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Opinion

Editorial: Harbor Isle project should go forward

Farmingdale-based Posillico Development LLC and Virginia-based Avalon Bay

Farmingdale-based Posillico Development LLC and Virginia-based Avalon Bay Communities Inc., have partnered to develop the former Cibro facility, at 7 Washington Ave. in the Harbor Isle section of Island Park. Above, a view of the 11.6-acre site on May 10, 2013. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The pitch is enticing: Clean up a seaside brownfield in the Harbor Isle section of Island Park, erect luxury housing in its place, bring new residents and new money into a Sandy-ravaged community, increase the tax base.

But the proposal is mired in controversy as it sits before Hempstead's town board. The twist: The board has approved the project. On the table now is a request to change the mix of housing in it -- from mostly condominiums to mostly rentals. That's the national trend. The board should approve the rental units and get this project moving.

The plan offered by Posillico Development and AvalonBay Communities calls for cleaning up a former oil distribution site and building a $90-million development with 140 rental units and 32 condos with boat slips. The change in mix -- to more than 80 percent rentals from the previously approved 10 percent rentals -- is an acknowledgment that the condo market has shrunk. Critics say renters -- even those paying $2,300 to $4,000 a month -- are transient and have no stake in the community. That's nonsense.

Complaints about increased traffic, a lack of train station parking and a change in the character of the small Harbor Isle community are not relevant at this point in the process: The size of the project was approved long ago.

There is much to like about this project, including the fact that Long Island needs more rentals, even the high-priced variety. Recent AvalonBay projects in Garden City and Rockville Centre -- slightly higher-priced -- have occupancy rates above 95 percent filled with young professionals and empty-nesters. And since AvalonBay does its own financing, work could begin tomorrow. The town board should let the conversion of an old eyesore begin.

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