Friday, December 07, 2007

Five Towns Residents Battle Nursing Home Developer In Woodmere

Hearing Before Town Zoning Board Set For December 12th

As if things at Hempstead Town Hall weren't heated enough.

Now comes before the Zoning Board of Appeals an Application for variances to construct and maintain two six-story structures in the heart of Woodmere, and local residents are up in arms.

Ernest Weinrib, of Save The Five Towns, tells The Community Alliance that the developer, 1040 Central Avenue, LLC (which is, in reality, SentosaCare, a for-profit operator of nursing homes), is seeking variances to circumvent multiple zoning laws to allow structures "the likes of which haven't been seen in the Five Towns for fifty years."

"It could create significant traffic and environmental issues," says Weinrib.

SentosaCare itself has been in the center of a scandal which has been the focus of a longstanding investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office.

Aside from the obvious objections to two twin six-story towers -- clearly out of place with the character of the Five Towns community -- questions are being raised as to SentosaCare's care and treatment of patients in its network of 25 nursing homes in New York State.

The variances requested before the Town of Hempstead include exceptions as to building height, number of stories, front and rear setbacks, and off-street parking for the proposed structures that would tower over Central Avenue between Irving Place and Franklin Place in Woodmere.

More than just a question of whether a politically well-connected nursing home giant -- said to be the largest in New York -- can have its way before a poiltically entrenched Zoning Board, the issue of carving out exceptions to build two obstrusive six-story towers in a "mom and pop" business district in the heart of a residential community, will surely make for a battle royale.

"The developer is trying a sneak attack in Woodmere," Weinrib complains.

Among other concerns Save The Five Towns raises are "two six-story buildings (that) would create unspecified burdens on the town and its environment, including traffic, noise, emergency services, resource use, pollution and sewage; the developer has not disclosed the number of patients and staff, the nature of the patient population, nor the future plans for their existing nursing home properties in Woodmere; and, they have neglected to involve the public in their plans."

The matter is scheduled to come before the Town of Hempstead's Zoning Board of Appeals for a public hearing on Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 9:30 AM [Meeting Pavilion, 1 Washington Street, Hempstead].

Residents are being encouraged to "take action" by attending the hearing, signing a petition, spreading the word, and making a donation to the cause by way of Save The Five Towns.

Round and round the zoning adventures go in Hempstead Town. Where they stop, only Kate Murray knows. [And she's not telling anyone, but for the developers and special interests.]

Oh wait. Kate has "no control" over the "independent" Zoning Board. Other than in the appointment of its members, of course.

"Lawyer up," prepare your experts to parade before the Board on everything from traffic to the environment, and let Five Towners by the bus load descend upon Town Hall.

Hey, its your town. Make like you own it!

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