A Garden City-based developer held the first of a series of gatherings with Long Beach civic groups and residents at the Long Beach Public Library on Monday to present its proposal for the long-vacant Superblock property.
The Engel Burman Group is currently in contract to purchase the six-acre property between Long Beach and Riverside boulevards, which has been empty for about 40 years, from developer iStar Financial.
IStar abandoned its luxury apartment project in August, after its applications for tax breaks of up to $129 million were rejected twice by the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency. The company filed a $100 million lawsuit against the city last year, claiming that the city reneged on an agreement to support iStar’s request for tax breaks. The city filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which is still pending, a city official said.
Daniel Deegan, an attorney for Engel Burman, said that the contract to purchase the property is contingent on “receiving all approvals necessary for the project and its financial feasibility.” He added that holding several meetings with stakeholders was vital to get feedback from community members before moving forward with the project.
“We have a great project that will hopefully make sense for the developer, the community and for Long Island as a whole,” Deegan said at the meeting.
Gary Lewi, an Engel Burman spokesman, also noted the importance of involving the community in the process. “I think the advantage of being a Long Island-based developer is that we know Long Islanders, and certainly knowthat people in the City of Long Beach want to know, want to hear and be able to engage in the dialogue — they want to be heard and respected,” Lewi said.
Deegan and members of the Engel Burman team showcased the plan for about 50 residents. It includes two nine-story buildings that would have 200 condominiums and 238 rental apartments, with 10 percent of them categorized as affordable housing — which may qualify the project for tax assistance from the Nassau County IDA.
The complex would have more than 900 parking spots — two per residential unit — as well as a restaurant by the boardwalk with its own parking, a “grab and go” food establishment, pools, a community area and a tennis court, among other amenities.
Unlike iStar’s project, which called for two 167-foot-tall towers with 522 units, Engel Burman’s plan would comply with city zoning code and not require any variances, Deegan said. The height of the proposed buildings would be 110 feet, the maximum permitted by code, and the project would be constructed above the 17-foot flood plain to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency elevation requirements.
Though the proposal is still in its early stages, Engel Burman team members estimated that the project would cost $200 million to $300 million. Steven Krieger, a principal at the firm, told the audience that the deal could be closed by the end of the year, and that the project could be completed in three to four years.
Deegan said that the project would have to make financial sense for Engel Burman — which also developed the nearby Aqua, an eight-story, 36-unit condo building with ocean views from every residence — and that the firm intended to seek a 30-year, $116 million payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement from the Nassau IDA.
Under the PILOT program, the developer would pay $1.2 million in taxes in the first year, with increases up to $6.8 million at 30 years.
Deegan added that the PILOT would apply only to rental units, and that the IDA would hire its own consultant to determine the financial feasibility of the project.
Roy Lester, a former president of the Long Beach Board of Education, said he did not support the potential tax break and questioned the firm’s financial projections.
“IStar pulled the same crap, and we called them out on it,” Lester said. “You come in with a great plan — that’s wonderful — but let’s be realistic.”
Lester acknowledged, however, that if the area is going to be developed, Engel Burman’s proposal is the best one he has seen. “I thought their plan was excellent, and I have no objection to them staying within the [zoning] limits,” he said. “Everything, architecturally, looked beautiful. It’s something that the town would definitely buy.”
Sam Pinto, president of the Eastholme Civic Association, who helped organize the meetings, touched on the issue of tax breaks. “It’s always concerning when the concept of a tax abatement is being brought up,” he said, “but that’s something that’s going to be worked through the Nassau County IDA.”
Residents asked a number of questions about the project’s impact on the city’s infrastructure and its schools. “These public engagement sessions, organized with the civics, is part of what the community needs so they can ask the questions and hopefully get those answers for what’s important for these types of projects,” Pinto said, “because we’re worried and concerned about our infrastructure, our roads, our water, and we want to make sure that those questions are addressed when process is being considered.”