Great Neck Plaza BZA approves Bond Street complex variances

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A Great Neck developer seeking to construct a 61-unit apartment complex at 15 Bond St. in the Village of Great Neck Plaza finally received approval for building variances after over a year of discussions.
The Plaza’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 last Wednesday in favor variances sought by Effie Namdar, of 14 Park Place LLC, which is seeking to build the complex.
Board members Michael DeLuccia and Marlene Gerber voted against the variance request, while the board chairwoman, Faith Cleary, and board members Stephen Goodman and Richard Shapiro voted in favor of it.
Namdar and his attorney, Paul Bloom, requested four variances —  one to exceed the number of floors permitted by village code, two related to the construction of a two-level underground parking lot and one to exceed the maximum square-footage allowed by village code.
The board’s decision was met with groans, gasps and boos from the 50 or so residents from the surrounding buildings who attended the meeting.
Attorney Chris Prior, who represents residents of the four surrounding buildings — Westminster Hall Apartments, located at 4 Maple Place, and the Cartier Apartments, located at 21 Bond St., 22 Park Place and 25 Park Place — said he and his clients had a stronger case for the variance requests to be denied.
“We believe we made the case for this application to be denied,” Prior said. “We also believe that the applicant did not make any case for the application to be granted.”
Village zoning laws permit three-story, 45-foot-tall buildings, while the applicant was seeking to build a four-story, 45-foot-tall building.
Bloom argued that the buildings surrounding 15 Bond St. were more than three stories.
The total floor area of the proposed building, he said, would be slightly more than 59,900 square feet. Village code permits the square-footage of a building to equal the total area of the property, or a 1:1 floor area ratio.
Bloom said the surrounding buildings all had a greater floor area ratio than what is permitted by village code.
Prior and residents of the surrounding buildings said that granting the height and floor area variances would affect the character of the neighborhood and that building an “as-of-right” dwelling would alleviate all of their concerns.
Bloom was critical of their argument, stating that it was hypocritical to oppose the proposal when surrounding buildings are of greater size.
“It is disingenuous to stand up and say we have to build according to code, no variances, as-of-right,” he said. “‘But by the way, we can get it, we can have it.’”
Bloom said both the engineers that his client hired and the engineers that the village hired worked for “many, many hours” to develop a plan for the proposed underground parking garage that addressed residents’ concerns about noise and water drainage.
He said his client agreed to use “screws” rather than pile drivers in constructing the garage to avoid causing vibrations in the surrounding buildings.
Bloom also said that there would be sufficient water drainage to handle up to eight inches of rainfall.
Prior said that since the proposed parking garage would be located up to the lot lines of both the north and south of the building, excavation for the two levels and the construction of the lot itself would cause a disruption to the neighbors.
He also said his clients hired engineers to install monitoring wells at 22 Park Place and 21 Bond St. and found that there would not be sufficient water drainage with what is proposed.
Some residents also voiced concerns about construction causing damage to their buildings and having to pay for it.
But Bloom said he and his client would put money in an escrow account, which would be held by the village, in the event that their construction causes damage.
“We are responsible for any damage or anything that occurs. There is no question about it,” he said. “We are responsible by law and there is no question that we can’t run away. We break it, we fix it.”
Bloom said they have considered placing $300,000 in the escrow account once they receive a building permit.
Village Attorney Richard Gabriele said that although the variances were approved, the zoning board needs to submit a written approval, which will be finalized at the Oct. 26 zoning board meeting, and then the decision will head to the Board of Trustees for final approval.

By Joe Nikic

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