Woodmere Club redevelopment plan garners community support


Update: The June 17 Village of Woodburgh meeting on the proposed plab will take place at Hewlett High School, 60 Everit Ave., Hewlett, at 7 p.m.

More than seven years after developers Efrem Gerszberg and Robert Weiss purchased the Woodmere Club, sparking controversy and a series of lawsuits, the pair unveiled a plan this week that was meet with praise and gratitude by community members.

In a nearly packed Lawrence Middle School auditorium on Monday, residents of the impacted communities — Cedarhurst, Lawrence, Woodmere and Woodsburgh — and other Five Towns neighbors listened to the proposal.

Gerszberg and Weiss bought the then 109-year-old Woodmere Club for a little more than $9 million in 2017, and assumed the club’s nearly $15 million in debt.

“This is just a preliminary discussion to show what we have been discussing for the past five years, after the negotiations and settlements and lawsuits and back and forth,” Lawrence Mayor Alex Edelman said.

The new plan offered by Gerszberg and Weiss includes the construction of 160 age-restricted condominiums, five residential lots, and the dedication of property to the Town of Hempstead to create a turning lane on Broadway and a sidewalk on Meadow Drive as well as a 75-foot landscaped buffer and a 300-foot setback off Broadway.

Fifty acres of club property would become a conservation alliance, where development would be prohibited. The plan would also create a five-acre Lawrence Park, operational control of the club would be transferred to the Village of Woodsburgh, and a 50 foot-wide buffer space of adjoining property would be transferred to the club’s neighbors.

Gerszberg urged community members to voice their opinions, in order to win the approval of the Town of Hempstead, which is one deciding entity along with the two villages.

“Nothing has been really agreed to, nor have any details really been finalized or discussed in detail,” Gerszberg said. “Hempstead has said to move forward, this product has to have the strong support of the public.”

Rena Saffra, a staunch initial opponent of the developers’ original 284-single-family proposal, was the first to express her support for the new plan.

“We can take an opportunity that I think is pretty smart and do something that the community really needs,” Saffra, a member of the Five Towns Civic Association, which was created to oppose the development of the club property. “I think we really need the 55-and-older, I know we really need the sponge, that is the Woodmere club, who remain there to protect us from flooding.”

Amid a handful of lawsuits, including a $200 million federal suit that the developers lost, the town and the villages of Lawrence and Woodsburgh created a Coastal Conservation District, which aimed to reduce development to 53 homes.

A number of residents said they supported eliminating the 300-foot setback in order to free up more park land, and some said they opposed developers building infrastructure on Woodmere Channel, on the property, but would rather be allowed water access.

Lisa Ott, president and chief executive of the North Shore Land Alliance, voiced her support for the plan, along with Enrico Nardone, of the Seatuck Environmental Association, a nonprofit dedicated to conserving wildlife; Russ Comeau, president of the South Shore Audubon Society, which protects local bird species; Lawrence Deputy Mayor Paris Popack; and Murray Forman, a member of the Nassau County Planning Commission and president of the Lawrence Board of Education.

Forman said that the development of an age-restricted community would alleviate the stress of finding additional busing for children in the community. “We cannot put even one more bus on the road,” he said.

A majority of the attendees raised their hands when they were asked who supported the proposal.

Gerszberg and Weiss said that a project like this would likely take two years to complete.

“We are pleased to see the overwhelming public support for this much needed age-restricted condominium project,” Weiss said. “This plan will create one of the largest conservation areas in Long Island.”

Lawrence Village Administrator Ron Goldman said that given the community’s positive reaction, the next step would be to conduct traffic studies. Town of Hempstead and Woodsburgh officials did not comment on the approval process.

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