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Long IslandNassau

School families fight proposed apartments in Hempstead Village

The Academy Charter School in Hempstead, seen here

The Academy Charter School in Hempstead, seen here on Saturday, enrolls more than 1,000 students. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The Faith Baptist Church and the Academy Charter School in Hempstead are battling over a 300-foot-long shared driveway that could lead to a showdown over a proposed five-story apartment building.

The church at 145 N. Franklin St. has filed plans with the Hempstead Village Zoning Board of Appeals to build 232 senior apartments and mixed-use retail on the property between the charter school’s two buildings.

A zoning board hearing on the project was postponed in July until next January, but the church filed a lawsuit in July to preserve the 15-foot wide easement from Bedell Street to the church parking lot after the Academy fenced off the driveway.

A Nassau County Supreme Court judge is set to review motions Thursday for a preliminary injunction to preserve the easement, which is the only access to the church parking lot.

Attorneys for the Academy argued the easement and the proposed development will put more than 1,000 students’ safety at risk while walking between buildings. The school attorneys also said the church's location at the former Calderone Concert Hall and movie theater would have to be demolished to build apartments.

Ronald J. Rosenberg, the Garden City-based attorney for the church, said the school should honor its easement that has been in place since 1949. He said any proposed development on the property shouldn’t determine access to the road.

The church, which converted the concert hall in 1999, serves between 200 and 300 congregants. The Academy acquired the adjoining property in 2013, according to a court filing by the church.

"I don’t believe school safety is impacted, just the opposite, and the church graciously allowed the school to use a portion of the parking lot fenced off for children to go from one school to another," Rosenberg said. "It’s been that way for 71 years. It’s pure speculation what may be developed on any of these parcels. Any future desire to develop the property has no legal impact on easement rights. It’s totally irrelevant and should not be taken into consideration."

The Academy Charter School attorneys and attorneys representing several parents said they are arguing against the easement and the project.

Jacqueline St. Armand, 55, of Hempstead, said her 11th-grade son has attended the Academy since kindergarten, but she’s concerned about student safety.

"It’s jeopardizing the safety of our children. This is creating dangerous conditions and the kids' safety is going to be jeopardized with a lot more traffic," St. Armand said. "I don’t think this apartment complex is a good place to have next to a school. It’s going to be like a freeway for people to drive between the school."

Parents said they are concerned about student safety during construction and from vehicles using the proposed 130-space parking lot.

"In our view, this is an absurd project to even offer," said Howard D. Avrutine, a Syosset attorney representing five Academy families. "There is severe consternation among the community of parents and there has been no attempt by the church or the developer to do any outreach to explain to everyone how they intend this to work to make this safe."

Land dispute

  • Lawsuit over 300-foot-long shared driveway between Faith Baptist Church and Academy Charter School

  • 232 senior apartments and mixed retail planned at 145 N. Franklin Ave., Hempstead Village

  • Academy Charter School serves more than 1,000 students

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