Lynbrook residents voice concerns over Marriott project proposal

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On the heels of hotel developer Lee Browning’s meeting with Village of Lynbrook officials about a potential deal to construct a Courtyard by Marriott in the downtown, at least some residents are expressing concerns about the project and offering alternatives.

Browning, the president of Riverhead Hotel Management Corp., met with Mayor Alan Beach and the board of trustees for about 45 minutes on Feb. 5. Browning said discussions are still in the early stages, and he did not want to speak at length about them until he had heard back from village officials. He did confirm, however, that he presented his ideas.

“It’s really up to the board on whether they’re in favor of any suggestion that I made, and we’re just waiting until we get an answer from them,” Browning said. “We respectfully want to keep our distance so that they don’t think we’re trying to jump the gun.”

Browning has been trying to complete the project, a six-story hotel atop a parking garage, since 2004. After a series of setbacks, he terminated the plans last July. Over the years, some residents have opposed the proposal, while many business owners have been in favor of building the hotel because it could bring more foot traffic to the downtown. Beach said last week that the board would take resident feedback into account before a decision was made.

Rather than a hotel, some residents said they would prefer to see a Trader Joe’s or another kind of upscale supermarket, while Krisa Carlo Clancy offered several alternatives in response to a Herald Facebook post requesting resident feedback. “No, this town doesn’t need a hotel,” Clancy said. “A bank, bookstore chain or internet cafe would bring a nice clientele to our town.”

Many residents also pointed out that the Capri Lynbrook Motor Inn, on Freer Street near Sunrise Highway, has been a neighborhood nuisance for years. “Why do we need a hotel in the middle of a residential neighborhood?” Lisa Sroehlein Josephson said. “Don’t you already have a motel off of Sunrise that threatens the community?”

Former Mayor William Hendrick, who died of a heart attack in October, created a committee last spring to look into whether or not the Capri owners should have their room-rental licenses revoked. The committee, headed by Beach, was reviewing police testimony about drug and prostitution-related crimes that happened at the site before Hendrick’s death. Though there have been some issues with the Capri, Browning has built many successful Marriott franchises, and completed one in Riverhead last summer.

Florence Colwell Pagan said she is already concerned about parking downtown with the Regal movie theater set to open in late March or early April.

“I’m not sure why they don’t understand that most residents of Lynbrook — especially those who live on that side of town — don’t want a hotel,” she said. “The idea of this huge theater and now housing and a hotel? I really am upset with all of this, and we have even discussed moving because of everything that comes with this, besides no parking.”

Village officials have expressed confidence that there would be enough parking when the theater opened. Three studies have been conducted near the theater, and they each determined that there would be sufficient parking. In addition, Impressive Parking worked out a deal with the board to offer theatergoers valet parking at the Pistilli building, at 303 Merrick Road, across from the theater, in the building’s 121-space garage for $5 per car.

The proposed apartment building would have about 102 spaces in a parking garage, and developers were also looking into securing another parking lot. The original Marriott deal between village officials and Browning also would have included a garage with 306 spaces, which would have been split evenly between the village and the hotel.

Some residents expressed concern about how having a movie theater, an apartment building and a hotel might affect traffic in the downtown. Others said they would be open to the hotel if it meant lowering their taxes. While many residents have expressed opposition to the project, several business owners were disappointed when Browning walked away from the project in July.

“I think it’s a big loss to the community,” said Harold Reese, president of Harrontine Realty Corp., and the property owner for II Luogo restaurant and Audi Lynbrook, last summer. “It shouldn’t take this long to put a deal together. No finger-pointing here, but it should have happened. Period.”

Reached by phone Monday, Reese said he was happy to hear the project might be rekindled, but would not comment until he met with the Chamber of Commerce.

Robert Paskoff, the Lynbrook Board of Education secretary, said he would like to see rental apartments at the site of the vacant Mangrove Feather factory, on the corner of Broadway and Langdon Place, just north of where the proposed hotel would be built.

“Let’s get that one-bedroom housing done,” Paskoff said. “[A] hotel is too transient, while housing adds to the town without increasing the population of the school district.”

Developers from the Garden City-based Breslin Realty are still working toward reaching an agreement with Barry Singer, the building’s owner, to redevelop the site. Once an agreement is finalized, Breslin will make a presentation, which will be followed by a public hearing.

Beach told the Herald last week that he wanted to gather input from residents before anything is finalized. “I’m open to listening and planning,” he said. “I will welcome feedback from residents. It would bring additional tax revenue to the village.”