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.
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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.