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Controversial Village Rezoning law to be “significantly amended,” according to Mayor

Residents+express+their+frustration+with+the+proposed+changes+as+they+hold+up+signs+that+say+%22Stop+Rezoning%2C%22+%22Don%27t+Worsen+Traffic+Congestion%22+and+%22Use+Vacancies+Before+Building.%22+The+proposed+changes+would+permit+developers%2C+if+approved+by+the+Village+Board%2C+to+construct+buildings+of+four+or+five+stories.
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Controversial Village Rezoning law to be “significantly amended,” according to Mayor

Residents express their frustration with the proposed changes as they hold up signs that say

Residents express their frustration with the proposed changes as they hold up signs that say "Stop Rezoning," "Don't Worsen Traffic Congestion" and "Use Vacancies Before Building." The proposed changes would permit developers, if approved by the Village Board, to construct buildings of four or five stories.

Residents express their frustration with the proposed changes as they hold up signs that say "Stop Rezoning," "Don't Worsen Traffic Congestion" and "Use Vacancies Before Building." The proposed changes would permit developers, if approved by the Village Board, to construct buildings of four or five stories.

Residents express their frustration with the proposed changes as they hold up signs that say "Stop Rezoning," "Don't Worsen Traffic Congestion" and "Use Vacancies Before Building." The proposed changes would permit developers, if approved by the Village Board, to construct buildings of four or five stories.

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Mayor Pedram Bral announced on Tuesday, March 5th amidst the wave of public concern toward the Village Board’s plan to revitalize the business districts of East Shore and Middle Neck Road that he would “significantly amend the proposed local law.”

Residents filling the Village Hall continued to protest the rezoning, following last month’s board meeting on February 19th. Some held up signs about overpopulation in schools and traffic congestion.

The proposed local law plans to utilize changes in the zoning code, granting builders freedoms from current building restrictions in hopes of providing them with the incentive to construct new facilities. Relief from the current restrictions would incentivize the construction of buildings with ground floor commercial uses, some of which could reach four to five stories in height. Additionally, the legislation would encourage the building of assisted living facilities and affordable housing.

The rezoning would “grant the Board of Trustees discretion” to perform “case-by-case” analyses of proposed projects based on whether they would bring about “community benefits,” said the report by VHB, an engineering firm and the village’s consultant for the project.

Potential properties of interest on Middle Neck Road presented by VHB. The proposed rezoning would incentivize the construction or renovation of 16 different properties along Middle Neck and East Shore Road. (Photo from VHB Presentation)

The ambitious outcomes which would follow the enactment of the proposal have prompted negative responses from not only the Village community but the Great Neck community in its entirety.

Currently, the last two Village of Great Neck board meetings have been open to the public and served as hearings for the resident’s concerns regarding the issue.

“I would like to hear positive comments and recommendations of what people would like to see and we’re going to take all those things into account,” Bral said. “But, for now, we’re just going to hear the people and their recommendations.”

Attendees of the meetings voiced opinions and comments against the proposed changes, stating the proposal would bring about the overcrowding of schools, traffic congestion, the increasing of property taxes and destruction to the developed culture of Great Neck.

Despite the smaller turnout compared to last month’s meeting, passionate residents stand in line waiting to comment on the proposed changes. (Photo by Jason Beeferman).

New to this month’s meeting, however, were concerns aimed more toward the mayor and his execution of the rezoning, focusing on the lack of disclosure and inclusion of public opinion in the matter.  

“The VHB presentations thus far have included very few details as to what you are actually planning to do with all the sites,” resident Amy Glass said, addressing the burial of crucial details on matters such as the moving of the Village Hall and the already submitted application for assisted living residences. “This information is very deep in the VHB documents. This may meet the letter of the law, but you have not disseminated any information so people actually know what is in store for them.”

Glass also criticized the lack of data on the traffic accidents reports near the corner of Hicks Lane and Middle Neck Road where an assisted living facility has been proposed. She highlighted that the rate of accidents is actually much higher than that of other intersections and Middle Neck Road.

Residents like Jenni Spiritis Lurman and Kovid Saxena submitted comments to the Board, speaking on behalf of the general public as they condemned the validity of the traffic study and voiced concern toward the lack of inclusion of public opinion.

“It is especially disconcerting that the community is pushed to precipice based on a substandard study prepared without any meaningful community input,” the two, among other residents, stated in these comments. “The antipathy to meaningful public input and participation has continued through the environmental review process.”

Mayor Pedram Bral and the Village Board listen to Jenni Lurman as she comments on her dissatisfaction with the execution of the rezoning (Photo by Jason Beeferman).

Other residents, like Judy Rosenthal and Kate Goldberg, expressed disapproval of the mayor’s practices including a lack of “transparency” and instances “bullying and intimidation” that’s “routinely practiced by the mayor,” according to Rosenthal.

“Don’t tell us what is good for us, ask us,” said Goldberg. “Don’t tell me five-story assisted living facility in my backyard is my benefit. Ask me what is my benefit.”

Attempts were made by the board, among other attendees of the meeting to placate the crowd.

Contradicting many of the criticisms made by many of the residents at the meeting, Kris Torkan, developer for the Village and builder of the new Marie Blachere, described the VHB plan to have “done a very good job.”

“I know its a difficult task, but by discussion, public comments and these type of meetings we can come up with at least a start,” Torkan explained. ”We need to start somewhere. No development, no improvement doesn’t get us anywhere. That’s what we’ve had in the past ten years.”

It remains to be seen how the two sides with vastly diverse opinions of the proposed law, specifically regarding its benefits and pitfalls, will come to a satisfactory compromise. Additional discussions are still needed to reconcile the differences.

Toward this goal, another hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m.

About the Writer
Kirsten Law, Associate Editor

Kirsten is one of Guide Post’s associate editors. She is passionate about life sciences, drawing and creative writing. She enjoys listening to alternative...

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