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Assisted-living center planned for vacant lot in Oceanside

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A 4,500-square-foot vacant lot in Oceanside that has been the center of controversy and lawsuits may finally be developed after Sunrise Development Inc. presented an application to build a new assisted-living facility there to the Hempstead Town Board on Oct. 1.

The lot, at the northwest corner of Terrell and Atlantic avenues, would have to be rezoned from a residential district to a business district, but the board unanimously voted to postpone a vote on the application until a later date to review it thoroughly.

Sunrise has more than 325 communities, as well as 10 buildings on Long Island, including in Lynbrook and East Meadow. Developers are seeking to build a three-story structure that would house 85 units.

“Assisted living is a critical service for a community, just like day care would be for a community,” said Phillip Kroskin, Sunrise’s senior vice president of real estate. “It allows people the dignity to be able to age in their community, near their loved ones, while they can have dignity and grace as they go through the balance of their life.”

Calls and emails to Sunrise requesting information on the project’s cost, and whether developers would seek a tax break from the county or town Industrial Development Agency — had not been returned at press time.

Developers said the building would be similar to the ones in Lynbrook and East Meadow in size and scope. The first two floors would be dedicated to assisted living, while the third floor would be for memory care. Robert Aiello, an engineer on the project, said every aspect of the plan has been developed with the intention of being as residential as possible.

“There are a variety of different spaces that are created, particularly in the back of the building, which includes an outdoor garden and an area where there are outdoor activities for the residents,” he said. This area “includes shade structures, the ability for them to do gardening with mobile planting areas, and a number of benches and sidewalks throughout the site.”

The building will also include surrounding fences to provide privacy and a residential feel. Additionally, Sunrise plans to create roughly 120 full-time jobs spread over three shifts.

A condominium was once planned for the site, but it never came to fruition. In December 2017, the lot was sold for $2.6 million to a holding company for the Breslin Realty Development Corp., a prominent Long Island developer, but nothing was completed there.

The sale came amid an ongoing legal dispute between owner Gary Grossman and the Jacobson Development Group, which had a $350,000 stake in the mortgage for both the lot and Grossman’s Nursery, across the street. Grossman, of Long Beach, said in 2017 that the sale was part of a legal strategy in the ongoing case.

The lot, which had formerly housed Oceanside American Legion Post 1246, has long been a source of controversy in the neighborhood, according to previous Herald reporting. Complaints to the Town of Hempstead on issues such as outside storage of vehicles and building permit violations had piled up since at least 1989, until August 2016, when bulldozers were dispatched to the lot to remove the debris. The town had reportedly removed more than 400 tons of debris, including trees, old trucks, tractors and a dilapidated shed.

For the latest project, Sunrise has been active with the community, working closely with locals and the fire district to develop site plans. The company hosted several meetings to develop safety protocols and drew up plans to move a generator initially on the ground floor to the roof at the request of area residents.

Despite Sunrise’s community outreach, the project has been met with mixed reviews.

In an email to the Herald, Aaron Meyer said that while he was worried the developer may request a variance to build as high as four stories, he favored the project because he did not foresee a major impact on traffic, and because he thought it would be a good use of the property.

“On the whole, the project itself has a lot of merit,” he said. “While most housing discussions lately have focused on young professionals, the fact remains that Oceanside is like much of Long Island in that it could use more assisted living for senior citizens, like this one.”

Responding to a Herald Facebook inquiry, Harriett Bernstein Meisel also offered a favorable review, noting that she lives near the potential facility. “This is happening around the corner from me,” she wrote. “It’s better than the unkempt, empty lot that’s there now. We need more senior housing, but I hope it’s affordable.”

Many residents expressed concern over the height of the building and the potential tax impact such a development could have. Dan Caracciolo wrote that he believed affordable housing for young people was a higher priority.

“I think we need more rental housing to keep our 20-somethings from leaving our South Shore neighborhoods,” he wrote, “not more assisted living.”

Ilene Schuss also expressed concern. “Hopefully the developer has in mind what probably are high vacancy rates at senior living facilities due to Covid,” she wrote, “and the impact on other ones in the local area of having a new one go up. There is a need to assess the impact on traffic.”

The Town Board will meet again on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.