Pearsall Project stirs up Cedarhurst neighbors


Nearly every resident who spoke in opposition to the proposed Pearsall Project in Cedarhurst at a public hearing on June 8 reflected the anger that community members expressed as far back as a meeting last August.

In the Lawrence High School cafeteria, nearly 40 people voiced their concerns about increased traffic in an already densely populated area and the impact on their quality of life that three four-story buildings, containing 112 apartments on 2.5 acres, could create. The proposal has been in development for roughly five years.

The Village of Cedarhurst will make two decisions in the near future: whether to create an overlay zoning district that would rezone the area for the Pearsall Project, and whether to approve the development. With no overlay district, the current zoning allows the developer, Pearsall Rock LLC, to build a 95,000-square-foot office building with 475 parking spaces.

Pearsall Avenue, connecting Rockaway Turnpike and Washington Avenue, has several vacant commercial sites on its south side. The north side is mostly residential, with a smattering of office buildings.

Many motorists use the street as a shortcut from Rockaway Turnpike and Washington Avenue because of the heavy traffic on those roads.

“Without Pearsall, I’m finished — I don’t know another block that’s going to get me around here,” Lawrence resident Joseph Lifschutz said at last week’s meeting, adding, “There’s no infrastructure to match the buildings. If you want to build all these apartments and change the scope of the neighborhood from single-family to residential, to apartments, you have to build an infrastructure.”

Pearsall Rock proposed widening a section of Pearsall Avenue by five feet. “A five-foot setback in front of their building on Pearsall is a joke unless they're going to continue that five feet the whole street down,” Cedarhurst resident Anessa Cohen said, “and we know they’re not going to do that, because they cannot.”

Residents of nearby streets Fair Oaks Place, Oak Court and Summit Avenue expressed concerns about privacy and excess noise the project would bring. “What am I looking at when I come out in my backyard?” Fair Oaks Place resident Daniel Mancici asked. “I'm looking at somebody on the fourth floor looking at me.” 

The project, which would generate $6 million in the form of a benefit payment to the village in three $2 million increments, was compared to the Regency Residence in Lawrence by developers and other speakers. The money can only be used for infrastructure improvements.

Developers gave a slide presentation, titled “The Regency v. Pearsall Project.” Under Regency, it read: “One large building with underground and at-grade parking; four stories, 48.5 feet tall; 44 residential units; 13 parking spaces, 12-16 of which are tandem parking spaces; parking ratio: 1.48 spaces per unit; variances required: height (30 ft. permitted), building coverage (30% permitted, 43% approved), and density (108 units permitted).”

Under Pearsall, it read: “three separate buildings with underground parking; four stories, 45 feet tall; 112 residential units; 317 parking spaces (only 309 required by village code); parking ratio: 2.83 spaces per unit; variances required: none under proposed zoning.”

“I feel that they were comparing something that's apples and oranges,” Cohen, a real estate broker, said.

She noted that the Regency has valet parking, which was not mentioned for Pearsall, and that behind the Regency is a cemetery, in contrast to the single-family homes on Summit Avenue that Pearsall would be neighbor to.

The Pearsall apartments are being marketed to young families and older people who want to remain in the area or downsize, which is why some residents favor the project.

For others, however, the marketing strategy appears murky. The “Regency sells at a sales price of $2 million or more,” Cohen said. “Are they planning to put these places on for $2 million?” She added,

“We're being sold a lot of things that just don't look right.”
 Susan Samson, a Cedarhurst resident, also spoke in opposition to the Pearsall proposal, asking to “scale down the project,” she said. Other residents agreed, asking for either single or multi-family homes instead of buildings, or for three-story buildings instead of four-story.

“I just can’t build a one-story building,” said Pearsall developer Tommy Lieberman, adding that the land costs too much. “As much as it sounds great or beautiful, I can’t do it. It doesn’t make sense business-wise.”

The Pearsall developer’s traffic study, submitted by Cameron Engineering, of Woodbury, concluded that the Project would not have adverse effect on traffic.

The village hired Hauppauge-based Eschbacher Engineering to conduct an independent traffic study. Eschbacher supported Cameron’s findings.

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