The Port Washington North Board of Trustees held a virtual public hearing on April 7 for site plan approval for the property located at 101 Winners Circle (also known as 101 Channel Drive) in Port Washington North.
Before the public hearing began, Port Washington North Mayor Robert Weitzner began the meeting by reiterating how the village and the applicant got to this point.
“We’re here today after what actually took many, many years to materialize,” Mayor Weitzner said. “Numerous meetings with the applicant and various parties who were interested in the property started in early 2019, with the applicant proposing a number of options for the site including a 24/7 food warehouse distribution center, a nonprofit medical school, a 6,000-seat place of worship, an assisted living nursing home, a 24/7 fulfillment center and a movie studio. After reviewing all options, the board felt the movie studio use would both financially beneficial to the community and at the same time have minimal impact on quality of life issues compared to other as of right uses.”
The developer of Bethpage’s Grumman Studios, Parviz Farahzad purchased the property six years ago and had proposed turning this location into a movie and sound studio to create business revenue and bring jobs to the village. After a number of public hearings, the board ultimately approved the initial application last year.
Alexander Badalamenti, president and CEO of bld architecture, located in Patchogue, presented amended site plans to the board for review. Plans include the construction of six one-story studios and two two-story offices on either side of the building. The old building, formerly Publishers Clearing House will be demolished and a new building will be constructed in its place using the existing footprint of the building. The parking lot will remain the same but will be repaired and resurfaced. New LED lighting will be placed throughout the lot to ensure safety and extensive landscaping will provide a buffer around the property. The overall height of the building has also decreased from 65 feet down to 50 feet.
“We believe very strongly that this use, for an industrial site is a very, very low impact use, with the exception that this use requires height,” Badalamenti said. “This is why we went through the variance for the adjustment in height. Without the height the building really doesn’t function.”
Bob Retnauer, principal landscape architect from RDA Landscape Architecture spoke briefly about extensive landscaping that will be placed on the 13-acre property.
“We did some studies on the best way to screen the building from the condo units on the south,” Retnauer said. “We are calling for very large sizes—anywhere from 15 to 16 to 18-foot plants at the start, which will create a nice wall across this whole boundary on the south side. In the northeast corner, we are putting a double row of very tall Leyland Cypress trees that will screen out the view from the houses that are a little bit higher in that area.”
The board also addressed the studio’s hours of operation once the building is completed.
“Very low intensity—these are union workers that do the pre-production,” Badalamenti said. “There’s pre-production and then there’s filming. Pre-production is the building of the sets, the interiors, the lighting, everything that gets built within the studio—that’s the majority of the time. At lot of times it goes months without having any studios being built because nothing is booked. The idea is generally one studio is built at a time. We would never have all six operating at the same time.”
General hours of operation will be from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Friday, with two or three filming’s per year. The filming takes about two weeks, at which time the hours may be extended.
When the public comment portion of the meeting began, several residents stated their approval of the applicant’s final site plans.
“This film studio is a great direction for Port Washington North,” resident Sam Cacioppo said. “This film studio will bring a new identity to Port Washington North. [This] is said to bring 400 new jobs to the area, which to me this is a plus—not a minus.”
Resident Nili Finger stated that she was also in support of the project, and noted the improvements that had been made to the project since the start of the application process.
“I’ve been to the first meeting and this has been such an amazing improvement,” Finger said. “I really think that the whole line of landscaping, which is currently quite sparse and very open to the ugly building—it’s going to be an improvement.”
Construction is said to take approximately 14 months to complete, barring any complications obtaining the proper construction materials due to the pandemic. Under the village code, construction is permitted Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday’s from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The board ultimately approved the site plan review in a unanimous vote. The next step will be for the applicant to get approval to begin the demolition work.
The Port Washington North Board of Trustees will hold their next meeting on April 28. For more information, visit www.portwashingtonnorth.org.