By Denise M. Bonilla
Photo credit: Barry Sloan
Wheatley Heights residents expressed anger and disbelief this week that they are still fighting the development of an apartment complex more than a decade after the project was first proposed.
The residents spoke out Wednesday at a Babylon Town Board public hearing on the rezoning of 16.09 acres of Colonial Springs Farm from single-family home zoning to multiple-residence. Property owner Gustave Wade wants to build 264 one- and two-bedroom rental units on the southern portion of his 32-acre site, the town’s last working farm.
“I feel a little like Yogi Berra, it’s déjà vu all over again,” said attorney Fred Eisenbud, who spoke on behalf of the Concerned Taxpayers of Wheatley Heights/Dix Hills, a civic association.
In 2001, Wade proposed rezoning to build 494 senior units and 100 assisted-living spaces on the 32-acre parcel. In 2004, he sought to build 264 senior apartments and 149 co-op units. In 2006, the town board approved Wade’s application to build 56 single-family homes on the site.
“I don’t understand why we’re back here,” said resident Lystra Gaddy. “This was done. As far as I’m concerned this is disrespectful to our community.”
As with past rezoning attempts, residents have protested the current proposal, saying the development is too dense and will negatively impact their community.
“I’m appalled that this is being entertained,” said Darlette McFarlane. With the latest proposal “we still have the traffic problems, the environmental problems, just the quality-of-life issues that have not been resolved, and we’re still coming back to this.”
Wade, who lives in East Northport, cited a recent Long Island Association report stating that more than 515,000 millennials live on Long Island. Those residents, who are between the ages of 20 and 34, are spurring the need for more rentals, Wade said.
“Long Island’s future is in the hands of the millennials who are getting out of college and looking for a place to live,” he told the town board. “This board has the ability to keep the millennials here.”
David Fliegel, of New Hyde Park, is one of those millennials, and he told the board he favors the project because a lack of affordable rentals has forced him to live 25 miles from his job.
“I would like to remain on the Island and continue my future here, but at this moment I frequently debate jumping ship,” he said. The rentals proposed would cut down his commute, which he said “would help improve my quality of life.”
But residents said that unlike other apartment projects being built around Long Island, Wade’s is not near a train station or downtown.
“Young people want restaurants and night life and easy access to the railroad station,” said Patty Marshall. “That doesn’t exist here.”
The town will continue to accept comments on the proposed project until June 26.
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