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N. Amityville residents decry building plan

Alexis Gadsden stands on the lawn of her

Alexis Gadsden stands on the lawn of her North Amityville home, overlooking the 50-year-old mobile home park directly across the street. Gadsden and other residents are worried about a planned development that will replace the mobile home park with 500 new apartments. (April 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Danielle Finkelstein

When Alexis Gadsden moved into her house on Geraldine Avenue, her nearest neighbors were cows and pigs, and the view from the front yard was a wide expanse of strawberries and blueberries.

Over the next 60 years, her North Amityville neighborhood changed: the farms disappeared, houses sprung up and a mobile-home park was created in the fruit fields. But none of those changes bothered Gadsden nearly as much as the one that's now being planned.

"They're talking about putting a four-story building right in front of my home," she said. "They want to open everything up. The whole neighborhood's going to change."

Gadsden, 67, and her neighbors are upset over plans by developer R Squared Llc to build 500 apartments on the site of the Frontier Mobile Home Park, just west of their homes. The development would include three four-story buildings and 45,500 square feet of retail space. R Squared said construction would take place in five phases over three to five years starting this year. However, there is a pending lawsuit by some of the park's 300-plus mobile-home owners against Babylon Town, which has approved variances for the project.

While park residents, who face eviction, have expressed anger since the project was announced last year, area homeowners are only now starting to voice unhappiness. Hazel Williams, 54, worries the buildings will block the western sunlight that streams through her bay window. Norman Fairley, 45, worries he'll lose the privacy of his backyard pool. Many say the number of units planned is too much for the 20-acre lot and that local utilities will be burdened.

Residents are also concerned because, unlike the mobile-home park, the development will not be fenced off from the surrounding community. The project calls for several entrances into the site from surrounding streets previously closed off from busy Route 110. Descriptions of the project note "the design of the development is intended to create neighborhoods . . . and blocks that extend the existing street fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods."

Homeowners said they never had a problem with the mobile-home park residents. "They're quiet and just trying to live like anybody else trying to live," Gadsden said.

But they worry the apartments will bring twice as many residents, that traffic will swell and simple pleasures, such as kids riding their bikes in the street, will come to an end.

"It's always been such a quiet little neighborhood," said Saundra Reynolds, 69. "I always felt safe but now that we're going to have a lot of people coming through, it's scary."

Katherine Heaviside, spokeswoman for New Frontier Llc, the partnership between the park's owners and R Squared, said the development will be a "positive change for the surrounding neighborhood," offering affordable housing to the North Amityville workforce. The town has said if the mobile home park is not developed, it will be condemned by the county for health and safety reasons.

After nearly 60 years, Gadsden is worried about living in a neighborhood that is being transformed. She's started to look into homes down South. "I don't know if I want to stay here anymore," she said. "It's not going to be the same."

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