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Developer says building proposal is an effort to 'create something nice' in Babylon Village

Developer Joe Giaquinto plans to convert his property

Developer Joe Giaquinto plans to convert his property at 22 Railroad Ave. in Babylon Village into a four-story mixed-use building with a retail business on the first floor and 12 apartments on the upper floors. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A Deer Park-based developer wants to make over his mixed-use building in Babylon Village, starting with tearing it down and rebuilding it taller and with more apartments now that village trustees have amended a code to help encourage development.

Joe Giaquinto proposes converting the two-story building at 22 Railroad Ave., which is vacant on the first floor and has seven apartments on the second floor, into a four-story mixed-use structure that will house a retail business on the first floor and 12 one-bedroom apartments on the upper floors. 

“I’m trying to create something nice,” Giaquinto told the planning board on July 30 via Zoom. “I never rented the retail down below because I knew down the road I wanted to do something with it, so I’ve never attempted to put anybody on the first floor.”

The building is about 15,700 square feet, and each upper floor would have four apartments that would be no smaller than 500 square feet each.

At least one member of the planning board raised concerns about sufficient parking at the building, which has no designated parking. Giaquinto’s attorney, Nicole Blanda of Melville, said a leased agreement was made with Argyle Jewelers at 216 Deer Park Ave., which is around the block from the Railroad Avenue property, to use spaces there. The lease agreement is for 10 years, but Blanda said it could be extended when there is a definitive site plan. 

The planning board advised Blanda to submit a special-use permit to the village Zoning Board of Appeals. James Slack, chairman of the planning board, noted that 27 parking spots are required and that Giaquinto’s plan proposes 12 spaces.

Giaquinto and Blanda did not respond to requests for comment.

The proposed development comes after village trustees in February 2019 amended a village code to allow buildings on Depot Place and Railroad Avenue from Deer Park Avenue to N. Carll Avenue to be up to four stories tall but not exceed 40 feet to entice more development. 

Frank Petruzzo, president of the Babylon Beautification Society, said the society eyed fixing up the streets near the train station and in December 2018, they planted half a dozen trees to spruce up the area to help improve the area for any future development.

“When you start making things attractive, it improves the community,” Petruzzo said. 

While village trustees voted to change the code to promote development in its downtown, other communities have dialed back similar measures. 

The Huntington Town Board voted July 21 to overhaul zoning in its downtowns by including an updated density limit on new construction or projects.

North Hempstead Town released a drafted code in July to regulate development in Port Washington’s waterfront business district. A development moratorium has been in place for nearly three years. The proposed code would cap building height at 35 feet, or three stories, which is 10 feet lower than what’s allowed in the current code. To control density, multiple-use buildings would have no more than 20 residential units per acre. No more than 20% of the units could have two or more bedrooms, and at least 40% of them would have to be designated for seniors.

Kelly Peckholdt, president of the Babylon Village Chamber of Commerce, said she doesn’t think limiting mixed-use buildings will happen now since there are not many in the village.

“I don’t think it should be limited because it’s not at that point,” she said.

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The proposed development at 22 Railroad Ave. will include 12 one-bedroom apartments and parking spaces for each apartment.

Source: Babylon Village

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