Written by Wendy Kreitzman Thursday, 12 September 2013 00:00
A new proposal to tear down an old rent-stabilized apartment complex and build a new one at Academy Gardens in the Village of Great Neck has surfaced. A previous plan by property owner Kings Point Gate Association was turned down in 2007, with height variances denied. This time the proposal for the 40-unit building at 794 Middle Neck Road, housing basically working class families, needs no variances, but will be heard by the village’s planning board on Thursday, Oct. 17.
And, as last time, residents are fearful of the proposal, afraid that they will lose their homes. Many have lived in the complex since the 1960s and 1970s. Residents and the group’s attorney Fred Pollack all claim that they received no formal notice of the new proposal.
Julia Shields, a longtime Academy Gardens resident and a tenant representative, spoke at a recent village board of trustees meeting, and said that the only way the tenants knew about the proposal was from property owners in back of
Academy Gardens. “This is the same as 2007,” she told the board.
Shields and fellow tenants say that they want to remain in the village and they worry what will happen if the building is torn down. Even though state law protects them, mandating property owners to offer to either buy out each tenant or provide them with temporary housing near-by, at the property owner’s cost, while a new complex is built. She said that 28 tenants are still living in the complex.
Academy Gardens’ pro bono attorney Fred Pollack is also concerned by the lack of notification of the new proposal. And with the sudden news of this latest proposal, Pollack plans to ask for a 60-day adjournment of the planning board hearing. He spoke of effects on the community should these residents be displaced and he spoke of the “serious negative impact” on the quality of life for other village residents.
Paul Bloom, attorney for Kings Point Gate Association, told the Great Neck Record that the new proposal is all “as of right.” And he assured that the property owner would follow all state regulations applying to such relocation. “The residents are fully protected by law,” he stated. “They are very well-protected and will not be harmed in any way,” he added.
Bloom reiterated that all tenants will be offered a buy-out, or they may remain and be relocated by the property owner (as close as possible to their current residence), at the property owner’s expense, and then brought back to the new building, with their rent remaining the same as before the rebuilding. “Their rent will not change no matter what,” he said.
Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman told the Record that the village, too, wants assurance that the “remaining residents … good, hardworking people … are afforded every right they are entitled to under the law.” The mayor said that the village “long ago opted into a state law that affords the rights of such a rent-stabilized status” which gives the residents the right to be located, nearby, at no increased cost to them, and then to be moved back into the new building at a continued stabilized rent.
“The scarcity of workforce housing and the inability to save such existing housing was the reason for the village passing a law requiring new multi-family buildings to set aside 10 percent of the property for that purpose,” Mayor Kreitzman stated.
At this point, the village’s planning board is set to meet on the Academy Gardens issue at the Oct. 17 meeting. The planning board is charged with issues such as the site plan and drainage. Also, pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the planning board must focus on and have the applicant mitigate any material adverse environmental conditions created by the new development.