The Town of North Hempstead’s board voted to unanimously approved a plan to construct a self-storage facility at the site of a currently unoccupied factory building at 71 Jane St. at a meeting in late December.
The plans for the property, now owned by Blumenfeld Development Group (BDG), call for a four story, 47-foot tall self-storage building with a five-foot high sign, lights that would dim at 10 p.m. and a line of trees dividing the 98,326-square-foot building from the houses on Jane Street.
“This is perhaps one of the most conscientiously-designed projects in terms of reuse of a piece of property I have seen in a long time, and I think this board gets that,” Christopher Robinson, a civil engineer working with BDG as part of R&M Engineering. “It is a benign use, and far less impactful than what can be placed on that property. Nominal traffic, literally one or two employees. It is the best use given the location.”
The building that currently sits on the property used to be home to Tiffen Manufacturing, and was used to produce photography equipment like camera filters. It has sat vacant and deteriorating since the company left.
Although it sits next to residential property, the site itself is zoned as part of the town’s service commercial district. Buildings in this district can be used for purposes like warehouses, banks and office buildings.
Several Roslyn Heights residents who live near the site voiced their concerns they had with the project, including worry that increased traffic generated by the storage facility could pose a risk to both residents and families coming from nearby Donald Street Park and the Roslyn Little Angel Day Care Center, which is located in the house next door to the property. Concerns were also raised that increased development would compromise the neighborhood.
“How much have the variances that were given to this property since the original in 1948 changed this building,” Michael Modica, an engineer who lives near the site, said. “I mean, when you constantly push the envelope further and further and further, it’s no longer a residential area at all.”
Both board members and BDG representatives emphasized their belief that a storage facility at the site would be less disruptive to residents than nearly any other development permitted by the town in the district.
“This is private property, they have a right to do certain things that even this board cannot stop them from doing,” Town Councilman Angelo Ferrara said in response to Modica’s concerns. “That property can be and will be developed. The proposal is to put in something less intrusive than any other buildings that they can build there.”
Modica also questioned the board and the developers about how they would handle cleanup for chemical contamination on the property.
Tiffen’s operations at 71 Jane St. led both the building and the surrounding soil to become contaminated with chemicals, so BDG will need to perform a cleanup of the site prior to making any improvements. The developers anticipate bringing the site through the Brownfield Cleanup Program, a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) initiative that affords developers tax credit for decontaminating and developing on land that would otherwise remain undeveloped and chemically compromised.
A DEC evaluation of the site is ongoing, but a full cleanup is projected to cost between $1 million and $1.5 million. The town cannot issue a building permit until the plan has been approved by the DEC.
The developers said they have experience working with the DEC on brownfield sites, and don’t anticipate the cleanup will cause significant issues moving forward.
“This is not our first rodeo,” BDG Vice President Brad Blumenfeld said. “We’ve done a lot of brownfield sites. We’ve worked with the DEC on some very complicated, much more heavily contaminated sites. We’re a responsible developer, we tend to be here for the long term and we tend to do repeat business. We’re here to do the right thing.”
The Nassau County Planning Commission issued a judgment on the plan back in May that deferred final approval to the town. The town’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) also granted a set of variances to the plan in September before the final version was presented to the board.
—Additional reporting by Caroline Ryan