Friday, December 14, 2007

Hundreds Rally At Town Hall In Favor Of Trammell-Crow Plan

Town Of Hempstead Says, "Not So Fast!"

From the Three Village Times:

No Decision Yet on Courtesy Hotel
But Neighbors Support Trammell Crow Project
By Joe Rizza

Practically all the seats were filled, with some standing in the Nathan L. H. Bennett Pavilion at Hempstead Town Hall as the town board was scheduled to discuss the proposed Urban Renewal Plan (URP) for the area in West Hempstead that includes the controversial Courtesy Hotel.

Before the town board considered the URP, the board held a hearing a proposed zoning change as requested by Trammell Crow Residential, which would purchase the hotel property, demolish the hotel and build a luxury apartment community on the site.

The Trammell Crow plan is the one that is favored by many community leaders, including members of the West Hempstead Civic Association, since many feel it represents the surest and most expedient way to close the hotel. However, the Trammell Crow plan has been met with resistance by some town officials since it is feared that the Trammell Crow proposed apartment complex is too dense for the area and would create an adverse precedent in the town, opening the way for large developments that would threaten a suburban way of life.

Proponents of the Trammell Crow plan, however, argue that the complex isn't too dense for the commercial area that also includes such structures as a storage facility and National Wholesale Liquidators, would create much-needed housing and would expand the tax base to give the community much-needed tax relief. But perhaps the biggest upside to the plan is the elimination of the hotel.

While it has been reported that Trammell Crowe has an agreement to purchase the hotel, in order for the project to move forward, the Town of Hempstead would have to rezone the area from a business district to a residential district.

At Tuesday's hearing many community members voiced their support for Trammell Crowe's plan after the developer's associate Maria Rigopoulos made a presentation on the proposed redevelopment of the Courtesy Hotel site.

The Trammell Crow plan called for a 176-unit complex on the 2.71-acre site that would be built as a condominium complex but the units would be rented for prices ranging from $1,950 to $2,700 per month.

Although Rigopoulos said that density, which for the proposed plan calls for 65 units per acre, is a hot topic, density is not a bad thing if the building is properly designed and Trammell Crow has a wealth of experience is building complexes such as the one planned for West Hempstead.

Although representatives said their proposed building would be four stories high, according to the rendering that was shown at Tuesday's hearing, the building would have parking on the ground floor and four stories of apartment units above the parking for a total of five stories.
Currently, the highest density residential housing in the unincorporated areas of the Town of Hempstead is 45 units per acre of housing for the elderly and handicapped in Inwood.

However, representatives for Trammell Crow and some community members feel the Courtesy Hotel site presents a unique opportunity since it's near the West Hempstead train station and would not impact negatively on the entire town but positively on West Hempstead.

Resident Walter Enjes said he was initially concerned about the density of the Trammell Crow project but said he supports the project because it presents solutions to many problems.

Some community members also feel that if the town board elects to go the route of an urban renewal plan for the area, it may take years to close the Courtesy Hotel and cost the town thousands of dollars in eminent domain proceedings.

"Something needs to be done quickly," said one resident.

Scott Jablow of the Cathedral Gardens Civic Association brought up a rally to close the hotel on Mother's Day during which Town Supervisor Kate Murray promised to have the hotel closed by year's end. Jablow said that now is the opportunity for the supervisor to follow through on her promise.

"The only way you can keep your promise is to stop wasting our time and work with Trammell Crow," Jablow told Murray during the hearing.

West Hempstead School Superintendent John Hogan said that the board of education supports the Trammell Crow project and added that having the Courtesy Hotel, which has been the site of numerous police arrests, in the community could present a safety hazard to the children of the community.

Still, some believe the Trammell Crow proposal could negatively affect other parts of the town.

In a letter to Supervisor Murray and the Hempstead Town Board, Robert J. Zafonte, president of the East Meadow Civic Association, stated he is opposed to the Trammell Crow project. "The structure is overwhelming in nature. Just to be clear, height and density are enemies of suburbia. Approving the Trammell Crow proposal would lead to similar proposals to build in our township," he stated in the letter.

However, there are other municipalities that are considering housing units. The Village of Mineola, for instance, is considering a 285-unit condominium complex that is nine stories high for Old Country Road. The reason the village is considering it is because it is proposed for an area that is not expected to impact the residential community and would expand the community's tax base. The Mineola plan includes condominium units that would be purchased by the buyer as opposed to rented.

Some in West Hempstead would argue that the Trammell Crow proposal would have more of a positive impact on the neighborhood than the Courtesy Hotel.

The Hempstead Town Board reserved decisions on whether to rezone the area to residential to accommodate the Trammell Crow project and whether to adopt the urban renewal plan. If the town rejects the rezoning bid by Trammell Crow, that would pave the way for the adoption of the urban renewal plan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

After 7 1/2 Hours At Town Hall. . .

Town Board Reserves Decision On Fate Of The Courtesy

Stay tuned. . .

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mark Your Calendars ~ Tuesday, December 11, 10:30 AM

Town Of Hempstead Board Meeting
Meeting Pavilion
1 Washington Street
Hempstead, New York
- - -
27327 Petition of WEST HEMPSTEAD DEVELOPMENT, LLC, to rezonefrom "Business X" District to "Residence [CA-S]" District - WEST HEMPSTEAD - s/si Hempstead Ave., e/of Woodfield Rd.

18675 ADJOURNED PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed Adoption of theUrban Renewal Plan for the West Hempstead Study Area - WEST HEMPSTEAD - TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD (Pursuant to Sec. 505 ofthe General Municipal Law)

Item 27327 is the Trammell-Crow proposal.

Item 18675 is the Town's proposed Urban Renewal Plan.


IN FAVOR OF 27327 (Trammell-Crow); OPPOSED TO 18675 (Urban Renewal Plan)

Please alert your friends and neighbors, and come on down to Town Hall! [If you wish to be heard by the Town Board, please note that each speaker will be limited to 3 minutes.]

Questions? Call the West Hempstead Civic Association: 516-733-0879

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

December 11th Is D-Day At Town Hall

Will Supervisor Murray And The Town Board Vote In Favor Of Community?

Come out and see for yourself!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 10:30 AM
Town Meeting Pavilion
1 Washington Street
Hempstead, New York

Exactly what is at stake, and what proposals are on the table?

Read on:

From the West Hempstead Civic Association:

On December 11 at 10:30 a.m., at the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion at One Washington Street,
Hempstead, the Town of Hempstead Town Board will hold a public hearing on the fate of the Courtesy Hotel site and the surrounding area and then vote to approve or disapprove the proposed Urban Renewal Plan developed by the Town’s Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Virtually every West Hempstead organization is publicly supporting the Trammell Crow Residential Apartment Complex and the 65 units per acre – and are opposing the Town of Hempstead’s Urban Renewal Plan for our community. This includes: WH Board of Education • WH Education Association (teachers union) • WH Chamber of Commerce • Cathedral Gardens Civic Association • Friends of the Library • WH Lions Club • WH Kiwanis Club • WH Soccer chiefs • WH Historical Society • WH Community Scholarship Fund • WH Civic Association

The URP includes the development of the Courtesy Hotel and a number of surrounding properties. These additional parcels include the OK Deli/Petroleum property, a strip of National Wholesale Liquidator’s (NWL) parking lot, a portion of the NWL parking lot across from the LIRR Station (East of Broad St.), and the AVF Carting property on the East side of the LIRR station. As part of the URP, the Town will seize these properties through eminent domain.

The URP is lacking in many key specifics including the following:
1) The plan was created with almost no input from West Hempstead residents and businesses
and does not address the needs of the West Hempstead community and is short sighted.
2) The Town’s plan has been full of misrepresentations and blunders. The Town continually
promotes the URP to the public as a 10 acre project. However, only about 6.19 acres will be
available for development due to the following:
a. The LIRR right of way just west of the Courtesy Hotel cannot be developed.
b. The original plan called for the use of a substantial portion of Wholesale Liquidators’ parking
lot and the “municipal” parking lot east of Broad Street. However, during the final stage of the
plan’s development, the Town realized that seizure of the lot would place Liquidators in violation of the current zoning requirements for parking. The Town also discovered that the “municipal” parking lot is not Town property but that it is privately owned. The current owner has allowed LIRR commuters to utilize the lot. The three parties who own or lease the parking fields have publicly stated on the record that they will sue if the Town attempts to take any of the parking fields away through eminent domain.
3) Of the 6.19 acres available for development, 4.23 acres are currently under contract for private sale and include the properties below:
a. This includes the Courtesy Hotel, which is in contract to Trammel Crow Residential, who is proposing to build a market rate apartments targeted to young professionals and “empty nesters”.
b. A second parcel, the AVF Carting property on Hempstead Garden’s Drive on the east side of
the LIRR station, has been sold to a developer who plans to build senior citizen housing. These private sales would eliminate the two largest problems in the area and would render the need for the URP useless. If the Town Board votes “No” on the URP and allows for the necessary rezoning, the Courtesy and AVF Carting would close immediately. If the URP goes forward, the owners of these properties have promised to sue, which will likely enable them to remain open for years.
4) The Town has identified four potential developers to bid on this project if the URP is approved. These developers have submitted preliminary plans for a ten acre development, even though the actual size of the site will be close to forty percent less. These proposals, outlined in the URP, were used to determine density options as well as other important factors in the URP.
If the URP is approved, the actual projects will likely be considerably different than what the developers initially submitted based on the reduced size of the property (approx. 6.19 acres). As a result, the community has little specifics as to what the actual development might be.
5) The URP calls for the development of mixed use retail and housing. However, it fails to provide an adequate solution for all of the existing empty buildings or failing retail businesses in
the area.
6) Of the four developers being considered by the Town, only one, Trammell Crow, has met with the community and their plan most accurately reflects the community’s desires. The remaining three developers submitted plans that will provide a mixed use of retail and residential, including housing above stores, and multifamily homes. These proposals do not improve our community. Local real estate professionals have expressed concern that homes will be difficult to sell at this location. None of the three developers have given specifics as to density, square footage or estimates as to the cost of the land.
7) The environmental impact assessment, conducted by the Town, considered a range of housing densities, including up to eighty units per acre. According to the environmental impact
assessment, a density of eighty units per acre would result in greater positive impacts on tax revenues, additional housing opportunities and job opportunities. The URP states that the following:
a. Eighty units per acre would give our school district up to $280,000 more than the Town’s preferred density of 45 units/acre.
b. Eighty units per acre would have NO negative environmental impacts or traffic impacts. The environmental impact assessment gave no reason for the Town to reject the higher density option other than to state “at 80 units per acre, the land use policy implications of this density would have to be carefully reviewed for potential Town-wide repercussions.” The Town has made this major determination for West Hempstead without actually conducting the review of potential Town-wide “repercussions” and only recommends a density of 45 units per acre.
8) The URP proposes that the AVF Carting site be converted to a parking lot. As a current business, the property generates tax revenue for our community. If the URP is approved, the likely use of this property would be a parking lot, resulting in a LOSS OF CURRENT TAX REVENUE.
9) Because public money (i.e. taxpayer dollars) was used to develop the Town’s URP, the Town will be responsible for relocating the Courtesy and AVF Carting, likely leading to more lawsuits
and taxpayer costs as other communities fight to prevent these businesses from operating in their neighborhood.
10) The values of the properties have not been publicly disclosed. If the current owners do not accept the appraised values, the issue will go to the courts and could take years to litigate. Without knowledge of the value, it is impossible for developers bidding on the URP to determine
what they need to build in order to generate a profit. Given the low density proposed by the Town of Hempstead, the developer may have to cut quality or possibly walk away from the project.
11) All School, County and Town taxes cease to be paid once the properties are acquired by
the Town under eminent domain.

The goal to redevelop this area of West Hempstead is a good one. However the URP is not the most effective or beneficial way to accomplish this.

In early 2006, Trammel Crow Residential (TCR), one of the country’s largest and most reputable developers of residential housing, entered into a contract with the owner of the Courtesy Hotel to purchase the property. The original plan proposed a mix of 220 one, two and three bedroom luxury apartments. In order to build the apartments, TCR filed the required paperwork with the Town to obtain the proper zoning variances in December 2006. The Town has yet to take any action on TCR’s application.

Local municipalities in “first ring” suburbs throughout the country have begun to embrace the idea of transit oriented development, which places higher density housing near public transportation hubs. This has resulted in local revitalization, increased tax revenue generation, and managed population growth with little environmental impact.

TCR selected the site due to its proximity to the LIRR station and the many bus routes located directly in front of the Courtesy Hotel. TCR has extensively researched the site as well as the market for rental housing on Long Island in general.

After TCR announced their planned purchase, they immediately reached out to community groups, including the WH Civic Association, Cathedral Gardens Civic Association and the WH Chamber of Commerce. They also attended community meetings, solicited feedback from residents on their project, and incorporated some of those elements into their design.

1) This is a private sale that would close the Courtesy Hotel once and for all.
2) TCR will continue to pay all taxes while the property is being developed.
3) The original design proposed 220 units at eighty units per acre. At the Town’s request for a lower density, TCR has compromised with a new proposal based on 176 units total at sixty-five units per acre.
4) TCR will build their development according to the Town’s more stringent code reserved for condominiums. This will allow TCR to convert the apartments into condominiums once market conditions are more favorable.
5) The sale and project development will be completely financed through private funding. No public money (i.e. taxpayer dollars) will be used.
6) TCR will require complete background and credit checks of all renters which will include an income and asset check. This is standard procedure with all TCR rental properties.
7) The sale of the Courtesy to TCR at the proposed density will guarantee a greater tax benefit for West Hempstead and our school district.
8) Although TCR will be offering a limited number of three bedroom apartments (15%), statistics at other TCR rental properties and a study of similar properties in the region recently conducted by Rutgers University show that fewer school aged children reside in these types of rental apartments than those residing in privately owned homes. Tenants will likely be young
professionals, young couples not able to afford a house or ready to buy a house, and “empty nesters”.
9) The TCR proposal calls for a four story building (down from five stories in the original proposal). The development would include underground parking lot for the tenants.
10) As per community requests, the complex will have on open architecture and green space to
beautify the area.

With the Courtesy gone as a result of a private sale to Trammel Crow, the Town of Hempstead should work closely with the community to develop a Vision for the revitalization and beautification of the entire surrounding area including Hempstead Turnpike and continuing south along Hempstead Avenue, areas missing from the Town’s current Urban Renewal Plan. This is considered Smart Growth and should include community input from day one.

Here’s What You Can Do:
􀂾 ATTEND THE MEETING on December 11 at 10:30 a.m
Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion (Adjacent to Town Hall)
One Washington Street, Hempstead

􀂾 Write or call your Councilperson on the Town Board and urge them to
VOTE NO on the URP.

􀂾 Urge them to VOTE YES on the Trammel Crow Residential plan.

Write to the following Town Board members:
Councilman Ed Ambrosino
Hempstead Town Hall
One Washington Street
Hempstead, NY 11550
(516) 489-5000

Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby
Hempstead Town Hall
One Washington Street
Hempstead, NY 11550

Councilman Jim Darcy
Hempstead Town Hall
One Washington Street
Hempstead, NY 11550
(516) 489-5000