Lynbrook apartment plan receives mixed reviews ahead of Nov. 19 hearing

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Editor's note: At Monday's meeting, the planned public hearing was pushed back until Oct. 15, however, the board has now decided to have the hearing on Nov. 19. A previous version of this article referenced Oct. 15 as the meeting date, but it has since been updated. 

Despite the postponement of Monday’s public hearing at which a developer was to share a proposal to build an apartment complex and parking garage in downtown Lynbrook, dozens of residents attended the village board meeting to share their opinions. 

Farmingdale-based Terwilliger & Bartone Properties has proposed building a $75 million, 200-unit apartment complex, to be called the Cornerstone at Lynbrook, on the southwest corner of Earle Avenue and St. James Place in the village’s downtown cultural arts district. In ex-change for the board’s approval to build, the developer would also fund and construct a $10 million, 400-space parking garage at Broadway and Langdon Place.

Developer Anthony Bartone was scheduled to appear at Monday’s meeting to address the public for the first time, but the session was delayed until Nov. 19.

Despite the postponement, one by one, several residents approached the lectern to address the board at Village Hall, many citing the potential traffic concerns that an influx of hundreds of new residents would create, and some taking issue with the process of selecting a developer.

“Why wouldn’t Lynbrook want multiple applicants for such a major project in our town?” Elizabeth Gaudet asked.

Alan Pawelsky echoed her sentiments. “You have to get other bids,” he said, “or you have to entertain other bids. I think someone would make a higher bid.”

Mayor Alan Beach said the board liked the proposal and decided to hear Bartone’s ideas, but noted that a decision would not be made until after the public hearing.

The hearing was postponed because one of the residences within a 200-foot radius of the proposed project was not properly notified. According to Beach, the property owner did not receive the mailing because of a numerical error with the address.

The plan was first proposed to village officials at their June 18 meeting. The apartments would be built on a two-acre parcel of land that is now a parking lot, used mostly by employees of village businesses, and at 14 St. James Place, site of a law office. The office is owned by a limited liability company headed by former Village Attorney Peter Ledwith; his son-in-law, current Village Attorney Tom Atkinson; and attorney Bruce Hafner. The group entered into a contract with Terwilliger & Bartone in June, and the sale is not contingent on the board’s approval of the project.

Atkinson said that because his property is involved, he has recused himself from the proceedings, and attorney Ben Truncale, of the Garden City-based Spellman, Gibbons, Polizzi, Truncale & Trentacoste LLP, is acting on behalf of the village.

If the plan were to be approved, the parking lot would be built first on top of what is now Parking Field 3, a commuter lot near the Long Island Rail Road station, and 133 parking spaces would be lost during construction. Bartone said in August that it would take six to eight months to complete the garage, and another 18 months to build the apartment complex on top of Parking Field 8, which would mean a loss of 150 spaces during construction.

The complex would offer a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, and have amenities such as a rooftop patio and a clubroom featuring a pool table and reading area. The projected rental rates were not available at press time, but 10 percent of the units would be set aside as workforce housing, for those earning up to 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Residents shared their concerns about traffic on Monday, but Jeff Greenfield, vice chairman of the Nassau County Planning Commission, said that the developers had already presented two traffic studies to the commission — one for each project — and that a resolution had been drafted. Greenfield noted that since he is also vice president of the Lynbrook Chamber of Commerce, he recused himself from the meetings and did not have full details.

Deputy Mayor Hilary Becker, who recently sold the property that did not receive the mailing, which forced the hearing to be delayed, expressed concern that studies were conducted and meetings were held without village officials being notified.

“As the deputy mayor and a trustee of Lynbrook, I would like to know that there are meetings being held at the Nassau County Planning Commission that pertain to the village that I’m responsible for,” Becker said. “Why didn’t I get notice that there was something going on? I should have been notified about that. That’s like Government 101.”

Becker’s cousin Matthew Becker urged village officials to conduct their own traffic study. “Any time between 7:30 and 10:30 [a.m.] and 3:45 and 7 o’clock [p.m.], any of the main arteries in Lynbrook are already choked, and anyone who shops in Lynbrook on a daily basis like I do knows that’s the truth,” he said to a round of applause.

The comments weren’t all critical, with Harry Levitt, the owner of Mur-Lees Men’s & Boy’s Shop, on Atlantic Avenue, asking residents to listen to what the developer had to say and praising the board because it “has a vision to take Lynbrook into the future,” while Greenfield also said that the development would be good for the village because it would keep people from moving away.

Resident Pat Vitola said that it might be good for business, but the traffic ramifications would be severe. “I know for the Chamber of Commerce, this is great for you because there are 400 more people in the area,” she said. “However, for us, there’s 400 more cars.”

In addition to public outcry, fliers were circulated around the village last weekend denouncing the project. Beach told the Herald that whoever distributed the leaflets was “grossly misinformed.” According to a Facebook photo, the fliers stated, “Quality of life in Lynbrook is under attack,” and warned that the project would be bad for schools, cause serious traffic and parking congestion, and give “massive tax breaks to millionaire developers.”

Bartone said that the developers plan to apply for a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement with the county’s Industrial Development Agency. He noted, however, that once the building was complete, it would generate more than $500,000 in property taxes per year for School District 20 and the county, town and village. The project would also create 239 construction jobs, and Bartone predicted that the added foot traffic would be a boon for downtown businesses.

Reached by phone on Monday, Bartone said he had no comment on the delayed public hearing, but noted that he was excited to meet with residents on Nov. 19. In August, he had acknowledged that the project could receive mixed reviews from residents.

“We understand that with change comes anxiety,” he said. “Ninety percent of Lynbrook we don’t want to change, but 10 percent needs to be strategically developed, and you need to do that in your downtowns.”

Beach told the Herald after the meeting that he was pleased that residents came out to discuss the project, but noted they should hear the presentation before forming an opinion. “Let him present it,” he said of Bartone, “and let everybody have a good understanding about what actually is happening.”