Friday, 14 August 2009 00:00
(The following was submitted by the Garden City Board of Trustees Public Information Committee)
The Garden City Board of Trustees (BOT) has been studying the effects of this massive development for several years. The majority of the trustees believe that something will be developed there but feel this proposed project is far too large and could have significant adverse affects on the neighboring village business districts, as well as quality of life for all residents. Nothing of this magnitude has ever been attempted in Nassau County.
A quick review of the planned development will illustrate this point. The Nassau Coliseum, presently a 400,000 square foot facility, will be expanded to 1.2 million square feet. Additional development will consist of 2,300 residential units ranging from luxury to affordable or work force housing, 100,000 square feet of convention space, 1 million square feet of office and 500,000 square feet of retail and 300 additional hotel rooms. This additional development will total approximately 5.5 million square feet. This is the size of a central business district in a medium sized city.
While there are certain desirable aspects of the housing component, what will be the effect on existing home values? This is especially true given the current state of the market. The 1.1 million square feet of office space will increase Nassau Class A space by over 20 percent. What happens to the rest of the central Nassau office market, which already has a total vacancy rate of over 16 percent? Perhaps the most worrisome part of this plan is the 500,000 square feet of retail space. Obviously some community type retail will be needed to support the housing, but 500,000 square feet is the size of a mall. Retail development always creates heavy traffic and we all know just how bad traffic is on Roosevelt Field approaches such as Old Country Road and Stewart Avenue. Finally, how can this massive creation of retail space help our business community? They are already feeling the effects of the recession and additional restaurants, pubs or boutiques cannot help.
Almost 10 years ago Garden City spent several million dollars to improve Franklin Avenue and our commercial district. This expenditure, coupled with a revived economy and creative commercial property owners, rejuvenated our business district. Will this turn into a waste of taxpayer dollars?
The BOT has approved funds for both an environmental consultant and a law firm with experience representing opponents to projects such as this. Since the DGEIS is literally thousands of pages and appendices, our consultants simply did not have time to review it in depth and develop the proper objections by Aug 4. After discussions with both counsel and the consultant the following appear as the most blatant deficiencies in the study.
Residential streets in the southeast section of Garden City such as Meadow [Street] and Commander [Avenue] were neglected in the DGEIS traffic study. These are residential streets that could become alternative routes to the Lighthouse. The traffic counts used for the study are dated and really need to be updated.
The proposed minor league ballpark is not in the study. Our counsel states that this is not an independent unrelated activity and has to be included in the DGEIS. In fact county approval of this project requires that this ballpark be built. Its affects must be analyzed.
The alternatives to this massive development must be expanded in the DGEIS to include a detailed discussion of different configurations of the project, which will lower the overall square footage.
The water supply section of the DGEIS acknowledges that the pump age caps developed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation are already being exceeded. This project will greatly increase the need for water. The availability of alternative water sources must be addressed. To date the Lighthouse group has not done this. This is a critical environmental problem, which affects everyone in the area.
Finally the time frame given to study this proposal and make comments is woefully short. This document is far too voluminous to be digested in a few weeks.
The BOT is very cognizant of the disastrous consequences to our quality of life from any light rail system that goes through Garden City. Nassau County has accessed federal monies to study various types of light rail to “alleviate” vehicle congestion in the HUB area. Village officials and senior administrative personnel have attended at least 10 of these presentations since 2003 and have followed up with strong condemnations of this project.
One of the most striking comments was made by past mayor, Peter Bee, when he said this project would be a “sword through the heart of Garden City.” Though a light rail system is not in the present Lighthouse Plan, it is clearly something still being considered by the county and has the support of many of our elected representatives. We will continue to fight this with every means at our disposal.
On Tuesday, Aug. 4, Nicholas Episcopia, village trustee, Robert Schoelle, village administrator, Christine Mullaney, corresponding secretary of the Eastern Property Owners’ Association, and Roger Eltringham, president of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce, attended the Town of Hempstead’s hearing on the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). On behalf of Mayor Rothschild and the board of trustees, we would like to thank Bob, Chris and Roger for their excellent presentations.
The town has given the public only until Aug. 17 to make comments. If you believe, as many of us do, that this project may have serious environmental consequences that will affect both our quality of life and the prosperity of our business community, then please contact the Town of Hempstead and express your opinion. Many of the environmental problems, including the extremely short time frame to review the DGEIS, were discussed by Schoelle and Mullaney at the hearing. The village has retained an environmental consultant to review the DGEIS and report its findings to the village board of trustees.
We need everyone’s help.
Although the public hearing on the proposed Lighthouse Project’s DGEIS did not address the issue of a mass transit link from Mineola through Garden City, to the Lighthouse, the village board remains unalterably opposed to the concept and continues to express its objections to both Nassau County and the developers of the Lighthouse.