Many residents crowded the board room for the Port Washington North Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 23 to voice their opinions regarding a proposed movie studio at the former Publisher’s Clearing House headquarters building on Channel Drive.
The developer of Bethpage’s Grumman Studios, Parviz Farahzad purchased the Channel Drive property five years ago and has proposed turning this location into a film studio to create business revenue and bring jobs to the village.
Alexander Badalamenti, president and CEO of bld architecture, located in Patchogue, presented updated plans for the proposal during the meeting. Initial site plans include raising the ceiling on the 100,000-square-foot building to 65 feet to create six sound stages. The property is under the economic development zone and currently only permits a maximum height of 25 feet.
To maximize the amount of foliage on the property, the architecture company plans to use landscaping as a barrier around the building; planting a series of 12 to 15 foot-tall trees near the perimeter of the building on the north and south sides.
Badalamenti presented the board with updated site plans, which allowed the attendees to view rendered images of what the proposed site would look like from their homes. Residents were dismayed with the proposed site plans, stating that the building is too tall for the residential areas it backs up against.
Trustee Matthew Kepke asked Badalamenti what the plans are to make the facade of the building fit in more with the surrounding neighborhood.
“My personal opinion is less is more here, we really don’t want to decorate the building too much, because it’s going to draw more attention to it, but there’s a lot of facade treatments we can do,” Badalamenti said. “We could do many things to reduce the impact of the building. Right now, we are showing you the extreme because we don’t have a project yet.”
“It is the extreme—this is in the back of people’s yards,” Kepke said. “I think you are going to need to bring to the board something that shows [what this building could look like].”
Many residents from Mill Pond Acres, a 55 and older condominium community on Pond View Drive that borders the proposed site spoke out against the proposal, stating that noise pollution, property values and the height of the building all posed as potential problems.
“We are here to work on something that’s mutually agreeable, if it’s feasible, to be good neighbors,” Kathleen Walsh, a resident of Mill Pond Acres said. “We are a suburban community first, it is our homes. While we are not opposed, I think you have to be considerate to the height. The views are going to best seen if you go on site.”
Several residents suggested members of the board visit the second floor of their units at Mill Pond Acres to see their view of what the building might look like if it was raised to 65 feet.
“If you go to the second floor where a lot of these apartments are, [you have] to see the impact from the top floor looking down on the outside,” Mili Finger a real estate agent and resident of Pond View, said. “It will substantially reduce the value of these units.”
One resident did speak in favor of the proposed property, stating that there will be minimal traffic effects because those working at the studio would from out of town and would be bussed into the site.
“I understand your concerns with the building here, but I am an actress,” Joanne Perahia said. “One thing I have to say about the film industry is that they are the most considerate when it comes to the neighborhoods around them. Not only that, you’re not going to get noise because all the noise is going to be inside the studio—they are soundproof. You are not going to get all of these awful hours that you think you’re going to get. You’ve got a film industry that really would love it, and jobs for your high school students and retirees here. It’s just something to think about.”
Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner assured the residents that the proposal for the height of the building is not finalized. The board will not be making any further decisions until the results from they receive documentation regarding the environmental and traffic impacts studies that the proposed building may incur. The next board of trustees meeting will be on Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the village hall.