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The evolution of a Levitt community in Roslyn Heights

A new house in the Country Club section

A new house in the Country Club section of Roslyn Heights, is on the market in March 2016 for $2.589 million. Credit: Newsday / David Trotman-Wilkins

People change. So do relationships. The same goes for neighborhoods.

Few places, though, have undergone as dramatic a change as that experienced by the Country Club section of Roslyn Heights, a quiet enclave of homes with a unique history that has been a major factor in its transformation.

Situated in a bend of the Northern State Parkway, the area was filled primarily in 1950 and 1951 with 668 homes by Levitt & Sons, the builders of Levittown, the sprawling subdivision to the southeast that boomed after World War II as veterans bought affordable houses in the suburbs.

The homes in the Country Club section, an area three-quarters of a square mile in size, were upscale versions of those mass-produced homes. Typically selling for about $17,000 (ranch homes built in Levittown in 1949 sold for around $8,000), they were constructed with more square footage and usually were built on a third of an acre to give kids room to roam.

“As best we can tell, having a large lot was a premium in the 1950s,” says North Hempstead Planning Commissioner Michael Levine. “Then, in the 1980s and ’90s, there was less of a premium on having a large yard and more on having a large house.”

Each new homeowner also was given the opportunity to join the Roslyn Country Club, a ticket to the good life that included access to dining, tennis courts and a swimming pool for a mere $100 a year.

As time marched on, the aging Levitt ranches began to disappear. Some deteriorated; others were renovated and expanded or razed for new, larger residences. The recreational facilities at the country club were closed nine years ago when the owner, Corona Realty Holdings, LLC, was hit with a number of lawsuits over homeowners’ easement concerns and use of the club — legal wrangling yet to be resolved. The Town of North Hempstead has signed an agreement to buy a seven-acre parcel of the 10 1⁄2-acre property and turn it into a park to include a renovated facility with a pool, tennis court and clubhouse amenities. But that action is subject to the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a small number of homeowners, which is still ongoing.

The area began experiencing a renaissance of sorts beginning in the late 1990s.

Contractors, realizing the older homes would give them access to big lots, began replacing them with larger, sometimes lavish dwellings. Buyers, aware of the area’s good schools and easy access to transportation for a quick commute to the city, began snapping them up.

Last year, Michelle Cohen, an associate broker with Laffey Fine Homes, says she sold a 5,200-square-foot home built on the grounds of a razed Levitt home in a bidding war that kicked the price up to $2.8 million. One of its main attractions was that the home sits on a half-acre lot, she says.

“Many of the buyers are international or people from other parts of Long Island who want a larger home in a more countrified atmosphere,” she says.

Mollie Grossman, an associate real estate broker with Douglas Elliman who has watched this transition over the four decades she has lived there, estimates that about half the residences in the Country Club section have been replaced with new, larger homes. The older homes served their purpose well, she says.

“But everyone wants a new house,” she says. “It’s what the market demands.”

Craig Westergard, an architect and president of the Roslyn Landmark Society, laments the passing of the Levitt homes and characterizes the new additions as a “mishmash of styles.” But he doesn’t want to be too negative, he says, adding that some are nicely designed.

Certainly, the original Levitt homes had their problems, such as the heated concrete floor slabs that eventually failed, as well as deficiencies like not having a basement, he says.

“But when you find one in its original condition, you see they were really beautiful,” he says.

PRICES IN ROSLYN HEIGHTS

Real estate agents say activity in Roslyn Heights has cooled in recent months, but interest remains high enough to kick up price tags. For example, the average sale price for a Roslyn Heights home sold between February 2014 and February 2015 was $862,382. During the same period ending last month, this jumped to an impressive $1,036,055.

A comparison to other homes on Long Island makes the situation more apparent. This can be done using median sales price — the price paid for the home at the midpoint of all homes sold during a year. In the period from February 2014 to February 2015 in Nassau County, the median cost of a home was $440,000. In Suffolk, it was $328,422. But in Roslyn Heights, the median price was $707,850.

Prices rose the next year. Over the same period ended in February 2016 in Nassau, the average median price climbed to $455,000. In Suffolk, it rose to $340,000. But in Roslyn Heights, the median was $812,500, close to double the median price paid for homes across Long Island.

— JAMES KINDALL

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