too many rental units, and there’s insufficient parking to accommodate the expected number of residents, employees, and customers,” O’Connor said.

“As we’ve stated before, our neighborhood streets are already inundated with parked cars belonging to Roslyn Gardens residents, Sun Harbor Manor employees, and commuters who are unable to park in the train station. We should not have to accommodate overflow parking from future residents and customers for this site.”

Stacy Backhash of Roslyn Harbor, a parent of two children in the Roslyn school district, voiced support for the project and told the trustees that she “fundamentally believe[d] that this project will have no material impact on the school district.”

“I know the school board has been a vocal opponent of this project but I want the Board of Trustees to know that the school board’s views do not fully represent the views of the parents at the school,” Backhash said.

Resident Lisa Aberle added that while a mixed-use project seemed to be a good idea, she shared concerns about parking and the development’s size.

“I think it is too big for that area,” Aberle said. “I think that smaller apartments, less apartments and less stories would be significantly better.”

Representing the Roslyn school district was attorney Carrie-Ann Tondo of Hauppauge-based Ingerman Smith LLP, who took issue with the traffic engineers’ and demographer’s reports.

“Enrollment is increasing, and the enrollment report [provided by the village to the district] finds that the growth projected at the district over the next five years is 130, which will increase to 190 as a result of new housing developments,” Tondo said. “As you know, the district schools are operating at capacity and that new housing construction will impact class size.”

Jordan Fensterman of Roslyn Estates voiced strong support for the project.

“I think it’s fairly straightforward that this is something that is going to benefit pretty much everyone in Roslyn,” Fensterman said. “To keep [the site] in a state of disrepair so people are not going in there so there’s better parking, I understand why people would want that, but I don’t think that truly benefits all of Roslyn.”

The Board of Trustees will meet to discuss the matter on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. over Zoom.

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