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Public Argues YES, NO for Waterfront Development

Apparently, much of the comment at the Sept. 20 Planning Board hearing in Glen Cove City Hall may have been moot, because it was beyond the purview of the Planning Board. (It was explained that the board was only there to review RXR Glen Isle’s plan and make sure that negative environmental impacts were “mitigated.”) However, if economic and social concerns were outside the scope of the hearing, the collective feedback from community members showed how divided Glen Cove still is on the development. Many present communicated that the merit of the overall project has yet to be proven or that the project does not fit in their community. Many others are tired of the 10-year argument and just want things to get rolling.

Quite a few people spoke out in favor of development, which is now a “flexible” 56-acre plan that includes 860 dwellings with 86 Workforce housing units, a 250-suite luxury hotel and associated spa/conference center, a 50,000 square foot office building, 25,000 square feet of space for retail, cultural and restaurant uses. The “flexibility” includes allowing 65 percent rental units, to be built alone as the first phase of construction. The total number of residences is also flexible. Glen Cove can end up with more units if the developers chose to reduce something else on the site. The ultimate height of buildings also still appears to read as a flexible item in the plan.  

‘Just Do It Already’

Fans of the project are not bothered by the rentals or the scale of the project. Phyllis Gorham, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce said, “Please say yes to this development.” She asserted that utilizing the waterfront would create jobs and more residents would create tax relief. It would also bring more sales of products and services locally.

Mario Capobianco echoed the idea that development would lower the tax burden. He also pointed out that the controversial rise in the number of rentals was a good thing, because “it allows for the younger workforce to remain in Glen Cove.”

Indeed many arguing for the project were speaking on behalf of younger or older people who represent a growing slice of Nassau’s population – those who need rentals.

A young man who came from Greenvale said that his generation wants the same opportunities that his parents had, including “the opportunity to live on the water.”

Laura Stillwagon, a third-generation Glen Cover, who worked for RXR Glen Isle, said, “My generation is stuck living with our parents.”

Karen Galloway, a 26-year-old living in Glen Cove, said, “There isn’t anywhere to live here for people my age. I need to be able to rent here… if you don’t have affordable housing options for young people, they are going to go somewhere else… eventually we’ll buy, but please let us stay.”

Glenn Howard spoke to those who are against more rentals in Glen Cove, saying, “Fifty percent of people in Glen Cove rent. [Telling them] they don’t need to be here… is the stupidest thing I have ever heard... You have to embrace change or things will go downhill.”

Donald Brown said that to “stigmatize renters and rentals is wrongheaded. In today’s times, it needs to be considered a viable alternative to buying a home.”

At the Hearing, Not Hearing It

Those who spoke in favor of the development were met with equally passionate opponents. Charles Bozzello drew loud applause when he pointed out that the “project started a number of years ago when residential development was desirable… we have long passed that era… you are living five years in the past.”

Bozzello said that for centuries, the area found a tax base in commercial and industrial sites that “kept taxes ok for the middle class.” He said that the idea of putting in more residences without a balance of industry shows that “the project has no economic justification.” And further, “rentals are out of character with the historic nature of the community.” He requested “one more revision to the project: we’d like it to stop.”

Karen Caposagio of the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor said that the size and density of the project were “unprecedented… creating an urban landscape on the waterfront… overwhelming all other development in Glen Cove and neighboring communities around Hempstead Harbor.” She pointed out something that many detractors take issue with, saying the plan for the waterfront is a moving target, with different heights and numbers of units.

“Which proposal [will be] built? The 860-unit proposal [or more units]? …What can Glen Cove and the surrounding communities expect the waterfront to look like in 10 years?” she asked.   

Carol Kenary, president of the Landing Pride Civic Association, said her organization’s comments about the environmental impact of the project were refuted with “dismissive comments” in the final EIS document. She was told to resubmit them.

Kenary went on to bring up one major point raised by detractors – a $16.9 million ferry project that the City of Glen Cove is undertaking that is meant to go hand in hand with what RXR Glen Isle develops at the waterfront. She brought up a ferry plan just north of here in the Hudson Valley’s Haverstraw area. She said development there was similar to what Glen Cove is considering and when the project did not find its footing, “the ferry shut down.” (According to the MTA, riders can take a ferry across the Hudson River to Ossining, but there is no service to New York City.) She asked, “Where has [a commuter ferry] been successful before? I can’t find a precedent for this.”   

A gentlemen asked along these lines, “How is it possible you can talk about a ferry without a study of ridership… [the city could] end up with no riders? …You are talking about spending some serious money. This is going to impact the city for 50 years.”

Pat Tracy echoed this concern, asking if the city was planning “a ferry to nowhere.” She called the project a “flawed premise” and showed “the failure of the city to do the minimum amount of research.” She claimed that  “very few people in Glen Cove work in New York,” and “no one is going to pay more than three times [what it costs to take] the bus.”

The Planning Board told the crowd that the ferry is not an RXR Glen Isle project and not part of the Planning Board hearing. Matthew Frank of RXR Glen Isle did say that he thinks the renters attracted to the rental units they build will use the ferry. He said they are expecting people who earn “$75,000 to $110,000,” such as “architects, engineers, associates in law firms.”

Paul Meli, candidate for mayor of the City of Glen Cove, took issue both with the idea that the ferry has nothing to do with Glen Isle and that Mr. Frank had enough information to tell people that the ferry was a promising endeavor.

“Matt Frank is not qualified,” he said, to promise that the ferry will be a success. “We need more than his opinion.”

Meli told the Planning Board, “In June… economic analysis by the developer said repeatedly that the ferry is critical to the success of their project. How can [the developers] now say [they] have nothing to do with it? Is their project going to support our ferry?”

He continued along these lines: “If the project can’t support the ferry terminal, if they can’t prove it, they should scrap the project… or [it has been proposed] that the developer would be the default operator [if the city can’t find a ferry to run out of Glen Cove]. Let’s sell them our terminal for $16.9 million.” He told the Planning Board to “call upon the developer to do due diligence on how their project and our project are going to succeed.”

Meli asked the Planning Board to “consider going back to the drawing board,” because the overall project is a “moving target.” He said that the proposal is “not what it was a month ago, or a year ago, or 4 years ago. When are the people of Glen Cove going to know what the developer is really proposing?” He told the board that the proposal now is “so drastically different, you have to go back to the drawing board with the whole thing.”