Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 26 August 2011 00:00
The saga that is the Winston Manor residential complex project has laid dormant for quite some time, since Mineola’s village board approved the project being changed from a 285-unit condominium facility to a 275-unit rental project. However, a component to that project was highly discussed among the senior community of Mineola and was positively endorsed by many local groups and residents: the senior housing component.
In the agreement, Polimeni International LLC. would build a 36-unit senior condominium complex, “The Churchill” coupled with “The Winston” project. The board decided at a meeting on July 14, 2010 that the senior housing component will remain a condo and will sell at the current market value when the complex is open.
As of the market today, senior housing condo units were estimated from Mineola’s median income by the Long Island Housing Authority, but are unknown at this time, according to Polimeni representatives.
According to Trustee Larry Werther, he received an email from a village official stating that Polimeni representatives wanted to set up a meeting with the trustees to discuss changing the agreement from senior condos to senior rentals, on a less than quorum basis. Under state law, when any group wants to meet and discuss an issue that would affect a village with at least three village representatives present, it has to notify the public.
“I would’ve preferred that this be brought up in a public forum after making a formal request to the board,” Werther said in a phone interview. “I don’t understand why [Polimeni], if he already got a deal for a condo complex, that he can’t build that. If he feels in his heart that he has to rent something for seniors because it’s in their best interest, why can’t he say ‘Okay, let’s do the condo like I promised, like I gave my word I would, like I committed to and not just take a portion of the Winston and rent that to seniors at a preferential rate.’”
Village officials stated no meetings have taken place and none would take place until a public venue could be utilized. Mayor Scott Strauss said Polimeni is struggling to get financial backing for senior condominiums. Furthermore, Strauss was puzzled with the prior village administration requiring condos.
“I don’t really know, but my thing is it’s up to the seniors,” he said. “If the seniors want to have condominiums, then they should get condominiums, if they want rentals, they should get rentals.
“I look at it this way, if I was a senior citizen and I wanted a condo, I’d go with a condo. But if I wanted a rental to be able to relax and not have to worry about maintaining it, I could come and go as I please and not worry about selling the condo if I want to and risk selling at a loss,” Strauss said.
He concluded that a public hearing would ensue if Polimeni changes the senior housing plan. In terms of a “secret meeting” occurring, Strauss said that would never happen and doesn’t understand how this could all be secret if Polimeni is “meeting with public senior groups about rental opportunities.”
“I want everyone to know what’s going on,” he said. “There’s no back room deal going on here. We will make a decision on this at a public hearing if the senior housing component changes.”
Since Polimeni will build the 275-unit Winston Manor as rental apartments, he no longer needs subdivision approval from Garden City, which stalled the development of the project. The current configuration of the rental project is 165 one-bedroom apartments and 110 two-bedroom apartments. The configuration of The Churchill is unknown.
“[Polimeni] is meeting on his own with the senior groups,” village attorney John Spellman said. “It’s hard to have a backroom deal with the public groups meeting with them.”
According to Polimeni International COO Michael Polimeni, representatives have already met with local public senior groups. Polimeni said they recently met with the AARP chapter of Mineola and has previously met with the Mineola Leisure Club and Mineola Golden Age Club.
“Rentals at this time are a possibility,” Polimeni said. “The groups we’ve met with have reacted positively to possible rentals.” He stated further that Polimeni representatives would come before the board sometime in September to showcase the new rental plan.
Polimeni reached out to financial institutions for demographic analysis and backing, and affordable senior condos were not “moving at the time.” The senior community, according to Polimeni, is looking at rentals as “a much cleaner vehicle” to move into for their golden years.
Polimeni had three options, to keep the condos and give the “go ahead,” when possible, with risk of economic downturn, to convert to rentals or to wait until the market turns.
“We could just hold off or take it to rental now, or a third option could be to unhinge the certificate of occupancies and build them as condos when the condominium financing market comes back,” Polimeni said.