Residents packed Mineola Village Hall last night for round two of three public hearings on the much-debated Village Green, a 296-unit apartment building proposed by Lalezarian Developers for 199 East 2nd St. The dwellings would replace a Citibank at the site.
“We will not make a decision tonight,” Mayor Scott Strauss said of ruling on the project. “We think it’s important to give everyone an opportunity to be heard.”
The board asked for additional information on traffic issues near Winthrop-University Hospital and further analysis of the impact of the project on the Mineola School District, mainly school-aged children.
“We’re currently reevaluating the parking conditions in downtown Mineola anyway,” Strauss said. “We hired a consultant two months ago to give his opinion if Mineola is growing too big, too fast. We are also implementing a committee to look at the village’s Master Plan, which is 10 years old.”
According to Hauppauge-based engineering firm VHB Technical Advisor Ginny Watral, expanded studies indicate nine school-aged children would be generated from the project. A previous study revealed that 37 students would have surfaced if built.
“I submitted excerpts of studies that dealt with this type of development,” she said. “In the addendum, we included the entire study.”
Student influx created a spark between the village and Mineola School Board recently, mainly because of tax breaks the developers would seek from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency. The school board, as well as District Superintendent Michael Nagler and Assistant Finance Superintendent Jack Waters were present, but did not speak.
“I will reiterate our opposition to tax exemptions for residential buildings now and in the future until the tax cap law is fixed,” School Board President Artie Barnett said in a recent interview.
Traffic and quality-of-life concerns dominated the latter portion of the hearing. Andrea Hopkins of Mineola wants a traffic study expanded, which studied three different traffic studies near the site, but not west of Mineola Boulevard. Other residents called for private studies by independent, non-developer financed analysis.
“We’re looking at 300 or more cars on the road if approved,” Hopkins said.
Susan Ghetti said “This is my town and I don’t want this in my town.”
VHB traffic expert Patrick Lenihan reassessed the traffic patterns at the proposed site. He said 484 parking spots would be created for the building’s garage. That’s a number that did not sit well with Jessie Smith of Horton Highway.
“I live on Horton Highway…it has become a highway,” Smith said. “I have a hard time believing 484 parking spots won’t create more cars.”
Supporters of the project pointed to the influx of shopping and nighttime life the complex would bring to Mineola’s downtown. Citing the proposed village courtyard as well as the restaurant and retail space, 20-year resident Richard Maher said it’s a no-brainer.
“This is what they do for a living,” Maher said. “They’re coming in. They are taking a risk.”
Mayor Strauss pointed to the height of the building (almost 99 feet south toward Old Country Road) as an issue that needed addressing. Developer Kevin Lalezarian said he would consider eliminating 30 dwellings to satisfy Mineola Village Board’s concerns.
“You definitely need to take at least three stories off the top,” trustee Paul Cusato said.
The next public hearing on the Village Green is set for Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in Village Hall at 155 Washington Ave. in Mineola.
-This a developing news story. Check back at www.mineolaamerican.com as updates continue.