Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 28 October 2011 00:00
The Winston Manor project is getting a facelift…again. The Mineola Village Board voted 4-1 to grant Polimeni International LLC the ability to change its 36 senior housing unit, The Churchill, from senior condominiums to senior affordable rentals.
The only dissenting vote came from Trustee Larry Werther. He said the size of the project is so miniscule compared to the Winston residential complex and said he felt it wasn’t hard for Polimeni to give a “personal guarantee” for amenity delivery.
“With a rental we cannot protect our residents here,” Werther said. “[The senior housing] would be open to any senior resident in Nassau County, plus it opens up the village to other elements. Based on my observations and being that we have already given substantial give backs to Polimeni, I voted no.”
Eligible senior housing residents had a chance to voice their opinion from the reserved decision last month. Only 26 people inquired about the change, with 21 being in favor of rental and five leaning toward condos.
Polimeni, after run-ins with Garden City for its 275-unit condominium complex, changed the main component to rentals to avoid subdivision approval. First reported in the Mineola American on Aug. 23, COO Michael Polimeni said he 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.
“We have run the risk of having Mr. Polimeni walking away for too long,” Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira said. “I’m not sure I want to play chicken with the amenities that this village is going to get and we’re looking out for not only the senior residents but all the residents of this village. I vote yes.”
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. He came back before the board last month, along with legal representation and various experts, attempting to get this project off the ground and into construction.
“Out of the seniors that come to me and voiced their opinion, 4 to 1 have said that they favor rentals as opposed to condominium,” Mayor Scott Strauss said.
The amenities package to the village includes the construction of a 236-space parking garage with 40 spaces designated to the village. Approximately $3 million will be contributed to village improvements and the installation of 2,300 linear feet of new streetscape improvements around the site.
“The three years that this has been going on during my tenure on this board, and the twists and turns this has taken, really could have been foreseen three years ago,” Pereira said. “When I think about where we are today, we can’t go back and when we thought of alternatives, whether it be no build alternative or as-of-right alternative, I certainly think this is much more appealing.”
The complex will consist of 28 one-bedroom and 8 two-bedroom units. A previous PowerPoint presentation by Polimeni stated that some of the benefits of renting are no need for equity down payment, moving flexibility and no issues relating to resale of a unit.
Former Mineola mayor and current Senator Jack Martins was on the board when the Winston Manor Project came to fruition in Mineola. He commended the board for its decision, given the current economic climate.
“During these tough economic times, it’s difficult to keep a project like the Winston moving forward,” he said. “The economy certainly adds different pressures than when it was originally proposed. The goal here was to provide affordable senior housing to senior residents in Mineola. That’s important and we should recognize that.”
The ongoing issues Polimeni had with Garden City until Polimeni officially changed the main piece from condominiums to rentals were deliberated in letters, board meetings, phone calls, voicemails and emails with a waning economy in its wake. According to Martins, it didn’t end there. Martins said there were previous discussions when he was mayor to change the senior housing component from condos, but the idea was ultimately shelved with the prospect of an upswing in the market and economy.
“The economy dictated the direction of this project,” he said. “The reality is, we have a commitment to our seniors. The board took a huge step by approving the change to the project.”