While driving through the village’s downtown, you may still notice a decent sized gap between a row of buildings that line Main Street near the LIRR grade crossing. So what is going on in that area? Back in February of 2019, the village board approved a four-story mixed use building at 86 and 88 Main St. that would have retail space on the first floor with 11 residential apartment units above. The project would involve razing the vacant Buccelli Uomo at 86 Main St. and combining it with the vacant lot at 88 Main St. The building that once stood at 88 Main St. was demolished back in 1974.
The new building, which drew some strong opposition from local business owners in the area, would also increase the village’s tax base since it does not have any Industrial Development Agency (IDA) or payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) incentives.
But now two years later, there has still been no progress made at all on the project. At a public hearing last month, the owner of the property, Joseph Puccio, who purchased the property back in 2015, requested the village board grant him another one year extension of a special use permit for the construction of the new building. Back in March of 2020 right before COVID-19 hit, Puccio had asked for another extension that would have construction start in March of 2021.
“Due to COVID, we had to postpone plans for construction of the building and we are now back to planning the start date for early spring 2022,” Puccio told the board.
Mayor Scott Strauss responded to Puccio’s request by stating, “Back in 2019, you came to us and asked us for a special use permit, which we granted. And you were asked then when you were going to start building, and you said three years. Then we told you, you have to come back before us when you are going to actually build. Instead of that, you said at the night of the hearing you were going to build right away. Which one is it? I find it hard to believe that’s the case.”
Puccio informed the board that he had every intention of starting construction right away back in 2019, but the coordination between architects and engineers took a year and a half to design the building.
“Once the building was finalized, which was last summer, drawings went out,” he explained. “We actually submitted a set of drawings to the building department. The contractor that we have on board reviewed the drawings and he came back with a very high budget.”
After the high budget, the architects and engineers tried to adjust the budget to make it more feasible.
“We were in the midst of that last fall,” Puccio said. “In January, I got COVID and I was out for six weeks. I’m still suffering from COVID. I had to put the entire project on pause. We also had issues with financing. The bank last year also paused any new construction loans. So we have resumed discussions with the bank and I have my architect now revisiting the drawings.”
Puccio said his intent is to complete the drawings this summer, submit them to the village’s building department, which will take a few months to review, and then mobilize.
“I believe it wouldn’t be able to start until next spring,” he said. “I’m trying to be fair with my answer. I don’t want to give you a false start date.”
Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira felt sympathetic to the situation at hand, as long as the requirements the board set back in 2019 were still being followed.
“Things happen,” he said. “I know there was a lot of movement and there still is a lot of movement going on down there. I’m willing to take Mr. Puccio at his word this time, that these things were beyond his control. We know that things don’t always go according to plan.”
Puccio said that they weren’t changing the overall look of the building or the setback, but are only changing minor things like interior portions of the building.
Trustee George Durham asked Puccio if the board gave him an extension to May 1, 2022 if the building would start construction, in which Puccio responded yes.
“You have had two bites out of the apple now,” trustee Dennis Walsh said. “I hope that you’re able to go forward with this. I have no problems with it. I thought it was a nice project then, and I still think it’s a nice project.”
Mayor Strauss entertained a motion to approve Puccio’s request for another year’s extension to May 1, 2022.
“Congratulations,” he said. “Hopefully you get things worked out on your end and get things done downtown.”