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Great Neck residents upset with pace of revitalization efforts for business district

Hauppauge-based consultant VHB's visualization of how three properties

Hauppauge-based consultant VHB's visualization of how three properties could be developed under potential zoning changes in the village of Great Neck's business district. Credit: Village of Great Neck

A Great Neck study on how to revitalize the village’s business district is running months behind schedule, frustrating residents who said they were expecting more substantial updates by now from village officials.

The study, which began in November 2017, is intended to result in a master plan of zoning recommendations to spur residential and commercial development in the Middle Neck Road and East Shore Road corridors.

Mayor Pedram Bral said that though he understands residents’ concerns and disappointment, he prefers a delay rather than have consultants rush through the study.

“We’re not looking for changes for the next year or two," Bral said. "The recommendations are going to come to fruition from now to maybe 10 years from now. We all want to start seeing the changes happening. At the same time, I don’t think it’s the right time to rush through it.”

Last year, the village hired VHB, a Hauppauge-based consulting company, at a cost of $100,000, to identify potential amendments to the village’s zoning code that could result in more affordable housing, improved pedestrian safety and fewer vacant properties, the initial draft study reads.

“By implementing these zoning amendments to attract development, the village hopes to increase residential density and create a commercial destination that would encourage infill development throughout the corridor and ultimately eliminate vacancies,” the document reads.

Following an initial community presentation in March 2018, village officials and VHB consultants had previously said they hoped to complete the final master plan and the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, by the end of the summer.

On Sept. 11, Marwa Faraz, a senior project manager at VHB, delivered a 10-minute update presentation that pinpointed three properties and visualized two scenarios of how they could be developed under zoning amendments that weren’t specified.

Residents said they didn’t understand why the presentation excluded more detailed information, such as the suggestions collected by a committee of seven villagers or what the proposed zoning changes were.

Jean Pierce, of Great Neck, a member of the committee, asked what the point of the presentation was.

“We talked about so many things on Middle Neck Road and East Shore Road,” Pierce said. “We’re getting nothing tonight …We [the committee] didn’t spend those hours on just two things.”

When asked why the three properties were chosen, village officials said they were among several that developers had approached the village about.

Elizabeth Allen, of Great Neck, said that the board should begin with what residents want, rather than catering to developers.

“I’m astonished that this whole long, complicated and very expensive procedure has been oriented towards satisfying people coming into the village who want to change the village for their purposes,” Allen said.

The village board is now reviewing a draft of the master plan and will be providing feedback to VHB over the next few weeks, Bral said.

"Change is sometimes scary ... But listen, the world is changing and the needs of the community have changed," Bral said. "I’m sure I can’t make everyone happy. But I'm hoping the majority will be happy with the decisions that we make."

Clarification: Great Neck Village officials and VHB representatives said they had hoped by summer's end to present a final master plan of zoning recommendations, but had not established a firm deadline for completion. 

Next comes. . .

  • The village board will deliver feedback on the draft master plan that VHB submitted on Sept. 15 
  • Draft master plan will be finalized
  • VHB begins the state's environmental review process
  • A public hearing to discuss the proposed zoning amendments and the environmental review process

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