The Capri Lynbrook Motor Inn, with its long history of drug, prostitution and assault arrests, is being sold to developer Anthony Bartone, according to Village of Lynbrook officials.
“I think it’s wonderful and we’re going in the right direction, and it seems very positive,” Mayor Alan Beach said. “What’s better than getting rid of such a tremendous headache for the village?”
Beach said that former Village Attorney Peter Ledwith, who retired in April 2018, remained on the Capri case, but the village board had no control over who purchased it. The buyer turned out to be Bartone, who had hoped to develop the controversial Cornerstone at Lynbrook project that was canceled last November, and sparked a contentious mayoral race between Beach and Trustee Hilary Becker.
The sale comes after many years of controversy at the Capri, at 5 Freer St., including multiple drug overdose deaths and several arrests of guests for assault, prostitution and drug possession. A panel of village officials hosted several hearings with the owners of the motel in March and April 2017 in the hope of gathering enough evidence to remove their room-rental licenses.
Last November, village officials unanimously voted to revoke the licenses, but the owners appealed the decision to the Lynbrook Zoning Board before negotiating the sale to Bartone, who operates the Farmingdale-based Terwilliger & Bartone Properties and has been trying to develop luxury apartments in Lynbrook since 2011.
Most recently, Bartone sought to build the Cornerstone at Lynbrook, a $75 million apartment complex, on the southwest corner of Earle Avenue and St. James Place, in the village’s downtown cultural arts district. He also looked to build a $10 million, 400-space parking garage at Broadway and Langdon Place, now a commuter parking lot. The project was met with controversy, as many residents were outspoken about its large scope, while others said not enough information was available about it.
The village board terminated the project in November, but Bartone said he was determined to build in Lynbrook, which he called “a gem.” Reached by phone Monday, Bartone said that community engagement was his top priority, adding that he did not foresee resident backlash, given the Capri’s sordid past.
“We don’t have a plan drafted yet because we want to make sure the community is engaged in the process,” Bartone said. “We want to meet with our neighbors and talk with them. At the end of the day, tearing down the Capri motel, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Bartone said his company signed a contract with the Capri’s owners earlier this month. He is now conducting environmental studies before the deal is finalized. Beach said he planned to provide regular updates to residents using social media, the village’s website and Lynbrook TV, and he announced the agreement through those channels on July 19.
The Capri’s manager did not return a call requesting comment at press time. During one of the hearings in 2017, manager Joe Pizzuto said village officials’ claims about prostitution at the motel were unfounded. “There’s no prostitution there,” he said. “There’s nothing going on.”
To keep residents informed about the sale, developers have scheduled an open house for Aug. 20 at the Lynbrook Knights of Columbus from 6 to 8 p.m. Before the Cornerstone proposal, Bartone had previously responded to a request for proposals from village officials to redevelop the Capri in 2016, when they began attempting to shut it down. He said he learned from the Cornerstone experience and will take a hands-on approach with the community.
“We heard loud and clear that the Cornerstone application was too big,” Bartone said. “The second thing we heard loud and clear is that everybody wanted to see the Capri go. It’s a black eye on the community, and we’re trying to respond to what the community wants.”
Bartone said he plans to gather feedback during the open house, process it and submit an application with the Building Department by September. In October, he said, he anticipates that the village will hold a public hearing at which the developers can present their proposal and gather further feedback from community members. At the open house, Bartone said, designers would attend to answer questions and learn what residents would like to see, and he will hand out copies of the company’s response to the request for proposals.
While no definitive plans are in place, Bartone said he envisions luxury multi-family apartments that would be no taller than the nearby Bristal Assisted Living facility, at 8 Freer St. Bartone said Lynbrook has not had new luxury apartments in decades, and that he believes its proximity to the Long Island Rail Road and New York City make it an attractive candidate for development. He added that he hoped it would also help improve downtown businesses.
“We really believe that re-positioning the Capri motel and knocking it down is something that we feel everyone would get behind,” he said. “We’re listening. We’re acting on what everyone has said over and over.”