The Valley Stream Board of Zoning Appeals failed on July 16 to gain a supermajority vote needed to approve an 18-unit apartment complex at the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Cochran Place, and overturn a decision by the Nassau County Planning Commission last month rejecting the proposal.
“I don’t think at this point we should be overriding the county,” said Trustee Salvatore Pizzolo, ex-plaining that since the planning commission made its ruling, Kay Development, the Manhattan-based developer behind the proposal, has not reduced its density level, which is more than double the village limit for a plot of that size.
In response, board Chairman Kenneth Bond reminded Pizzolo that William Florio, a facilitator representing Kay, presented the board with financial statements showing that Vassilios Kefalas, principal of Kay, would not make money if he reduced the size of the project to 15 units, and Trustee Edward DeLucie said, “The county’s not the end-all, be-all. We have overruled the county many times on this board.”
Still, Pizzolo said, “I don’t see any physical change, and we’re just overriding the county, and I don’t feel good about that.”
Additionally, Trustee Peter Panzarino said he had spoken to residents and American Legion members, whose post is across the street from the site, and listened to their concerns about the density and the shortfall of parking included in the project. The site is currently occupied by a parking lot privately owned by Valley Stream-based Valley Parking Inc.
“When I first saw it, I said, ‘Wow this looks great, because that place is an eyesore now,’” Panzarino recalled. “But as you read through it and you see how dense it is [with] double the density, I’m concerned about going against the county, too.”
In its decision, the planning commission cited the plan’s lack of an affordable housing component, which is required under the state’s 2008 Long Island Workforce Housing Act for residential properties containing more than five units.
The law says that a developer working in Nassau and Suffolk counties must either set aside at least 10 percent of the units for individuals and families making less than 130 percent of the area’s median income, or create another affordable housing development in the same neighborhood. If neither occurs, the developer must pay the local government a fine, which would be earmarked to create more affordable housing in the region.
Florio, when presenting the proposal before the BZA, said that Kefalas did not intend for this project to include affordable housing, and would instead work with the village board to negotiate a fine — which Florio referred to as a “donation” — that Kay would pay to the village.
He also said that Kefalas closed the driveway to Cochran Place after listening to residents’ traffic concerns, which Zoning Board Chairman Kenneth Bond said he appreciated.
The future of the Workforce Housing Act
Once the BZA’s decision meeting concluded, resident Michael Belfiore questioned the board about the enforcement of the Workforce Housing Act, and said, “I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about it,” because affordable housing could also be senior housing, according to the law.
Additionally, he asked how the act had been applied to other apartment complexes in the village, and said, “There doesn’t seem to be anything in place,” to which Bond suggested he direct his questions to the village board.
Belfiore had, however, done that the night before, and when he asked the village board of trustees why the Workforce Housing Act was not applied to the Hawthorne Apartments or to the Wallace Court project, Mayor Ed Fare replied that the village follows the law, and every development project must go through the BZA, which would determine if the variances the developer requests violate the act.
“In all applications that come before the Board of Trustees and the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Village fully follows the law, and determinations are made on a case-by-case basis,” Fare wrote later in an email to the Herald.
He also explained that the Workforce Housing Act does not apply for CA — or floating — zones, which have been applied to a handful of multiple-family townhouses, condominiums, cooperatives and apartments throughout Valley Stream. According to village law, the village board can change a commercial zone to a CA zone at its discretion and did so for the Wallace Court apartment proposal in 2018.
The CA zone was originally created in 2005 to clear the way for a 48-unit condominum complex on South Cottage Avenue.
Belfiore, however, said that he only recalled the Workforce Housing Act being applied one other time in village history, with the Brooke Pointe apartment complex in Gibson, “and that’s only because that came from Nassau County.”
He added that the newly formed Downtown Revitalization Committee, of which he is a member, could create standards for the implementation of the Workforce Housing Act in the village. The Revitalization Committee was formed last year to gather input from the community to be included in a submission for a $10 million state downtown revitalization grant.
“You should hand it off to them for their review of how it’s been done in the past, and how we’re going to move forward,” Belfiore told the board. “I don’t see how we can move forward with any of these proposals if we never applied it in these cases.”