After the Nassau County Planning Commission rejected a proposal to build a three-story, 18-unit apartment complex at the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Cochran Place, the Valley Stream Board of Zoning Appeals held a public hearing on July 2 to determine if it should override that decision, which would have required a supermajority, or four out of the five members, to vote in favor of the proposal.
The zoning board is expected to announce its decision on July 16, unless the developer — the New York City-based Kay Development Group — requests additional time, in which case the decision will be announced on Aug. 6.
The Planning Commission cited the lack of affordable housing, which is required under the state’s 2008 Long Island Workforce Housing Act. The law says that any developer building more than five housing units in Nassau and Suffolk counties must either set aside at least 10 percent of the units for individuals and families making less than 130 percent of the area’s median income, or create another affordable housing development in the same neighborhood. If neither occurs, the developer must pay the local government a fine.
Various Long Island town and village officials reported in a 2015 New York State Comptroller’s report, however, that because the law seemed unclear, it was difficult to enforce.
At the hearing, William Florio, a facilitator representing Kay Development, said that developer Vassilios Kefalas had no plans to include workforce housing in his proposal. “This is meant to be a higher-income housing project,” Florio told the zoning board, and said that he was working with the village’s board of trustees to negotiate a fee — which he called a “donation” — that Kay would pay the village.
In accordance with the Workforce Housing Act, the village government would then deposit the money into a trust fund designated for the construction of affordable workforce housing, acquiring land for more such housing or rehabilitating existing village structures to become workforce housing.
But the perceived Workforce Housing Act violation was not the only reason the Planning Commission rejected the proposal. The members also expressed their concerns that it almost doubles the village’s density allowance for a plot that size and has a 50 percent shortfall in required parking spaces.
At the hearing, several board members and residents also expressed their concerns about these issues, and the variances the zoning board would have to grant to override these requirements.
Trustee Salvator Pizzolo, for example, asked why Kay could not reduce the size of the apartment complex from 18 units to 15 units, saying, “You’re intensifying the area.” In response, Florio presented the board with a financial analysis showing that Kay would not make any return on investment with only 15 units.
Additionally, resident Michael Belfiore said he could not see how a zoning board could justify such an increase in density. “In my opinion, approval of this variance would create an undesirable change in the neighborhood,” he said, calling the density increase a “density bonus” because it is more than 10 percent higher than the village’s required density. “The dramatic increase in density being requested cannot be justified.”
Others also brought up their concerns about parking and traffic in the area if the apartment building were approved, especially since the nearly 15,000-square-foot plot of land currently houses a privately run parking lot owned by Valley Stream-based Valley Parking Inc. for Long Island Rail Road commuters. To address those concerns, Florio told the board that he does not expect every resident to have two cars since the project is designed to be transit-oriented.
Resident Michael Steinke was not convinced, however. “There’s always a presumption that these residents are not going to have cars or have children,” he said of the apartment complex proposals in the village over the past few years, “that’s not the case.”
He added that he “would like to see no more parking variances given to these transit-oriented projects.”
As for the traffic issues, Florio said that Kefalas listened to Cochran Place residents’ concerns and closed the driveway to Cochran Place. Hawthorne Apartments Property Manager Patrick Trimboli also said that he does not anticipate any traffic generating from this project, as he always has parking spots at his apartment building. He also said that having “a nicer Class A property would attract a lot of people not just from Valley Stream, but from all over the world.”
Trustee Gerard Frusci, however, responded that the Hawthorne is near more dead-end streets, while the proposed building is at a busy intersection. “It’s a different circumstance,” he said, noting that a traffic study has not yet been conducted.
Still, Florio said he does not “understand anyone being opposed to this project” because “it’s a decent proposal.”