The Hempstead Town Board has unanimously passed a six-month moratorium on...

The Hempstead Town Board has unanimously passed a six-month moratorium on building apartments and homes in North Lawrence and Inwood. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Hempstead Town Board voted to approve a six-month moratorium on building apartments and homes in North Lawrence and Inwood, reversing an overlay zoning district that would have allowed more than 1,000 apartments.

Residents of the Five Towns lobbied the Town Board during a packed board meeting last week, urging the board to block future developments. Residents cited concerns over overcrowding in the Five Towns villages and blocking emergency vehicles on already jammed roads.

“Anything that adds to the traffic that’s already very bad in the Five Towns is not something I want to see and something a lot of people don’t want to see,” said Steven Rocklin, of Lawrence. “Right now it’s terrible and it’s getting worse. The people in the Five Towns would like to keep it the way it is now and not another Brooklyn with overcrowding and development.”

Town Board members proposed the moratorium after residents learned of the 2019 Transit Oriented Development District and overlay zone that permitted high-density apartments and mixed-use businesses.

The zoning district, led by former Councilman Bruce Blakeman, included three zoning districts built on 73 acres to encourage affordable and commuter housing near the Lawrence and Inwood LIRR stations

The overlay zone included five sub-districts in Inwood and five in Lawrence. The three main zoning districts allow buildings that are up to five stories with 60 units per acre built on 20 acres, up to 450 apartments on 19 acres and a third district of single-family homes and attached dwellings.

Hempstead Town officials unanimously passed the temporary moratorium “to ensure a hard look” was taken at development and negative effects on the environment and surrounding communities.

Board members did not comment on the vote, but said they were listening to resident concerns about quality-of-life issues.

“Town of Hempstead officials are responding to the legitimate and serious concerns of thousands of Five Towns residents regarding the prospective impacts of potential development in their home communities. Neighbors discussed issues that included increased traffic, adequacy of available parking, elevated levels of noise and environmental sustainability, among other issues,” the town said in a statement.

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky said the region had long feared overdevelopment, although affordable housing was needed to keep young people in the Five Towns, and vacant warehouses and factories should be redeveloped.

“The area is in need of good housing for young couples,” he said. “There are no apartments available. … I know how developing an area can help the community.”

Lawrence Mayor Alex Edelman said the moratorium should be permanent because the village and the rest of the Five Towns cannot absorb additional growth. He said the village didn’t have the infrastructure to handle an influx of new residents.

“I hope the town seriously considers ending this project altogether ,” Edelman said. “The village is at capacity. There’s no room for development at all. There’s no way to get out of here. It’s impossible to move.”

Edelman said the village would continue to push against development and housing that added traffic to the Five Towns.

“You can only put so many pins in a pin cushion and there’s no room left,” he said. “We don’t have any space. We need every bit of it.”

Freeze on building

  • Six-month moratorium on developments in North Lawrence and Inwood
  • Blocks a transit-oriented development district and 73-acre overlay zoning district permitting more than 1,000 apartments 

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