Concerns about two housing developments in Valley Stream sparked a discussion on the future of the community at the village board meeting on March 18.
Discussion was centered around a rumor that Hawthorne Court, a stalled multi-family dwelling on Cottage Street near Holy Name of Mary, could become Section 8 housing and add a surge of children to local schools. There was also concern about the impact that Sun Valley, at the corner of Rockaway Avenue and Sunrise Highway, would have on the schools. Both projects are located in District 24.
Ian Wraith, a former District 24 school board member, and Marijo Sensale, a district resident and president of the Special Education Parent Teacher Association, both noted that the three elementary schools are nearing capacity. Wraith said he brought up the issue about the Hawthorne Court’s impact on the schools several years ago when the project was first being proposed, and remains skeptical.
Construction on Hawthorne Court began more than five years ago. The project was not fully completed by the initial developer, and it was later sold to another builder, which plans to finish it and rent the units as apartments instead of selling them as condominiums as initially expected.
Wraith said he fears the project becoming a Section 8 housing development. He said he doesn’t have an issue with Section 8 except when it is concentrated in one building. That, Wraith noted, is when a potentially nice complex turns into a housing project.
Village officials pointed out the Monica Village senior complex on Hicks Street is Section 8, and that building and its residents are an asset to Valley Stream. Mayor Ed Fare explained that the Section 8 rumor about Hawthorne Court is merely that, and he is unaware of any plans by the builder to seek that designation. To his knowledge, he said, the new developer still intends on marketing the units as high-end apartments.
Fare said projects like Hawthorne Court and Sun Valley were approved by the village board for many reasons. They are designed to attract young residents to the community who would live near Rockaway Avenue in hopes of revitalizing the ailing business district. Additionally, it would bring new taxpayers to Valley Stream to share the tax burden with existing residents.
Village Trustee Vincent Grasso pointed out that taxes naturally go up as schools and government need to cover rising costs. But those increases for individual property owners can be offset, he explained, when new people are brought into the tax base.
Sun Valley, which is currently under construction, will have one floor of retail and four floors of apartments when finished. Village officials say this development is designed to attract young professionals who want to live near stores and mass transit and likely won’t have children. However, they said they do not want to create a community that discourages families from moving in just because of the possible impact on the schools.
David Sabatino, president of Envision Valley Stream and owner of Sip This coffee shop on Rockaway Avenue, said he welcomes the addition of these higher density housing units near the business district. He noted that having concentrations of people surrounding businesses is a proven recipe for success.