In a decision made with little opposition, the Massapequa Park Village Board unanimously passed a law which clears the way for potential developers to build Golden Age housing on any plot of land in Massapequa Park that meets the Village's requirements. The vote was taken following a Sept. 11 public hearing of mostly supportive residents with a smattering of concerns.
The new law creates a Golden Age housing zone for property not exceeding 2.5 acres in the Village. Housing in the district would be reserved for individuals or couples with at least one partner 62 years of age or older. Residents of the Village would have first pick at buying housing units in the senior district. Second priority would go to residents of Massapequa Union Free School District 23 and third priority to Town of Oyster Bay residents.
The purpose of the Golden Age housing would be to provide affordable housing for seniors who are no longer able or willing to own private homes but want to remain in their community.
The majority of residents in attendance at the public hearing seemed to support the creation of the zone.
"We're in dire need of senior housing in the Park," said one resident at the public hearing.
Although the zoning law pertains to all of Massapequa Park, Mayor George Nussbaum admits that the undeveloped property on Whitewood Drive and Merrick Road is the only location that is apparently appropriate for a Golden Age district. Part of the property is owned by the Nicholson family, owners of the Massapequa Funeral Home on Park Blvd., who has expressed an interest in opening up a funeral home on north corner property. Developers have already been eyeing the remaining property for Golden Age housing. Any such proposal which the board would consider would be addressed in a separate public hearing.
Mayor George Nussbaum said it was important to set up a Golden Age zone in response to the many people who want an alternative to maintaining houses that over-exceed their needs.
Fern Karhu, of Senior Housing Consultants, was thrilled to see the law passed. She and her partner Bart Cafarella formed the not-for-profit organization, Senior Housing Consultants, about three years ago when their parents, like many seniors, found themselves overwhelmed with the responsibilities of home ownership.
"My father passed away . . . and the house became too much for [my mother] to handle," said Cafarella. "Maintainance got out of hand. She couldn't keep up with the chores of the house so she decided she wanted to move. She wanted to go into a senior community and low and behold, Massapequa Park doesn't have any."
Cafarella's mother moved out of the village, however, he and Karhu continue to work toward seeing that more senior housing is created for residents. Along with conducting seminars and distributing newsletters on the subject, they get their message out to the community and local governments with a radio show called "Seniors on the Move" on WGBB 1240 AM, every Tuesday at 6 p.m. Senior Housing Consultants also provides at hotline at (516) 921-2870 ext. 242.
"We have about 500 seniors on our mailing list in the Massapequa area who have no alternative but to pray that this board was going to pass senior housing for them so they can remain in the community," said Karhu.
Meanwhile, James Altadonna, a spokesperson for the Bar Harbour Civic Association whose concern centers around the neighboring Whitewood property, said the association had a few issues it thought should be addressed. The availability of parking was one main issue raised. Altadonna said the concern is that if there isn't enough parking for residents' visitors within the housing complex, parking can become more of a problem, in what he described as an already congested area. Other concerns included whether or not the units would have a sprinkler system, the width of the staircases and the possibility that a senior district might be built next to the funeral home the Nicholsons are hoping to construct.
"We think it's in poor taste that a funeral home is going to be erected next to Golden Age and as you can see from the audience tonight they agreed," said Altadonna in reference to the applause he received for making that point at the public hearing. He also said that any concerns expressed by the association should not be misconstrued as "stall tactics" and the association will welcome residents from any Golden Age housing that might be built on Whitewood.
Nussbaum, however, noted that issues concerning design of the housing, parking and the appropriateness of the location would not be dealt with until a developer presented an eligible proposal. At that time a public hearing would be set up.
Still, many are hopeful that it won't be long before Massapequa Park has a Golden Age housing district.
"What the board did here tonight was the very first step toward allowing seniors to stay in their home town," said Cafarella.