Dogwood Terrace senior housing redevelopment sparks outrage in Franklin Square


A plan by the Town of Hempstead to modernize Dogwood Terrace — an affordable senior housing complex in Franklin Square — is quickly gaining opposition from neighbors, who are calling it a “monstrosity.”

Town officials announced at the beginning of the month that the 104-unit complex, at 1178 Martha Place, would receive a much-needed upgrade, but neighboring homeowners are voicing objections as they are learning more details about the redevelopment project.

The Town of Hempstead Housing Authority has proposed expanding the low-cost housing development from two to four stories, while retaining the 104 units to accommodate town residents who are 55 and older. The existing two-story complex sits at a dead-end on Martha Place, behind the Stop & Shop on Franklin Avenue.

Dick Petersen, a longtime resident of Emma Place in Franklin Square, who lives close to the apartment complex, said if the town moves ahead with the project, it would be a “monstrosity” in the neighborhood.

“It’s like putting a size 12 shoe on a size 6 foot — it just doesn’t fit,” Petersen said. “We moved out here to get away from that.”

Under the plan, the complex’s studio apartments would be converted into one-bedroom apartments, with each unit being enlarged from about 100 to 677 square feet. To avoid flooding from the small creek nearby, the entire building would be raised, town officials said.

In addition, elevators would be installed to improve accessibility, and parking on the property would be doubled from roughly 50 to 88 spots. The site’s senior recreation center — which touts activities such as shuffleboard, physical fitness classes and holiday-themed parties — would also undergo renovations, town officials said.

“It’s fine about the renovation, I think the seniors deserve it,” Melina Stiruzzieri, a resident of Lucille Avenue, near Dogwood Terrace, said. “Just not a four-story (building) — I think when you build a four-story like that, you should be in a more commercial area.”

Construction is slated to begin later this year and could take up to 18 months to complete, officials said. During construction, those who live at the facility could move to another senior center of their choice or live with family members while they wait for the project to be completed. Tenants would not be responsible for moving expenses and labor, since housing authority officials said they would take care of those costs.

Homeowners expressed concerns about the impact construction would have on the neighborhood, and some said they believe the projected timeline is unrealistic and could take longer than 18 months to build.

“(When) trucks drive past, every house is going to be dealing with debris from these trucks, and it’s going to be a lot of it,” Mike Rutigliano, a Lucille Avenue homeowner, said. “This is going to be an all-day thing going on for months.”

The current Dogwood Terrace apartments were built in the early 1970s. Petersen said he hosted the first meeting at his home with members of the Housing Authority and other residents to discuss the original project. They agreed on a two-story complex that would fit in with the rest of neighborhood.

Roughly 40 years later, Petersen said the Housing Authority is not living up to this promise with the new proposal.

During a recent Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals’ meeting, Petersen pleaded with the board not to “destroy the beautiful community” by approving the redevelopment.

“(Dogwood Terrace) has been very functional in that capacity for years,” he said. “If there is work to be done, let’s take the money, rebuild, refurbish and re-equip for the seniors with the housing we have.”

Rutigliano said only a few dozen residents received a letter from the town alerting them about the proposal, but he said he believes the project would impact much more than the Dogwood Terrace area.

“This affects every town on Long Island and everybody in the Town of Hempstead because if they are allowed to do this, they are setting a precedent that (anyone) can build higher,” Rutigliano said.

Lisa DelliPizzi, a real estate agent and Franklin Square resident for 18 years, said this is not the first time the community has come together to voice their disapproval for a project. Last year, nearly 700 Franklin Square residents opposed a plan to build a three-story storage unit behind Valley Caterers, at 600 Franklin Ave.

She said she fears if the Dogwood Terrace modernization project is approved, it could open up more doors to unwanted development in Franklin Square.

“If they go higher than two stories, they will give an opportunity for anybody to make an application to build something that’s going to ruin the entire town,” she said. “They’re going to make a huge mistake.”