The proposed 449-unit apartment complex to replace the Touro College health sciences school building was held to a vote for a recommendation for approval by the Islip Town Planning Board on …
The proposed 449-unit apartment complex to replace the Touro College health sciences school building was held to a vote for a recommendation for approval by the Islip Town Planning Board on Wednesday, June 3, via Zoom. However, the decision on the matter has been tabled due to board members’ reservations regarding parking, traffic, and height concerns.
The board split 3-3 on the decision regarding recommendation for approval of a change of zone to a downtown development district. The three members who voted to recommend approval, including former Islip councilman Brian Ferrugiari, referenced how the project will benefit Main Street.
“The stores in downtown Bay Shore need the foot traffic,” Ferrugiari said. “The businesses along Union Boulevard need that foot traffic. The number of units is appropriate for the size of the property.”
However, traffic and parking concerns from other members surfaced, considering the 1.4 parking spaces allocated per unit. The planning board recommends 1.75 spaces per unit. Planning board chairman Edward Friedland noted that he was on the fence about recommending approval for other projects that were short of the recommendation of 30, 40, or 50 parking spaces; compared to the 156 spaces, this project is short of the 1.75-spaces-per-unit recommendation.
“It does not have that much of a significant impact on finding parking, whereas if you have 156 spots short, that is a significant number of spots to find somewhere else in an area that is becoming overburdened with parking,” Friedland said.
The developer’s traffic consultant assured the board that an adequate traffic study was conducted and took into account six other planned developments in the area.
The height of the project was scaled down to feature a fifth story only in the inner area, which was a scale-back from the previous proposal presented to the board. But Friedland not only had concerns regarding the height, but the size of the project, in general.
“The size needs to fit into what is in Bay Shore right now [and] what is present coming into Bay Shore that has already been approved — a lot of those have already been approved and are underway and have been started,” he added. “It all needs to work together. The worst thing we can do is overdevelop the area.”
Entering the session, Friedland noted a concern regarding the percentage of affordable housing, but this was found to not be of concern considering the developer’s willingness to accommodate the heavy recommendation of at least 20 percent affordable housing.
A change was made to the project’s entrance onto 4th Avenue so that it would be in line with a neighboring complex. Also, a 5,000-square-foot commercial space previously proposed has been eliminated from the project.
The developer has noted that over 80 letters have been submitted to the planning board in support of the project. However, the Bay Shore School District was not mentioned throughout discussion on the topic. Superintendent of schools Joseph Bond has expressed that the district is opposed to the project because of the potential influx of students as well as the impact of the tax relief sought by the developer.
“The tax cap that is currently in place effectively renders any taxes paid by the developer moot. This leaves the district with the potential of having to absorb an unlimited number of students at an unknown additional cost with no mechanism available to increase revenues,” Bond wrote in a statement to the Islip Bulletin, continuing on to say that the school district’s concerns have been acknowledged to be legitimate, not only by the developer, but also town officials and the Industrial Development Agency.
During last Wednesday’s session, it was suggested that the apartment complex would assist Bay Shore during a time of economic uncertainty, which Bond disagreed with.
“The Bay Shore School District, like every other district across the state, is waiting to learn what impact COVID-19 will have on our state aid,” Bond said. “Without adequate state aid, the ability of the district to maintain programs while not putting an undue financial burden on our taxpayer would be in jeopardy. To bring in a high-density project that will not benefit the school district’s tax rolls for many years, if ever, and will, in fact, tie the district’s hands in terms of the tax cap, would only serve to further weaken the economic standing of the district and its ability to provide the types of programs that attract people to Bay Shore.”
Donna Perricone, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore, said that she attended the first planning board hearing regarding the application last November.
“I remember asking how we could reject an investment of $180 million into Bay Shore, and if not Tritec, who or what else would occupy these 10 vacant acres?” she said. “I watched the meeting on Zoom last Wednesday, knowing this was a recommendation item allowing for no public [commentary]. The outcome of the meeting was a reserved decision. In light of this pandemic and the economic crisis we are facing, second only to the depression — with so many people unemployed, so many stores and businesses going bankrupt, so many people unable to pay their taxes or their rents — I cannot understand how any government could not find a way to say yes to a $180-million investment of beautiful luxury apartments in Bay Shore.”