Building up Bellmore? Residents remain opposed to apartment proposals

An issue that extends far beyond Bellmore’s borders


On the heels of last month’s meeting on the proposed apartment building on Bedford Avenue in Bellmore, community members met again on May 3 at the Bellmore Memorial Library, to discuss another proposal for apartments, on Bellmore Road in North Bellmore, which would replace the former Temple Beth-El synagogue.

The synagogue closed last year when it merged with the East Meadow Jewish Center, and is currently unoccupied.

Unlike the Bedford Avenue apartments, which would require a number of variances from the Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals, the Bellmore Road apartments would be considered a rezoning issue, for which the Town Board itself must grant permission. The proposal was first discussed at a meeting on Feb. 15, but the board voted to table its decision.

Leyton Properties, the developer proposing the North Bellmore apartments, arranged the meeting at the library. The Manhattan-based company has completed other projects on Long Island, but none in the immediate area. The proposed structure would be a 28-unit complex.

Residents raised several concerns in February with the town, including traffic congestion, because Bellmore Road has only two lanes. Leyton, which worked with R&M Engineering to create traffic projections, said the apartments would produce less traffic then the synagogue. When it was open, the synagogue held services only twice a week, but offered day care services five times a week — producing an estimated four times more traffic then an apartment building would, according to the engineering firm.

Marge Congello, president of the Central Bellmore Homeowner’s Association, spoke with the Herald last Friday. Because the proposal involved an apartment complex, Congello said, traffic could be constant, and could build up at any time during the day. “An apartment building has people coming and going,” she added.

At the Town Board meeting in February, residents were also concerned about overcrowding in North Bellmore schools, which, according to Superintendent Dr. Marie Testa, are at capacity. The North Bellmore School District, one of Bellmore-Merrick’s elementary districts, serves students living in North Bellmore and a small portion of North Merrick. The district recently had to redraw its boundaries in order to take in a rising number of students in the area.

Testa had said she was concerned the proposals were created, without the input of the school district.

Addressing that concern last week, Leyton said it had changed its plans to make the North Bellmore complex a 55-and-older community, to reduce the number of young children living there.

Congello said that the community would be more open to condominiums than apartments. “Rentals are not contributing to the neighborhoods, rather [to] the developers,” she said. “Why do we need more rentals? Why do we need four-story-tall buildings? Why are parents and I paying the taxes we do?”

Apartment buildings are springing up not just in Bellmore, Congello added, but all over suburbia. “It’s not just about the Bellmore issue — it’s about other towns in the Town of Hempstead,” she noted. “[Apartments] are just going to have a devastating effect on the landscape. It’s more about saving our suburbs then anything else. Many people are dead set against this.”

A one-bedroom apartment in the proposed building on Bellmore’s Bedford Avenue would rent for around $2,500 per month. Developers have argued that the buildings will beautify the area, replacing structures that have fallen into disrepair. 

In an effort to raise awareness of the proposals, Congello has organized a Save Our Suburbs rally, on May 14, at 3 p.m., in front of the closed Citi Bank at 2160 Bedford Ave. in Bellmore — the proposed site of one of the new apartment buildings.

“I just don’t understand what is up with rentals all of a sudden,” Congello said. “If I can get Save Our Suburbs to gain momentum, maybe I’ll slow this down. The rally is for politicians, so they can hear the voice of the people.”