Written by Carol Frank Friday, 14 May 2010 00:00
The case for a parking lot at 2 Potters Lane was propelled closer to a final determination at last week’s meeting of the Village of Great Neck Board of Zoning Appeals. In a vote of 3 to 2, the board ruled for a “negative declaration” in the matter of an environmental impact study. In essence, this means that the applicant, United Mashadi Jewish Community of America, will not be required to conduct a full environmental impact study, a lengthy and costly process.
The vote came after a long discussion among the board members and the attorneys. Board members Steve Markowitz and Victor Habib pressed for a full study, but chairperson, Dennis Grossman, said, “We no longer have a wooded area. What we now have is a denuded, muddy mess with tree stumps….we need to move forward.” Attorney for the board, Steve Limmer, agreed, saying, “You have to take the land as it is now…not what it was before.”
The chairman and board members Norman Namdar and Tedi Kashi, a member of the applicant congregation, voted in favor of the negative declaration.
The applicant, at the behest of the board, also agreed to direct their architect, Thomas Fitzsimmons, to “study” the feasibility of redesigning the parking lot to allow for a wider vegetative buffer on both sides to provide more privacy and less of a negative visual impact for the immediate neighbors. Applicant attorney Peter Mineo said, “We would like to reserve the right to reject such an idea after our architect has done his best to study a redesign of the area.” Dennis Grossman indicated that in such a case, the board would consider waiving current requirements for parking space sizes and back-up distances to allow for a minimum of 36 parking slots.
The board hired Frederick P. Clark Associates to conduct an independent traffic study, the cost to be reimbursed to the village by the applicant. Field observations were held on a Saturday. The study found traffic congestion significant enough to negatively impact emergency vehicle activity. It was the opinion of the consultant, Michael Galante, that the proposed parking lot is needed to meet current demand.
The study also listed an extensive list of recommendations to improve the traffic safety in the area. “The applicant should be required to provide the following:” 1. Village approved traffic control personnel in two locations, at the driveway of the lot and at the intersection of Potters Lane and Steamboat Road. 2. Signage alerting drivers if parking lot is full. 3. Clear all vegetation higher than 3.5 feet on the 2 Potters Lane site to allow for better visibility for making turns in and out of parking lot. 4. Replace NO PARKING signs on Potters Lane to NO STANDING/NO PARKING ANY TIME.
Further, the report recommends that the intersection of Potters Lane and Steamboat Road be converted into an ALL WAY STOP sign controlled intersection.
In order to avoid stacking of cars on Potters Lane, the study advises that a drop-off and pick-up area be established on the easterly access driveway of the synagogue. They also suggest that NO U TURN signs be installed in the environs of Steamboat and Potters Lane. Finally, the report states that the existing gate to the temple across from Potters Lane be permanently closed and that crosswalks be installed at the intersection.
They note that the latter suggestions be implemented no matter how the zoning board rules on the case.
A number of neighbors who have spoken before reaffirmed their sense of frustration and loss at the devastation and the loss of privacy that the wooded lot afforded.
There were a few neighbors, who have not spoken out before, and who brought up different points. Julia Shields, a member of the St. Paul’s AME Zion Church noted that drop-offs on Potters Lane would interfere with Saturday activities at their social hall, which is on the corner of Potters and Steamboat Road.
Another neighbor, Mr. Sha, wondered if security cameras at the parking lot could be added as there were a spate of burglaries earlier in the year. An 18-year resident, Ms. Qi Wang expressed concerns about the intrusion of a parking lot in a residential zone.
The next meeting of the zoning board is Thursday, June 3.