A sign on undeveloped land in Port Washington North, giving...

A sign on undeveloped land in Port Washington North, giving public notice of a prior village proceeding in connection with a developer's application to build 44 units of senior housing on the 7.45 acres. Since then, some residents have sued to try to prevent the development. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

For some residents of Port Washington North, the 7.45 acres of green space abutting the village’s eastern border is many things: A provider of clean air. A home to wildlife. A beautiful landscape.

But to others, the village-owned land represents something completely different: An opportunity to develop housing.

In April, the village's planning board recommended that the municipality's mayor and village trustees approve the application of a private developer, New Oasis Development LLC, to turn the site into a senior living complex of 44 townhomes and a clubhouse. The minimum age requirement would be 55, other than five homes that wouldn't be age restricted on the first sale.

The village agreed to sell the land to the developer, but the sale is awaiting approval of the developer's site plan from the mayor and village trustees, according to village clerk Palma Torrisi. 

She said the village would receive $6.54 million upon completion of the sale and the purchase of each townhome.

Some of the project's opponents reacted with litigation, suing Mayor Robert Weitzner, village trustees and planning board members in State Supreme Court in Nassau County.

Court records show the complaint was filed electronically minutes before a May 30 public hearing on the site plan was scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. The hearing became so contentious, the board of trustees tabled the vote.

The lawsuit, filed by 25 residents, says the village is violating their rights to “clean air and water, and a healthful environment,” enshrined in New York's constitution through an environmental rights amendment because the trees provide shade that cool nearby parking lots and absorb pollutants.

The litigation seems to encapsulate a theme across Long Island: A push and pull between the need for more housing and the desire among some to preserve the environment amid climate change.

Weitzner told Newsday the village is working with the applicant “to address some of the concerns in the community” and declined to comment further, citing the litigation.

Village trustees declined to comment. Members of the planning board either couldn't be reached or didn't respond to Newsday inquiries.

The plaintiffs declined to comment through their attorney, Jon Brooks. The developer didn't respond to requests for comment.

The area was deeded “to the Village for use as 'permanent open space'” in 2005, according to the litigation, as part of Port Washington North officials' approval of construction of a condo community after a private developer bought the land from a previous owner around 1998.

Before then, the land was the northern portion of a 40.9-acre tract of land, the rest of which became Mill Pond Acres condominium community. 

In 2008, the planning board approved New Oasis’ application to turn the site into more housing, after conducting an environmental review and finding the project wouldn't have a detrimental impact.

But approval for the project lagged for more than a decade. Then in October 2020, New Oasis sued the village and the Port Washington Water District for the “water district's determination that New Oasis’ request for water for the Project was subject to a water moratorium” that had been adopted in 2019.

New Oasis discontinued the action voluntarily in March 2021, according to the recent litigation.

Planning board members cited the 2008 environmental review while recommending in April that village trustees approve the developer's site plan application.

But the litigation alleges that review is outdated and “legally insufficient” due to an environmental amendment added to the state constitution in 2021.

The lawsuit also says if construction is carried out, the “decimation of the woodlands” would infringe on the residents’ constitutional rights under the amendment.

The residents want the court to vacate the planning board’s vote, declare the development proposal violates the environmental amendment and that the land is a public trust — meaning the local government owns it and the acreage cannot be sold without state approval. 

Richard Mayeri, 65, a resident of Radcliff Avenue in Port Washington North whose backyard overlooks the undeveloped land, said he isn't part of the lawsuit but is against the development proposal.

He said the green space was a big reason why he bought his home in 2006 and that he begins most days on his deck, sipping his morning coffee as he looks for the birds, deer and foxes known to roam the area.

“It’s a habitat to at least ... 10 different kinds of birds,” Mayeri said.

The issue has caught the attention of environmental activist Hildur Palsdottir, a Port Washington resident and the co-founder of the nonprofit organization ReWild Long Island. While recently gazing at the sprawling mass of trees and shrubbery on the site, she spoke of the need to preserve nature.

“There are voices in this jungle that need to be heard,” Palsdottir said.

For some residents of Port Washington North, the 7.45 acres of green space abutting the village’s eastern border is many things: A provider of clean air. A home to wildlife. A beautiful landscape.

But to others, the village-owned land represents something completely different: An opportunity to develop housing.

In April, the village's planning board recommended that the municipality's mayor and village trustees approve the application of a private developer, New Oasis Development LLC, to turn the site into a senior living complex of 44 townhomes and a clubhouse. The minimum age requirement would be 55, other than five homes that wouldn't be age restricted on the first sale.

The village agreed to sell the land to the developer, but the sale is awaiting approval of the developer's site plan from the mayor and village trustees, according to village clerk Palma Torrisi. 

She said the village would receive $6.54 million upon completion of the sale and the purchase of each townhome.

Some of the project's opponents reacted with litigation, suing Mayor Robert Weitzner, village trustees and planning board members in State Supreme Court in Nassau County.

Court records show the complaint was filed electronically minutes before a May 30 public hearing on the site plan was scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. The hearing became so contentious, the board of trustees tabled the vote.

The lawsuit, filed by 25 residents, says the village is violating their rights to “clean air and water, and a healthful environment,” enshrined in New York's constitution through an environmental rights amendment because the trees provide shade that cool nearby parking lots and absorb pollutants.

The litigation seems to encapsulate a theme across Long Island: A push and pull between the need for more housing and the desire among some to preserve the environment amid climate change.

Weitzner told Newsday the village is working with the applicant “to address some of the concerns in the community” and declined to comment further, citing the litigation.

Village trustees declined to comment. Members of the planning board either couldn't be reached or didn't respond to Newsday inquiries.

The plaintiffs declined to comment through their attorney, Jon Brooks. The developer didn't respond to requests for comment.

The area was deeded “to the Village for use as 'permanent open space'” in 2005, according to the litigation, as part of Port Washington North officials' approval of construction of a condo community after a private developer bought the land from a previous owner around 1998.

Before then, the land was the northern portion of a 40.9-acre tract of land, the rest of which became Mill Pond Acres condominium community. 

In 2008, the planning board approved New Oasis’ application to turn the site into more housing, after conducting an environmental review and finding the project wouldn't have a detrimental impact.

But approval for the project lagged for more than a decade. Then in October 2020, New Oasis sued the village and the Port Washington Water District for the “water district's determination that New Oasis’ request for water for the Project was subject to a water moratorium” that had been adopted in 2019.

New Oasis discontinued the action voluntarily in March 2021, according to the recent litigation.

Planning board members cited the 2008 environmental review while recommending in April that village trustees approve the developer's site plan application.

But the litigation alleges that review is outdated and “legally insufficient” due to an environmental amendment added to the state constitution in 2021.

The lawsuit also says if construction is carried out, the “decimation of the woodlands” would infringe on the residents’ constitutional rights under the amendment.

The residents want the court to vacate the planning board’s vote, declare the development proposal violates the environmental amendment and that the land is a public trust — meaning the local government owns it and the acreage cannot be sold without state approval. 

Richard Mayeri, 65, a resident of Radcliff Avenue in Port Washington North whose backyard overlooks the undeveloped land, said he isn't part of the lawsuit but is against the development proposal.

He said the green space was a big reason why he bought his home in 2006 and that he begins most days on his deck, sipping his morning coffee as he looks for the birds, deer and foxes known to roam the area.

“It’s a habitat to at least ... 10 different kinds of birds,” Mayeri said.

The issue has caught the attention of environmental activist Hildur Palsdottir, a Port Washington resident and the co-founder of the nonprofit organization ReWild Long Island. While recently gazing at the sprawling mass of trees and shrubbery on the site, she spoke of the need to preserve nature.

“There are voices in this jungle that need to be heard,” Palsdottir said.

Court fight

  • Port Washington North's planning board recommended that the village's board of trustees approve a site plan for a 44-unit development for seniors on 7.45 acres of undeveloped village land.
  • About two-dozen residents have sued the village to try to block the development.
  • The lawsuit asks a court to vacate the recommendation and declare the land a public trust.
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