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Developer pitches Franklin apartment redevelopment

A rendering of the proposed apartment building shown at a hearing on Jan. 11. Attorney Dominick Minerva, right, made the case for the redevelopment to the public.
A rendering of the proposed apartment building shown at a hearing on Jan. 11. Attorney Dominick Minerva, right, made the case for the redevelopment to the public.

Developers of a proposed four-story, 35-unit apartment complex on South Franklin Avenue, between the Valley Stream Long Island Rail Road train station and West Hawthorne Avenue, presented construction plans at a public hearing live-streamed from Village Hall on Jan. 11. The development would replace a strip of commercial storefronts and offices now on the property.

The hearing came as the village board of trustees considers a zone change for the properties to allow for the construction of multi-family housing. Approval would clear a major hurdle for the project to go forward.

Valley Stream-based attorney Dominick Minerva is representing the Oyster Bay developer Rand L.I. LLC in its application to the village. He began his testimony at the hearing with a statement from the village Economic and Community Development Team, a committee made up largely of village employees, which voiced its support for the project, noting that with its proximity to the train station and the village downtown on Rockaway Avenue, the apartments would represent a major im-provement in the neighborhood.

“The proposal is a significant investment in our community that will expand our taxes without requiring additional village services,” the statement read. “It will enhance the safety and beauty of the area around the train station, and we believe will be one part of a future transformation that our entire community will be proud of.”

In 2020, the properties paid more than $120,000 in school taxes, roughly $23,000 in general taxes and nearly $26,000 in village taxes, according to Nassau County and village tax rolls. Minerva said that according to estimates, the property would yield roughly $289,000 in property taxes once construction is complete.

Speaking for Rand, Bellmore-based real estate appraiser Barry Nelson said that by his estimates, roughly $8,300 would be paid per unit in property taxes.

“I believe the proposal for the rezoning is for the best, and beneficial to the business district as well,” Nelson said.

Additionally, Minerva said Rand does not plan to apply for tax breaks to either the Nassau County or Town of Hempstead industrial development agencies.

With 35, two-bedroom units, the apartments would produce about three to five students for School District 24, in which the proposal is located, Minerva said, adding that the cost of education in the district is around $30,000 per student.

Members of the board of trustees had an opportunity to ask questions about the proposal. Trustee Vincent Grasso asked whether the developer had offered any streetscape improvements, whether the proposal would include affordable housing, as required under the Long Island Workforce Housing Act, and whether it would waive tax breaks to the village if it applied for them in the future.

Minerva replied that Rand had agreed to add landscaping to the perimeter of the property’s first floor, which is to serve as an open-air parking structure.

Additionally, Minerva said Rand would not include workforce housing in its proposal. According to the Workforce Housing Act, any development, including five or more residential units, must set aside 10 percent of the units for workforce housing, which according to the state law, is priced for families or individuals making 130 percent the median income for the area or lower, or otherwise pay a fee.

Minerva said the developer did not anticipate that the units would exceed the rental price for renters making 130 percent median income.

Finally, he said Rand would agree to waive tax breaks to the village if it applied for them.

Because the zone change would loosen zoning requirements — such as density and height — for the property, Grasso wondered what benefits residents might experience in exchange.

“In addition to the tax benefit, what would village residents see?” he said.

Minerva argued that the apartments would bring additional housing options, construction jobs and economic activity, particularly for Rockaway, which is a few hundred feet to the east.

Should the board of trustees approve the rezone, the proposal would still need to go through a site plan and architectural board review, Minerva said. Additionally, Rand would need a parking variance from the village Board of Zoning Appeals. Current construction plans call for 51 parking spots, while village code requires 70.

Speaking for Rand, traffic engineer John Harter said he was “very comfortable” with the number of spaces currently in the proposal. With its proximity to the train station, a tandem space configuration and on-street parking spaces nearby, he said according to Institute for Traffic Engineering studies, the complex would likely generate around 40 cars.

Rand purchased the property on Dec. 15, 2017, from its previous owner, Franklin Square-based South Franklin Associates LLC, for $1.15 million, according to Nassau County land records.

Brad Mott, managing member of Rand, first petitioned the village board of trustees for the rezone proposal on Oct. 11, 2019, according to the village’s application to the Nassau County Planning Commission, obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.

After the hearing, Fare said the board would further consider the petition before a final vote. Although he did not set a date, the next board of trustees work session is scheduled for Feb. 1 and its regular meeting for Feb. 8. The meetings are held via Zoom.