Written by Margaret Whitely Friday, 09 October 2009 00:00
The last meeting of the Williston Park Village Board was dominated by a public hearing, but not before there was a moment of silence in memory of former mayor Thomas Muldoon.
The proposal was for a special permit by International Ventures Group, Ltd. for a restaurant to be called Uncle Pepe’s at 29 Hillside Avenue, Williston Park.
The restaurant is to have approximately 112 seats, including a bar area, dining room and party room with off street parking spaces of approximately 40 spaces to be located in the municipal parking lot. Plans and specification for this application are on file at Williston Park Village Hall, 494 Willis Avenue, Williston Park.
Attorney Kevin Walsh, of Walsh, Markus, McDougal & DeBellis, of Garden City presented the case for the restaurateur Joseph Magnotta.
He explained that Magnotta already owns a restaurant in Lynbrook called Angelina’s which is a first-class Italian restaurant and he also owns a restaurant in Massapequa called Marcella’s. He expects to make Uncle Pepe’s, the same as Angelina’s and Marcella’s, both first-class Italian restaurants.
Attorney Walsh explained that the restaurant hopes to occupy the space at 29 Hillside Avenue, which has been a vacant bank building for many years, and he explained that the proposal is to keep the existing building just the same footprint that it is now.
According to Walsh, “The restaurant proposed would have no outdoor dining, no cabaret license, no loud music and nothing that would affect the neighbors in any way. As the board is aware, and as everyone is aware, this is an area in the downtown portion of the village and in that area there are a lot of mixed business uses in the area. There are a number of restaurants in the area, but there are other businesses as well and many of them do not have evening hours and close at about 6 p.m.
“Plus the location is very close to the railroad station and a lot of commuters coming off that line use parking spaces in that municipal lot. Many of the restaurants in the area obtain a good deal of their patronage from people coming off the train.”
Walsh continued, “My client has carefully selected this location in an attempt to do several things. He wants to take advantage of the fact that there is a good deal of commuter traffic that will potentially be coming off the train and having dinner at the restaurant before proceeding home. In addition to that, he wants to create a family atmosphere because Williston Park is such a great family community and there is a need for many diverse restaurants. His restaurants appeal to fine diners and those looking to have a reasonably priced meal.”
Walsh said, “This board has jurisdiction over this restaurant because it needs to look at the impact of traffic and ask the question, what’s it going to do to traffic in the area?
“My client knows that he needs to establish a restaurant in an area where people are willing to come, if they are either there or if they can park there to be able to use the site.”
“My client’s analysis of the area’s available parking suggests a couple of things. There is a municipal lot with 40 or so spaces which is used by four or five stores in the area, a couple of which close down in the early evening or at the end of the day. For the most part, the use during the day of the restaurant would be for lunches and in the evening for dinner.
“Everyone knows there is additional open street parking in the evening in the area which would be available to my client’s restaurant. Plus, during the day there will be a good deal of walk-in traffic coming for lunch to the restaurant.”
Walsh said, “No matter what is put into this building, either a restaurant or an office building, there will be, at times, parking problems. But the belief here is that this restaurant will have the least impact on parking.”
He then displayed some of the sketches that are proposed for the front and exterior of the building and he pointed out that the exterior proposed would significantly be improved. Further, he explained that there will be dropped lighting on the exterior of the building and there would be no noise emanating from inside the building.
Walsh said, “There is an alleyway where a dumpster, for garbage, would be situated. In spite of the village pickup of garbage the restaurant owner always provides for a private carter to supplement the village pickup since there will be a great deal of garbage generated.”
He added, “We are actually inclosing the garbage area on all sides and only be opened to get the garbage out. We would like to use some of the village collection, if that is acceptable; we do note that other restaurants use the village collection, but we are mindful of the fact that we want to help out in dealing with garbage and to supplement whatever the village provides.”
Williston Park Mayor Ludwig Odierna asked if the restaurant would have an entrance in the back. Walsh said, “There are two doors in the rear.” One, an entrance to the restaurant, and one to be used as a service door, which would be used for deliveries and it opens right into the kitchen. There is an area in the basement that would be used, and there is a staircase inside that would take those items into the basement.”
Guiseppe Magnotta answered and said, “In a perfect world most deliveries would be made before noon.”
Mayor Odierna wanted to know if the deliveries would present a parking problem in the area during the day.
It was explained that deliveries are three days a week, Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. Magnotta said, “In Lynbrook, we do get deliveries before 11 a.m.”
Mayor Odierna said, “The problem I see is that there will be cars parked there and then your truck comes to make a delivery and then these cars can’t back out. “
It was then established that most trucks are box trucks and Magnotta said he could control the time of deliveries; they could be as early or as late as possible.
Another question was how long would it take for a delivery to take place. He said, “It depends on whether it’s fish or produce.” Fish is usually five or six minutes and the owner explained that he has control over how long the deliveries would take.
Mayor Odierna also asked if they intended to have any valet service and the answer to that was no.
Williston Park Attorney Richard Reers said, “In respect to the time of deliveries could they be made before 9 a.m.?”
The owner said that most deliveries come from Long Island City and he could be put on the first delivery of the day.
Reers also wanted to know about the “party” room. “Will this be a seven-day a week operation? The owner received a laugh when he said, “I hope it is.”
Someone asked if the garbage could be refrigerated and it was established that would be too costly. Further, it was established that the hours of operation for the restaurant would be from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The next-door neighbor, Joseph Anunziata, who owns Ralph’s Ices and ReMax building, said he didn’t want a fence removed which is near where the dumpsters are going to be. He said that the new owner has informed him that the air-conditioner will be removed and placed on the roof. Annunziata spoke about a stairway, and it was established that the stairway was closed many years ago by the bank.
Attorney Michael Holland was asked to appear on behalf of a local merchant. He said, “It is my understanding that the front left side has been reserved for the preparation and sale of pizza. The applicant is depending on the municipal lot for parking spaces and the lot has 59 parking spaces and four handicapped spaces. He said,”TRs restaurant utilizes the municipal lot for parking as does Ivy Cottage, across the street, also uses the municipal lot as part of its special use application.”
Holland went on to list all the stores in the area that utilize the municipal parking lot. He said, “I think the village needs to look at the dramatic impact that the new restaurant will have on the village if the application is granted.”
Mayor Odierna said the only problems are the deliveries. The owner said that he could park his delivery trucks on Pennsylvania and walk them in, which pleased the mayor.
Further, another person wanted to make sure that if the trucks do block any resident cars that they would move their trucks to let them out and that was agreed to.
The owner said, “It is only in my best interest to not aggravate any of the patrons in the area by blocking their cars. I would just be doing an injustice to myself.”
There was a discussion about how pizza pickups would be made at the store.
It was suggested that they just be made in the back, but the owner said he could not guarantee that patrons would adhere to whatever rule is put into place about pizza pickup.
The next speaker, Evelyn Atanas, who is the owner of Atanas Real Estate, gave an impassioned plea to the board, stating that there are so many empty stores not only Williston Park, but in Mineola and in New Hyde Park. She said, “Parking is always going to be a problem, but we cannot afford to have any more empty stores. I’m all for this restaurant, I really am.”
Former trustee Ray Cross said that this application is all about parking.
Attorney Reers then requested that the board take a three-minute recess while the hearing was still open.
They returned and Reers said that the board decided, prior to further discussion about this application, that a parking and traffic study would be required.
Reers said, “We are going to adjorn this hearing for a period of time in order to allow you to have this parking and traffic study done. I would ask you how long do you think this would take?”
The owner said he would be ready with the study well in advance of the next meeting which is set for Oct. 19 at 8 p.m.
Cold War Veteran’s Exemption
Another hearing was held on the topic of Cold War Veteran’s Exemption to be given to veterans who served in the military during the Cold War.
This exemption will be available for veterans who served on active duty in the United States Armed Forces between Sept. 2, 1945 and Dec. 16, 1991, who are not currently receiving eligible funds for alternative veteran’s exemptions.
Attorney Reers said, “The specific law that is being proposed would provide such an exemption of 10 percent of the assessed value of the real property provided that the exemption shall not exceed $8,000 or the product of $8,000 multiplied by the latest rate of the assessing unit.”
Bill Downes said, “I am a Cold War veteran and I don’t know what this is. Is this in addition to the Town of North Hempstead exemption?”
Reers said, “This is a village exemption and would be in addition to the Town of North Hempstead exemption.”
Downes asked, “Who do I see to sign up?”
Village Clerk Julie Kane said, “We will have all the applications in my office in about a week.”
Paul Ehrbar said, “I think this is a great idea and I don’t know why they haven’t done this before.”
The board then voted to approve the motion.
The board then voted on a bond for $1 million to contract for road improvement in the village.
Mayor Odierna said, “We have not been successful with one legislator, and I won’t mention her name, and the village clerk is working on the Congressman Gary Ackerman monies so we can start working on our roads.
“We are going to attack the worst roads first.”
Maura Clancy wanted to have a specific update on the Gary Ackerman monies. She said she spoke to a representative in Senator Craig Johnson’s office, Rafe Lieber, who said that this money has been moved from the federal government, years ago, and is sitting with the Department of Transportation (DOT). She said, “I asked if there is a chance we could lose that money and how soon do you think we will be getting that grant?”
Mayor Odierna said, “The village clerk would be glad to tell you about it.”
Clerk Julie Kane said, “I call the DOT every week. Today, I was told she has sent us three documents to DeVirka and Bartilucci that need a signature and that’s the only thing that is needed from us and that they will not be doing anything until Oct. 1. The gentleman we have been dealing with is back, which is a good thing. The money is still at a federal level. I talked to Rafe also and I will call him again to see if he has heard something that we don’t know.”
A resident asked what streets would be corrected and the worst that will be worked on will be Sheridan.
It was determined that the Ackerman funds would be used for the streets that have already designated for those funds.
The resolution was voted in favor of the resolution by the board except for trustee Beth Swendson/Dowd who voted no.
Ragamuffin will be held on Halloween at 6:30 p.m. at the American Legion Hall on Willis Avenue. Parade group will be on Broad Street.
Trustee Dunn reported on the court cases He said Judge Alan Reardon heard 251 cases collecting fines of$17, 095 with a surcharge of $1980. Judge Kevin Kiely heard no cases.
Fire Department Open House
The Williston Park Fire Department will hold an Open House on Oct. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. in observance of Fire Prevention Week.
Trustee Beth Swendson-Dowd said both she and trustee Dunn have been working on the contract with the Department of Public Works, plus they are still awaiting a signed water contract from the East Williston Park Village.
She said she is also dealing with the water department contract and the Department of Health requires that there be random samples of water from about 20 houses. She said, “The homeowners do the sampling and on the 20 samples, three didn’t get such a great reading. So we reported that and then we went back and retested and they came back with flying colors. We don’t’ think that this is a problem and we also feel that one of the homeowners was away for awhile.
“I also want to thank the DPW for the wonderful job they did in cleaning up after the recent Williston Park Village Fair.”
The new POP Officer Nugent was expected to attend the next Village Watch meeting.
Trustee Darmstandt also reported that the library construction to make the library more accessible is expected to be worked on at the end of October and the library will be closed.
He also reported that the 9-11 Ceremony by the Little League was very touching.
The meeting ended at almost 11 p.m. and the next meeting will be held on Oct. 19 at 8 p.m.