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Shift from Condos to Rentals Approved for Winston Senior Housing

Construction to begin within 18 months.

The senior affordable housing complex that is a component of the large Winston development will now be a . 

Citing the depressed housing market and an equally inhospitable environment for condos, developer Michael Polimeni had recently testified before the that he was unable to secure financing for the building and in order to make the project viable it would have to be changed from an ownership model to rentals.

“This board recognizes the status of the current posture of lenders for condominium projects,” village attorney John Spellman said at the October 12 board meeting.

Under development by Polimeni International, the senior housing building is part of the large Winston project, which takes the form of two buildings: a 285 known as “The Winston” and the 36 unit “Churchill” affordable senior housing project.

In 2008 the village board approved the application for the Churchill project as a condominium and the 36-unit senior affordable housing on Front Street. Polimeni returned in December 2010 after finding that financing for condos was not available, . The application at that time did not modify the senior building.

“The 3 years that this has been going on... just in terms of the circumstances we did not foresee 3 years ago, when I think about where we are today, we can’t go back,” Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira said. “When we consider the alternatives, whether it be the no-build alternative or the as-of-right alternative, I certainly think that this is much more appealing to me personally.”

The five-story, 36-unit building would be geared toward seniors who are aged 55-plus with an income of 80 percent of the median value – what is defined as “affordable.” Incomes are verified through an application process. The building would be constructed on the north side of Front Street, just west of Roslyn Road. There would be 28 one-bedroom units and 8 two-bedroom units, with 38 parking spaces. Rents for the apartments would range from $1,430-$1,690. An equivalent one-bedroom would start at $2,000 while a two-bedroom would range from $2,600-$2,700. The Winston is to be constructed at the north west intersection of Old Country Road and Willis Avenue.

In December the development group had raised the issue of the potential difficulty of obtaining financing for the project as a condominium. The original agreement with the village stipulated that construction would have to begin within 2 years of the date of decision contingent on a 75 percent pre-sale of units unless there was a demonstration that financing was not available. According to the amended agreement, construction would begin within 18 months.

As he had done at the initial hearing requesting the change to rentals, Trustee Lawrence Werther reiterated his view that financing would be available with Polimeni’s “personal guarantee,” adding that the size of the senior housing project is so “ miniscule” compared to the Winston that “I don’t think there’s anything at risk on his part to give that,” and voted against the measure citing that the village had already agreed to “substantial givebacks.” Werther also expressed his concerns that the building would now be open to any resident in Nassau County to rent, not just for Mineola residents.

The estimated cost of the project is $7.2 million and construction would take approximately one year. The agreement also includes streetscape improvements and a $3 million contribution to the village.

“We run the risk of Mr. Polimeni walking away,” Pereira said. “I’m not so sure that I want to play chicken with the amenities that this village is going to get. We’re looking out for the best interests of its senior citizens of this village with this component of the project but all the residents of the village with the project as a whole.”

A provision in the agreement also provided for a retrofit of the facade of the nearby to blend with and compliment the architecture of the Winston. The retrofit would only take place upon the completion of the building, 75 percent occupancy and following a reevaluation of the local economy.

The board also urged Polimeni to “attempt to retain the senior affordable housing component of the project as a condominium,” according to Spellman.

“The provision of affordable senior housing is an integral and material element of the special permit granted,” Spellman said, quoting the documented amended agreement. “Reliance upon its provision is a primary motivating factor for the approval of the Winston building.”

At the previous hearing for the project the board had requested seniors give their opinions on the project so that trustees could gage the public viewpoint. A total of 26 senior residents had reportedly came forward when the board asked senior residents to weigh in, 21 of which supported rentals while five asked for the building to remain as condos.

“Every person I’ve spoken to has told me that rental is the best way to go,” Trustee Paul Cusato said, joining other trustees in the 4-1 affirmative vote. Pereira added that he was of the same mind of seniors and other groups that the village had reached out to for input.

“I can’t make people come forward and speak,” said, noting that with the ratio being “four-to-one,” in favor of rentals, “I’m going to give the seniors what they wish.”

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