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Glen Cove IDA considers eminent domain to speed up development

Officials say little progress has been made on

Officials say little progress has been made on the Piazza, which is to include 110 apartments and more than 25,000 square feet of commercial space around a European-style plaza in Glen Cove. City IDA officials are pondering whether to use eminent domain to take over the site. Credit: Howard Schnapp

As the Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency considers whether to attempt to take over the site of a proposed downtown apartment building by eminent domain, officials already are looking for another developer to replace the company that currently owns most of the land.

In 2011, the city planning board gave Jobco Realty and Construction of Great Neck approval to build the Piazza, which is to include 110 apartments and more than 25,000 square feet of commercial space around a European-style public plaza. It is to replace Village Square, a retail and office complex that is now mostly empty.

The IDA, city and business leaders envisioned a vibrant public space with concerts and other gatherings, surrounded by buildings housing new residents who would patronize downtown businesses and new retail outlets that would attract shoppers.

Instead, passers-by see chain-link fencing surrounding vacant buildings that have been slated for demolition for months.

IDA Executive Director Barbara Peebles calls it an “eyesore” in the heart of downtown that has hurt efforts to attract other businesses.

“That project is key to the revitalization of downtown,” she said.

Michael Puntillo, whose GCVS LLC currently owns most of the site, has repeatedly assured city officials he is progressing on the project.

However, on June 27, the IDA asked developers willing to be involved in eminent domain proceedings to submit “expressions of interest” in redeveloping the 2.8-acre site.

In April, the boards of the quasi-municipal IDA and Community Development Agency unanimously supported exploring eminent domain.

“No one likes the idea of eminent domain,” Peebles said, especially because officials like the design and concept of the Piazza.

“We’ve really been working with him,” Peebles said of Puntillo. “And we really want to support the project. But we can’t just keep waiting.”

Puntillo said in emails that he is “moving ahead with this development” and that he and his staff have met with prospective retail tenants, demolition contractors and city building department officials.

But Peebles said progress on the project has been glacial, and current and prospective downtown business owners are impatient.

Paul Fetscher, a Long Beach real estate broker, said the Piazza is a factor in whether a client will open a full-service restaurant downtown.

“It’s not a make or break, but it’s definitely a plus,” he said of the Piazza.

Fetscher said some types of businesses that draw customers from smaller radiuses, such as dry cleaners or coffee shops, would be more reliant on a project like the Piazza.

Lisa Williams, co-owner of Coco Moka Café, which opened next to the Piazza site in January, said she is anxiously awaiting the additional business that construction workers and then Piazza tenants would provide.

Co-owner Robert Garcia said the Piazza was “a tremendous factor” in where he located the cafe.

“I’m totally frustrated,” he said.

Where things stand

In 2011, Jobco Realty and Construction of Great Neck received city planning board approval to build 142 apartments and nearly 28,000 square feet of retail space on what is now a retail and office complex called Village Square.

The most recent plan calls for 110 apartments and about 25,000 square feet of retail space.

Jobco owns most of the site, but has not been able to reach an agreement with Dr. Joseph Onorato, a dermatologist who owns space housing his office and an art studio. Lawsuits between companies associated with Onorato and Jobco president Michael Puntillo remain active.

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