Despite community opposition, the Cedarhurst village board acted Monday night to support a major residential development project on Pearsall Avenue.
The board unanimously approved implementation of an overlay district to allow contruction off three buildings, each three stories, totalling 98 units plus approximately 290 parking spaces.
No public comment was allowed at Monday's meeting, at Cedarhurst Village Hall, but several project opponents who attended voiced their opposition by grumbling about the 5-0 vote.
At two well-attended public hearings in the Lawrence HS cafeteria on Aug. 4 of last year and on June 8, a majority of local residents who spoke opposed the project, citing an anticipated increase in traffic in an already frequently congested area, and the project’s impact on their quality of life.
“We’ve taken into consideration all of the public comments that were received and took into consideration documents that were submitted, the emails that were sent in,” Cedarhurst Mayor Benjamin Weinstock said at the July 11 meeting.
Establishing the overlay district allows the village to change the zoning to permit the Pearsall project to be built. Without an overlay district, current zoning would allow the developer, Pearsall Rock LLC, led by Tommy Lieberman, to construct a 95,000-square-foot office building with 475 parking spaces. Project opponents claim that the threat of such an office project is a red herring since Lieberman would have no desire to build it given current and projected market conditions.
The village anticipates receiving a trust fund of $4 million from the developer in exchange for the incentive zoning. Use of those funds would be restricted to capital improvement projects, village officials said.
The board adopted, as part of the application process, an environmental assessment form, outlining potential environmental impacts. It also adopted documents that it said go through, item by item, each concern that was raised by the public about the project. Those documents were not distributed at the meeting.
In advance of Monday’s meeting, a "Concerned Cedarhurst Resident" sent a lengthy letter to the Nassau Herald, the community’s secular newspaper, and The Jewish Star.
The letter, which covers many points and says the Pearsll project may threaten lives, was published on Wednesday in the two newspapers.
“Community safety is at serious risk,” the letter states.. “Currently, our emergency evacuation route does not work. Before the Pearsall project can be allowed to move forward, we need all applicable government agencies to evaluate the impact that the Pearsall project will have on our already stressed emergency evacuation infrastructure. Otherwise, sanctioning the Pearsall project will place human lives in peril.”
The letter concludes by raising the prospect that the overlay district approved Monday night “will allow for continued, unfettered development.”
It “will trigger a chain reaction, where others will be allowed to continue building or making changes to the community. The ripple effect will be ruinous,” the letter says.
Also on Wednesday, the newspapers published an ad headlined, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Are you sitting in daily traffic on Rockaway Turnpike? Sitting in traffic on Central Avenue and Broadway? With the Proposed New Developments in our Neighborhoods, IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE!”
The ad lists six pending local projects in addition to Pearsall, and urged residents to sign a petition at change.org/p/stop-massive-overdevelopment-of-the-five-towns
"Our Suburban Way of Life is Under Attack!!" the petition begins. "Calling All Residents to protect our homes, families and suburban quality of life. We must stand together and demand that our elected officials stop the proposed over-development in our communities."
As of Wednesday at 3 pm, 588 people had signed the online petition.
Updated Wednesday July 13 at 3 pm. Nassau Herald contributed reporting to this story.