Building developers and Great Neck Plaza village officials asked each other for shows of confidence over turning a property with an environmentally dubious history into an office building on Wednesday, which ended with the proposal being taken off the calendar rather than adjourned for a future session.
Plaza Gate LLC has eyed developing Stanton Cleaners, which the EPA labeled a highly contaminated area in 1999 and then installed a series of treatment systems to deal with groundwater and air contaminated by volatile organic compounds.
Since 2003, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has managed further responses at the site.
The site remains on the EPA Superfund’s “National Priorities List,” but was deemed “ready for reuse and redevelopment” in March 2015, according to its website.
Paul Bloom, a legal representative for Plaza Gate LLC, said the developers seek a conditional-use permit pending compliance with the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s requirements.
This was so they could begin developing a work plan, he said, and go forward in good faith.
“If in fact it’s not granted, the question is ‘are we prepared now to go through the process without having the assurance that this board is going to grant our application?’” Bloom said, adding that it doesn’t mean people would occupy the building.
“There’s just so much of an investment that the client is prepared to make in this property without assurance of their ability to be able to occupy,” Bloom added. “They are prepared to, in fact, go through this entire process with DEC and the cost and expense associated with it.”
Samuel Habibian, one of the partners in the potential development, described the site as “an eyesore” just “sitting there.”
He said the environmental review from the DEC could stretch on for years and that paying the real estate taxes alone will reach the six figures, making it a costly investment to go through without any assurance.
“Your honor, we can’t spend $300,000 to come back here three years from now and be told we can’t open it up,” Habibian told Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender.
Bloom said his client is “not a novice” when it comes to developing and remediating these kinds of sites.
Celender said it would be “very leap of faith” to give any sort of approval to a project where they don’t know the full extent of what’s required to remediate the site and the possible environmental impact.
“We would like to see what goes on. I can’t grant a conditional approval based on something I don’t know will happen, or what the plan’s going to be, or who might be exposed or what the [contaminant] levels are,” Celender said. “I don’t feel comfortable with that.”
Richard Gabriele, the village attorney, said that if the village gave conditional approval now, the village would essentially be “boxing itself in” even as the village’s desires may change as more information becomes available.
“It’s saying as long as you meet what DEC wants, it’s okay with us,” Gabriel said. “But without knowing what the problem was or what the workable solutions are, there’s no reason why the village should take that leap now.”
Gabriele added that, if the client is experienced with these kinds of properties, they are “in a better position” to take such a leap.
The hearing regarding the property ended after more exchanges between trustees and Plaza Gate LLC representatives.
“So what would you like us to do, Mr. Bloom, if we’re not approving this?” Celender asked.
“At this point, nothing,” Bloom responded.
“We are doing nothing,” Yousef Habibian, one of the other partners on the project, added.
“Well, when you have more information, you will come back,” Celender said.
When the stenographer then asked if the matter was adjourned, Habibian replied that there would be no adjournment and that it should be taken off the calendar. Bloom affirmed the removal.