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Glen Cove IDA takes another step toward eminent domain

The Village Square in Glen Cove on Dec.

The Village Square in Glen Cove on Dec. 9, 2016. The Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, took another step toward eminent domain to clear the way at the fenced-off property, above, for construction of apartments, stores and a public plaza, key to its downtown revitalization plan. Credit: Steve Pfost

The Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency Tuesday took another step toward eminent domain against the last remaining property owner on a development site that the IDA and city officials view as vital for downtown revitalization.

Tuesday’s public hearing on eminent domain starts the clock ticking toward the IDA seeking court approval for condemnation of a parcel owned by All Island Real Estate Holdings LLC.

The eminent domain is designed to clear the way for construction of Uniondale-based RXR Realty’s Village Square, which is to include 146 apartments, stores and a public plaza on a site that is now mostly vacant, fenced-off office buildings.

RXR owns almost all of the 2.8-acre site but, like a previous developer that wanted to build on the site, has been unable to reach an agreement with All Island to buy a 2,000 square-foot parcel that includes the dermatology office of All Island’s principal, Dr. Joseph Onorato.

City and IDA officials have been frustrated that the site remains “blighted” six years after the planning board approved the previous developer’s proposal for a similar project.

The IDA in January voted to pursue eminent domain, but Michael Zarin, an IDA attorney on the matter, said the agency held off until Tuesday on holding the required public hearing because it prefers to see a voluntary sale.

An RXR spokesman said before the meeting that the company and representatives of Onorato have had “very productive discussions” on a sale of the parcel, and Zarin said it appears an agreement is “close.”

But Zarin said, “in the event a private, voluntary sale does not go through, we want to be in the position to have the project go forward.”

Eugene Ferencik, an attorney for All Island, declined to comment.

IDA member Michael Famiglietti said the agency cannot allow the project to continue languishing.

“We really need to get this done,” he said. “We want to increase the tax base, and we believe it will be a boon to downtown business.”

Francine Koehler, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, called the vacant site “a terrible area infested by rats” that is “dragging down the whole downtown,” harming the city’s image, driving away investment and hurting nearby businesses.

But Drew Lawrence, a former Community Development Agency member, said the IDA has no legal right to exercise eminent domain over the property, because “it is a private project. It is for profit.”

“It’s more of a developer benefit than it would be to the public,” he said.

But Zarin said eminent domain is allowed in instances like this, when private development creates a public benefit, which in this case is “redevelopment of an area that has been underutilized, stagnant and blighted in a critical downtown location.”

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