Long Island Cheet Sheet: New LIRR station mulled for troubled $1B Belmont Park project, Oheka Castle moves closer to foreclosure… & more

<em>Clockwise from top left: State weighs adding a Long Island Rail Road station to $1.2B Belmont Park project amid mounting opposition, Oheka Castle in Huntington moves closer to foreclosure with judge's decision, a Mediterranean-style home in Sands Point lists for $9M and Planet Fitness and HomeSense prepare to move into a former Waldbaum's in Stony Brook.</em>
Clockwise from top left: State weighs adding a Long Island Rail Road station to $1.2B Belmont Park project amid mounting opposition, Oheka Castle in Huntington moves closer to foreclosure with judge's decision, a Mediterranean-style home in Sands Point lists for $9M and Planet Fitness and HomeSense prepare to move into a former Waldbaum's in Stony Brook.

LIRR station sought for Belmont Park project amid opposition
Empire State Development (ESD), which is overseeing the $1.18 billion plan to build a retail and entertainment complex at Belmont Park in Nassau County, will expand its environmental review of the project to look into adding a full-time Long Island Rail Road station at the site, Newsday reported. The proposed transit line would be part of the LIRR’s main line, but no decision has yet been made as to where it will be located. ESD officials vowed that the review will finish by June. The development team behind the project, New York Arena Partners, lauded the potential transit addition. The new station could appease some opponents of the project who fear it will bring an influx of traffic to the area. Earlier this month, Newsday reported that the California-based Crux Group had launched Elmont Against the Megamall, a nonprofit dedicated to stopping the Belmont Park development. In a sign of its potential firepower, the group has partnered with Mercury Public Affairs lobbyist Michael McKeon, who once worked for New York Gov. George Pataki. So far, the initiative has $650,000 in the bank, funds that Newsday reported it received from another out-of-state entity, Virginia-based Citizens for Responsible Community. Elmont Against the Megamall has already taken $482,000 of that sum and given it to the Crux Group, according to Newsday, which noted that the nonprofit does have four local residents on its board in Kevin Barnes, Tony Bhatti, Will Cook and Grisselle Gonzalez. [Newsday]

Lenders get win in bid to force Oheka Castle foreclosure
New York State Supreme Court Judge Elizabeth Emerson has moved the potential foreclosure of the historic Oheka Castle in Huntington one step closer by dismissing owner Gary Melius’ claim that lenders withheld escrow payments and did not participate in good faith discussions about a loan workout agreement, Long Island Business News reported. Emerson also appointed David Rosenberg, a senior partner at the Garden City-based law firm Rosenberg Fortuna & Laitman, to calculate the debt owed by Melius, a controversial Long Island real estate developer. LIBN estimated that debt could total more than $35 million, although Melius told Newsday that the figure is just $28 million. Melius, who survived an apparent assassination attempt in 2014, has been fighting for three years with lenders led by U.S. Bank and its Florida loan servicer LNR Partners. The latter initially claimed that Melius failed to pay two commercial mortgage-backed securities totaling $29.79 million. LNR began foreclosure proceedings in June 2016, but Melius then countersued for $10 million and sought to dismiss the foreclosure action. In January, Emerson appointed Jeffrey Kolessar, vice president of Philadelphia-based GF Management, to serve as Oheka Castle’s overseer. Oheka Castle, built in 1921 for late financier Otto Kahn, fell into disrepair before Melius bought it in 1984 and transformed it into a catering and event space. Today the Suffolk County property has 126 rooms, 450 windows and doors and 4,000 slate roof tiles, along with 3,000 trees and bushes. Musician Kevin Jonas and political operative Huma Abedin have both had weddings there. The court battle is expected to continue for another few months before the property can be turned over to U.S. Bank and LNR, who would sell it via an auction. Melius, however, is hoping to prevail. He told Newsday that he has plans to build 37 condos in Oheka Castle, pending the Town of Huntington’s approval. [LIBN]

Former ‘Catholic sanctuary’ in North Hills lists for $110M
A 30-acre North Shore property that once served as the home of the now-demolished St. Ignatius Retreat, which was donated to a Jesuit group in 1937 by the family of late industrialist Nicholas Brady, is now on sale for $110 million as a potential development site, Newsday reported. The New York Province of the Society of Jesus, an order of Jesuit priests, sold the land at 251 Searingtown Road in Manhasset for $36.5 million in late 2013 to the Manhasset Bay Group. The developer subsequently tore down an 87-room, Tudor Elizabethan-style mansion on the site known as Inisfada, a Gaelic world for “Long Island,” which had served as seminary and retreat house for the Jesuits. Newsday noted that the property can currently hold up to 46 single-family residences, citing an online listing from Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, which is handling the sale. “The property is a unicorn… the last of its kind,” Daniel Gale Sotheby’s broker Jason Friedman told the outlet. “It’s a prime site, in one of [Long] Island’s premier neighborhoods.” [Newsday]

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Mediterranean-style home in Sands Point lists for $9M
A newly-built, 9,103-square-foot Mediterranean-style mansion in the Harriman Estates section of Sands Point has hit the market with a $9 million price tag, Long Island Press reported. The home at 48 Sterling Lane has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, two half bathrooms, three eat-in kitchens, a library, a game room, a wine cellar and several balconies. The 2.34-acre property also has a three-car garage, patio, deck and pool. Kristine Livadas of Douglas Elliman has the listing for the so-called Modern Tuscan home. Sands Point tends to get eight to 10 newly constructed or reconstructed homes per year, according to Newsday. There has reportedly been an increase in young families that have moved into the affluent area within the past five years, which has helped upgrade existing homes to modern standards. Between March 1, 2018, and March 29 of this year, there were 30 home sales in Sands Point with a median price of $1.916 million, according to data from the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island. The priciest home sale for the village in that time was for $5.4 million. Newsday reported last week that the former Sands Point home of late singer Perry Como was once again for sale with a $2.9 million ask. The property at 39 Cornwells Beach Road, which initially hit the market in mid-2017 seeking $3.95 million, is listed with Jill Berman and Rachel Sha of Douglas Elliman. [Long Island Press]

Nassau County gives nod to Garden City apartment tax breaks
Nashville-based Southern Land Company has successfully petitioned Nassau County to negotiate preliminary tax breaks for the development of 150 apartments in Garden City, according to Newsday, which noted that the proposed multifamily development would be the municipality’s first in almost 60 years. Southern Land had sought tax relief last month from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency to construct a four-story building with 150 luxury apartments on a vacant lot at 555 Stewart Avenue across the street from the Roosevelt Field shopping mall. The Garden City Board of Trustees granted approval for the project last summer after implementing a new zoning law that called for the building’s height not to exceed 45 feet. Newsday reported that the proposed complex includes 15 units earmarked for affordable housing. Garden City is under a 2014 consent decree that requires 10 percent of new development units to be set aside for low-income tenants after a federal court found the village lacked enough affordable housing, according to the outlet. [Newsday]

Former Hempstead affordable housing leader convicted of fraud
A federal jury in Central Islip last week convicted Cornell Bozier, chairman of the Hempstead Village Housing Authority from 2011 to 2013, of taking $100,000 in bribes to bypass a U.S. Housing and Urban Development competitive bid process to steer projects to hand-picked contractors and shell companies, Newsday reported. Bozier, who faces up to 20 years in prison, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and bribery related to three low-income village properties. Bozier ran his racket with construction consultant Peter Caras and a contractor, James Alimonos. In one instance, prosecutors claimed the three men padded the cost of fixing a Totten Avenue intercom system by $50,000, which they then split between them. Bozier was accused of inflating the bid of a $23,000 roofing project on Yale Street to $250,000. He was also indicted for his role in a piping project at a Gladys Avenue apartment building. In that matter, Bozier steered a $164,000 contract to Alimonos’ wife, while Alimonos himself then hired another construction company to do the repairs for $26,000, as noted by Patch. Alimonos and Caras both pleaded guilty to honest services fraud and testified against Bozier to get a lighter sentence. Like Bozier, they also face up to 20 years behind bars. [Newsday]

Planet Fitness, HomeSense eye Stony Brook supermarket space
A 47,250-square-foot shopping center in Stony Brook that has been empty since Waldbaum’s left it in 2015 will soon be taken over by Planet Fitness and HomeSense, according to Newsday. Workers are currently sectioning off 18,000 square feet for the gym, 27,250 square feet for the home furnishings shop and another 12,000 square feet that has yet to be leased from Valley Stream-based Lighthouse Realty Partners, which manages the property. An AMC Loews on the site will also soon get an $8 million tuneup. HomeSense is owned by TJX Companies, a department store giant that also operates the TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods retail chains. TJX opened two other HomeSense locations last year in Commack and Riverhead and the company is also planning to launch a TJ Maxx in Port Washington North this spring and open a Marshall next year at Bridgehampton Commons. The move to rework the former Waldbaum’s space in Stony Brook comes amid a growing Tri-State area trend of retail landlords seeking solutions for the husks of big box stores slain by online competitors. The Waldbaum’s in Stony Brook was one of 51 local grocery stories that closed when their parent, the now-defunct Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, filed for bankruptcy in 2015. Discount retail operators like TJX had once shied away from pricier places like Nassau County, but are now seeing opportunities in the aftermath of the big box breakdown. [Newsday]