By The 5 Towns Civic Association
Regarding the possible development of the Woodmere Club, the single most important point for everyone to know is that this is not a done deal. Although the developers want everyone to believe their plan is inevitable, it is not. The Nassau County Planning Commission (NCPC), the lead agency on this proposed project, mandates a full SEQRA review in which a multitude of areas and concerns are to be studied. Until that time, there has been no final determination as to what, if anything, can be built on the property. The NCPC has not rendered any decision on any subdivision plan, and will not be doing so for quite some time. No state or federal court has determined that they could build as of right.
To find factual information, see the Willow View Estates Subdivision SEQR in the Nassau County website’s Planning Department section. The only proposal submitted by the developers to the NCPC is the one for 284 single family homes. There is no mention of any apartment building, nor is the property zoned for that. The developers claim this is not a Sixth Town. It most certainly is. The village of Woodsburgh consists of 257 homes. The Sixth Town proposes 284. The “as of right” zoning they refer was put in place over 100 years ago. A lot has changed since then. There are multiple areas of concern. Here are but a few:
Flooding: The property is located directly along the water on a coastal floodplain, the majority of which was submerged during Hurricane Sandy (see the official FEMA map). During that devastating storm, the land acted as a sponge, absorbing most of the water that would have otherwise flooded hundreds more homes. If that sponge is developed and filled with concrete, future floodwaters will have no place to go except into people’s homes. Due to the increased frequency of major storms and rising sea levels, the risk of flooding is so great that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently conducting a major study including the area directly abutting the golf course to figure out how to prevent future flooding. How could anyone think it is a good idea to develop open land that currently acts as a natural barrier and major buffer against flooding? It defies logic! One of the best ways to mitigate flooding is to preserve as much open land as possible, not build 284 homes on every inch of the property. In response to the proposed development, the South Shore Audubon Society said, “We oppose this detrimental and foolish development of open space on a floodplain…The development site sits directly on top of sole source aquifers for Long Island, and the project threatens to pollute the drinking water for three million people. Long Island already faces a water shortage from droughts and heavy usage, and the aquifers of southwestern Long Island show evidence of saltwater intrusion as the water table drops. Willow View Estates would increase demands on a shrinking water supply and could exacerbate saltwater intrusion and shift contaminants in the groundwater.”
Ecology: There are ecological concerns regarding flora and fauna — plant life and wildlife — that inhabit the area. Hundreds of trees will be destroyed to pave the way for homes and roadways. Portions of the site are designated as “archaeologically sensitive” by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
Traffic/Parking: The NJ-based developers don’t really care about the traffic problems and gridlock that the residents of the Five Towns have to put up with on a daily basis. They don’t have an understanding of the way our roadways connect, where the bottlenecks form or how the railroad tracks can only be traversed at a handful of crossings. They don’t know what it’s like when one of our main arteries like Broadway, West Broadway, or Peninsula Boulevard gets clogged or is shut down entirely due to construction or an accident, snarling traffic for miles in every direction. All our residents know that a quick errand or carpool that should take five or ten minutes can take an hour. Go to the Nassau County website to see what exactly their traffic study entails — turning counts at a handful of corners for one Saturday, one Sunday, and one weekday, and traffic counts only at Broadway and Meadow for seven days. Parking now is woefully inadequate on Central Avenue in municipal lots and at the LIRR. Where will hundreds more cars park?
Emergency Services: How will police, fire trucks, and ambulances respond to emergencies when our roadways are clogged beyond capacity?
Utilities: This includes gas, electricity, water, and sewer lines. Our sewer lines are in a grave state of disrepair and our water lines are rusty and crumbling (which is one of the reasons our residents are plagued with brown and black water). Until just a few weeks ago, there was a moratorium on natural gas for the entire state of New York. We suffer from power outages on a regular basis. How can anyone consider adding hundreds more households to an area whose utilities are so overburdened and on the brink of collapse?
Municipal Services: New streets means new fire hydrants, sewers, lighting, sanitation services, postal services, snow removal, and adequate emergency service providers, all to be paid by you, the taxpayer.
Construction-Related Issues: Construction will likely happen in phases over many years. We will have to live through years of air and noise pollution and construction-related traffic. Also, the grounds have likely in the past 100 years been treated with now-banned pesticides that are known to be dangerous to humans. When the soil is disturbed and dredged up, toxins that have remained dormant until now will be released into our environment. Aside from all the homes in the surrounding area, there are several schools nearby — Gesher, Gan Chamesh, Kulanu, and HAFTR High School. With potential toxins being released into the air, there are short- and long-term heath ramifications that could affect all of us.
Home Values: When 284 homes hit the market, your home value will likely decline significantly with an influx of inventory on the market.
Setting a Precedent? Golf is a declining sport. The Seawane Golf Club in Hewlett Harbor was just sold. The Rockaway Hunting Club and the Inwood and Lawrence Country Clubs are all are in the surrounding area. If and when they decide to shut their doors, are we setting a precedent that allows them to build hundreds of more homes there too?
More Projects in the Works: New York City has recently approved a 1,700-unit apartment complex to be built just over the border in Far Rockaway. The Town of Hempstead recently unveiled sweeping zoning changes in North Lawrence and Inwood that will allow for approximately 1,900 new residences. A local developer wants to purchase property from the Woodmere Academy on West Broadway in Woodmere with plans to build a 33-unit luxury condominium there. How much more can we take?
What’s in It for Us? In our meetings with the developers, we told them how disappointed we were that there was no plan to create, build, or gift anything whatsoever to the community, such as a library or JCC. Along with several local politicians, we asked them to consider expanding the clubhouse to accommodate the huge demand for a large and local simcha hall/catering facility. It was our recommendation that they try to ingratiate themselves to the community rather than being so adversarial. Unfortunately, as your recent interview so clearly demonstrates, they have chosen to be litigious, to pit the three local municipalities against each other, to threaten us with statements like “If there are no conversations, we will simply move forward on our 284 home project,” and to threaten us with lawsuits and increased taxes if we don’t accept their proposal. According to public record, they paid a little over $9 million and assumed 15 million in debt for the entire 114 acre piece of property. They are poised to make an excellent return on their investment. As one resident so eloquently stated at the last public meeting “I look at this map and all I see is greed.”
The developers portray themselves as the victims, claiming they are being treated unfairly by everyone, yet they are the ones initiating multiple lawsuits and suing everyone that stands in their way. They insult our local leaders and mischaracterize a civic association that exists solely to benefit the community. If we don’t let our voices be heard, the only victims here will be the residents of the Five Towns community who will suffer through years of construction, which will decimate an integral ecosystem, make us much more vulnerable to flooding, compromise our water supply, stress our infrastructure to the brink of destruction, snarl traffic beyond all recognition, hamper the efforts of our first responders, and cause a decrease in our home values, while likely causing a tax increase to all residents.
We maintain our position that 284 homes in any configuration (apartments or houses) is still way too much. Their new plan still doesn’t go far enough. Open space is far more valuable than hundreds of homes. Once green space is gone, it’s gone forever. In short, if either of their current proposals are approved, the character of our neighborhood and the quality of life we enjoy will never be the same. Every single resident here has a voice. Your opinion counts. Your concerns matter. Every single person who is opposed should be reaching out their local representatives in Lawrence, Cedarhurst, and Woodsburgh, as well as to your local Nassau County legislators, Town of Hempstead council members, and the NCPC to tell them how you feel. Attend future public meetings and express your concerns.
The Five Towns Civic Association is seeking donations to support our efforts. Donations will be used for attorney fees and to commission our own environmental impact studies. You can donate via PayPal by visiting 5TCA.org. Checks can be mailed to 5TCA, PO Box 462, Woodmere, NY 11598. Please email us at email@example.com to be added to our email list.