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Old Mill II Project Takes a Detour

Legal action has been taken by two Great Neck residents asking that the recent decision by the Village of Great Neck Board of Zoning and Appeals to grant variances to developer Frank Lalezarian to construct a private road into a landlocked parcel and build 11 homes be overturned by the New York State Supreme Court. Such an action is called an Article 78.


Plaintiffs Rachel Applebaum of Great Neck Estates and Rebecca Rosenblatt-Gilliar of the Village of Great Neck have been vocal opponents of the plan and the process throughout the lengthy consideration of the project that began in 2010. Applebaum, as a nearby neighbor, sees the plan as having a “direct harm to our neighborhood,” and Rosenblatt-Gilliar says, “There would be a great permanent harm to the peninsula if woodland watershed is defaced and erased.” The attorney for the developer, Paul Bloom, has stated publicly that most of the trees on the wooded, steep 3.104- acre parcel would be cut down.


The Record reviewed the filing document in the village hall. The suit lists six main objections to the final decision of the zoning board. First, the suit contends that title issues regarding lot 115 were given short shrift by the board. Second, the suit states that the board failed to address possible alternate means of access, rather than Clover Drive. The suit also charges that the BZA was “dismissive” of the New York State fire code and that requiring that all homes to be built on the private street have fully sprinklered interiors, is no substitute for good emergency access which sometimes involves multiple rigs.


The suit also calls any hardship to the developer, “self-imposed.” Another sharply worded argument states that the “detriment to the entire community and the effect on the wetlands was treated as irrelevant.” And finally, they charge that the board did not apply applicable laws, such as “undesirable change and adverse impact on the environment” to their reasoning on the matter.


Attachments to the suit contain various documents and letters that pertain to the application and are offered as exhibits to support the plaintiffs’ case. 


Although Great Neck Estates officials have remained publicly silent on the matter, saying they cannot comment until they receive an application from the developer, letters from their attorney, Thomas Levin, that are part of the public record, indicate grave concerns about the impact of such a project upon their residents who reside on Clover Drive.


Levin urged the zoning board to “defer action” on the application until Great Neck Estates had made a determination about allowing access for the purpose of building a private road. In another letter, he called any variances granted prior to a ruling by Great Neck Estates to be “useless and academic.”


The decision of the zoning board, a 33-page document states that since the “predominant portion” of the project is with the Old Village and since the applicant chose to apply first to the Village of Great Neck, the board was “obligated to accept and consider the application.” However, the decision also acknowledges that if the Estates does not allow the private street access from Clover Drive, their ruling would become “null and void.”


Regarding the issue of fire protection, a letter from Alert Fire Department Chief Raymond Plakstis dated Feb. 5, 2013, states, “New York State Fire Code, Appendix D103.4 specifies that a dead-end access road in excess of 150 feet, such as the cul-de-sac proposed, shall have a 96-foot-diameter turnaround. New York State Fire Code, Appendix D103.1 specifies the road should be 26 feet in width. The Old Mill II plan has an 82-foot-diameter turnaround and is 25 feet wide. These dimensions do not meet state requirements. Our fire truck is 8’8” wide. If residents park their SUV’s and cars on both sides of the access road, the road would have to be about 32 feet wide to allow a fire truck to pass through easily. The narrower the roadway, the slower the response of emergency and fire vehicles. If this is to be a private road, which I understand is the intent, the turnaround and the width will be obstructed by parked vehicles. On a private road, the Village of Great Neck will have no jurisdiction to erect no-parking signs or enforce a no-street-parking regulation.


“The road into the cul-de-sac is the only road, it is extremely long and narrow, and it has a dogleg that turns almost 90 degrees. This makes backing down that road difficult for fire vehicles. Emergency vehicles will have to vie for space on the road. We have fire rigs that are 35 feet long. Our aerial rig is 42 and a half feet long … New York State fire safety regulations are the minimum standard. We would like to have the turnaround be even greater than the 96 feet and the road wider than the 26 feet, because the better our access, the better we can do our job.”


In its decision, the BZA is requiring that load bearing pavers be installed around the circumference of the cul-de-sac, making it 7 feet wider in order to mitigate the issues involved the fire code. The decision also states that the Village of Great Neck would be granted the power to enforce the “no parking” requirement on the private street.


As a matter of policy, members of zoning boards do not comment on a case publicly once an Article 78 is filed.