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Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

A hearing on the first of two variances the Indian Cultural and Community Center needs to break ground on its controversial plan to erect a pair of nine-story apartment towers on the Creedmoor campus in Bellerose was rescheduled for next year.

The city Board of Standards and Appeals Tuesday rescheduled a hearing for Jan. 14 on the ICCC’s application to waive a requirement that prevents the non-profit from developing its senior housing project on the two plots of land-locked property it bought from the state in 2008 with the understanding they would be used to construct a community center.

State law prevents the city from issuing a certificate of occupancy to a building that is not fronted on a mapped street, and the nonprofit’s land was essentially left stranded after it failed to convince lawmakers to sell a third piece of state-owned property in 2010.

The hearing originally slated for Tuesday was a continuation of one from September.

Should the BSA grant the variance, the final hurdle for the center to clear will be approval of its application for another variance allowing it to build a residential project in an area zoned for commercial use. A date has not been set for the hearing.

The ICCC, affiliated with St. Gregorios Church in Floral Park, had enjoyed wide community support for its plan to build a 15,000-square-foot community center on the psychiatric campus when a bill authored by then-state Sen. Frank Padavan and then-state Assemblyman Mark Weprin in 2006 authorized the state Dormitory Authority to sell two pieces of land totaling 4.5 acres to the center.

In 2008, the Dormitory Authority completed the sale at a price of $1.8 million. In 2010, the ICCC sought to purchase the third plot of land, but then-Gov. David Paterson vetoed the proposed legislation, arguing it would interfere with the state’s management of the campus.

Community opposition began building shortly after the ICCC filed an application with the BSA the following year seeking a variance to build the two residential towers, and later that summer the outcry reached a fever pitch when it was revealed the two pieces of property purchased were assessed at a value of $7.3 million.

A report released earlier this year by the state inspector general found that the $7.3 million figure was an over-valuation and that the ICCC paid a fair price for its properties.

The report also found that while lawmakers intended the land to be used for a community center, a loophole in the legislation allowing the sale of the properties did not specifically restrict their use.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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