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East Rockaway residents split on Oceanside apartments


East Rockaway residents are offering mixed reviews after plans were announced to build an apartment complex in Oceanside, on an undeveloped plot of land next to the East Rockaway train station. Several people said they worried about the traffic it might cause.

The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency approved a financial assistance deal on Sept. 5 for a proposed $60 million, 230-unit Rockaway Avenue apartment complex. The agreement includes a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, sales tax exemption and mortgage-recording tax abatement, according to IDA Chairman Richard Kessel.

County Executive Laura Curran, along with Kessel and representatives of Vision LI and the Feil Organization, a Manhattan-based development firm, which has owned the roughly 5.2-acre property since 1979, lauded the deal at a news conference held the same day — before IDA members voted to finalize it.

“This [development] fits right into our vision for economic development right here in Nassau County — transit-oriented development,” Curran said, touting the potential business it could bring to local shops, bars and restaurants. It’s “rental housing that is accessible to our train stations, and that’s what should be happening right here.”

Called Woodcrest Village Park, the four-story, 260,000-square-foot rental complex is marketed as a transit-oriented housing project intended to attract young professionals who would otherwise move out of Nassau County. It will replace a 105-unit Woodcrest rental complex that was demolished after Hurricane Sandy. Ten percent, or 23, of the units are to be designated as workforce housing, which, under Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations, must have reduced rents for households earning up to 80 percent of the median income for the area.

The property lies roughly 100 feet from the busy intersection of Lawson Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, which during peak hours can become snarled with traffic as passing trains frequently block the nearby Long Island Rail Road crossing on Atlantic Avenue. And about 400 feet away, across the East Rockaway village line, Marina Pointe, an 84-unit waterfront condominium complex, is under construction.

Responding to a Herald inquiry on Facebook, several East Rockaway residents expressed concerns about the traffic\ the Oceanside project could bring.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” Dawn Falbee wrote. “Traffic, overcrowding. Not a good idea.”

Susan Torborg shared a similar sentiment. “Our parents and grandparents that grew up in East Rockaway would be so disappointed with our small-town village,” she wrote. “I’m all for progress, but at whose expense? The traffic situation is a nightmare already in that area.”

Chrystal Albert said she felt like she was in New York City because the surrounding villages continue to build up, citing the size of the Safeguard Storage facility being built in East Rockaway and the recently completed Regal Cinemas 13 theater in Lynbrook.

The Oceanside property was originally zoned by the Town of Hempstead as Residence CA, which allows for multiple family dwellings with a height limit of up to two and a half stories, or 35 feet, but in March the Hempstead Town Council unanimously approved a zoning change to Resident CA-S, which allows for building heights to reach four and a half stories, or 60 feet.

Under the PILOT deal, Woodcrest Village Park would make nearly $114,000 in payments for the first three years, after which the total is set to increase steadily to $1.9 million during the final year of the agreement.

Much like the Oceanside project, Marina Pointe was created after the previous development — Davison’s Boat Yard — was destroyed by Sandy. The Jericho-based Beechwood Organization bought the property in 2014, and construction on the condos began in 2016 and will be completed in 2019.

Steven Dubb, Beechwood’s principal owner, said the old bulkhead has been replaced, floating docks were installed, and the site was raised to make the property more storm- resilient.

“We now have fully furnished models, which opened over the summer, and our first residents began moving in this past August,” Dubb said. “Buyers are telling us they are excited to move into their new homes. They can’t wait to take advantage of the convenient village location for nearby shopping and easy transit into the city.”

The East Rockaway complex has 54 suites and 30 villas, each with open floor plans. They have hardwood flooring and plush carpets in the bedrooms. There are options for a balcony and an elevator. The suites have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, an average living area of about 1,200 square feet, and range from $460,000 to $640,000. The villas are two-story condominiums that have an average living space of about 1,550 square feet. They cost between $535,000 and $665,000.

With Marina Pointe already adding new residents to the area, many current residents said the traffic, and the risk of accidents, would only increase with the addition of another complex.

“I’m all for not leaving the vacant lot, since people do need housing, but I fear this might be more than the area can handle,” Denise Weiner wrote, “especially near those new townhouses.”

While most responses to the Facebook post were critical, others were more positive, including that of Jonathan Meneses. “I approve of any plan that would turn this derelict property into something useful,” he said. “Standing on the East Rockaway-LIRR train platform, this property is a total eyesore. I’m all for more transit-centric apartments, ones that place more emphasis on using mass transportation like the LIRR.”

Aun Sriprasertying wrote that the Oceanside and East Rockaway complexes would help drive local businesses, and Ashley Miller said she was keeping an open mind. “The housing is needed — I would consider it personally — but they need to improve the road infrastructure first,” she wrote.

Many Oceanside residents also criticized the development, saying that the deal’s announcement was the first they had heard of it, and demanded that the IDA, the Town of Hempstead and the developer communicate better in the lead-up to approvals, giving them a chance to voice their concerns.