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Residents worry about traffic from proposed Melville warehouses

Hartz Mountain Industries wants to build warehouses, seen

Hartz Mountain Industries wants to build warehouses, seen in rendering at bottom, at 235 Pinelawn Rd., the former site of Newsday offices.  Credit: Art of Form Architecture

Plans to start the $190.5 million redevelopment of the former Newsday building have stalled amid neighbor opposition.

Secaucus, New Jersey-based Hartz Mountain Industries, which purchased the 48.3-acre site at 235 Pinelawn Rd. from Tribune Media in fall 2018, plans to demolish the existing 413,500-square-foot building and build two warehouses.

The company first needs variances, such as for parking, signage and outdoor overnight storage from the Town of Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals.

Residents of The Club at Melville, a 55 and older community of 261 homes on Deshon Drive, who are concerned about the volume of truck traffic have stymied those efforts.

“Nobody is disputing the fact the property that Hartz Mountain bought is zoned for light industrial which permits truck traffic in and out," said Garden City-based attorney Marc H. Schneider, who is representing The Club at Melville homeowners. "There is a vast difference between the truck traffic that would be generated by an as of right building and what they are seeking which is multiples of what is permissible.”   

The company wants to build two warehouses, one at 276,500 square feet and the other 669,186 square feet, with office space as needed in each. The buildings will be four stories.

Huntington-based attorney Keith Brown, who is representing Hartz, said at an Aug. 8 ZBA hearing that the design of the complex is such that there will be no truck traffic entering or exiting the southern part of Deshon Drive, to avoid passing in front of The Club at Melville. Trucks leaving the former Newsday site onto Deshon Drive will not be able to make a left-hand turn.

He said it would have been better for the company to allow trucks to use the traffic light at Pinelawn and Marcus Drive to gain access to the southern part of the complex via Deshon Drive, but his client wanted to accommodate the homeowners.

He also said Hartz would use part of its property on the northern end of Deshon Drive leading to Ruland Road for a dedicated right-turn lane.

Hartz officials had previously met with the Suffolk County Department of Public Works officials to see if a traffic light could be installed at the site's Pinelawn entrance. That request was denied.

Schneider said since the August hearing the two sides did meet with DPW officials to revisit the question of the Pinelawn traffic light. He said those officials asked for additional information from Hartz.

According to Hartz’s application to the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, construction costs for the two buildings will total more than $125 million, with about $10 million spent on fees and charges.

Hartz, a family-owned and -operated company, has real estate holdings in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area. The company owns roughly 35 million square feet of commercial industrial space around the country.

James P. Rhatican, vice president of land use and development for Hartz, could not be reached for comment.

Rhatican has said his company anticipates leasing the buildings to up to four tenants and projects it will create up to 800 permanent jobs. 

Hartz received preliminary approval in May for more than $16.8 million in tax breaks for the redevelopment.

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