An hour before the Glen Cove City Council meeting on Tuesday, about 20 protesters gathered outside the doors of City Hall, chanting, “Save the View.” The phrase surfaced last month, after the city announced its request for proposal for property it owns at 111 Lattingtown Road, now being leased by Jeanine DiMenna, owner of the popular restaurant The View Grill.
At the rally, protesters clutched neon-pink signs of protest, and Gracie Donaldson Cipriano held a large poster-board with a photo of the Herald front page on which DiMenna was named the paper’s 2021 Person of the Year.
John E Schepanski, a local small-business owner and the founder of the Facebook group Save the View-Glen Cove, said he organized the rally because he knows DiMenna has “always done good for the community.” Schepanski said he believed that since DiMenna has a longstanding positive history in the community, she deserves special consideration for a new city contract.
The RFP calls for extensive capital improvements to the property, including a second story, or a total demolition of the structure to facilitate a catering hall with a capacity of 200, an increase from the 133 patrons the existing structure allows, excluding 111 more in the outdoor dining areas and a tiki bar.
The RFP elicited two proposals, one from DiMenna and the other from Kent Monkan, owner of KVM Food Corp. In a phone interview, Fred DiMenna stated that plans for The View include enlarging the catering room to 90 seats and removing some interior walls to combine three rooms. The DiMennas would also add doors opening to the tike bar, update the building’s HVAC system, relocate a walk-in refrigerator, repair the restaurant’s floors, paint the walls and relocate the dumpster enclosure.
At the meeting, Councilman Kevin Maccarone said he had seen both proposals, and noted that Monkan did not plan to expand the space. He added that the only structural change would eliminate the exterior “sunroom.”
“People are saying ‘They want to bring in these catering halls, and there’s not enough parking, and we’re going to compete with the Glen Cove mansion,’” Maccarone said after the meeting. “No one wants to come in and put in a monster catering hall.”
The entire meeting ran from 7:30 to 10:45, and pandemonium erupted when attendees expressed their frustration with the parameters of the RFP, complaining that its requirements were beyond DiMenna’s reach. Twelve people approached the dais to say the process lacked transparency, and that there wasn’t enough information about the process made available to the public. Mayor Pamela Panzenbeck and Maccarone said that those who were concerned about the process could file Freedom of Information Law requests for the details of the RFP process.
“There is no decision,” Panzenbeck said. “It’s almost as though people are assuming as though we made the decision of where this is going to go. We have not.”
Councilwoman Marsha Silverman said she did not ask to see both submissions, but for the pre-council meeting on Sept. 19, she requested an update on the proposals.
“I did it through that process so that all City Council members would get the same information at the same time. At pre-council last week, Pam . . . did not tell us anything about the submissions, so I thought that (information) was being kept confidential at that point. I was unaware that other council members already had information about the proposals.”
Silverman added that the purpose of an RFP is to create an objective process with a level playing field.
“My main concern is that all the council members are not receiving information simultaneously, and the information promised has not been forthcoming timely to all elected officials,” she said. “That’s why I was concerned when it became clear that others had information that was not provided to all.”
The proposals are being reviewed by members of an advisory committee that were chosen by Panzenbeck, Deputy Mayor Donna McNaughton and City Attorney Tip Henderson. They include Louis Fugazy Jr., Scott Grupp, Pat Hall, Cherise Kramer, Vincent Hartley, Cynthia Ayres and Lisa Travatello. The group is expected to submit its suggestions to the City Council next month.
At the meeting, Peter Budraitis said he understood that the RFP was necessary by law, but he felt that the committee and the council should keep Glen Cove residents in mind when awarding the contract. Many of the city’s small businesses, Budraitis said, went out of business because larger corporations have impacted local sales. He cited Brinkman’s, CVS and Ace Hardware as examples. He added that DiMenna’s financial hardship during the pandemic put her at a financial disadvantage, even though she offered discounted prices on food to help those in need.
“The current RFP, I feel, was a little bit biased towards larger businesses, and would have been difficult for Jeanine to compete with,” Budraitis said. “Don’t turn The View into something it shouldn’t be. So many businesses in Glen Cove and surrounding areas have all stepped up and said that they don’t want that to happen. When are we going to look out for the small businesses in town? It’s more than just The View — it’s about what it represents that we’re trying to do.”
When Budraitis asked if the decision on the new occupant of 111 Lattingtown Road would be made before the Nov. 7 election, Panzenbeck replied, “Probably, yes,” adding that she did not intend to delay awarding the contract until Election Day.