Behind closed doors at Lynbrook Village Hall on Monday, hotel developer Lee Browning met with Mayor Alan Beach and the board of trustees to rekindle the conversation about building a Marriott in the village’s downtown.
Beach said that Browning, who in July ended his agreement with the village to construct a Courtyard by Marriott, was now eager to “get the shovel into the ground.”
“I’m open to listening and planning,” Beach said, adding that Browning requested the meeting. “I will welcome feedback from residents. It would bring additional tax revenue to the village.”
Multiple calls to Browning, who is president of Riverhead Hotel Management Corp., were not returned as of press time.
Beach said that the board met with Browning for about 45 minutes before its scheduled public meeting. Browning said he has seen Lynbrook as an ideal site for a hotel since 2004, in large part because of its vibrant downtown, but he has been unable to finalize an agreement.
The location for the proposed hotel has changed three times, but Browning has said he now hopes to build it over a municipal parking lot north of the vacant Mangrove Feather factory. Beach said that other sites are also under consideration for a six-story hotel atop a parking garage.
Browning has negotiated with four different mayors about a potential hotel project. Monday marked the first time he had met with Beach since Beach took office in October after the sudden death of Mayor William Hendrick. Hendrick and Browning agreed to build at the site near the feather factory in 2015, but a series of delays eventually stopped the project.
Browning never submitted building permits and architectural drawings to the trustees, and repeatedly sought extensions. He said last summer that he needed the additional time because village officials continuously put off approving the building and kept asking Marriott to change its designs. In the meantime, Browning completed a Marriott in Riverhead.
Bruce Hafner, an attorney for Browning, gave other reasons for the delays at a June 5 public hearing. Hafner said that the building had unusual characteristics because it was to be built atop a parking garage, which would have to be inspected by an engineer. He added that the engineer also had to work with Marriott architects to draw up plans.
Village attorney Ben Trencle said in June that the village would have received $5 per day for each occupied hotel room, or $14,000 per month, from Browning — a minimum of $168,000 annually. Browning had guaranteed 60 percent occupancy, or he would have paid the difference.
Beach said that negotiations over a new deal are still in the early stages.
An eye toward development
Word of a possible Marriott comes at a time when village officials are looking to further develop Lynbrook’s downtown. Monday marked the third consecutive meeting at which representatives of the Garden City-based Breslin Realty, which is looking to build rental apartments at the site of the feather factory, delayed a public presentation of their ideas.
Beach asked attendees to be patient, and expressed confidence that the project would eventually be completed. He said that Breslin was still negotiating with Barry Singer, the feather factory’s owner, and noted that he was optimistic that they would reach an agreement by the next village meeting on March 5.
Though the developers were not there to present their ideas, the village board took the next step, opening a public hearing to add the feather factory building to the village’s cultural arts district in the hope of redeveloping it. The board voted unanimously in favor of the motion, while also declaring the board the lead agency in the approval process. Deputy Mayor Hilary Becker was the only board member absent.
Jeffrey Greenfield, the Lynbrook Chamber of Commerce vice president and the owner of NGL Insurance Group, said the chamber created a subcommittee of five of its members to work closely with the board to plan for revitalization of the village’s downtown. After lauding the board for its attempts to develop the feather factory, Greenfield told the Herald that the Regal movie theater on Merrick Road, which is under construction and is scheduled to open in late March or early April, motivated the chamber to form the subcommittee.
“We want to use the movie theater as a catalyst to spark positive development in the Village of Lynbrook,” Greenfield said. “We are working closely with the board on new development.”
During his project update, Building Department Superintendent Brian Stanton said that seats and projectors would be delivered to the theater this week. “That’s a big change,” he said. “It means we’re getting to that finish line.”
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