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Winston’s “Churchill” Stuck Behind Iron Curtain

Mineola Village Board reserves decision on senior condo to rental change in Winston project

If there’s one word that can describe what’s needed with the rigmarole that is the Winston Manor project, it’s “patience” and Polimeni International LLC will need it for just a bit longer.

The Mineola Village Board reserved its decision to allow Polimeni to change the senior housing component “The Churchill” from a five-story, 36-condominium unit to affordable senior housing rentals until October. The move, at the behest of deputy mayor Paul Pereira, was made to give local senior groups another go-around at learning more about what it would mean to have senior rentals rather than condos.

Polimeni, after run-ins with Garden City for its 275-unit residential complex as condos, changed its main component to rentals to avoid subdivision approval. First reported in the Mineola American on Aug. 23, COO Michael Polimeni said he reached out to financial institutions for demographic analysis and backing, and affordable senior condos were not “moving at the time.” The senior community, according to Polimeni, is looking at rentals as “a much cleaner vehicle” to move into for their golden years.

“We want the seniors to thrive in this community,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said. “We want to keep them from moving out in their golden years. Any decision I make I weigh on my own personal experiences. And in this situation, I look at my grandparents and in this economy. I wouldn’t recommend them buying a condo. But to the seniors of Mineola, you make your own decision on what to do. Weigh in on this issue and let us know what you think and what you would prefer.

“It’s important for us to give the seniors what they deserve,” Strauss continued. “They are the end-users in this. They’ll be the ones affected by this.”

Polimeni had three options, to keep the condos and give the “go ahead,” when possible, with risk of economic downturn, to convert to rentals or to wait until the market turns. Now he was back before the board along with legal representation and various experts, attempting to get this project off the ground and into construction.

Vincent Polimeni was not present at last week’s meeting. He’s currently in Poland on business.

The amenities package to the village includes the construction of a 236-space parking garage with 40 spaces designated to the village. Approximately $3 million will be contributed to village improvements and the installation of 2,300 linear feet of new streetscape improvements around the site.

Legal counsel representative Andrea Tsoukalas stressed that the application would not be changed in any other way. However, the exterior façade was modified to give it a “more residential aesthetic.”

In terms of the living environment of the senior housing complex, if approved, the age range could be 55 and over to rent an apartment. Furthermore, the rental price would be determined by 80 percent of the median income in Mineola, which is approximately $65,000, according to Tsoukalas.

The complex would consist of 28 one-bedroom and 8 two-bedroom units. A PowerPoint presentation by Polimeni stated that some of the benefits of renting are no need for equity down payment, moving flexibility and no issues relating to resale of a unit.

Mill Creek Residential Trust representative Maria Rigopoulos met with senior housing developers recently to discuss the possibility of condos in the Churchill but was deemed difficult for financing in the current market. According to Rigopoulos, it will cost about $190,000 to build each unit.

Former Mineola mayor and current Senator Jack Martins was on the board when the Winston Manor Project came to fruition in Mineola. He said the board should keep in mind the importance of providing affordable senior housing.

“This process has taken too long as it is and the village should take every effort to facilitate the process now that they know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and [Polimeni] has the ability to finance rentals,” Martins said.

The ongoing issues Polimeni had with Garden City until Polimeni officially changed the main piece from condominiums to rentals were deliberated in letters, board meetings, phone calls, voicemails and e-mails with a waning economy in its wake. According to Martins, it didn’t end there.

Martins said there were previous discussions when he was mayor to change the senior housing component from condos, but the idea was ultimately shelved with the prospect of an upswing in the market and economy.

“We wanted to leave that door open as long as possible,” he said. “The easiest, most cost-effective way of doing it while providing great benefits to our seniors is paramount.”