A $44 million construction project to replace an aging Roslyn Heights housing complex with a new one, which will temporarily displace dozens of families, has received its final green light with a unanimous vote by the North Hempstead Town Board approving the project's site plan.
Officials said revamping Laurel Homes at Roslyn, a 66-unit public housing complex on a 4.7-acre site, is long overdue. The vote was 7-0.
“I'm excited about this,” Councilman Peter Zuckerman, who represents Roslyn Heights, said Thursday when officials with the North Hempstead Housing Authority appeared before the board to seek site plan approval. “The original construction of this development was in 1958. Some parts of the development surely needed to be upgraded.”
Sean Rainey, executive director of the housing authority, said the complex has had drainage issues, sewage backups and lacks a sprinkler system.
There were “walls coming down, ceilings collapsing and insulation coming out,” he said prior to the meeting.
The upgrade plan calls for tearing down eight buildings and constructing new ones in their place, adding eight one-bedroom units for seniors and 22 parking spaces. New sewer, electric and plumbing lines would also be put in, according to the housing authority.
The construction is scheduled to begin in the winter and will be split into three phases, with each lasting six to eight months. Officials said tenants will be relocated to 12 vacant units in Laurel Homes and to the housing authority’s other complexes during construction.
The specter of moving has raised concerns among some tenants over their future accommodations, according to several women who spoke at a public hearing before the board’s vote.
Deirdre Price, of Port Washington, a resident who lives in another housing authority complex and said she’s advocating for Laurel Homes tenants, said some of them were told they couldn’t return to the complex after the construction is completed. Some tenants also reached out to the NAACP with similar complaints, a local chapter official said.
“I think part of the problem is people are kinda scared, whether it’s fear of retaliation or they just don’t know how to address the board,” said Annette Dennis, vice president of the NAACP North Shore branch, addressing why those tenants weren’t present at the meeting.
She said everyone supports the project and their goal is to work with the housing authority to ensure “fair, equitable treatment” for all.
“We want this project to go through," Dennis said. "This is a good thing for the community. Our aim here is to work with Mr. Rainey going forward to ensure everyone is treated fairly.”
Rainey called Price's statements untrue and reiterated that anyone who qualifies — usually based on income and family size — will be able to go back to Laurel Homes.
Stephanie Russell, who has lived in the complex for more than 50 years, said she is anticipating the changes.
“No one likes to move. . . . . But I think that’s a small sacrifice for having the complex redone and having it looking better,” Russell said. “I can’t wait for them to start.”