On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the Town of North Hempstead held its public comment session regarding the potential development at 145 West Shore Rd, Port Washington. The purpose of this meeting was to allow residents to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was made public on Aug. 2. Southern Land Company (SLC) has been pursuing the West Shore Road location for years with intentions of building luxury multifamily apartments and public amenities which involve an extensive environmental cleanup.
In addition to the town board, Town of North Hempstead Planning Department Commissioner Michael Levine was present to hear SLC’s presentation of the DEIS and listen to public comments. Once the comment period is closed on Oct. 31, the applicant will be presented with a compilation of all pertinent comments along with the town’s own evaluation to the DEIS. The applicant will then be directed to prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement which is all required under New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) process.
Commissioner Levine explained that the meeting would hear a 15-minute presentation on the DEIS from the applicant, a 15-minute presentation from members of a coalition representing community groups and homeowners associations, and then provide each resident who submitted a comment card with three minutes to speak.
Kathleen Deegan Dickson from the law firm of Forchelli, Deegan and Terrana spoke on the behalf of SLC for the West Shore Road residences.
“The plan is to clean up the site and develop a 176-unit luxury residential building with a 10 percent affordable component and public marina along with other public access amenities,” said Deegan Dickson. “The property is currently, and historically has been, the site of many industrial uses which have been dependent on the use of the entire site, consisting of approximately 2.7 acres of upland area and 4.5 acres of land underwater. The property presently contains several structures and debris deposits that have been associated with industrial uses over the decades. These debris piles will be removed, and the area will be the subject of an intensive and thorough environmental cleanup.”
For more than 16 months, the SLC environmental team at VBH Engineering has looked into each of the areas of potential environmental impact defined in the town’s scope. After analyzing each of the dozens of issues in the scope, it culminated in the submission of the DEIS on Aug 2.
Deegan Dickson assured the town board and residents at the meeting that the applicant will be listening and taking notes on all comments to take into consideration.
David Wortman, senior environmental manager from VHB engineering, is the project’s environmental consultant. Wortman explained that the DEIS is the result of an extensive and inclusive planning process that has been occurring over years. He then listed various topics and studies that are included in the DEIS.
Below is the DEIS summary Wortman provided at the meeting:
• Addresses potential impacts on the soil and topography, subsurface conditions and existing contamination of the site. Provides impacts on water resources including groundwater, stormwater, tidal wetlands, floodplain management, etc.
• Analysis of impacts both positive and negative upon ecological resources, such as results from the proposed expansion of the wetlands and other effects of potential impacts on Hempstead Harbor.
• Analyzes zoning land use, community character as well as consistency of the project with the various relevant comprehensive planning documents that the town and county have issued over the years.
• An extensive traffic impact study that analyzed 10 area intersections stretching throughout the surrounding community.
• Impacts upon community facilities and services including emergency services impacts, local schools, etc.
• Noise and air quality are both analyzed.
• Potential impacts of the proposed building from the perspective of shadows on the surrounding area are analyzed specifically regarding sunlight-sensitive resources.
• Potential visual impacts are evaluated in a variety of ways.
• Impact on cultural resources related to the proposed architecture.
• Architectural renderings are presented from a variety of viewpoints throughout the area to assess potential visual impacts on the surrounding community.
• Potential economic impacts on local taxing jurisdictions are described.
To learn more about the DEIS contents, visit the Town of North Hempstead website.
After SLC’s presentation, three representatives from a coalition representing several of the community groups and homeowners associations presented their own thoughts and ideas concerning the DEIS with respect to their fields of expertise.
Nicholas Rigano from Rigano LLC is an environmental attorney who represents towns across Long Island. He has been a chair for the environmental committee for the Nassau County Bar Association and has been involved with the New York State Bar Association. Rigano started off his presentation by deeming SLC’s DEIS as “grossly deficient for several reasons.”
“NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has jurisdiction within 300 feet of land neighboring a tidal wetland’s body. The developers say the DECs jurisdiction is cut off because the elevation of the property exceeds 10 feet,” said Rigano. “I’ve been before the DEC on many occasions for this same issue where fill is placed on a property, and that is what causes the elevation to exceed 10 feet. DEC doesn’t give credit for that.”
“It’s an enormous issue, and it has not been explained by them other than saying they expect to receive a no jurisdiction letter from the DEC,” said Rigano.
“Another enormous deficiency is they did what’s called a limited phase two environmental assessment,” said Rigano. “We don’t know what the soil contamination looks like at this site because in their words they did a very limited phase two environmental assessment.”
Frank Piccininni from SMPIL Consulting works with environmental groups, public entities and developers.
“I’m here tonight to make sure that if developing proceeds at all it does in a more sustainable and conscientious manner,” said Piccininni. “If you read through the DEIS it will make you believe it is a complete wasteland, the wildlife no better.”
“I’m not saying work can’t be done in this area,” said Piccininni. “However, there have been no real discussions about what a massive hardening of the shoreline is going to do to the wildlife populations in that area and no discussions about the excavation’s short-term work and long-term issues.”
Dr. Christopher Gobler is a professor at Stony Brook University within the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences who came to talk about the 50,000 gallons of sewage the site will be generating every single day.
“[SLC] is listing that potentially [the sewage] could go to Port Washington sewer district or somewhere else,” said Gobler. “The next two closest plants that could be considered are Glen Cove Water Treatment Facility and the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District. None of these locations are close to the facility, meaning that in all situations this is going to require miles of pipes to transport sewage from this location to somewhere else.”
“What’s even more important is each of these plants is differentially effective at treating sewage, they are not all equally effective, and they don’t remove all of the nitrogen and other contaminants from this sewage,” said Gobler.
“In all cases, whereever the sewage goes, that sewage will find its way to either Manhasset Bay or Hempstead Harbor,” said Gobler. “It will have a negative effect on the ecosystem and will counter plans put forth by Nassau County and the DEC to protect these ecosystems.”
The Port Washington Water District provided the following statement to be read into the record at the meeting: “The sustainability of its water system is of the utmost importance to the Port Washington Water District. Any project along the scale proposed by Southern Land Company requires extensive analysis and some improvements to our water system. Therefore, our evaluation of the requests for water availability includes an analysis of capacity feasibility in distribution alternatives. We expect this evaluation to be completed in the next several months.”
The town hall meeting room was packed with many residents speaking up in protest of the SLC development or in support of the development. Those in protest hit points regarding traffic concerns, aesthetic issues, financial impacts and environmental worries. Those in support discussed the need to provide more housing for the constant growth of Long Island, environmental cleanup benefits and downtown revitalization the development would provide.
Below are some of the comments made by the meeting attendees.
Kyle Strober spoke on the behalf of the Association for a Better Long Island, an economic development advocacy organization.
“We stand here in support of this project because it addresses a critical need, the housing crisis that we have on Long Island. It will also allow us to have our seniors age in place,” said Strober. “We are at the start of this journey for this project and what’s first proposed is not always what ends up being built, but when it is built, it does address a critical need.”
Alan Kennemer, representing Long Island Builders Institute, spoke in support of the development.
“It is very rare on long island for a development project to provide significant environmental benefits to the local community as well as provide new and exciting housing options for our residents,” said Kennemer. “The redevelopment of 145 West Shore Road next to Beach Park provides the opportunity for three specific goals. First, is cleaning up a very hazardous site with private funds. Second, the redevelopment will bring in not only residential but mixed-use as well. Third, the redevelopment of the site will increase the amount of real property tax payments.”
Andy Shaffer has been a Port Washington resident for 23 years and before that a Manhasset rest for 10 years.
“I chose this community for the beautiful neighborhoods, water views, schools and the people who live here. I’m paying a lot of taxes, and I’ve invested in this community,” said Shaffer. “Out of the blue, we’re faced with the possible development of a seven-story 176-unit apartment building on the shoreline around the corner from my house. Its development will bring more traffic, more people, more density, and it will change the character of the community that I’m so heavily invested in.”
“They want to use parkland for the parking lot, and their plans don’t show a single surface-level parking space that isn’t on parkland,” said Shaffer. “They can’t even get to the loading dock without going through the park. You can’t just give the park away because they care to build a promenade or sidewalk along the water.”
Regina Goutevenier read remarks for her neighbor in Beacon Hill, Nancy Wright.
“As a resident of PW for over 50 years, my family and I have seen many changes, such as the increasing diversity and cultures of the community that is positive and welcomed,” wrote Wright. “This misguided proposal is the quintessential opposite. It blatantly ignores the character, beauty and historic nature of Port as well as endangering the health and safety of our residents by substantially increasing pollution in our water, soil and air. It will destroy our irreplaceable beaches, preserves and wildlife habitats.”
Southern Land Company Response
The statement below was sent to the Port Washington News following the public comment meeting. The statement is from Joe Rossi of Southern Land Company, director of Acquisitions, Northeast Region.
“We are grateful for the opportunity for the Town Board and community members to hear about our draft environmental impact statement from third-party experts. The findings of the DEIS show that our proposed project for 145 West Shore Road will have minimal impact to traffic patterns and the school district and myriad benefits to the environment and local economy—and it is critical that the Town Board and community understand this.”
“As expected, some of those in opposition to the project shared misinformation about it during the hearing, and we expect that to continue during the public comment period that is now underway. We anticipated this because of a great deal of misinformation circulating about the project for quite some time–on social media, in petitions, and even in the media. We have been sharing the facts and will continue to do so, but it’s important for the Town Board and the community to know that we’ll listen closely to all comments during and after the hearing and then address both legitimate questions and misinformation following the close of the public comment period.”
“In the five years since the inception of our vision for 145 West Shore Road, we have become very familiar with the Port Washington community and have built meaningful relationships. We remain steadfast in our belief that our project will be a beneficial addition to the community in many ways. We look forward to continuing through the process and making the community benefits in our proposal a reality.”
Residents have the opportunity to submit comments on the DEIS to the record until Oct. 31 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The town board anticipates a second public comment meeting to be scheduled at a later date.