Beechwood Homes, a Jericho-based real estate developer, is looking to build a 104-unit, age-restricted condominium complex at the former site of Temple Emanu-El on Merrick Avenue. If the project is approved, it could generate over $1 million in annual property taxes for the school district and town.
The temple, which merged with Temple B’Nai Torah in Wantagh, recently sold its 4.54-acre parcel to Beechwood, in part because the synagogue was aging and in constant need of repairs. Now the developer is proposing to convert the space into a senior living center with a clubhouse, pool and pavilion.
“There is a continuing demand for senior citizen housing in the town and the county,” said Vincent Pozzuoli, the attorney representing Beechwood Homes. “The number of empty-nesters is increasing, and many prefer an age-restricted, condominium-style development with amenities such as a clubhouse and pool. This will meet their needs.”
The proposal was brought before the Hempstead Town Board on Aug. 7, but representatives of Beechwood presented the plans to several community organizations last month. The Council of East Meadow Community Organizations, the Board of Education and the East Meadow Fire Department all expressed interest in the development.
Kevin Maran, a representative of the Long Island Builders Institute, also supported the Beechwood proposal, and said, “This will allow our parents and grandparents to stay on Long Island in a social community.”
The condominiums would not be open to children, and therefore there would be no additional traffic created by transportation to and from East Meadow schools, Pozzuoli said. Furthermore, the proposal includes residential parking that would reduce the number of cars on the street, he added.
“I didn’t sense or hear any opposition to the proposal,” said Joe Parisi, president of CEMCO. “The community is in favor of it and so are we.” The property is currently zoned for 19 single-family homes, which would generate $700,000 less in estimated property taxes than the condominiums.
Temple Emanu-El was exempt from paying property taxes for its 60 years in operation, so either development would bring additional money to the community.
Jeffrey Kraut, a representative of Temple Emanu-El, noted that the Beechwood proposal could benefit the temple’s aging population. “A lot of people moved to East Meadow because of the temple,” Kraut said. “People stay in East Meadow forever, and this could allow them to be closer to their family.”
The last time Temple Emanu-El congregants worshipped in its dome-like synagogue was June 10, the day they marched 3.8 miles in the heat to their new home in Wantagh. Congregant Randi Shubin-Dresner said that she remembered, as a child, watching the way the sunlight changed colors as it passed through the stained-glass windows.
“It’s been virtually my entire life,” she said. “It’s going to be hard when they knock down the walls of that building. And when those new walls get built, I guess the best way that we could think about it is that they’ll be holy walls. The warmth and love of that space will remain … and many congregants may be comfortable moving in there and thinking that it’s part of their history.”