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Company's plan to raze iconic Freeport building clears hurdle

The Plaza West building in Freeport, as seen

The Plaza West building in Freeport, as seen in 2014. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

The Freeport zoning board has helped clear the way for a company seeking to demolish a long-vacant Art Deco building prized by historic preservationists and to build a car dealership in its place.

The Freeport Village Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday voted 4-1 to grant land use and parking variances to Atlantic Auto Group, which has proposed building a 40,000-square-foot Lexus dealership on a block between Sunrise Highway and the village train station where the six-story Plaza West building has stood since 1929. The block is otherwise undeveloped.

Board member Charles Hawkins cast the lone dissenting vote. ZBA chairwoman Rosa Rhoden declined to comment on her vote after the meeting.

The ZBA decision followed a 5-0 vote by the village board of trustees in April to approve the sale of the village-owned land to Atlantic Auto Group for $6.3 million.

Mayor Robert Kennedy attended Thursday's zoning board meeting but declined to comment.

Four Freeport residents spoke against the proposal at a public hearing preceding the vote, while two spoke in favor.

"Is this what we want to show our children?" asked G. Dewey Smalls, who opposed the plan. "That we took this property, probably one of the most important pieces of land in the middle of the village, and turned it into a parking lot?"

Dominick Minerva, an attorney representing Atlantic Auto Group, called the site "an ideal location" for the dealership, which he said "will be in keeping with the character of the area."

The village previously considered proposals to redevelop the bank building, which has stood vacant since the 1980s, as a mixed-use facility with rental apartments.

Recently the village was in contract with another would-be developer for the site, the DiNoto Group of Westbury. But Steven Harfenist, an attorney for the DiNoto Group, said Wednesday that “the village sued us to terminate our contract” and “we counterclaimed against them.”

Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit, lists the building, known also as the Meadowbrook Bank building, among Long Island’s “endangered historic places,” saying the structure "played an important role in Freeport’s commercial development, and its design aspires to a vision of Long Island development that is very different than what transpired."

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