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Academy Gardens: No Longer A Choice

Tenants offered cash to vacate the building

The long-running plan for Kings Point Gate Association to tear down the rent-stabilized apartment complex at Academy Gardens at 794 Middle Neck Road in the Village of Great Neck and rebuild has now taken yet a new turn. The original plan’s height variance was turned down in 2007, but the concept resurfaced this past fall when yet another plan was put forward, one that needed no variances. And now, according to Fred Pollack, the pro bono attorney representing the working class families living at Academy Gardens, the residents are no longer being offered options, but are being told to accept a specific stipend and move out.


When residents were approached in 2007 and again in August and September of this year, Paul Bloom, attorney for the Kings Point Gate Association, told the Great Neck Record that that newest proposal is all “as of right.” And he

assured that the property owner would follow all state regulations applying to such relocation. “The residents are fully protected by law,” he stated. “They are very well-protected and will not be harmed in any way,” he added.


At that time, Bloom reiterated that all tenants would be offered a buy-out, or they may remain and be relocated by the property owner (as close as possible to their current residence), at the property owner’s expense, and then brought back to the new building, with their rent remaining the same as before the rebuilding.  “Their rent will not change no matter what,” he said.


Today, however, the plan has changed. Bloom supported statements by Pollack and Academy Gardens resident Julia Shields who have told the Record that now the property owner is attempting to buy-out all of the residents, offering them a stipend (based on a state regulated formula), plus $20,000 if they take the buy-out immediately.


Shields emphasized that though many Academy Gardens residents have lived there for many, many years, today other residents do not seem to want these working people in the community.  “They (the worker) have lived her a long time and have helped to make Great Neck,” Shields said.


In September, both Bloom and Pollack said that the residents would be offered three options: to relocate to a suitable building or to a suitable interim building, plus the owner would pay “reasonable moving expenses; or the residents would be relocated to suitable apartments in the area, and if the rent was higher, the property owner would pay a stipend to make up for the rent increase, for six years.; or the residents would move out and each be paid a stipend based on current rent and a formula. 


However, Bloom explained that since the property owner changed its building plans, bringing the building down one left to avoid having to seek a variance, they now do not have an “extra” 20 apartments and are only offering a buy-out. Bloom emphasized that all of this is in accordance with state law and that no tenants will be forced out immediately but will have at least six months or more to move. 


Bloom added that “unfortunately this makes financial and practical sense” and “is all regulated by state law.”


The next step is for Kings Point Gate Association to appear before the Old Village planning board on Nov. 21. However, Bloom stated that any decision affecting this case, as the subject is “not a subject t for the planning board to determine.”


Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman told the Record: “We feel terrible for these hard-working, long-term residents of our village. Unfortunately our hands are tied. We too must follow the law. I note that, had the village not elected, years ago, to provide for rent stabilization of certain apartments in our village, these residents would receive no compensation and have no rights.”


But now, Kings Point Gate Association are only offering residents a “small stipend,” plus $20,000 if they move out immediately.


Said Pollack: “The problem is … if they can’t come back and they have no place to go … where are those people going to find 29 apartments at that rent …”


Shields echoed, asking: “Where do we go?”


No one seems to have the answer to that question.