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Farmingdale apartment plan eyed at public hearing

The Plaza at Farmingdale would have 39 apartments

The Plaza at Farmingdale would have 39 apartments along with retail space. The building on the right has already been approved. Credit: Handout

The 39-apartment mixed-use building that developers hope will replace a scrapped 85-room hotel in downtown Farmingdale could see full occupancy and may have a waiting list, a planning expert told the village board.

Residents at Monday's public hearing were receptive to the project but cautious, challenging the village-hired planning firm and the developer on traffic congestion, tax benefits, marketability and how the project fits into Farmingdale's master plan.

The building would be the second portion of a $38 million complex of apartments and storefronts envisioned near the Long Island Rail Road station by developer Anthony Bartone, of Farmingdale. It is considered in line with the smart-growth development on which Farmingdale has staked the future of its downtown.

Officials on Monday delayed a decision on the building until next month.

Its construction could invite great interest to the village and "a flurry of activity," said Kim Gennaro, of planning firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc.'s Hauppauge office.

A resident had suggested it would be hard to lure tenants, considering the vacancies now found on Main Street.

The building, if approved, would replace a Hilton hotel that was dropped from plans after developers failed to secure funding. Mayor Ralph Ekstrand called the plan a "mini-me" of a larger, approved 115-apartment mixed-use building across the street.

The village's planning board applauded the plan in January.

VHB experts projected the building would introduce 73 adults and five school-age kids into the community and $1.7 million in discretionary income. They also said it would see less traffic congestion than the hotel, in part because many occupants would walk to the train rather than drive.

Resident Joe Diurno called the analysis "flawed."

"Logic would dictate that you'd have more traffic with people living there," he said.

Resident John Miller said plans to place the retail space on an end of the building that is farther from Main Street might lead to the "fragmentation of our business district."

"Do we want to create yet another shopping area that's not connected all that well?" he asked. "Are we compounding the problem?"

Resident Chuck Gosline said he saw promise in the project.

Transit-oriented development has thrived elsewhere in the tri-state region and is "just about taking hold on Long Island," he said. "You've got to start somewhere and this is a very good start. I'm encouraged."

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