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Mineola condo project shot down - by Garden City

A planned condominium complex is causing friction between two villages - Mineola, home to the project, and Garden City, its neighbor.

The Winston complex site is on the north side of Old Country Road between Willis Avenue and Main Street in Mineola. Village officials had hoped the nine-story building would draw residents to help revitalize the downtown. The area bustles during the day with Winthrop-University Hospital employees and office workers, but is a ghost town on nights and weekends.

But the project requires subdivision and the site is within 300 feet of Garden City's border, so the Nassau County charter requires that the neighboring village and the county also need to approve it. Nassau's planning commission was set to offer its approval, said Mineola's village attorney, John Spellman.

Garden City, however, took issue with the project's scope and size.

"We're neighbors and the law says we have rights," said Garden City Mayor Robert Rothschild. "It's too dense, too high and too close to the street."

Mineola Mayor Jack Martins is frustrated by Garden City's objections. "I can't understand why certain officials in Garden City would find the need to interject and quite frankly, attempt to obstruct a project on the north side of Old Country Road," he said. "We certainly wouldn't go into Garden City and try to change how Garden City develops Franklin Avenue."

But Rothschild said, "We've had issues with the building from its commencement." He added that the village wanted the building reduced by two stories and set back from the street by 15 feet.

"Mineola wants to do this, we fully understand," he said. "But the law allows us to have comments."

To get around Garden City's objections, the developers, Polimeni International, decided to build a rental building instead, which wouldn't require subdivision approval.

"We will not be dictated [to]," said chief operating officer Michael Polimeni. "It's just another story to add of how difficult it is to build on Long Island."

In addition, offering rentals instead of condos for sale will be easier to finance in this economy, Polimeni said.

Martins said condos would have been ideal because homeowners tend to have a more vested interest in the community. But if it means the difference between building the Winston or not at all, he'll settle for a rental complex.

If the project goes ahead as a rental building, Rothschild conceded that, "Unfortunately, it takes us out of being able to say anything."

Mineola will hold a public hearing later this month on plans for apartments.

The Winston proposal won a Smart Growth award in 2008 from Vision Long Island, a Northport-based nonprofit organization that focuses on smart growth planning.

Executive Director Eric Alexander said the Winston would still have won as a rental project, because "It infuses life into a downtown."

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