With Port resident and board member Paul Aloe dissenting, the Town of North Hempstead's Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted at its regular meeting on Nov. 4 to not reconsider its decision to permit a bagel shop to open on the corner of Port Washington Boulevard and Vanderventer Avenue. The Port Washington School District's most recent attempt to have this approval rescinded had been a letter to the BZA requesting that it rehear the application of the New World Coffee and Bagel Store in light of new evidence. The letter was drafted by the district's legal counsel and accompanied by an engineer's report of pedestrian and vehicular traffic at the proposed site (See 11/5/98 Port Washington News). Having failed in this attempt, the school district is proceeding with its Article 78 lawsuit against the BZA (See 10/22/98 Port Washington News).
The school district's previous attempts to reverse the BZA's approval of a conditional use permit for the bagel shop included a July 9 letter from the assistant superintendent for business before last summer's formal BZA hearing, staff attendance at the hearing, an Oct. 5 letter from the school board after the hearing, and a lawsuit against the BZA under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. The lawsuit accused the BZA of making an "arbitrary and capricious" decision, especially since it didn't review past - or require new - traffic studies of the area before voting on the application. The suit also accused the BZA of making "numerous errors of law."
The school district's primary objection to the proposed bagel shop is that it would exacerbate pedestrian and vehicular traffic volume and safety problems at the intersections of Port Washington Boulevard and Vanderventer Avenue, and Port Boulevard and Campus Drive. Because of its location (across from Weber Middle School and Campus Drive which leads to Schreiber High School) and its hours of operation (busiest at breakfast time during morning rush hour), the district further argues that these hazards would impact school children, as well as school personnel and parents.
The new evidence submitted by the school district is a traffic study conducted by Michael Maris Associates, Inc., a traffic consulting firm based in New Jersey. It reported the following traffic volume on the morning of Friday, Oct. 30, between 7:15 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.: 2,000 vehicles traveled along Port Washington Boulevard, 800 traveled Campus Drive, and 200 traveled along Vanderventer. It should be noted that a vehicle was counted each time it passed a counter; therefore, a parent dropping off a child at Schreiber would be counted entering and then exiting Campus Drive; that same car would also be counted as it passed along Port Boulevard both times. The Maris study also reported that 180 pedestrians crossed Port Boulevard during that hour. According to the report, police officers now direct traffic at these intersections during the morning rush instead of crossing guards because the guards were not able to control the heavy volume. At other times, when students might walk from campus to the bagel shop (even though only seniors are officially granted such permission), crossing guards and/or just traffic lights control traffic flow along the Boulevard.
In addition to problems created by volume, the Maris report predicted that the lack of sufficient parking spaces (9 instead of the recommended 17) would create traffic jams in the parking lot that would result in traffic obstruction on the two adjoining the roads.
According to the school district's Nov. 4 letter to the BZA, the following organizations would have also given expert testimony in support of the district's position if the BZA had agreed to rehear the case: the Port Washington Police District, the General Council of Homeowners Associations of Port Washington, and the Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington.
Even though a court action is pending, and a New York State (NYS) Supreme Court justice could some day strike down the BZA's approval, there are currently no legal restrictions to prevent the construction and opening of a New World Coffee and Bagel Store on the corner of Port Boulevard and Vanderventer Avenue. The attorney for the applicants, Bruce Migatz, said on Nov. 16 that his clients had not yet decided whether to proceed before the court decision. He said three parties must agree on what to do: the potential franchisee, Valerie Sargente; the property subleaser, William Scaglione (the owners are Donald and Alma Lehmann); and the franchiser, New World Coffee and Bagel Store. It may therefore take them a while longer to reach a decision.
Meanwhile, neither the school district nor the BZA plan further action until the justice issues a ruling, and no one associated with the case could predict how long it would take for the NYS Supreme Court to make a decision. Janet Insardi, attorney for the school district, said on Nov. 16 that she didn't know what to guess. Town Attorney Howard Miller, whose office acts as counsel for the BZA, likewise said that he assumed that the justice would not make a decision for months.