Woodmere Club battle continues

No meeting Tuesday with Hempstead, Lawrence, Woodsburgh officials and developers

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Even before the sale of the Woodmere Club was consummated in early 2017, the battle over its possible residential home began in late 2016 with the formation of the grass-roots organization Five Towns Civic Association.

It now appears that the fight over the nearly 114-year-old club’s 118 acres will continue as the meeting that was reported to have been scheduled for Jan. 18 with the  developers, Efrem Gerszberg and Robert Weiss, who bought the club nearly five years ago, Town of Hempstead officials and other local leaders is not happening. 

Councilman Anthony D'Esposito said there was no meeting scheduled. He noted the current litigation and said town officials would speak with the developers with town attorneys present. Lawrence Mayor Alex Edelman said there was a meeting scheduled with Town Supervisor Don Clavin and the developers.  

Community members have endorsed a plan to build two four-story attached buildings with 199 luxury condominium units for 55 and older residents along Broadway in Woodmere on 20 acres. Another 80 acres would be deeded to the North Shore Land Alliance to be turned into a nature preserve. Gerszberg and Weiss supposedly agreed to put up $1 million to initiate the land preservation another million over the next few years. The remaining space is divided into roughly 7 acres for the clubhouse and roughly 13 acres of additional landscaped and preserved areas. Land around what was the 17th hole of the 18-hole golf course will also remain open space.

The NSLA is an Oyster Bay-based nonprofit land trust that aims to protect and preserve, in perpetuity, green spaces, farmlands, wetlands, groundwater and historical sites. The club’s land sprawls over the Town of Hempstead hamlet of Woodmere and Lawrence and Woodsburgh villages. The club also borders Cedarhurst village.

Last May, the developers contacted community members and discussed their plan. Neighbors met in a groups of roughly 10 people each and through the Five Towns Civic Association the plan gained steam as it addressed the primary factors residents were concerned about: flooding mitigation, traffic volume and roadway infrastructure.

“We appreciate the developers acknowledgement that over development would have a devastating impact on local traffic flooding and public safety,” Five Towns Civic Association  member Rena Saffra wrote in an email. “This is an encouraging step in the right direction which will need to be fleshed out further.”

The original development proposal was to build 285 single-family homes on 114.5 acres. The plan was tweaked to construct one less home on the same acreage with for 247 homes within Woodmere’s boundaries, 24 in Woodsburgh and 13 in Lawrence. Golf playing ended in 2019, however as of now the tennis club remains open and  Gerszberg said that two synagogues meet at the clubhouse.

“We have spent considerable time with the Five Town Civic Association and over 40 adjacent neighbors to formulate a plan that they support,” Gerszberg wrote in an email.

Multiple lawsuits have been adjudicated over the proposed development. The most recent legal action that has the developers suing the town, Lawrence and Woodsburgh in federal court over the municipalities’ Coastal Conservation District.

“The court ruled against the town and villages on their motion to dismiss and affirmed the fact that our case has merits and may proceed toward trial,” Weiss wrote in an email. “The court will determine whether we are permitted to build 284 homes or can build 59 homes and receive over $180,000,000 in damages.” 

Enacted in 2020 the district divided the club land into three “subdistricts.” An 83.3-acre parcel, or 70 percent of the site, was designated an open space/recreation subdistrict. There would also be a single-family residential subdistrict of 29.4 acres, or 24 percent of the property, and a 5.7-acre clubhouse/hospitality subdistrict accounting for 5 percent of the land.

“We’re going to try to offer a situation or settlement and get out of this to avoid future litigation and money,” Edelman said. “I think, considering the overall situation this would be the best bet for the villages of Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodsburgh and the whole Five Town area.”