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Community Activists Claim Victory

In a surprise move, the North Hempstead Town Board voted unanimously on August 13 to remove from the town calendar any further consideration of the Dejana Industries LLP request for a zoning change from residential AAA to industrial of a parcel of land on West Shore Road. The change was necessary in order for Dejana to proceed with a proposed project to store, maintain and manufacture trucks including at least 13 garbage trucks and a 10,000 gallon above ground fuel tank at the site.

A portion of this parcel is currently used by the Town to store and maintain town vehicles and salt. Dejana wanted to consolidate its operation from two locations in Manorhaven to a 56,000 feet facility on West Shore Road.

It had been anticipated the Town Council would set a date for a public hearing on the proposal. Before the start of the meeting, attorney Daniel P. Deegan of the firm Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana, LLP representing Dejana Industries LLP was informed by Supervisor Jon Kaiman that he would “move to adjourn the matter” by removing it from the calendar. Deegan was surprised by the move. In his remarks to the Board he expressed frustration with “the inaccurate information that has been disseminated to the community whipping opposition into a frenzy.” He also accused the board of acting in bad faith, claiming that his client has spent thousands of dollars and three years working with the town to advance the project in an open forum. “You are bowing to political pressure from people who are misinformed,” said Deegan.

The discussion became heated when Deegan and local Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio each accused the other of acting in bad faith. Deegan noting that in 2011 the Council unanimously approved Dejana’s proposal as “consistent with the current use of the land.”

DeGiorgio’s response: the “original proposal did not accurately represent the scope of the project and additional information has come to my attention regarding environmental issues and possible misrepresentations in the original application submitted to the Department of Environmental Control (DEC) by Dejana Industries.”

The room was packed with opponents of the project including local residents and environmental activists who claim that the project will harm nearby wetlands, Hempstead Harbor and the quality of life for local residents living nearby and all town residents using the beach, soccer fields and Harbor Links Golf Course. Peter Dejana Chairman of Dejana Industries was also in the room.

Supervisor Jon Kaiman attempted to soften the message to Mr. Dejana, a self made local businessman and philanthropist. Kaiman acknowledged that what seemed like a good project in the beginning quickly turned sour as residents in adjacent communities and local environmental groups received what they maintain was their first notice of the proposed project in July by reading a small public notice in a local newspaper.

They turned out en mass for the July 28 Town Board meeting. The depth and organization of the opposition clearly took the council members and Dejana representatives by surprise. Kaiman stressed that Peter Dejana and Dejana Industries are valued participants in the life of the Town and that, “We hope they can find a more suitable site for the project”.

During the meeting, Supervisor Kaiman asked Mr. Deegan if his client would voluntarily withdraw its application. When he declined on behalf of his client, Kaiman moved to remove the request and the project from the calendar.

Although Dejana is free to start all over again in the future and make a presentation for development of the same site or ask that their request for a zoning change be restored to the calendar, Kaiman stressed that to do so might be wasting financial resources, suggesting that for this Board the project in this location is dead. This leaves the town with few options for the use of the property. They have a signed contract with Dejana and unless the application for rezoning is withdrawn the Town cannot solicit another proposal for development.

Mr. Dejana in comments to the Port News after the meeting said, “It was the Town’s responsibility to inform the public in advance of the public hearing, not ours.”

He implied that there were people intentionally spreading misinformation in an effort to defeat the proposal and that the Town had not negotiated in good faith. Mr. Deegan told Port News “We have to regroup and decide how to proceed. I do think it is strange that no one took note of the fact mentioned by the Supervisor that there have been no complaints about the Dejana facilities that currently operate at two locations in Manorhaven.”

Mr. Deegan did not make mention of the fact that there is an oil spill into the wetlands in Manorhaven that is being investigated by the DEC. It has not been determined if that spill is a result of Dejana’s operations.