Two vacant strip malls on Gibson Boulevard, which have been drawing the ire of neighbors for years, are finally for sale. A sign announcing their status now stands between the two empty buildings, which once housed about a dozen businesses.
With the property now for sale, Valley Stream Mayor Ed Fare said he expects action. Village officials want to see the property developed, he noted, and are sympathetic toward residents who live near the abandoned buildings.
The property is being listed for $3 million by Massey Knakal Realty Services. Dominick Minerva Jr., the attorney representing the buildings’ owner, Dr. Leonard Bleicher, said the price is negotiable. “I believe he’ll consider offers in a range,” Minerva said.
Bleicher has received approval from the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals to build a 47,500-square-foot, 39-unit housing complex on the property, though he most likely will not follow through on the project. Minerva said that the approval is good only through the end of the year, but he added that his client would seek an extension because the property is being marketed based on the approved development.
Minerva said that Bleicher, who has been unable to secure financing to build the development, is willing to consider a partnership, but his preference would be to sell the land. “I believe he’d like to find a buyer for the project,” Minerva said.
Fare said that his preference would have been for Bleicher to build the housing complex and rid Gibson Boulevard of the vacant stores. However, realizing that that is no longer a viable option, Fare is hopeful that a suitable buyer can be found, and quickly. He said he doesn’t want to see the property just sitting there for sale for years.
“Do you think I’m happy seeing that blight in the village?” he asked. “Of course not. The village is pursuing every available option to develop the property.”
Fare said that the village has been in touch with several developers who might be interested in building on the property. Eminent domain proceedings are not out of the question, he explained, and several residents have encouraged that option.
But eminent domain is more difficult when government is not taking the land for public use, Fare explained. In the case of 195 Rockaway Ave., which the village recently acquired through eminent domain, it will serve as a Village Hall annex, housing the courtroom, Code Enforcement, Public Safety and the Auxiliary Police.
Like the Gibson buildings, the Rockaway Avenue property was also for sale, but if the village took over the Gibson property, its purpose would be to turn it over to another developer. The village is not in the real estate business, Fare said, which is why eminent domain would be a last resort there.
In addition, the village would have to pay the owner fair market value for the property, and the land would come off the tax rolls while it was owned by the government. But Fare made it clear that those obstacles wouldn’t stop the village from claiming eminent domain if necessary. “It’s a little tricky,” he said, “but we can do it.”
One benefit of owning the land, Fare said, is that the village would at least be able to demolish the empty buildings, which have been a target of vandals over the past few years.
Minerva said that Bleicher is good about addressing complaints about the property, and fixes any violations. “My client has been very responsive,” he said.
Fare said he hopes that the “For Sale” sign will lead to some movement — and some hope for residents who have been staring at the vacant buildings for too long. If not, he added, the village won’t be afraid to act. “We’re not giving up,” he said.