At a Glen Cove City Council meeting on Feb. 11, the council once again tabled a decision to submit Livingston Development’s proposal to convert its Villa development from condominiums to an apartment complex to the city planning board. The move was suggested by Councilman Rocco Totino, and four other council members and Mayor Tim Tenke voted to approve it. Councilwoman Marsha Silverman abstained.
Dozens of residents attended a pre-council meeting on Feb. 4, when Livingston President Daniel Livingston requested that the council not only submit his proposal to the planning board, but also push for the city’s Industrial Development Agency to grant him additional incentives to build.
“After all these years, I still intend to give birth to this baby,” Livingston said. “I’ve already outlaid $32 million on this project. I am building this.”
At the meeting, Livingston and his attorney, Kathleen Deegan Dickson, explained that the new project would not be much different than the one the City Council approved in 2017. The most significant change would be the replacement of the condos with 216 rental units, most of them one-bedroom apartments. Livingston purchased another half-acre lot adjacent to the property from the Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club, which he is seeking to include in the development.
The proposal for parking has also changed, to include two additional floors in an underground lot and the elimination of a valet-parking system. Deegan Dickson said that the rest of the project would remain the same, with two buildings of apartments, an indoor pool, a pet run, a picnic area, a fitness center and a bocce court. Livingston stressed that the exterior of the proposed buildings would remain largely unchanged.
According to Deegan Dickson, city code states that the council is legally obligated to pass the application on to the planning board, which the council should have done when it received the proposal last Aug. 20. She declined to comment on whether Livingston would take legal action against the city if the issue were not resolved soon.
During the public comment portion of the Feb. 11 meeting, which lasted for over two hours, many residents expressed their concerns about the Livingston development. Gail Waller said she was worried about the purchase of the Boys & Girls Club’s property, saying that it violated the site plan, which specified where Livingston could and could not develop.
There were also no subdivisions on that land, Waller said, meaning that it could not be divided into smaller parcels that could be sold. City Attorney Greg Kalnitski explained that a lot line adjustment had been made by Building Department Director Richard Summa.
Waller said she had no problem with Livingston inquiring about the Boys and Girls Club land. But the club shouldn’t sell it, she said, and the city had to determine whether that was allowed. The land, she said, was supposed to be a playground open to the public, and the fact that it borders a residential area makes the development even more concerning.
“You people have to take a look,” Waller told the council. “This is the Boys & Girls Club — it’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller.”
Another resident, Grace Slezak, a local real estate agent, said the information the council had at the Feb. 4 meeting was erroneous. The Boys & Girls Club’s land, Slezak said, had not been subdivided and Livingston had not purchased it, as he said at the meeting.
“To do a subdivision, one must get a new lot,” Slezak said. “There was no new lot formed. To get a sale, there must be a contract, closing documents and a deed, none of which exist.”
Since the lot is not subdivided, Slezak said, Livingston would purchase all 2.9 acres of land occupied by the Boys & Girls Club if the sale were to go through. Because of the erroneous information, she asked that the council abstain from moving forward with the vote to pass the proposal on to the planning board, and perhaps eliminate it from the agenda entirely.
Roni Epstein, whose home borders the Livingston development, said she would be directly affected by it. Though city code states that the council “shall” pass the application to the planning board, Epstein said, that doesn’t mean that it must — information, she said, which was confirmed by her attorney. She said that Tenke knew this, but ignored it and planned to move forward with sending the application anyway.
“It looks very much like you want to push this forward, against whatever odds there are,” Epstein said.
Tenke said her accusations were unfounded, and Epstein urged the mayor and the council not to pass the application along. She said they were not legally obligated to do so, and it would be immoral to let Livingston develop in the area.
“Don’t just put this forward just because someone tells you to,” Epstein said. “Do the right thing. This is the community that elected you. Do the right thing.”
In the days after the meeting, Councilman Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews said that one of the chief reasons why the council chose to table the decision was that it was presented with new information about the development only a few days before the vote was scheduled. He said that one of the biggest questions that arose was about the Boys & Girls Club, and whether it had the right to sell its property, since it was donated by the city in the 1980s.
Stevenson-Mathews said he understood the passionate response from the public about the Livingston project. “I feel residents are concerned about overdevelopment, and the fact that the Livingston proposal adds 40 more units is a concern,” he said. “Our density is significant as it is, and the idea of any developer, from my perspective, asking for additional units is concerning, at best.”
“Their threshold for being OK with more apartments has ended,” Stevenson-Mathews added later. “I just think people feel enough is enough, and for that reason I think the response from the audience is understandable.”
At the pre-council meeting on Feb. 18, the council agreed to discuss a vote on whether to pass the application on to the planning board at its next meeting, on Feb. 25.