Academy Charter School in Hempstead Village houses students K-12.

Academy Charter School in Hempstead Village houses students K-12. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Attorneys for the Academy Charter School in Hempstead Village are asking a state judge to overturn a zoning board’s decision for a church to convert their neighboring property into a five-story apartment building.

The Hempstead Village Planning Board granted the application in December from Faith Baptist Church, which is planning to sell the property to developers to build 232 senior apartments and mixed retail. The former Calderone Concert Hall and movie theater are slated to be demolished to make way for apartments on 195,000 square feet of land between the charter school’s two buildings.

School officials and parents of the 2,000-student K-12 school have opposed the project, citing concerns of traffic and the safety of students walking between the school’s two buildings.

The charter school filed a lawsuit in Supreme Court in Albany in February appealing the village's ruling.

The school’s founder and chief executive, Bishop Barrington Goldson, said the village planning board ignored zoning regulations without conducting traffic and sewer reports. He said the church has not disclosed the name of the developer, but documents list the project with Lawrence-based E&M Management.

"I’m very concerned that this dense build-out is in violation of the protocols and regulations expected by the village," Goldson said. "All of the regulations were totally ignored and they did not communicate with the community and to us as neighbors at the school."

Officials representing the church said they legally, through the village, have access to the property since 1949 and to develop it.

A Nassau Supreme Court judge in December granted a preliminary injunction against the school for fencing off a shared 300-foot-long by 15-foot-wide driveway, which is the only access from Bedell Street to the church parking lot.

"We’re 100% right, we have a recorded easement. It’s like having a deed," the church’s Garden City attorney Ronald J. Rosenberg said. "They are completely wrong, and we will show there is no basis to overturn what was done by the village. The project will benefit the community and not pose any threat or danger to the school."

Charter school officials said they were not given any notice to the planning board’s meeting and they were not allowed to comment during the proceedings. The church's application was initially denied by the village building department before being heard by the village zoning board of appeals.

"Under the cover of the COVID pandemic … over an extremely short period of time the Faith Baptist Church engaged in a highly unusual course with the cooperation of the village and without any notice whatsoever to the school or the public," according to the lawsuit.

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