On a recent late summer afternoon, Joe Graziose gently maneuvered his van across a bumpy construction site in Glen Cove that will one day be home to 1,100 residences in a waterfront section of the city known as Garvies Point.
“Beautiful,” the gravelly-voiced Graziose, an executive vice president of RXR Realty, the developer of the Garvies Point project, said of the structures rising rapidly off the waterfront during a tour of the 56-acre site, as he pointed the van toward a sliver of a creek lined with sailboats and motorboats. “It’s going to be just beautiful.”
Garvies Point and a sister project are taking shape fast, and they continue to generate both enthusiasm and criticism from residents and a city councilwoman, Marsha Silverman, who has waged a long battle against what she calls the “absurd” tax breaks RXR has received. She has also expressed reservations about the depths of environmental cleanups at Garvies Point.
Uniondale-based RXR is building not only Garvies Point, but about half a mile away, another project called Village Square, 146 market-rate rental apartments spread over 16,500 square feet of retail space in the heart of downtown Glen Cove.
“I would say that these two projects are the biggest developments in Glen Cove since urban renewal in the 1970s,” Tim Tenke, who was elected mayor by three votes in November 2017, said in a recent interview.
The two projects are going to change the face of this old North Shore city, a part of Long Island’s Gold Coast and once home to some of America’s wealthy elite, including J.P. Morgan, the Pratt family, and F.W. Woolworth. The developments are expected to add as many as 2,500 new residents to the 27,500 already there. That will mean added traffic and pressure on utilities and other infrastructure. Public schools may feel the need for additional space. There will be more calls to the city’s volunteer fire department and police force.
Garvies Point will be made up of 569 upscale condos and 541 rental units. The Garvies project includes Harbor Landing, which will have 385 rental units, and another building called The Beacon, will include 167 condos priced at about $770,000 to $2,995,000.
There will be 75,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, 2,381 parking spaces, a one-mile waterfront esplanade, a bike path, a dog park, a children’s playground, an amphitheater, marinas, a boat launch and eating spots. RXR received a $263 million tax break from Glen Cove’s Industrial Development Agency and the city’s Local Economic Assistance Corp. to build Garvies Point. In addition, the agencies approved a bond to fund parks, the esplanade, marinas and road construction. The bond will total $283 million, when interest and other costs are added. The money is to come from an estimated $615 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) that the developer and the owners of the condos must pay the city of Glen Cove and others, including Nassau County, the Glen Cove school district, and the public library, over four decades.
RXR received $53.9 million in construction finance for Village Square, a 2.8 acre site next to the city’s library. In addition to the 146 rental units, there will be 17,500 square feet of retail space.
Although Tenke favored the projects, he opposed the tax breaks granted RXR.
“The city will not receive more than 85 percent of the full taxes owed for 40 years,” Tenke said. “I tried to make the point this was not a good deal for Glen Cove.”
Graziose argues that the land was not on the tax roll and would never get on the tax rolls without the development.
Tenke says Glen Cove is prepared to handle the influx of people, traffic and added pressure on utilities and other infrastructure. He estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of the new apartment units will be occupied by people already living in the city. Millennials will fill up the downtown apartments. A ferry will be in place to take people to Manhattan in May 2020. He said the land at Garvies Point has been remediated. Tenke added that the city will be adding police officers and fire-fighting equipment. Glen Cove, he said, now has five wells and will be adding a sixth.
Glen Cove Councilwoman Marsha Silverman has questions about the environmental aspects of Garvies Point and the tax breaks.
“Why should we be giving tax breaks of this size to a multimillion dollar company like RXR?” Silverman said, adding that the tax breaks were “absurd.”
Amy Peters, of the activist group Community for a Sustainable Waterfront, noted that the Garvies Point site had been home to industrial companies and junkyards for decades. All living spaces are three feet above the ground.
Living there, she said, “would be a concern for me,” despite the cleanups. Aside from Garvies Point and the Village Square, there are a spate of other new housing projects in Glen Cove and surrounding areas, Silverman noted.
“The impact will be enormous,” she said. “And to do it all at once is mind-boggling.”
As he pulled into Garvies Point’s welcoming center, Graziose looked on the bright side.
“We took a huge tract of blighted land and we created a seaside gem,” he said.