So far, the plan by Forest City Daly, the Manhattan-based firm, to build senior housing development in Roslyn has gone smoothly. Late last year, for instance, it received approval from the Planning Board, the Board of Trustees and the Site Review Board. But now the Roslyn Landmark Society is opposing Forest City's attempt to receive a height variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Right now, Forest City needs not only approval from the BZA, but also from the Historic District Board. Forest City is seeking the variance to build walls on the grounds of the proposed 250-unit development. From the Historic District Board, Forest City needs approval for its architectural features.
Donald Kavanagh, president of the Landmark Society, presented its case against the variance at a BZA meeting. The society is opposing the variance on aesthetic grounds, while also claiming it goes against the spirit of the village's new Master Plan.
Forest City, Mr. Kavanagh said, has not demonstrated any undue hardship that would "justify a variance of the existing height limitations required under the Roslyn Zoning Code."
More importantly, the variance, if granted, would result in a ''virtual wall of buildings" extending across several scenic vistas. The wall, according to Mr. Kavanagh, would block views of the Harbor and Waterfront from the downtown, from residential areas on both sides of the Roslyn valley and "even from portions of the Viaduct." He further claimed that the roofs of the senior housing buildings, would, because of the new variance, extend some 12 feet above the viaduct. Such numbers, Mr. Kavanagh said, are based on calculations provided by Forest City Daly personnel.
The variance, the society contends, is questionable on legal grounds. But its members are also opposing the variance for aesthetic reasons. Mr. Kavanagh referred the BZA to passages in the village's Master Plan which praised the village's historic buildings for being made even "more special" by their scenic backdrop. The Master Plan draft went on to state that "[preservation] of this scenery and view corridors are essential" as they create a physical setting "that sets Roslyn's historic resources apart from those of the community in Long Island."
Mr. Kavanagh stated that the variance runs counter to the objectives of the Master Plan. At least one the "Key Scenic Vistas" in Roslyn extends directly toward and through the proposed senior housing premises.
"The additional height sought by the Applicant [Forest City]," he added, "will seriously obstruct or, in some cases, entirely obliterate" such vistas. In all, the Landmark Society holds that the views of Hempstead Harbor, the Waterfront and the surrounding shorelines are also "public assets" that should not be "bargained away."
In addition to the vista question, Mr. Kavanagh said the resulting mass of buildings" from the height variance is "entirely out of scale and proportion to the surrounding business and residential neighborhoods."
In return for building unit structures with "approximately one and one half times the density permitted" under the Zoning Code, Forest City made several construction concessions to the village. They included reducing the building size of the project, paying into the village's Sewer Reserve Fund and buying a chunk of land for the village that had previously belonged to the Town of North Hempstead. Forest City will also build and maintain an easement running over and across the property and along the waterfront on Bryant Avenue.
However, the Landmark Society claimed that such concessions are only minor ones and amounts to Forest City "getting far more than it is giving the village in return." This "poor bargain," Mr. Kavanagh said, would be compounded by granting a height variance to Forest City.
Michael Daly, president of Forest City Daly, said that he hasn't yet seen the Landmark Society's statement, but he noted that his firm has already been through an "extensive review process" including the environmental review. He said Forest City would review any questions the Landmark Society has, but he disagreed that the development would be an aesthetic eyesore to the village.
"Given where the site is, near the Roslyn Viaduct, it will not have any negative visual impact on the village," Mr. Daly said. In fact, he added that portions of the development which would be in view will be attractive ones, owing to the planned architectural design of the proposed senior housing units and administrative buildings.
When approving the development, the BOT, SRB, and Planning Board all claimed the Daly project "promotes the objectives" of the village's Master Plan. They added that it will create a recreational waterfront which will "strengthen the linkages between Roslyn's downtown and waterfront, and will project the waterfront's harbor, natural features and vistas.
The Board of Zoning Appeals will meet again next month at a yet to be determined date. It is not known whether a vote on the variance request will take place then.