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Lynbrook restaurateur fighting for his business amid condo proposal

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A Lynbrook business owner says he is fighting to save his restaurant after a developer recently announced he was seeking to buy the property where the eatery is located and convert it to condominiums. The village board must approve the project for it to move forward.

Jiabiao Wang, who has owned Asahi Hibachi Sushi, at 161 Union Ave. in Lynbrook, since 2014, appeared at a Nov. 16 public hearing and submitted a letter asking the village board to block Union Property NY LLC from selling the land to Long Island Building Corp. The board unanimously decided to postpone a vote on the plan.

Wang’s friend and restaurant patron Dan Weisner read Wang’s statement to the board, explaining that the restaurateur is not fluent in English. In his letter, Wang noted that he had a valid lease with Union Property through 2023 that came with two five-year options, allowing him to extend the agreement through 2033, and that he had done nothing to violate it.

“I urge the board to deny it,” the letter reads. “We are proud of our restaurant, our food, our service, our cleanliness inside and out, [and] the excellent relations we enjoy with the local neighborhood. We are a bother to no one. We are and have always been welcomed as good neighbors.”

Weisner also spoke on behalf of Wang, noting that he had received no communications from the village board or the property owner either disputing his right to be there or attempting to negotiate a buyout.

“Due to Covid-19, few small businesses have been lucky enough to survive the decrease in business and restrictions that the government has placed on serving capacity,” Weisner said. “Because of their loyal and local patrons, they have been able to survive. It would be horrible for the board to change the zoning, and thus shut down another mom-and-pop business.”

Long Island Building Corp. is looking to build two condo complexes, dubbed Parson’s Corners at Lynbrook, comprising 18 units, including two one-bedroom and 16 two-bedroom condos that would be sold, not rented. The buildings would also include a basement for storage units, would be 27 feet tall and would have 38 parking spaces for condo owners.

While Weisner expressed concern about the impact that the new tenants could have on traffic and the school district, attorney William Bonesso said the developers did not anticipate any problems. Bonesso, who represents the firm Forchelli, Deegan and Terrana LLP, spoke to the board as the attorney for Long Island Building Corp.

He noted that many restaurants have come and gone at the site, and that the influx of new residents would increase property values in the village and would bring in more people to patronize local businesses, while filling a need.

“As this board is well aware, there’s a need across Long Island for housing alternatives to single-family residences,” Bonesso said, “both for first-time home buyers who no longer want to live in their parents’ homes or in basement apartments and for empty-nest seniors who no longer want the burden and expense of maintaining a house.”

Bonesso said the developers would not seek a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, from the county or town Industrial Development Agency, and would triple the roughly $78,000 in taxes that are collected from the property now. He also gave the board the results of a traffic study that showed little to no impact on the area, and brought with him an appraiser, who said home values would increase in the area if the project were approved.

Additionally, Bonesso said, the Nassau County Planning Commission ruled in favor of the plan, while village Building Superintendent Brian Stanton said it would blend in with neighboring properties without causing any environmental concerns.

Bonesso also cited a letter from the Lynbrook Chamber of Commerce, endorsing the project. “The chamber board feels that the project has the potential of being a great benefit to both the Lynbrook community and our local businesses,” President Steve Wangel wrote. “The board is hopeful for approval by the village trustees so that this project can commence as soon as possible.”

Jeff Greenfield, a Chamber of Commerce member and Lynbrook business owner, also spoke in favor of the project.

“I was witness to a presentation given to the Chamber of Commerce,” he told the board. “I urge you to continue to rezone this property so that Lynbrook would enjoy this development and good, taxable, ratable properties.”

If the village board were to approve the project, the developers would seek variances and further approval before work could begin. The developers plan to rezone the area from a commercial- and-dwelling district to an all-dwelling district and would need a special-use permit for the proposed multi-family use. If the rezoning were approved, the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals would have to OK parking variances, and the developer would need to have its site plan approved by the village’s Architectural Review Board, in coordination with the Nassau County Department of Public Works and the fire marshal’s office. The project would take about a year to complete.

After the hearing, Mayor Alan Beach said he could not comment on the proposal until the board decided the case, but he said he was keeping an open mind.

“This administration will listen to all proposals presented to the board and carefully consider them with full transparency,” he said.

If approved, the development would be the second major housing project to move forward in the village this year. In June, the much-maligned Capri Lynbrook Motor Inn was razed, and the $24 million, 80-unit Cornerstone at Yorkshire apartment complex will soon replace it.

Though there is an issue between Wang and the property owners, village attorney Tom Atkinson said it is a private dispute, and the village board has nothing to do with it. He added that under the state constitution, the board must hear the application put before it.

“I want to be as respectful to the local business as possible . . .,” he said. “Legally, the village would have no liability” if it were to approve or reject the project.