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Winston Developers Present Rental Configuration

Board Approval Date Rests on Amenity Triggers

Representatives from Polimeni International LLC presented its plan to convert the planned condominium to apartment complex on the corner of Willis Avenue and Old Country Road last Wednesday. A public hearing was originally scheduled for July 14. It was postponed to give the developers time to prepare because of the changes that have been made to the project.

Some notable changes are the reduction in story height, from nine to seven stories as well as a subtraction of 10 units, from 285 to 275. Mineola’s Board of Trustees did not vote on whether to grant Polimeni group the conversion.

The board agreed to review the amenity triggers that go along with the construction of the site. Peter Mineo, legal council to Polimeni, said none of the amenities have changed.

“We intend to [work with] the village in discussing the amenity triggers,” Mineo said. “That’s part of the process. That kind of discussion will undoubtedly happen.”

Mayor Jack Martins said that the board will iron out the kinks for the triggers of the amenities. “Will the village ask for the monetary contributions up front, or wait until the project is completed or somewhere in the middle,” said Martins. Martins also said that he has great faith in Polimeni in that they’ve been upstanding and to the point on the development of the land to be used. He stated further that the village will not ask for the money upfront.

One of the issues of paramount concern addressed by two board members was the senior housing component. The senior housing component will remain as a condo and will sell at the current market value when the complex is open, according to village officials. As of the market two years ago, senior housing units were estimated at $200,000. With the main complex changing to rentals, that number will most likely decrease.

In terms of the cost and size of the rentals, Mill Creek Residential representative Maria Rigopoulos, also of Trammel Crow Residential, presented the board with the new density of the project. Rigopoulos is involved in many projects on Long Island, including the Alexan, a new apartment complex that is to be erected in West Hempstead some time in the winter.

According to Rigopoulos, the new configuration of the Winston consists of 165 one-bedroom apartments and 110 two-bedroom apartments. She said that there were some changes made to the building to accommodate its operation as a rental apartment.

“It was originally a U-shaped building,” she said. “What we’ve done is create two landscaped courtyards. It maintains the reported setbacks and the like.”

Rigopoulos stated that the rentals would range from $2,150 to $2,850. In terms of breaking ground, Vincent Polimeni said the parking garage must be the first thing to be completed.

“That has to happen first,” he said. “The reason being that I’m using the land now to park cars and it’ll probably be about a year after the garage is built.”

On July 2, 2008, the village board granted the Polimeni group a special use permit for the premises located at the corner of Willis Avenue and Old Country Road in Mineola to be developed into a condominium complex. Originally, Polimeni wanted the Winston project to function as owned condominiums.

However, in order to build a condominium on that plot of land, it would need subdivision approval from a neighboring municipality. Under Nassau County Charter 1610, any municipality within 300 feet of the subject premises has subdivision authority and the authority to pass on the application as a subdivision.

In this case, the neighboring municipality is the Village of Garden City. The Charter states that its purpose is to, “set forth to promote coordinated and sufficient and sustainable development of the county.”

Polimeni obtained final subdivision approval on Jan. 26, 2009 from Mineola and preliminary subdivision map approval from the Nassau County Planning Commission (NCPC) on Oct. 15, 2009. There were a number of hearings held in 2009, which both representatives from Polimeni and the Village of Garden City attended. These meetings were in regard to the scope of the project in terms of size, density and capacity.

The matter was referred to the NCPC under general municipal law. The Planning Commission indicated the support to the application because it met the goals of the Mineola Comprehensive Master Plan and Development Incentive Overlay District and provided substantial amenities. Some of those amenities included but are not limited to 36 senior affordable housing units, monetary contributions to Mineola to be used for public purposes as well as streetscape improvements.

Planners came in from adjoining villages to give comment, all of which the Village of Mineola heard. The board made the determination as lead agent in the project since it will be located in Mineola, to refer the matter to the planning board and agreed to subdivide and grant Polimeni the permit to build condominiums. The application went back to the NCPC for subdivision approval and was granted.

Beginning with a March 4 subdivision application to the Village of Garden City, Polimeni representatives stated that it conducted all the necessary environmental reviews and that they were complete. Mineo said Garden City already knew of this and that Mineola resolved all the zoning issues as the lead agent in the project.

The subdivision application that was submitted to Garden City stated the nature of the project, including the raw numbers in terms of units, parking accommodations, and possible configurations of individual dwellings. According to the application, there would have been 35 one-bedroom units, 37 one-bedroom units with a den, 169 two-bedroom units and 44 two-bedroom units with a den. The units would’ve ranged from 835 square feet to 1,900 square feet. The building will also feature a concierge, fitness center and spa, penthouse and a “green” roof area and classic European architecture as well as an Internet cafe.

Mineo said that within a week of submitting the application to Garden City, his office received a letter from Garden City Superintendent of Buildings Michael Filippon stating that the applicant [Polimeni] was to submit a $20,000 deposit to, “cover the costs of any expenses incurred by the Garden City Planning Commission (GCPC) in conducting a review of the application.” The letter also stated that any monies not used would be refunded and in the event that the funds prove, “to be inadequate to complete the process, we will require that [Polimeni] replenish those fund accordingly.”

Mineo’s office responded by rejecting the request. He stated there were no expense categories listed and that no extension of the Garden City code cited that it had authority to review the environmental review in any way other than as a subdivision request.

According to letters exclusively obtained by the Mineola American, Garden City Village Attorney Gerard Fischberg stated that under Chapter 38 of the village code, “it is appropriate for the Village to require a deposit of $20,000 for the review of the Winston subdivision plans. We also believe that while Garden City was included by Mineola as an involved agency in a coordinated SEQRA review, no such coordinated SEQRA review was undertaken for the subdivision application.”

The SEQRA process had already been completed by Polimeni with the required lead agent in Mineola. The GCPC is limited in this respect, so it baffled Polimeni as to why the fee is so high. Mineo said common sense dictates that zoning stops at Garden City’s boundaries.

According to Mineo and said documents, during a meeting in April, Vincent Polimeni advised the Village of Garden City that if, “the Planning Commission persisted in its position of considering the project as a de novo application, he would have no choice but to construct an apartment building instead of a condominium.”

Now that Polimeni wants to build Winston Manor as rental apartments, he no longer needs subdivision approval from Garden City.

Polimeni has said in the past that he feels the property might serve the community better as a rental because of the current economic climate. In another letter dated June 8, Fischberg said while Polimeni has the right to determine the form of ownership of its project, “it would appear that the longstanding designation of this project as a condominium has now been changed to a rental so as to avoid the concurrent subdivision jurisdiction of my client, the Village of Garden City.”

Fischberg stated toward the end of the letter that should Mineola approve the change to a rental, that any attempt to change the building to a condominium once it’s built, “will be met with the closest scrutiny by Garden City, should it appear that the developer’s course of action was undertaken as subterfuge of the concurrent subdivision approval jurisdiction of the Village of Garden City.”