Tuesday, June 19, 2007

If Only West Hempstead Had The D'Amatos

Tear down a beach club in posh Atlantic Beach and build 100 condo units?

Sure, No problem. If you’re name is D’Amato – Al, Armand, Christopher, Katuria – if you think it, you can will it. At the very least, you can get it by the Town of Hempstead Zoning Board of Appeals, where Al’s wife, Kat, sits, collecting full-time benefits for part-time work.

All right. So this is America. Free Enterprise. Whatever the market will bear. Capitalism at its best.

A bona fide, if not politically connected developer (D’Amato’s Park Strategies group), enters into a deal with a private entity, the Sands of Atlantic Beach (Jem Caterers), to develop the property with upscale condo units. So what’s wrong with that?

In a free market, absolutely nothing, as long as the residents of Atlantic Beach stand behind the plan, which appears, at first report, to be anything but the case.

A change in Town Zoning to facilitate and accommodate this redevelopment? You got it, Al. All you have to do is ask!

So why is it that, in West Hempstead, where a bona fide developer, Trammel-Crow, enters into a contract with a private entity, the owners of the Courtesy Hotel, to purchase the property and redevelop the site with luxury apartment units – a project that appears to have the almost universal support of the community – the Town of Hempstead balks, bails, and bellyaches when it comes to this community’s will?

West Hempstead needs its Al D’Amato, we suppose – or at least its Kat on the Courtesy’s hot, tin roof!
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D'Amatos' condo plan

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, his brother and son have proposed a multimillion-dollar, 100-condo development for the site of the 50-year-old Sands beach and catering club in Atlantic Beach.

Residents in this quaint beach community, which borders the Atlantic Ocean and Reynolds Channel, plan to fight the proposal they said would negatively impact their lifestyles.

"Their plan, if passed, would be detrimental to our community and our beachfront," according to a letter sent around the neighborhood by a resident. It "clearly disregards the nature of our community and the beauty and fragility of our beaches."

The proposal hinges on the partners getting approval to change the 12-acre property's zoning from marine recreation to multi-family dwelling. The plan calls for 20 buildings each with five luxury condos at 2,200 to 2,400 square feet with an indoor garage. It would be within the new zoning, said an attorney for the group. The development partners - D'Amato, his brother, Armand, and son, Christopher - would also build an outdoor pool, gatehouse and 233 parking spaces.

No one from the Sands returned calls for comment, but the application was signed and authorized by Jem Caterers, on behalf of the Sands.

Christopher D'Amato, a lawyer in his father's consulting and lobbying firm, Park Strategies, said this would be the group's first major development project. A disclosure form filed with the town named Alfonse D'Amato as having 60 percent interest and Christopher and Armand, each with 20 percent interest.

Raina Russo, the Atlantic Beach estates' resident who wrote the letter critical of the project, said that as a developer herself, she doesn't oppose development or change.

"I'm fighting this plan," Russo said. "I think this plan shows a lack of consideration for the members who live in the community. I am looking to make changes and improve the quality of life for Atlantic Beach residents."

Diedra Sehr, who has lived in the community for 28 years, is against the zoning change."It's going to destroy the little enclave we live in," she said. "We'll lose the feeling we have of this beach community and that's why I bought my house."

This is not the first time that an application to the town by the former senator who still wields influence there has raised questions. Last year, his wife Katuria, who sits on the town's Zoning Board of Appeals, had to recuse herself from a decision regarding applications by her husband to improve their Lido Beach home.

Should the proposal be approved by the town board, after undergoing reviews by various town and county agencies, it could come before the zoning board, where D'Amato's wife is a member.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Day At Town Hall, A Night With The Insane!

Civic Association Delivers "Close & Sell the Courtesy" Petitions Containing Over 2,000 Signatures To Supervisor Murray

“I am delighted to see that rumors to the effect that Hempstead Town Hall had been condemned and demolished have been greatly exaggerated.”

And NOW we remember why we rarely attend Town Board meetings anymore. Who could listen to all that jibber-jabber – from both the elected and the electorate – while still keeping either some semblance of sanity or even a straight face?

At last night’s meeting – from which we did not find egress until nearly 11 PM (and through which we, as West Hempsteaders, still can find no relief) – we heard the myriad stories of the plight of residents; stories told, again, again, and again, seemingly since time immemorial (or at least since Al D’Amato was Town Supervisor, which was about the same time).

A “renaissance” in Oceanside, as Councilman Santino lamented over seven illegal signs for cigarettes, posted on a fence alongside a Long Beach Road gas station. [Only SEVEN illegal signs, Tony? Come to West Hempstead. Walk the Turnpike or the Avenue. We’ll give you more illegal signs than there is MTBE in West Hempstead’s water – and we’ll throw in a few illegal accessory apartments for good measure.]

We heard the tale of “blight” in Roosevelt. Hmmm. Not that we’ve cornered the market on blight in West Hempstead, but at least ours gets the official designation from the Hempstead Town Board.

Then there were allegations of “torture” on the waterfront (a dispute between two neighbors over a fence and Riparian rights) – we know of torture in West Hempstead, both from the criminality that spills over into our once suburban haven by two supernovas of iniquity, the Courtesy and the Capri, and from the Town of Hempstead which, going on 12 ½ years now, has ignored a community’s impassioned pleas to close and demolish that which both Supervisor and Councilman have labeled a “scourge.”

And the excessive noise – coming from the night clubs on Barnum Isle, rattling the comatose at Long Beach Hospital, and reaching even the hearing impaired at the Bayview Nursing Home – which, compared to the excessive “noise” West Hempsteaders get from Town Hall (by way of letters and glossy Murraygrams, cycling through the rehashed verbiage of promises past), is but a mere din, barely audible over the sounds of silence that pass for action from the Town.

Ah, the tables turned on our Supervisor – a photo op in reverse, Ms. Murray now the unwitting recipient of petitions and letters with thousands of signatures demanding the closure of the Courtesy, all caught on camera at a forum most public. There will be no denying that the Town has been put on notice – again – of a community’s will. [Watch for Kate to be photo-shopped out of the pictures!]

A new day about to dawn over Washington Street, and the thought of borrowowing a line from President Reagan. You know, that famous exchange with the President of the then Soviet Union: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that hotel!” Better still, that old reverse psychology: “Keep the Courtesy open for all eternity, Madam Supervisor. That notorious hotel may well be the salvation of the West Hempstead community, after all!”

Not so much as a chuckle. [Where’s Don Clavin when you need him?] We could have all stayed at home, eaten dinner, taken in the ballgame, or watched a rerun of House. We came. We spoke. We heard much of the same from the Supervisor, and absolutely nothing from the Town Board (not even advices from Councilman Santino that we “enjoy” having the Courtesy in our backyard).

It was a night, not to remember, at Town Hall, but, rather, to add to the endless timeline of one hotel’s assault upon community, and one community’s courageous battle to pull the monkey – now a 500-pound gorilla – off its back. [The Town’s timeline, of course, only goes back as far as 2005. Memories before then not only fade, apparently, but are recast in the image of Greg Peterson crossing the Delaware.]

You really should come out to meetings of the Hempstead Town Board more often. Not just because misery loves company, but as each of us, at one time or another in our lives of quiet desperation, should bear witness to hypocrisy in action!