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Mayor: Glen Cove may use eminent domain in Village Square

Robert and Lorraine Sztorc stand outside the State

Robert and Lorraine Sztorc stand outside the State Farm insurance office they operate in Glen Cove on n March 21, 2014. The office is within a commercial area of Glen Cove called Village Square. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello says eminent domain could be used to seize private property on behalf of a developer planning to build apartments and retail space in a project called the Piazza.

But the city could face legal opposition.

Robert Sztorc, who has run his State Farm insurance business out of one of the buildings in Village Square since 1978, said he isn't leaving. "I'll fight," Sztorc said. "I've got the lawyers."

Last week, Spinello said eminent domain "wouldn't be my first choice" but may need to be considered. "I don't want to compromise on anything."

A company controlled by the developer, Michael F. Puntillo's Great Neck-based Jobco Realty & Construction, owns most of the land for the project, which was designed to have a large publicly accessible square surrounded by apartment buildings with ground-floor businesses.

In 2011, when the city planning board approved the project, Puntillo said he would build around the property of three owners who had not agreed to sell.

"We'll peacefully coexist," Puntillo said at the time. Then-Mayor Ralph Suozzi said eminent domain was not being considered.

But Spinello said that keeping the existing buildings in the design is not a good option. "It wouldn't be as nice with that there, OK, so I wouldn't like to see it go ahead with that."

Puntillo did not return repeated calls and emails asking for comment.

Sztorc owns one piece of a building divided into four sections that he said he bought from Puntillo's father in 1978. He said that eminent domain would be a "land grab" while property values are low. Two offers from Puntillo haven't pried him from what he considers a perfect location for his business.

"I really don't want to sell," Sztorc said. "I want to be part of future growth."

Sztorc, 75, runs the business with his wife, one of his six children and three employees. He said that he was looking for his property value to go up when the nearby waterfront project arises and the Piazza is finished.

"This is a pretty valuable piece of property now," he said. "It will be even more valuable later on."

One of Jobco's companies, GCVS LLC, bought one section of the building in 2007 for $470,000, and Deniz Trading Corp. of Glen Cove bought another in 2010 for $600,000. City Councilman Nicholas DiLeo runs his insurance business out of the remaining section, which he bought in 2003 from the city. DiLeo referred questions about his negotiations with Puntillo to his lawyer, who did not respond to a request for comment. DiLeo said he couldn't comment on eminent domain because he hadn't heard that it was being considered. "Because of my position as a councilman and a property owner I'm going to remain neutral on that," DiLeo said.

Puntillo plans to open a stand-alone 4,500-square-foot drive-through Panera Bread restaurant on the site later this year, pending approval by the planning board.

Drawings filed with the board show that in addition to the restaurant, the project would include 110 apartments and 25,530 square feet of commercial space in three buildings.

CORRECTION: A previous story on the proposed Piazza project in Glen Cove incorrectly stated the purchaser of sections of a building that could face eminent domain. GCVS LLC bought one section of the building in 2007 for $470,000 and Deniz Trading Corp. of Glen Cove bought another in 2010 for $600,000.

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