By Howard Koplowitz
An Indian group proposing senior housing and a cultural center on the ground of Creedmoor was grilled on its plans by a testy crowd during a public hearing last week in Bellerose.
The Indian Cultural and Community Center wants to build two nine-story towers of senior housing and a community facility after state legislation led to it acquiring the Creedmoor land last year.
Civic leaders and public officials criticized the group, claiming it had been deceptive about its plans and saying the proposal is out of character with the community.
Some community residents walked out of the meeting when a South Asian man claimed opposition to the plan was the result of racism.
The public hearing was needed because the ICCC needs a variance to build the senior housing in a zone that only allows for commercial buildings.
The offices of the state attorney general and the state inspector general are investigating the group’s land purchase, which was authorized under legislation sponsored by then-state Sen. Frank Padavan and then-state Assemblyman Mark Weprin.
Jordan Most, of Sheldon Lobel P.C. and the group’s zoning attorney, said questions about the financing should have been off limits during the public hearing.
“I don’t know that this is a forum for it,” he said.
Vinoo Varghese, lawyer for the ICCC, said the group is cooperating with the probes.
“We’ve turned over every document requested of us,” he said. “There was no impropriety in this land act.”
Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said “investors” in the project told him they were promised senior housing units in return for their donations.
“That simply is not senior housing,” he said, calling the project “a fantasy.
“Sheldon Lobel’s office, you should be ashamed of yourself for promoting something that shouldn’t even be on the drawing board,” Avella said.
The senator said he was originally told the ICCC wanted to build just a community center, even though it later presented plans for the senior housing.
“The ICCC has no credibility with me whatsoever,” he said. “This application should be turned down. It goes against everything the community wants for the neighborhood. A lot of unethical things went on in this.”
A Bellerose resident who lives near the proposed buildings said the plans are out of character for the area.
“I love looking at the sunset every night and when you put up this nine-story building, I’m going to be looking at a nine-story building,” she said.
Bellerose resident Virginia Salow said she did not believe the more than 90 parking spots slotted for the site are sufficient because the seniors who may be living in the buildings are allowed to have dependents living with them, which goes against the idea that the housing is only for seniors.
“I oppose the project because I don’t truly see it as a senior residence,” she said. “I don’t see how the parking can be adequate at all.”
Community Board 11 member Jerry Wind said he met with members of the ICCC in May who sought his support for the proposal and was told the project was in the “planning stage,” yet the group had filed formal plans for the site a month earlier.
“These buildings are totally out of character,” he said.
CB 11 member Angela Augugliaro said some ICCC members told her they planned to build the towers while others said they had no such ideas.
“The ICCC has been anything but transparent,” she said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.