To mark its 29th year of, in Curt Trinko's words, "protecting the quality of living in Port Washington," Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington held its annual meeting at the Port Washington Library on Wednesday, December 3. Highlights of the evening were the granting of an environmental award to community activist Roberta Nixon and a presentation by acting Planning Commissioner Michael Levine on the Town of North Hempstead Planning Department's future agenda . New board members and officers were also introduced at this meeting, as was an outline of the civic group's myriad past and proposed future accomplishments.
Curt Trinko, current Resident vice president and officer for over 15 years, opened the meeting by affectionately apologizing that Mike Blumenfeld could not attend. The group's founder had to be out of town that night; the holiday season apparently prevented many other active members from coming also. The usually-packed meeting is usually held earlier in the fall. Nevertheless, over 30 people attended the information-packed program.
The first highlight of the meeting was the presentation of Residents' annual environmental award to Roberta Nixon by one of Residents' founding members, Eric Pick. First Eric described the award, which was a lithograph of Cow Neck Peninsula, drawn by now-deceased member, Jane Russell, who Residents memorialized with a tree planting. Eric then explained that Roberta was chosen primarily because of her successful efforts in mobilizing the community to make Harbor Road safe for children and residents. As a result of her leadership, the Nassau county legislature has agreed to realign the road and install proper drainage and sidewalks. She has likewise worked countless hours with the Town to get them to enforce code violations, and with Residents to develop a landscaping plan for the area. Roberta was also honored because of her other community service which includes serving as a director on the Littig House board and as past president of the Crescent Civic Association, singing in her church choir, and teaching Sunday school. Eric said, "You're the kind of people that make this town grow."
Introduction of New Board and Officer
Before the award presentation, Jennifer Rimmer, chair of Residents' nominating committee, announced that Rick Krainin would become a new vice president after serving several years on the board. Jennifer then introduced six new board members: Bob Klein - who testified against the incinerator at DEC hearings, actively fought for Town parking and safety restrictions, organized the Park Civic Association rejuvenation, and chaired the Port Washington General Council of Homeowners' Overdevelopment Committee. Bob Zimmerman - who has been active in the Beacon Hill Residents Association and local civic affairs. Dolores Kazanjian O'Brien - who is chair of Manorhaven's SOUL (Save Our Unspoiled Land), serves on the General Council's Overdevelopment Committee, and is active in her church. Harriet Englander who supports the Nature Conservancy of Block Island and Long Island and has chaired committees for Planting Fields Beethoven weekend. Bob Pacht - who has recently moved to Port and exhibited a strong interest in environmental affairs. Roger Keren - who is a former Residents' intern, now studying for his master's degree in urban planning.
Michael Levine Presentation
The second highlight was a presentation by acting Planning Commissioner for the Town of North Hempstead, Michael Levine, who explained the function of the Planning Department, some of its recent work on behalf of Port Washington, and some of its future plans. Mr. Levine had been the Deputy Planning Commissioner since 1992 before replacing Alma Hyman in July when she retired. Prior to that, he worked in the private sector as a consulting engineer on several important Long Island development projects. He received his civil engineering degree from Hofstra University in 1988 and now lives in Babylon with his wife.
Mr. Levine explained that the four basic functions of the planning commission are to oversee: 1. Land use and zoning regulations. This includes updating and administering all Town codes related to development. The Planning Department provides all administrative staff for the Board of Zoning and Appeals, whose members are residents appointed by the Town. 2. Economic development of the Town. This includes efforts to retain businesses in the community. 3. Environmental protection. This includes reviewing all enviromental impact statements (EIS) and analyzing the enviromental impact of any proposed development. 4. Historic preservation. This includes working with three advisory groups.
To show how the Planning Department's work has affected Port Washington, Mr. Levine showed an aerial view of the area. He focused on the department's role in developing the Morewood property, first by proposing and reviewing alternate plans, then by administering the implementation of the approved plan. Mr. Levine explained that his department had a four-point mission: 1. To retire debt service on the property, 2. To generate revenue from the area, 3. To find a use for the land that would satisfy community needs, and 4. To make sure any proposed use doesn't have an adverse impact on the Town's water supply, traffic or sewer capacity.
Mr. Levine defended the final, Town-approved plan for fullfilling all four goals. The golf courses will provide revenue that will help retire the debt and provide recreation for the community with a minimum impact on the environment. Even though 460 acres of Morewood were previously zoned AAA and therefore eligible to provide housing for 3600 people, the planning department recommended clustering senior housing for only 1300 people on only 40 acres. This plan therefore provided senior citizen housing requested by the community, preserved most of the acres for open space, and brought in money from the developer - without burdening the school system at all and without burdening the water and sewer systems as much as AAA housing could have. Because none of the proposed stores will have street footage, they should only appeal to Morewood residents and thus not compete with Town businesses.
Levine also discussed plans for a harbor trail that would connect Bar Beach to Roslyn Village, a $100,000 matching grant from NY State to beautify the Town Dock, the just-completed dredging of Leeds Pond, and his desire to prevent overdevlopment of the peninsula.
Nancy Wright, former president of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, raised one of many audience questions. She wanted to know how the Town plans to control the extra traffic that will be generated by the Morewood projects after they're completed. Mr. Levine responded that the Town didn't foresee any congestion problems but that possible solutions include widening the road and getting employees to car pool. He said he realized that the former would be unacceptable to local residents, however.
Bob Klein asked if the Town planned to institute new floor ratio regulations for the Town's zoning code. Levine said that the town hoped to have proposals soon so that the Town Board could vote on a revised code in January. He said the emphasis would be on eliminating overcrowding in zones A and B. Bob Klein then asked Levine to also examine Residence C regulations.
Eric Pick expressed concern for all the deserted businesses on Main Street. Levine said that he advocated neighborhood based zoning as a way to rebuild neighborhood centers. He pointed out that Port has the advantage of being on a peninsula, which makes it more difficult for people to leave the area to take their business elsewhere. He recommended that Port residents become more tolerant of "taxpayer zoning," which has retail businesses on the first floor and residential apartments above, because this arrangement usually keeps the customer base local.
Another resident asked if Port residents would be given any preferential treatment on the golf courses. Levine replied that Port residents just wouldn't have to pay a user fee; otherwise no preferential treatment would be given.
Residents Past Accomplishments and Future Goals/Projects
Curt Trinko outlined the past accomplishments of Residents, as well as its future plans, at the beginning of the meeting. Having succeeded in their fight to close the incinerator, the Residents primary focus for the past few years has been the development of the Morewood property in the former sandpits. Because of Residents' efforts, the golf course that was first suggested by Residents 20 years ago, will open in 1998. "Although it won't be the Central Park we had hoped for," Curt reported that many recreational facilities - including hiking trails, playing fields, and a driving range - have also been promised as a result of Residents' constant pressure on the Town. The challenge ahead will be to monitor the proposed senior housing at Morewood to make sure its need for roads, water, sewer, refuse disposal, fire and police protection doesn't negatively impact Port's infrastructure and/or its taxpayers.
In the past few years Residents have also: Led the fight to prevent McDonald's from opening a restaurant at the busy intersection of Main Street and Port Washington Boulevard. Landscaped the post office, railroad station, Community Chest building and many other locations around town. Arranged for the planting of hundreds of trees on Port Boulevard, Main Street, and the school grounds. Worked with LILCO to remove unsightly utility poles on Port Boulevard from Campus Drive to Main Street, and on Shore Road and Webster Avenue. Worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Town to remove 93 rotting barges from Hempstead Harbor.
Ongoing projects for Residents continue to be: The maintenance of
Stannards Brook Park, Baxter Pond Park and Main Street Park. The monitoring of the federal Superfund Cleanup at the L-4 landfill in the former sandpits. The awarding of grants to local schools to finance educational projects that foster environmental awareness.
Future projects planned by Residents include: Working with the Town on the $250,000 beautification plan, also mentioned by Levine, of the Town Dock with a $100,000 matching grant from NY State for landscaping, a shaded pavilion, and a shoreline walkway extending from the Town Dock into Manorhaven. Helping the Town develop a 1.75 mile harbor shoreline trail that extends from Bar Beach to Flower Hill. Beautifying the LIRR train station by landscaping the South Bayles side of the station grounds and by working with LIRR officials to renovate the station house in time for the Port station's 100th anniversary June 1998.
After listening to this long list of past accomplishments and future goals, no one appeared surprised when Curt reminded the audience that Residents had been honored with the EPA's prestigious Environmental Quality Award, which was presented by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., at a ceremony in New York City last April. In keeping with Residents' philosophy that Port Washington can always be improved more, however, the meeting closed with Curt's announcement that he would remain after the meeting to hear any new ideas and suggestions. The purpose of Residents, he reiterated, "is to improve the quality of living in Port Washington."