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Opponents speak out against demolition of Great Neck apartment complex

Several community members voiced their support of the

Several community members voiced their support of the Academy Gardens Tenants Association, at a Great Neck Planning Board meeting on Feb. 20, 2014. The association is made up of residents who are potentially being forced out of their homes. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Residents of a rent-stabilized apartment complex in Great Neck that could be demolished to make way for market-rate housing spoke at a village planning board meeting last week, urging the board to deny approval of the developer's site plan.

Most of the board's discussion at its meeting related to what type of environmental review should be applicable to Kings Point Gate Associates' application to build 62 market-rate condominiums on the site of the Middle Neck Road housing complex known as Academy Gardens.

Critics of the plan say it would push minority families out of the village.

When board chairman Charles Segal tried to adjourn the Thursday meeting until next month without taking public comment, noting that the public could speak when the board took up the issue again, angry chatter began to rise from the dozens of tenants and their supporters in the audience.

"There's nothing to speak about until next month," Segal said.

After two other board members argued in favor of hearing the public, Segal relented, but only allowed speakers who hadn't been heard at previous meetings.

Several then took the mic, including Annette Dennis of the Nassau County Chapter of the National Action Network, a civil-rights group founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

She said the 27 mostly minority families who live in the complex would have nowhere to live in the village if it is demolished.

"If you approve the owner's application to build luxury condos on the Academy Gardens property, you will effectively create a disparate and adverse impact on minorities in the Great Neck community," Dennis said.

Tenant Irene Polanco told the board her family has lived in the complex for more than 38 years.

"For once, make a decision on this matter based on morality, and not greed," she said.

The tenants have been offered taxable payments of $100,000 to $125,000 to leave, but not places in the new condo or any assurances that they could find other affordable housing in Great Neck, according to the tenants' attorney, Fred Pollack of Mineola.

A spokesman for Kings Point Gate Associates, George Shea, has said the owner planned to comply with all legal requirements and would continue to work with the tenants. "It is grossly unfair and inflammatory to suggest that segregation or racism has played any role in the decision to pursue the redevelopment of Kings Point Gate," he said.

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