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Parking Worries Put Malverne Restaurant Proposal On Ice

Village board reserves decision Thursday night, giving them 60 days to deliberate on the business proposal.

The fate of a to bring a new restaurant to Malverne still hangs in the balance. After reviewing the developer’s case a second time and the input of Malverne merchants and residents during a hearing Thursday night, the Village Board decided to reserve decision on the matter. 

“I believe the feeling of the board is that it’s something that would be good but I do have concerns,” said Deputy Mayor Hennessy, who presided over the special exception hearing, which was a continuation of a . (Mayor Patricia Norris McDonald was present but could not be part of the decision-making process since she had been absent from first meeting due to illness.)

Melconian Properties LLC, which owns the mostly vacant building located at 356 Hempstead Avenue, would need the board’s approval to open a restaurant at the site and serve food and drinks outdoor as planned. They also need the board to grant an exception for them regarding the minimum parking spaces required since they would only be providing four on-site parking spots for the 114-seat restaurant and 10,000 sq. ft. of offices they are proposing. That means they are relying on public parking to provide the additional 99 spaces they need.

At the suggestion of the board, the applicant’s engineer conducted additional parking surveys in Malverne before presenting their case again. This time they monitored 199 spaces in the village, including the parking lots that run parallel to the railroad tracks, one facing San-Dee Lanes and another near Francis Street, for four days during the first week of November for 45-minute intervals between noon and 8:15 p.m. (They did not include 34 spaces on Hempstead Avenue that were factored in the first survey, conducted on Sept. 16 and 17, because these were affected by the downtown construction.)

At peak times – noon on Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and 5:15 p.m. on the Friday and Saturday they looked at – they found there was anywhere from 20-44 spaces available after the engineer accounted for the amount the proposed office and restaurant would expect to use at these times.

 “You have 100 percent occupancy on Saturday but only 70 percent occupancy on a Tuesday afternoon, which isn’t my experience with office work," said Trustee Michael Bailey, who along with Trustee Patricia Callahan, questioned the estimates used in the survey. “If you’re going to be conservative, be conservative throughout,” he added.

Vincent Muscarella, Melconian’s attorney said, “I understand the concerns of the board with respect to the parking, but the applicant’s expert indicated that their was sufficient parking in the village.”

The engineer also pointed out that the demand for parking was the highest during the day, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but restaurants typically are busiest at night, after other stores in town close.

“This is not a case of the applicant asking the board to construct a new building. The building is here and it’s entitled to be used,” Muscarella stated. “I believe the applicant has met the burden for the board to grant the special exception.”

The board also heard from a handful of merchants, residents and Tammy Tuller, whose family owns some of the commerical buildings close to the property in question, including Associated supermarket, Malverne Diner and Malverne Cinema. They also own a nearby parking lot, which they lease to the village.

“We’ve been owners of that property for over 30 years. The parking has been an issue the entire time,” she said, adding that when the cinema is busy shoppers can’t find parking to use the grocery store. “I wanted to voice my objection to having so many parking spaces granted for that amount of space.”

Tuller suggested the developer consider valet parking or multi-level stacked parking similar to the kind seen throughout Manhattan, which uses mechanical lifts to maximize limited parking space.

David Walsh, owner of the Malverne Funeral Home, said usually the parking lots are packed but when the study was conducted business was slow for him. He suggested the developer work with the village of Malverne and invest in constructing a municipal parking lot on the parcel of land it acquired from the sale of Grossmann’s Farm. He said this parking would also be useful if the village did decide to erect a community center there one day, which has been suggested.*

Henry and Anne Stampfel, owners of the Malverne Cinema, also expressed concerns about the scope of the proposal.

"He wants to make this a complex,” Henry Stampfel said. “I know his attorney said you’re not rebuilding a building, but you are rebuilding a concept and you’re changing the landscape entirely. I’m concerned for everyone involved. We have to be a careful with...what we approve.”

The restaurant proposal does have support though from residents like Mary Ann Hanson, a long-time Malvernite, who said she'd like more dining options.

Hanson said she's never had an issue finding parking in the evening when dining out in the village, adding that “most people walk to the restaurants…especially now with drinking and driving.”

Life-long resident Elizabeth Tully, 30, said she too has never found parking to be a problem, adding, “I’m very fine with walking a few streets away to reach my destination.”

Tully said many of her friends were also excited to hear that a new restaurant, serving up tapas plates and piano music, may be coming to the village.

“I understand the merchants' concerns,” she said. “But you also have to think about the interests of the people in the village and I think the people it town would really appreciate this.”

And even Hennessy said that after speaking with some of the local merchants, he was “shocked with the number of people in favor of it,” even some who own restaurants such as Jerry Carter, of Our Town Grille. Since the restaurant concept being proposed is different than any of the current eateries in the village, Hennessy said Carter was not threatened by it. “They each have their own clientele,” he added.

In fact, a number of the merchants Hennessy and his fellow board members spoke with were optimistic that a new restaurant could boost their businesses by bringing new foot traffic into the neighborhood.

“Every business contributes to the parking problem so for one to be favored over the other isn’t something we should do,” Hennessy said.

"The board continues to be supportive of all businesses and making sure the village stays healthy economically and is a destination," Bailey said. "At the same time, we have a responsibility to protect the interests of our residents.”

With that, he motioned for the board to reserve making a decision to give them more time to discuss the issues at hand with the parties involved. The board has 60 days to deliberate before it is mandated to make a decision.

Where do you stand on this issue? Tell us in the comments section below.

Correction: A previous version of this article left out key information regarding a suggestion to utilize the land acquired by the village through the sale of Grossmann's Farm. It has since been added where an asterik (*) now appears. Patch regrets the error.

Bill Breuer November 18, 2011 at 10:34 AM
Don't you just love Trustee Hennessy's quoting mostly annonymous merchants who are allegedly in favor of the proposed restaurant. The one merchant he reportedly names is in direct competition with the Malverne Diner. Maybe Mr. Hennessey should remove himself from the panel for taking extra judicial testimony rather than relying solely on the testimony at the hearings. Better yet, this entire matter should be referred to the Village Planning Board as required by the Village Code. As Mr. Henry Stampfel said at the hearing, this proposal could change the entire landscape of the area. This matter involves far more than just parking. All sides deserve the open due process afforded by the Village Code mandated Planning Board. +
Jackie November 18, 2011 at 12:01 PM
Wow, I always wondered why Malverne never had more restaurants. I am shocked how difficult it seems to get one here and applaud someone for even trying. I grew up in Malverne and now own a home here, as do some of my friends. It is time for Malverne to step it up in dining/nightlife. I agree that adding ONE restaurant would "change the landscape" but, in my opinion, only for the better. Many young families are deciding where to buy a home and those same families compare neighborhoods based on many factors, village resources among them. SO MANY people say, "I love Malverne but it offers little for the high taxes you have to pay." With the economy the way it is, we need to keep our village "marketable" and I truly think having more dining options could help that factor. Malverne is a small village and walking a few blocks to a local restaurant is really not a big deal. Think about it, many of us head to Rockville Centre to go out to eat. I have never NOT had to walk a few blocks to the restaurant there.
Jack Tulley November 18, 2011 at 12:29 PM
First off the parking requriements seem absurd. If you held all the existing businesses to the same standard I think most could not meet the parking requriements. As Ms. Hansen had said parking is not an issue for most residence since they can just walk into town, especially if it is to go to a movie or a restaurant. I think Mr. Bailey's last statement is worded wrong. I thinnk he is more concerned with the existing business owners interests and not that of the residence. I'd find it hard to believe that most residence would not want a new restaurant in town especially after the Cork and Board was forced out of business by it's landlord. Anything beats having empty store fronts for long periods of time as has been the case here.
Peter Robideau November 18, 2011 at 01:37 PM
I have spoken to several merchants who are all in favor of the new restaurant. I've always been a supporter of local business and encourage others to do the same. I feel that an additional night spot would be great for the residents of this village and it would not take away from any existing merchants. They don't want to open another diner (or nail salon) - they want to create something new in our village, and I for one would welcome it.
Art November 18, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Mr. Walsh's suggestion appears to be eminently reasonable. If there is nearby land that has been acquired by the village, I can't see any better use for it than additional parking spaces to help insure the success of all the businesses in the village. More revenues coming in equals more taxes to the village, meaning less tax burden on residents.
Tara Conry (Editor) November 18, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Bill: It's my understanding that this proposal would go to the Planning Board if it's granted the special exceptions.
Gina Genti November 18, 2011 at 06:57 PM
I as well as many others in Malverne can think of several better uses for the village owned land behind the farm. Malverne is in need of an ammenity that can serve our youth and our seniors. Our teens leave the safe borders of Malverne for entertainment and recreation to visit neighboring communities and our seniors are relagated to the meeting room at Village Hall once a week. It's time Malverne residents get more than police and sanitation for their tax dollars. I am optomistic that when the time is right the board will consider a community center similar in idea to RVC Rec.
Peter Robideau November 18, 2011 at 07:21 PM
I agree with Gina - a land parcel that could benefit the community as a whole is a much better idea than using a prime, precious land parcel for a parking lot. I've lived here since 1998 and we've never experienced a problem with parking in our village to visit any of the merchants. You might have to walk a half of a block but try that in Rockville Centre! :)
Regina Rochford November 18, 2011 at 09:49 PM
I think we need another restaurant in Malverne, and it will bring more visitors who will spend money in our local businesses.
Bob November 19, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Couldn't agree more, I don't have the any details on the land grant to village, but I'm 100% sure it wasn't given to the Village to build a parking lot. Please as a senior, put this land to good use for all of the residents - and us tax payers.
Tom Grech November 19, 2011 at 06:59 PM
While the size of the restaurant may need to be scaled down slightly, the parking issue is a non-starter for me; there are almost always spots in the lot next to the power transmission station and the old recycling building.
Tom Grech November 21, 2011 at 02:50 AM
If you would like to participate, please visit https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/brownwater/ and cast your vote in this informal survey on whether or not there should be a restaurant in the old photo processing building on Hempstead Avenue.
Tom Grech November 22, 2011 at 07:59 PM
If you think we should have it, vote! https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/brownwater/ If you think we should not have a new restaurant, vote!
Bernadette Casalino November 25, 2011 at 06:20 AM
I have been a Malverne resident since 1993, and have seen a few businesses come and go only to be replaced by additional offices which in my opinion do nothing to add to the character of this quaint little village. I am certainly in favor of a new restaurant, some other suggestions I would like to see in the near future would be a clothing boutique, an old-fashioned "General Store" or a variety store. I think it's time for some innovative thinking and some well needed change for Malverne!

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