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Lalezarian’s Clover Drive Proposal

The Village of Great Neck’s Board of Zoning Appeals approved a comprehensive and detailed study of the environmental impacts of the proposed project to create a 12-house development on a land-locked parcel of 3.2 acres between Clover Drive and Old Mill Road spanning two villages. This case will be closely watched by disparate parties... from Great Neck Estates neighbors who claim that Frank Lalezarian does not have clear title to all the lots that comprise the parcel to a union that charges that the developer has a “disturbing track record of negligence and dangerous construction” practices.

Mr. Lalezarian will direct his team of consultants to study and plan to mitigate potential problems in the areas of storm-water runoff, erosion, traffic, habitat destruction, noise and character changes to the neighborhood. The requirements for study are detailed and specific. Attorney for the applicant Paul Bloom said to the board, “Your scope is focused in the direction of a handful of items...but it is intensive to the point of being oppressive and deliberately counterproductive...This process has become a Christmas tree with everybody wanting to put an ornament on it. Why? The goal is for the tree to fall...not all comments are motivated by true environmental concerns but to delay and defeat this project for selfish purposes.... There are three minor variances. This is not the Empire State building being built in somebody’s backyard...The engineering being required of us is overkill.” Steve Limmer, counsel for the board, clarified that the applicant is not being required to actually design the houses at this stage for purposes of identifying “visual impact” which was one of Mr. Bloom’s concerns.

As promised at last month’s zoning board meeting, the public was allowed to speak on the the areas to be studied. Water patterns and flooding were major topics of concern from residents. Questions were raised about whether water retention onsite would alter the flow of water into Udall’s Pond or whether the project would contribute to the flooding on Middle Neck Road.

Later in the evening Mr. Bloom countered that the applicant who owns the Versailles apartment building across from Temple Beth-El is cooperating with Nassau County’s Department of Public Works that is involved in a special project to address the flooding by giving them another easement. The parking lot at the building will be dug up to install another pipe to handle the flow of water in intense storms. He said, “We are not causing the water problems...we are victims of it.”

Rachael Applebaum pointed out that any traffic studies would need to be current due to the fact that Young Israel now offers a pre-school program which has caused traffic back-ups on Clover Drive stacked up onto Middle Neck Road. Jonathan Applebaum expressed concern about the safety of the proposed 18’ retaining walls to be constructed and asked that his concerns in that regard be addressed. Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar asked the board to consider the application as if “it were in your backyard....it is in all of our backyards....it is a gift of open space.”

Various boards and agencies comment in writing for a scoping determination. The Planning Board of the Village of Great Neck had suggested that the zoning board consider whether to require the developer to create a pocket park on the property in lieu of contributing money to a park fund. That suggestion will be considered; however, Jean Pierce got a collective laugh when she said, “We’d rather have the money.”

Two other issues were raised at the meeting although they do not fall within the scoping process. Lawrence Farkas representing the Spielman family on Clover Drive asked the board why they were spending time and money considering the application when there was a challenge to ownership of all the tax lots comprising the parcel. He said, “The burden of proof of ownership should switch to Mr. Lalezarian.” The lots in question are lot 95 and 115. Mr. Limmer stated that the title report furnished by Mr. Farkas from Stewart Title Insurance regarding lot 95 was not conclusive and Mr. Grossman said that the zoning board was not the proper venue to make a determination on a matter to be handled by litigation. Mr. Farkas concluded, “I think whether the applicant has standing is relevant to your considerations.” The scoping document does require, however, that an alternative access to the parcel be devised.

James McAward, a member of the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union Local 46 read a letter in which he enumerated a list of charges including building violations and $100,000 penalties against the developer in New York City since 2008. He said that the violations were of a serious nature including “multiple crane malfunctions, fire hazards, dangerous street and sidewalk conditions and numerous cases of improperly supervised workers operating dangerous equipment without required safety licenses.” The board listened to the charges without comment.

When Mr. Lalezarian’s team has completed the various studies, referred to as a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), they will return to the zoning board for a public hearing on the matter; the content of the explorations will be reviewed by the board, its planning and engineering consultants and the public.

(Editor’s note: For more information, see Flood Mitigation on Middle Neck Road, Great Neck Record, June 18, 2010 online at antonnews.com.)