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Great Neck Plaza may change code to keep projects on schedule

Developers seeking an extension would have to appear before the board of trustees and explain any delays before getting more time to finish construction.

Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender cited the

Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender cited the 5-9 Grace Ave. mixed-use development as a project that has gone beyond the projected completion date. It was slated to be done in August 2017. Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

Village trustees in Great Neck Plaza plan to vote next month on an amendment to village code that would push developers to finish construction projects sooner.

Mayor Jean Celender said earlier this month that an apartment complex underway at 5-9 Grace Ave. that was due to be completed in August 2017 is taking longer than expected and that the village should strengthen its law on construction timelines to prevent this from happening again.

“We want to hold some of these small building projects to a timetable that’s reasonable,” Celender said.

Current law states that any developer has two years to finish a construction project after getting a village building permit. If the project isn’t finished on time, the developer can get an extension from the building department.

Under the proposed amendment, the village board would grant extensions after the developer appears before trustees and submits a written explanation of why the project is late, said village attorney Richard Gabriele. A developer is limited to two extensions of six months each, Gabriele said.

“This board can also grant conditions on that extension such as requiring the payment of a bond to ensure it’s completed by a definite date,” he added.

Under the proposal, commercial construction would be limited to a two-year timeline, but residential projects of single- or two-family houses would need to be completed in a year.

The proposed amendment increases the building permit fee of $300 plus $12 for every $1,000 of the construction cost. The new fee would be $300 plus $18 for every $1,000 of construction cost. The $6 difference would go into an escrow account and the developer would get the money back if construction is finished on time. If it is not, the village would retain the money.

The amendment would apply to future projects, not those under construction such as 5-9 Grace and its owner, Nemat Development.

The mixed-use development spans four floors, with businesses on the bottom level and 30 apartments each on the second, third, and fourth floors. Nemat Development’s CEO, Hooshang Nematzadeh, said the project is taking longer because workers built the structure in a way that didn’t call for closing Grace Avenue.

“Instead of framing it in one shot like most projects do, we did it section by section so that we didn’t have trucks stacking up on the street,” Nematzadeh said.

He got a six-month extension that would have meant a February 2018 completion date and now says the project will be done in July.

Gabriele noted that another feature of the proposed amendment would allow the village’s public services commissioner, Michael Sweeney, to flag construction projects early if it looks like they’re not going to finish on time.

Sweeney said that developers don’t ask for extensions often but that the amendment would further ensure projects are completed on time.

“There’s a difference between ‘I lost my job, so I stopped the project on the extension of my house’ versus ‘I’m just dithering with the project,’ which is basically the problem we’ve endured,” Sweeney said.

Start to finish

Construction timeframes designated at villages near Great Neck Plaza:

Russell Gardens | 6 months to complete construction for both commercial and residential. Extensions can be granted for an additional three months.

Thomaston | 1 year for residential projects and two years for commercial/business projects. Only two extensions of six months each can be granted.

Kensington | 18 months for residential projects and one year for commercial/business projects. Extensions can be granted for an additional year.

Great Neck Estates | Commercial/business projects have a 15-month timeframe if the project is $750,000 or more; nine months if it is more than $100,000; or six months if the project is less than $100,000. Extensions are available for a 3-month period.

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