Once a bustling industrial site, the 11-acre property at the tip of Manhasset Isle in Manorhaven usually referred to as "Thypin Steel" is now home only to a variety of birds and wild plants. When current plans are approved and implemented, a 96-unit gated, cluster housing development will be built on the site.
It was at this location that the first transatlantic airline flight originated. On May 20, 1939, the Pan American "Yankee Clipper," a Boeing B-314, departed from this spot, destined for Portugal and France. Later Republic Aviation and Thypin Steel occupied the site, which has been vacant for over a decade.
The project is nearing the end of the approval process. Island Estates Management, which is in contract with Thypin to purchase the property, is currently modifying the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) to incorporate suggestions from the village. According to Len Axinn, partner, there is only one "slight disagreement" with the proposed changes, and they hope to iron that out shortly. The developer is simultaneously preparing final, detailed site plans. The Manorhaven Board of Trustees must review and approve both documents. (The village code was changed a few months ago to move site plan approval power for this particular development from the village planning board to the board of trustees.) According to Axinn, the documents also need approval from Nassau County.
The proposal for development of cluster housing on this site began in the early nineties, and was delayed largely because of community residents' concerns about traffic, water and sewage, as well as overdevelopment. A number of residents wanted a part of the property set aside as a park and memorial to the site's history, and there was a demand for access to the waterfront, resisted by previous developers. Current plans have none set-aside for the public, but they do call for the public to be able to access the waterfront from the outskirts of the property adjacent to the Manhasset Isle Civic Association. Myron Blumenfeld, chair of the Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, said, "Residents' aim is to ensure that the public has the right to walk along the shoreline. We believe that the village has a similar intention."
Trustee Thomas Panullo echoed the opinion of a number of residents, saying "We'd all like to leave it as it is, but we can't do it. If we can't have a park, this is the next best thing. Decent housing in a good price range will be good for the neighborhood, and could lead to more upgrading of this area. The community definitely doesn't want more industry here." He and trustee David Di Lucia pointed out that the area is reported to be vermin-infested, so it is important to move forward with some development. Di Lucia commented that if it were up to him the development would be less dense and would have more water views.
The current design, not yet widely distributed, has its critics. Former Manorhaven Mayor Gary Pagano had a number of issues. He, too, felt it should be less dense, with more water views not only for the public but also for the potential residents. "Every square inch is developed with tract housing," he said. "The entire site is fenced and walled; there are no view corridors. It is the worst possible environmental usage, and aesthetically is an embarrassment." He added, "It should be obvious that we are living in a waterfront community." Eric Pick, a local architect, also took issue with the concept of a walled, gated community. "It is entirely inappropriate for this community," he said. Nor have the resident's concerns about traffic subsided, although the draft FEIS finds the level of traffic increase acceptable.
Mayor Nicholas Capozzi failed to return Port News's calls asking for comment. In an interview with a Newsday reporter published on Feb. 9, 1997, he said, "It [the Thypin Steel property] could be one of the most beautiful spots of the North Shore." At that time, he expressed the opinion that single family dwellings or office buildings with attractive landscaping would be a better alternative to multi-family dwellings. He added, "We would want a lot of open land."
Prices for the condominiums, to be called The Villas on Manhasset Bay, are expected to start at $500,000. They are two-bedroom units, with an upstairs loft that can be converted to a third bedroom. The plans have been modified to allow two-car garages. Axinn said that they hope to move forward quickly, and would like to start construction this summer. In spite of the economic turndown, he said that the demand for the housing remains high. He commented, "We've had a lot of interest, primarily from local people."