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Freeport residents wary of car dealership expansion plans on West Sunrise Highway

Freeport Mayor Robert T. Kennedy outside the Porsche

Freeport Mayor Robert T. Kennedy outside the Porsche of South Shore dealership on Sunrise Highway in Freeport on Thursday, April 9, 2015. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Freeport officials and residents are divided over whether plans to expand high-end car dealerships and upgrade a block of West Sunrise Highway will help or harm the village.

Mayor Robert T. Kennedy and some community residents are applauding the expansion plans, but other residents argue the projects will lead to evictions of longtime tenants.

Kennedy defended it as a good deal for the community. "We had many meetings with these dealerships, working with them and negotiating about what the village would expect; for example, we don't want parking lots in the area."

He said "there was no community opposition" at zoning meetings on one expansion.

Porsche of South Shore plans to add 30,000 square feet and build a new Maserati dealership and small automobile museum for up to $14 million, Kennedy said. The Porsche project needs Nassau County Planning Commission approval.

Porsche has said it wants to start the project immediately and wants to complete it within 60 days, Kennedy said.

While there was no firm commitment for any specific number of jobs for Freeport residents, "we're sure that residents will gain jobs from these proposals," Kennedy said.

On the north side of Sunrise, Heritage Jaguar is proposing to expand and add a Land Rover dealership costing about $4 million, Kennedy said.

Michael Solomon, zoning lawyer for both businesses, said they intend to be good neighbors and bolster the local economy.

Kennedy predicted the "projects will bring substantial tax revenue to the county, and much-needed additional recurring tax revenue to Freeport."

He could not provide specific revenue projections, but said there would be the added benefit of "the increased sale of electric and water from our village-owned utilities."

Heritage has submitted site plans to Freeport and bought the property just west of the dealership, a Gulf service station.

Porsche bought the tiny shopping center just to the west -- across Long Beach Avenue -- where only one of three stores, a delicatessen, is open.

Deli owner Carlos Contrera, 63, said he was unhappy his business was sold from underneath him and probably will retire. "What can I do?" he said.

The dealership also acquired a tenement house on Lexington Avenue behind the stores.

"That's the part that I don't like," said James Fitzgerald, who lives on Lexington Avenue, across from the house.

"My neighbor who has lived there and raised his family over the past 25 years was told . . . to be out by the end of April. I guess everybody else there was told the same thing," he said. "It was rezoned commercial."

Attempts to reach Fitzgerald's neighbor failed, and other adults there would not speak.

Angela Daubon, who owns a home a few blocks southwest of the proposed expansions, described it as a "worthwhile rebuilding and refacing of the community that should help keep property taxes down and local labor up."

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