A proposal to build a 75-unit apartment building in Thomaston is on pause after village officials twice postponed a public hearing amid strong pushback from area residents who say the structure is too big and too dense for their neighborhood.
"It’s like a Long Island City-type building," said resident Wendy Halpern, of the proposed five-story structure at the corner of South Middle Neck and Brompton roads.
The plan calls for demolishing the 95-year-old structure that houses a car dealership before constructing a building for rentals. An application to seek an incentive use permit was submitted in July by 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC, which bought the nearly 1-acre site in 2017, according to the application form.
Stephen Limmer, a Garden City-based lawyer with McLaughlin & Stern LLP who represents the applicant, confirmed that Great Neck-based Hornig Capital Partners is the developer behind the Tower Ford redevelopment. Matthew Frank, Hornig’s vice president of development, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Neighbors said they are worried about increased traffic passing through their streets, impact on their property values and the blockage of sunlight and views.
Aaron Egelman, board president of the co-op building on 37 Brompton Rd., said the nearest point between his building and the structure on site is about 12 feet.
"A lot of people on this block have families and kids. It’s nice, quiet and safe," said Egelman, who has a 1-year-old. "The whole character of the block would be radically changed."
Some have organized a petition against the proposal, garnering more than 750 signatures, according to Halpern.
"I didn't meet one person … who was in favor of this," said Halpern, who lives on Brompton Road. "It feels like the whole project is being basically forced upon us."
Village officials held a public hearing on the application Aug. 16 but adjourned it when the number of attendees exceeded the Village Hall’s capacity of 50. The new meeting, which was scheduled for Sept. 14, has been indefinitely suspended until officials decide whether to hold the meeting virtually due to the pandemic, according to an online village statement.
"This adjournment can be viewed as just another way that the village is planning to decrease visibility into what’s really going on," Halpern said.
She and others criticized the village for giving "insufficient notice" of a July 12 hearing that they said paved the way for the redevelopment proposal, calling it a lack of transparency.
With one person from the public in attendance, the board approved on a 5-0 vote the local law to allow incentive zoning, according to meeting minutes.
"Nobody noticed," said Wenjie Chen, board president of the condo building on 130 South Middle Neck Rd., noting neighbors said they weren’t aware of the hearing. "We need to go revisit the law they passed."
The village had published a notice of the hearing in the Great Neck News, a local weekly newspaper.
"Legal notice was provided for the Local Law as required by law," Mayor Steven Weinberg wrote in an email Thursday. "I and the Board look forward to listening to the residents’ comments so that we may consider their comments in our deliberations and decision on the application."