Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Community Denied!

Town Board Snubs West Hempstead; Adopts Urban Renewal Plan Over Community Opposition
Hempstead town board move blocks sale of hotel


Dozens of West Hempstead residents left yesterday's town board meeting shocked and angry at a decision they say will delay for years the closing of the drug- and crime-ridden Courtesy Hotel.

"When will this end?" civic leader Rosalie Norton asked the board, to thunderous applause from the audience. "This board has subverted what is supposed to be a democracy. The plan is not in the community's best interest."

Town board members voted to adopt an urban renewal plan that would see the redevelopment of 10 acres, including the 2.7-acre Courtesy, after it takes the hotel and adjacent properties through condemnation. The plan includes part of a parking lot across the street owned by National Wholesale Liquidators.

By agreeing to pursue the more time-consuming urban renewal plan, the board essentially blocked a private sale between the hotel owner and a developer that could have shut down the hotel quicker.

Town officials said they considered residents' concerns in reaching its decision.

"We believe this is a more cohesive plan to beautify and revitalize 10 acres as opposed to just focusing on 2.7 acres," said Town Supervisor Kate Murray, a member of the board.

The owners of both the hotel and parking lot have already indicated they would sue the town to block the condemnation. The hotel owners say they have a contract with Texas-based Trammell Crow Residential to buy the hotel for $11 million to $13 million and build a four-story, 176-rental unit complex with underground parking. That would require zoning of 65 units per acre.

Town officials say that proposal is too dense. Their plan seeks 45 units per acre zoning.

Norton said that more than 2,100 residents have signed petitions urging the town board to accept Trammell Crow's plan.

A Trammel Crow representative said they were disappointed with the decision."Our proposal has consistently been the fastest way to rid the community of the woes associated with the Courtesy," said Maria Rigopoulos.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

W. Hempstead hotel to be pulled down


Wednesday, January 23rd 2008, 4:00 AM

After months of controversy, the Hempstead Town Board adopted an unpopular plan Tuesday to condemn a seedy West Hempstead hotel, spurning a well-regarded developer in contract to buy the land.

The six board members - a seventh recused himself - took just seconds to approve an idea trashed by community activists for more than a year.

"They have totally subverted what is supposed to be a democracy," snarled Rosalie Norton, president of the West Hempstead Civic Association.

Yesterday's vote paves the way for the condemnation of the Courtesy Hotel, which residents have long blasted as a haven for drug addicts and prostitutes. But the decision may lead to legal battles that could indefinitely delay the hotel's closing.

It's also a blow to developer Trammell Crow Residential, which in 2006 inked a deal to buy the Courtesy. Locals had endorsed its plan to immediately demolish the hotel and put up 176 luxury apartments.

"We're very disappointed," said Trammell Crow executive Maria Rigopoulos. "We were hoping the board would vote with their conscience and listen to the community."

Trammell Crow is one of four developers still in the running to carry out the town plan.

Thomas Levin, a lawyer for the Courtesy owners, said he is considering challenging the plan in court.

What angered locals even further was that the board hurried through the vote in less than a minute - just after it devoted a half-hour discussing renovations at an Oceanside gas station.

Residents berated the board for not publicizing the highly anticipated vote until late Friday, and for ignoring their concerns.

But Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray countered that the board adopted the urban renewal plan as a comprehensive approach to redevelop the 10-acre area that includes the hotel.

"In 10 years!" an angry resident shouted back, referring to the amount of time it could take to finally shut it down. Others in the crowd of about 100 drowned out Murray with boos.

"It will be good in the long run," Councilwoman Angie Cullin told the Daily News. "I have faith."

Councilman Ed Ambrosino, who represents West Hempstead, recused himself from the vote because he advises a law firm that previously represented Trammell Crow. But he admitted he was disappointed with the outcome.

"I thought that the letters coming in [against the town proposal] would carry sway," Ambrosino said.

"I'd like to think [board members] have the best interests of the community at heart."