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Proposed Glen Cove 'vested rights' law draws critics

Glen Cove City Hall is shown.

Glen Cove City Hall is shown. Credit: T.C. McCarthy

A Glen Cove City Council proposed law to give the developer of the Glen Isle waterfront project "vested rights" to prevent a change of zoning on the property for 12 years during construction has drawn criticism from Republicans.

At a hearing Tuesday night, Democratic Mayor Ralph Suozzi and the majority Democrats on the council agreed with the developer that providing the guarantee will expedite construction of the $1 billion mixed-use project and payments by the firm to the city. "It adds certainty," Suozzi said.

The council deferred action until after a third night of public hearings on March 12.

Before the meeting, Mitchell Hochberg, managing director for developer RXR Realty, explained the desire for the "vested rights" law.

"It could take 5 to 10 years for the actual construction because of the scale," he said. "We are investing tens of millions of dollars at the inception of the project and a substantial amount of that money is going to public infrastructure including parks and other amenities."

He said to recoup that money later, the developer needs to know the zoning and the specifics of the project will not change before the building is completed.

"This is a mechanism to allow us to be comfortable and attract financing," said Hochberg, who added this technique is used across the country, and in New Jersey vested rights are often granted for up to 20 years.

During the hearing, Councilman Reginald Spinello, an Independence Party member who also ran on the GOP line, said, "They really don't need this to go forward," adding that it could work out that the developer "gets his 12 years and actually builds nothing."

Councilman Anthony Gallo Jr., a Republican, suggested the vested rights be given for a shorter period to make sure the developer is doing what is expected.

Most of the handful of residents who spoke opposed the proposed law. David Nieri said the proposal provides no incentive for the developer to expedite the project and "our hands are tied."

Suozzi and the city's special attorney for the project, Michael Zarin, said a shorter vesting period would not provide the certainty needed by the developer or the city.

They noted that the proposed law contains safeguards for the city. If the planning board determines the developer is not meeting schedules, it can rescind the vested rights and terminate the developer's contract. The proposed law also allows the city to change the project for health or safety reasons.

Glenn Howard was the lone resident to support the proposed law. "It takes a variable out of the process," he said.

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