The skyline of West Hempstead could rise if a planned apartment building is approved by the town zoning board.
“We will be paying more in taxes than the current owner of the property. There will be significant revenue from taxes,” said Blaine Kneeshaw, the vice president of MCRT Investments. Last week, he presented his firm’s plan to transform a former Western Beef supermarket on Woodfield Road into a 150-unit apartment building.
“This project has been on the board for a number of years,” said Maureen Greenberg, president of the West Hempstead Community Support Association, the civic group that hosted MCRT’s presentation to local residents. Having taken place a couple of weeks after the majority of West Hempstead residents voted against raising their school district taxes, Kneeshaw’s assertion that the project will bring in more revenue to the town received a positive response.
The physical appearance of the project was also positively received by the audience as it is one property away from West 130, a 150-unit complex completed in 2012 on the site of a motel. In contrast to Kew Gardens Hills, where the local Community Board rejected an apartment project on Vleigh Place after hearing concerns about traffic and overdevelopment, the West Hempstead project is located on the edge of the neighborhood next to a train station and an apartment complex of comparable size. Also, in contrast with the Vleigh project, West 130 was not built up to the sidewalk. Instead, it has a lawn and trees that provide a pleasant streetscape along Hempstead Avenue.
“It will be a four-level building atop one level of below-grade parking, with 1.3 parking spaces per unit. It is a transit-oriented development and we’ve done TOD around Long Island very successfully,” Kneeshaw said. This zoning term refers to apartment developments within short walking distances of train stations, designed for young professionals and empty-nesters who are more likely to use public transportation rather than personal vehicles. “That’s where we feel we can get the most density and there was community support for our last project,” he said.
In a nod to the sizable Orthodox Jewish community in West Hempstead, the developer is considering Shabbos elevators in this building. Additional amenities include interior courtyards, hammocks, and a gym. Among the concerns expressed by civic association members are the affordable units with one resident fearing the type of people who could be living in these units.
Elisabetta Coschignano, the attorney for the developer, clarified that the definition of these units is limited to 80 percent of the median income of West Hempstead, the residents would need to submit evidence of their income, and the units are not designated as Section 8 housing. She also noted that the building is expected to be fully occupied as MCRT’s previous project, West 130, has a 96-percent occupancy rate, a figure confirmed by the civic group with the building’s leasing agent.
Pending the town zoning board’s approval this week, construction is expected to take nearly two years between groundbreaking and completion.
Because of its proximity to a train station and sizable vacant properties, the northern edge of West Hempstead is expected to host a cluster of apartment buildings. Along with West 130 and the proposed four-story building on Woodfield Road, there is the National Wholesale Liquidators block. Since the store’s closing in 2018, the block has been designated by Greenberg as an “eyesore.”
Separating the future apartments from the single-family homes to their south is a vacant lot owned by the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, which is planning to build a new school on the site. The project will provide additional classrooms and consolidate the school within a single building.
The West Hempstead Community Support Association group considers an apartment complex on the sites of Western Beef and National Wholesale Liquidators as the best option, as it would boost the town’s tax rolls, increase ridership on the trains, and would be preferable to a storage warehouse or a garage.
By Sergey Kadinsky