Village Green Talks Far From Over

From left: Frank and Kevin Lalezarian
From left: Frank and Kevin Lalezarian

The third of what seem to be unending public hearings on the Village Green, a proposed apartment complex by New Hyde Park-based Lalezarian Developers, resembled a conga line detractors calling for multiple changes and the project’s denial from the Mineola Village Board last night. Developer Kevin Lalezarian plans to build a mixed-used dwelling, complete with a courtyard, a restaurant and retail space.

“It’s up to the board,” Lalezarian said of the project’s potential approval. “We’re confident in our project and am looking to work with the community and the board to create a viable project.”

The developer proposed the elimination of one story (30 apartments), dropping the apartment total to 266. This change would eradicate 45 parking spaces in the third level of the underground garage.

“We made tonight’s change and feel it’s solid,” Lalezarian said. “We tried to listen to the board and the community and looked to the extent of what can be done while still maintaining a feasible project.”

Citibank at 199 Second St. asked for six months to move to its new location at Lalezarian’s rising 315-unit apartment complex at 250 Old Country Road—if the plan is approved.

“Assuming the completion of [Old Country Road], it’ll be ready for the occupancy by the end of the summer, we’d turn over space to Citibank to relocate there,” Lalezarian said.

That time frame would make Citibank’s move final in March 2016, which would signal the start of demolition for the Village Green, Lalezarian estimated. Construction for the Village Green would stretch into mid-2018 at the earliest, according to Lalezarian.

“Demolition would take approximately a month, with these assumptions, [laying] foundation would take three months, so approximately from April to July [2016],” Lalezarian said.

A digital rendering of the Village Green
A digital rendering of the Village Green

The changes were well received by select residents.

“Last time I checked, there were 50 other municipalities the Lalezarians could’ve chosen and they chose us,” Mark Swensen said.

Others acknowledged a need for downtown redevelopment, but not at the cost of cramming in more residential buildings.

“That property needs a project,” said Joe Grilo. “I’m not sure it needs a project of this magnitude.”

Others suggested extra steps. Trustee Paul Cusato asked the building match the height of the area’s newest structure, the Winthrop-University Hospital Research and Academic Center.

“I’m sorry but I have to reiterate my original comments,” he said. “I want this building dropped three floors, which is closest to Winthrop’s [new building].”

Scott Fairgrieve agreed with that statement. With three rising complexes on Old Country Road, including Lalezarian’s building across from the Nassau County Legislature, residents fear the area is being over-saturated.

“I get Old Country Road development,” Fairgrieve, a former Mineola deputy mayor, said. “But now, we’re going above the train tracks. It’s creeping up. If [the village board allows] this, you’re going to set precedents for other buildings in the future.”

Workforce Housing

Multiple residents took issue with potential workforce housing plans.

“A building of that size does not belong on Second Street,” Andrea Hopkins said.

New York State requires multi-family developers to set aside at least 10 percent of a proposed property for affordable workforce housing. In the state’s law, its workforce housing for individuals or families must be at or below 130 percent of Long Island’s median income.

“Everything I’ve read has been anywhere between 50 and 75 percent,” Hopkins said.

Mineola set its worforce housing at 80 percent of Nassau County’s median income of $64,800 for individuals and $84,000 for families under the 80 percent law. These groups would be eligible for below market rental rates.

“Our comfort level was at 80 percent,” village attorney John Spellman said. “So that a person can make that and qualify. The board will discuss whether it wants to go that route or embrace the state’s statute. We don’t want to [eliminate people].”

Under the 130 percent designation, an individual can clear $105,000 while families could make $137,500.

“The board has not determined [if it] would apply the 130 percent rule or the 80 percent rule relative to the Village Green project,” Spellman said. “These types of housing are not subsidized housing. No third-party pays any of the rent. The tenants must qualify as being able to pay rent on their own.”

One-bedroom dwellings in the Village Green would cost $2,300-$2,400 per month with two-bedroom apartments topping off at $2,600-2,900. If Mineola adopts the 80 percent rule for set-aside workforce housing, rents would total $1,500 and $1,880, respectively for 10 percent of the units. Developers did not have figures for the 130 percent rule.

“We haven’t factored that in yet,” said Lalezarian’s legal counsel Kevin Walsh.

Tax Break Talk
Tax breaks for residential developments in Mineola had been the crux of initial issues for concerned residents and Mineola School Board members dating back to 2014. An exchange of letters between the village and school boards spilled over into numerous meetings, concerning an influx of school-aged children and the district’s inability to raise its tax base during budget season if the Nassau County Industrial Agency grants a 20-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs).

“We’re picking up the tab for 20 years,” resident Susan Ghetti said. “That’s an entire generation of students here that [the Lalezarians] are not paying for. Our taxes keep going up.”

The Mineola School District’s first proposed tax levy increase for 2015-’16 is 1.37 percent, with a base growth factor of 1.0027.

“The [tax base growth factor] is supposed to account for all of the new growth in the school community,” District Superintendent Michael Nagler said at last Thursday’s school board meeting. “So in all the different pieces of the towns, any of new growth is reflected [in the tax levy calculation].”

The school district would lose nearly $9 million over a 20-year PILOT on the Village Green, school officials suggest, assuming a 2 percent tax levy each year. In the first year of a PILOT, district officials assert they’d lose $403,000 with compounding loss increases each year, resulting in a $670,000 loss in the 20th year.

“The important thing to know here is that’s a loss that repeats and compounds every year,” Nagler said.

Mineola village officials argued last year that the school district stands to benefit from parts of the PILOTs. In an October letter to the Mineola American, Mayor Scott Strauss said the district would receive $25.1 million from the current Lalezarian building and the 275-unit Mineola Modera and 36-apartment complex Hudson House.
Lalezarian plans to apply for IDA relief, village officials say.

“If an inducement letter is issued by the IDA, we will carefully analyze the economic effects of the proposed project on our assessment base,” Strauss said.

A back and forth between the boards, with school officials claiming they were left out of the loop in negotiations of previous Mineola housing developments, spilled over into numerous meetings. This preceded three years documents had surfaced suggesting advanced notice was given to the school district.

A fourth hearing will be held on Wednesday, March 11.

—This a developing news story. Check back at here as updates continue and pickup the Mineola American for a more in-depth look.

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