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Demolition plan hearing delayed for village theater

Village Hall of Great Neck Estates in the

Village Hall of Great Neck Estates in the Town of North Hempstead is at 4 Atwater Plaza on May 29, 2013. Credit: JC Cherubini

A much-delayed public hearing on a controversial plan to demolish the historic First Playhouse Theater in Great Neck Estates to build an apartment building has been postponed indefinitely after the mayor said many questions about the proposal remain unanswered.

After learning a complete plan was still not ready for review during Monday night’s board meeting, an angry Mayor David A. Fox told William Bonesso, the attorney for the owners of the property, First Playhouse of Great Neck Corp., “We're not going to continue having meetings where we address this and questions aren’t answered. It’s just not right.”

“This has been a painful process,” Fox said. He said proposals for the theater, where the likes of the Marx Brothers and Irving Berlin appeared during the Jazz Age, go back at least five years. He seemed particularly upset that Maple Drive would be closed at some point during the construction and there were no details provided to the board on that closure. The theater is at Maple Drive and Middle Neck Road, a major intersection.

Fox said it was not clear from the plan if Maple Drive would “be closed for hours, or days, or for 2 1/2 years.” He complained there was “no timetable.”

“It’s unacceptable,” Fox said. “There are still outstanding questions.” His recommendation to the board that the public hearing be adjourned indefinitely until complete information could be presented was passed unanimously.

“With all due respect, my consultants are here” to answer questions, Bonesso said. But Fox insisted, “We can’t do this process like this. I think we were very clear that we wanted finality at this meeting. It just goes on and on forever.”

The plan for the site calls for a five-story, 20-unit masonry building to be constructed on the theater site that would include retail space and 28 on-site, ground level and underground parking spaces. First Playhouse was built in 1925.

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