Nimbys crush Great Neck apartment project with historic designation

Preservation commission approves landmark status for car dealership

Tri-State /
Feb.February 11, 2022 05:14 PM

124 South Middle Neck Road in Great Neck LI (Google Maps, iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)

Would-be developers of a five-story, 75-unit building in Great Neck might as well have proposed a toxic waste dump.

Opposition from Village of Thomaston residents sprung up immediately last July, citing all the usual complaints about apartment projects.

It was big, ugly, architecturally inappropriate, and would change the character of their town.

It would burden local schools with new students, cause traffic congestion, hog up parking spots, generate noise, despoil the environment, overwhelm water and sewer systems and crowd Long Island Rail Road trains.

It would lower nearby property values and threaten public safety. And the developers were circumventing the proper approval process.

But the argument that appears to have won the day was a trump card that not-in-my-backyarders play when they can: The building to be replaced is historic and must be preserved. In this case, it was a car dealership.

The opponents persuaded the Village of Thomaston’s preservation commission that the 95-year-old Tower Ford building at 124 South Middle Neck Road qualifies for landmark status, Newsday reported. The state preservation office had reached the same conclusion three months ago.

The commission voted 5-0 this week in favor of landmark status, according to the publication. It held two public hearings and hired Archaeology & Historic Resource Services to consult on the matter.

“I’ve come to my own conclusion that the building should be designated as a landmark,” said Donald Stern, the commission chairman. “I don’t think it’s an easy or obvious decision in light of the factors I mentioned and the other factors discussed in the draft report, but that’s where I come out.”

The village’s board of trustees will next determine whether or not to approve or alter the recommendation, but it’s not hard to see where this is going. The unanimous vote Tuesday is another nail in the coffin of the multifamily building proposed by 124 Middle Neck Realty, which had purchased the 1-acre site in 2017.

The incentive use permit application submitted for the property appears to be the work of Hornig Capital Partners, a multifamily developer based in Great Neck.

The application was dropped by the developer in November after the New York State Historic Preservation Office said the building met landmark criteria, before the firm got a chance to present its vision for the site, according to Newsday.

Efforts on Long Island and across the country to build apartment complexes in towns dominated by single-unit zoning inevitably meet resistance, which critics say is rooted in classism if not racism. The phenomenon of exclusionary zoning has been blamed in part for high housing costs, segregation, sprawl and loss of open space.

Support for single-unit housing runs so strong among people who occupy it that even a proposal by Gov. Kathy Hochul, a political moderate, to allow accessory dwelling units on all residential lots has been met by opposition from suburban politicians.

[Newsday] — Holden Walter-Warner and Erik Engquist









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