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Development Idea for Vacant Lot on Steamboat Road Presented

Developer Hooshang Nemat pitched a conceptual plan for developing the vacant sloping lot on the corner of Steamboat Road and Cornelia Avenue to the Village of Great Neck’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The lot, where Evins Exterminating Company once stood, has for many residents been an eyesore to the neighborhood, strewn with litter and broken bottles, and a seedy hangout for nefarious activities.

Mr. Nemat’s plan, designed by architect Parish Merriweather, would require a change in zoning to allow for 10 attached and detached townhouses with  underground garage space. Numerous variances would be needed as well to allow for the lack of setback and side yard requirements. Mr. Nemat, who has an option to purchase the lot if the plans are viewed favorably by the village boards and neighbors, envisions a “small, gated development for ownership, perhaps for people 55 and up.”

He made it clear that he was open for suggestions that would make the project palatable to the neighbors, but he also indicated that the size of the project made it more economically feasible to develop. The single-family homes would be small, more feasible for “empty nesters,” between 1600 and 1800 square feet, not including cellar space. Currently, Mr. Nemat  estimates the cost for units to be between $500,000 and $600,000.

The project is designed to take advantage of the topography of the lot which slopes rather dramatically downward from Steamboat Road. The lot is 106 feet wide and 100 feet deep except for a small portion on the northeast side that extends further by 28 feet.

There would be a pedestrian walkway from the center on Steamboat Road that would end in a plaza with a fountain. The townhouses, facing inward, would be on either side, but would be placed in a staggered fashion to give variation to the design. Access to the garage would be from Cornelia. Mr. Merriweather had also done a shadow study so that immediate neighbors could have a clear understanding of whether sunlight patterns would be affected.

Overall, there was a positive reaction to the project from the neighbors. Certainly, there is agreement that the area in general needs to be upgraded and that the lot in its present condition is a blight to the community. The major concern voiced was whether the facade that would be visible from Steamboat and Cornelia would have design details that would make the development attractive and in the words of one neighbor, “not to turn its back on the neighborhood.” Mr. Nemat said that he understood the concern and indicated that elevations could be prepared for the next meeting which would show the design elements that would face Steamboat and Cornelia.

Board member Steve Markowitz pointed out that in two cases heard by the board earlier in the evening, older people were asking for extensions to their homes so that a master bedroom could be placed on the main floor. He wondered if the over 55 set would want two-story residences. Mr. Nemat responded that it might well be feasible to install small lifts in the units.

The board voted itself lead agency for the environmental review. Further, zoning board member, Tedi Kashi, recused himself from the proceedings on the case as Mr. Nemat is his father-in-law and they are in business together.

The village board of trustees will be the entity to grant or deny the change in zoning. According to Steve Limmer, the village attorney, the applicant must show evidence to the board of trustees that the property can not be used as zoned. If approved by the board of trustees, then the action would revert back to the zoning board to deal with the variances needed.