Residents React to BZA Sonic Decision

Many do not agree with the board's decision to reject Sonic's building permit application.

Many East Meadow residents are upset regarding the Hempstead Town Board of Zoning Appeals' (BZA) decision to for Sonic Drive-in at 1900 Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow.

Spencer Hart, the franchisee who also owns the North Babylon location, approval for eight variance applications. These included special exceptions to install a drive-thru window and use a portion of the premise for outdoor dining, as well as variances for off-street parking. Additionally, they were asking for permission to install 24 menu board signs under two proposed canopies, install a drive-thru preview menu and regular menu board and install a speaker and confirmation screen system for the drive-thru.

"It's amazing how blind people can be," Bill Karavias, a Westbury resident wrote on East Meadow Patch's Facebook page.

Kristina Hollywood, who runs Mommy's Time Out along with Jen Cardone, wasn't happy to hear about the board's decision either.

"That's too bad," she said. "All I can say is, something great better be put there in its place because right now it's just an eyesore and to date nothing of value has come to East Meadow in a long while. I think Sonic would have been a welcomed addition."

"It's better to build more storefronts on East Meadow Avenue like the traffic isn't bad enough," added Dean Dinolfo.

This is not necessarily the final resolution regarding a potential Sonic in East Meadow. Sonic could still submit a modified proposal to the BZA for the property, which was formerly occupied by Rita's Ices, or they can appeal the BZA’s ruling.

"This is step one like in any good negotiation," resident Susan Weiss predicted. "Sonic will appeal or make the appropriate changes needed and we will be on our way to that ground breaking soon enough."

Hart's attorney William Cohn told Patch that he had yet to discuss the matter with his client, so he didn't have a comment at the present time.

Why do you think the Board of Zoning Appeals denied Hart's request? Tell us in the comments.

paul March 18, 2012 at 02:59 AM
"I'm appalled that they [the board] would see this in a negative light and that residents in the community would be against it," said East Meadow resident, who has lived in the community for 18 years. "Sonic is a national franchise and it would have added a spark to the center that is needed."
Karin March 18, 2012 at 04:45 AM
I know...let's build another strip mall in East Meadow that can stay vacant...or better yet, keep letting the bums hang out there...so much better than having something that might rejuvenate the area and generate some jobs and taxes.
Karin March 18, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Sonic is an eyesore? Hooters is better? The homeless living outside the Rita's building is better? The empty stores are better? The lakes that form in the parking lot must be the view you rather see then...and I live right near East Meadow Plaza...
Kristina Hollywood March 18, 2012 at 07:49 AM
Wow...I am so happy to see all of my thoughts & feelings, regarding the state of things here in East Meadow, materialize in black & white. All of these comments (well, almost all of them) are exactly all the things my husband & I have been discussing for the past few years. I wish this were Facebook, for the simply reason, I could "Like" everyone's postings (well, almost everyone's). It's obvious that we all feel the same way (well almost all of us) & we need to form a collective voice that can be heard and not ignored. Right now, decisions are being made that are negatively impacting our quality of life & it's obvious we're all very unhappy about it & dissatisfied with the current state of our community. It's long overdue that our voices & opinions be heard & that the TOH starts listening to those of us who live, work & play here. I for one, have grown very tired of watching Hempstead Tpke. & our surrounding neighborhood, deteriorate into a strip mall wasteland.
Kristina Hollywood March 18, 2012 at 08:44 AM
Several years ago, my dad, was having a conversation with his landscaper. They began discussing golf. My dad, mentioned that he occasionally golfs at Eisenhower Park, in East Meadow. The landscaper replied, "You mean, East Ghetto?" My father, was taken aback by the comment & given the fact that his 2 kids & 4 grandkids reside here, he asked his landscaper to clarify the reference. His landscaper replied, "you've never heard it called that before?" My dad said, "No, why? Should I have?" His landscaper answered, "Well, a lot of people, jokingly, refer to it as that". The landscaper shared that he used to live in EM, but he moved, because he saw the area declining & he wasn't going to wait until his property value plummeted before trying to sell. My dad told him, that his son & daughter live in EM & although the landscaper apologized for his comments, he added that my dad should encourage us to consider moving because, "East Meadow is not the town it once was". When I first heard about the conversation, I was annoyed that this man would make such general, sweeping statements about my town, but the truth is, after having endured 15 months of drugs being bought & sold on my corner, having had my house nearly broken into in the middle of the night by some lunatic, while my children slept upstairs & being approached by homeless individuals, who ask for money & food, when I'm out running errands, I'm beginning to think that this landscaper may not have been so off base after all.
paul March 18, 2012 at 01:38 PM
To Kristina Hollywood: Your comments are on target with the consensus being for more vital businesses coming to East Meadow. The TOH plays games and politics. I understand your frustrations. But lets put the verbiage aside for different reasons. We / I am not sure what the next step will be from the owner but I will assure you that I have a community / neighborhood plan that will and should actually get his project off the ground. Stay tuned. Looks like the naysayers crawled under a rock about this topic and rightfully so. Lets wait and see why the BZA originally declined the request and we will then take it from there. Stay tuned... On another note please when you see something negative occur in the area call 911. Homeless bothering people, drunks, drugs etc.. It makes a difference. If you see something say something. Thank you...
Susan March 18, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Kristina, where have you been for all these weeks? I had to smile when you mentioned "all your thoughts and feelings". I think if you start reading all the articles about Sonic you will find that your opinions have been voiced over and over again. You are hardly the first person to feel the way you do. Most of us here on the Patch are in favor of Sonic and have been saying the same thing for months already. I even made the same comment about facebook and the "like" button. As far as your "East Ghetto" comment from your landscaper of all people, I have heard this nickname used for East Meadow since I moved here almost 25 years ago. It was not used then in a derogatory manner then and you might not want to perpetuate as such now either. I would guess that it started eons ago when East Meadow was in it's 'heyday', so to speak, simply because it rhymed with 'meadow'. You are really deluding yourself if you think that East Meadow is the only town with drugs, crime, and homeless people. These same issues exist in Great Neck, Syosset, and Jericho too. In fact, higher income areas usually have bigger drug problems. I think part of the 'decline' that you feel with East Meadow now (and I really only mean part) is the fact that our school district does not offer full day kindergarten. In this day and age where most young households have two working parents, this becomes an issue. Young home buyers look elsewhere because of this. But that's a whole 'nother story.
Kristina Hollywood March 18, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Part I of II - Susan, I am disheartened that as a fellow concerned, community member, you felt it was necessary to address me in such a self-righteous & "reprimanding" manner. I have expressed an opinion on a subject that has been getting some attention for while now. An opinion that is borne out of my own personal experiences living here the past 11 years. This is a place to share our comments not a forum to personally attack one another. I believe we can have a difference of opinion & still be respectful of one another. I do not believe it's conducive or productive to any discussion or debate to be aggressive with each other & to direct smug comments at one another. My opening statement about sharing the same thoughts and feelings as everyone else, was not meant to imply that I am the first person to feel this way about Sonic's application being rejected. Quite the contrary, as a fellow plugged in & active community member, I am completely aware that most people feel the same way as I do about the issue & I was merely stating that it's nice to know the majority of others share my sentiments. Also, he was not my landscaper, it was my dad's & I'm not sure what you meant by your reference "of all people", however, I will say that he is a hardworking businessman, who owns a very successful & lucrative landscaping business for over 20 years. He also grew up in EM and was a vital & active part of the community, until he left several years ago.
Kristina Hollywood March 18, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Part II of II - As a former social worker who worked for many years in the field of mental health & community services (specifically in foster care & most recently w/ the homeless, mentally ill, substance abusing population) & my husband who is a highly respected & sought after, Addiction Specialist, we are completely aware of the nation's drug problem. Trust me, I am fully aware the problem exists in all communities & can assure you that we have our finger on the pulse of that epidemic & do not need an education on the subject. I have lived in other neighborhoods, all w/in a 15 mile radius of here & have never had as many run-ins w/ homeless, mentally ill, substance abusing individuals as I've had here. The undeniable fact, is there is a disproportionate # of these individuals in this area on account of the park & the hospital. My feelings have nothing at all to do w/ the 1/2 day Kindergarten program in EM. I am fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom, who actually relished the fact that my daughters were not restricted by a full day of school & they had the flexibility to spend more quality time w/ me & their grandparents. EM has a wonderful school district & it is one of the primary reasons we purchased a home here. It is obvious that we have a common interest, in the well-being of East Meadow. It certainly has it's attributes but it also has a growing problem that can not be ignored. In order to resolve the issues, community members need to work together more amicably.
Kristina Hollywood March 18, 2012 at 08:04 PM
P.S. Susan, although I did not see your prior comment, where you made a similar reference to Facebook, it is apparent that we are both avid Facebook users and were looking for the "Like" button to show our support for our fellow Patch readers with just one click of the mouse. Perhaps the Patch should consider adding that feature.
Kristina Hollywood March 18, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Greetings Paul, I appreciate your feedback on my comment. I look forward to seeing what the next step will be in the ongoing saga of Sonic & East Meadow. I hope it will be resolved and the residents will soon begin to see positive changes unfold in that shopping center. I am curious as to where all the naysayers are as well. Outside of the issue about parking availability and the night clubs, I have not heard much else from the other side. In regards to calling 911. I do appreciate the tip. However, I will tell you that I dialed 911 for over a year to address the drug dealing situation that was going on right outside my bedroom window, every day, for over a year, afternoon, evening and the middle of the night. I can count on one hand the number of times, the police arrived while a car was still on the corner. All the other times, it happened, the police would show up after the exchange had already taken place and the cars were long gone. I addressed this with Norma Gonsalves on a number of occasions, both in person and by phone. Initially, she told me I needed to get license plate numbers. That would have been a piece of cake, if the cars had been parked where I had view of either the front or the rear plates but they were on the side of my house and often times it was at night when I couldn't even get a make of the car. She said they really couldn't do anything without the plate numbers and keeping a log of dates and times.
Kristina Hollywood March 18, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I eventually began to do this and mentioned to her that in order to get the plate numbers, my husband or I, had to step outside of our house, onto the front lawn, in full view of the occupants of the cars, to retrieve a plate number. She then said we needed to stop going out and putting ourselves in a vulnerable position & advised that we needed to call the Precinct's POP Unit when we had cars parked outside. I followed her advice, only to find that on many occasions, there was no one to answer my calls at the POP Unit, so I reverted back to calling 911. This ordeal went on for over a year. Individuals were popping pills, while waiting in their car for their supplier to show up. On a couple of occasions, individuals got out of their car & urinated on our lawn, in full view of my dining room window with my family sitting, eating dinner. Drug paraphernalia was always being left behind, along the curb.. We had one visitor throw a lit book of matches out of his car window onto our side lawn (inside the fenced in area) & my husband had to go out & extinguish them. In the middle of the night, right outside of my daughters' bedroom window, drug deals were taking place, around the clock, which left me sleepless & anxious about the safety of my family.
Kristina Hollywood March 18, 2012 at 09:18 PM
It wasn't until I attended the Community Forum, "Too Good For Drugs", in 2010 at EMHS & I brought up the issue in the presence of the media, law enforcement & some local politicians, was I able to have my voice heard loud & clear. Business cards were given to me & promises were made that the problem would be resolved. W/in weeks, the problem dissipated & eventually vanished. There was an increase in patrols around my corner & even a couple of car searches. With the increase in police presence, my corner was no longer, a viable spot for buying & selling drugs. I realize that the sad truth is, that the problem moved to another corner, but when you're paying sky-high taxes & according to all the statistics, you think you bought a house in a relatively safe neighborhood, you are not willing to tolerate drug related activity taking place right outside your home, every day, around the clock, for over a year. I should also mention, that the night our home was being broken into, our first plan of action was to dial 911. We rec'd an automated message that said, "we are experiencing high call volume. Please do not hang up or you will lose your place in line." My husband stayed on hold for over 5 minutes, while the male suspect was forcibly trying to gain entry into our house. I called the precinct directly from my cell phone but by the time, the police arrived, the suspect had already fled our yard. It was the scariest night of my life & we were not able to get through to 911.
Rebecca March 18, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Mary Reilly, you fool. East Meadow Avenue is partly commercial, so anyone with a house on East Meadow Avenue already got one heck of a discount when they bought. And where is your outrage over the stinking clubs that have over 1,000 drunks leaving and driving on our local roads each weekend??
Susan March 19, 2012 at 01:54 AM
I did not mean for my comment to sound self-righteous or reprimanding in any way. I did specifically say that "I had to smile.....". I guess it was how I perceived your comment. It truly sounded as if this is the first time you're reacting to all of this. Maybe you need to re-read your comment to see how it will be perceived by others and maybe I should do the same. It was not meant to be self-righteous either. I do apologize if you thought I was but that was not the case. I truly thought you were just "late to the party". One cannot hear tone of voice in an email and this is always problematic. But, you certainly didn't need 3 comments to tell me that, did you?? After all, we do seem to be on the same side of the Sonic issue. As far as a "Like" button a la Facebook goes, I have commented a few times about it and have even emailed the editor privately asking for one. It seems The Patch would prefer to have people comment and I can understand that. Newsday does offer the option of the "Like" button and I would love to have the option of supporting someone's statement on The Patch without having to physically add one myself often repeating the same information. I'd think a format change such as that would have to come from higher up The Patch chain so Mike (our dear editor), maybe you can ask about it.
paul March 19, 2012 at 03:24 AM
To Kristina Hollywood: Wow, it took me some time to read your novel. I think I digested most of it. ;o) Thank, you for being on the same team regarding local business ventures wanting to make East Meadow part of their business portfolio. I wish I have seen some of your opinions early on. But I understand there is always a silent majority. It is just the way life is....... Others have been preaching many if not all of your thoughts. That is a good thing. It will possibly help this project get off the ground once we know exactly what the BZA hearing states. Another note: When you see something say something is the best advise we can give you. If you wish to discuss any of the issues requiring the police please ask the editor to contact me privately with your contact information.
Kristina Hollywood March 19, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Susan, you are 100% correct when you say that "you cannot hear a person's tone in an e-mail". However, it wasn't the tone of your e-mail that made me feel a response was warranted, it was your choice of words. Words that, intrinsically, have negative connotations attached to them. To say, "you are hardly the first person to feel the way I do", was unnecessary. The truth is, I have been vocal on this issue in the past but even if I was "late to the party", as you put it, I don't believe it's a kind gesture to minimize what I was trying to convey. You also said, "You are really deluding yourself if you think that EM is the only town with drugs, crime, & homeless people." I never said EM is the ONLY town with those issues. Also, you mentioned that I was "deluding" myself. In my opinion, the word "deluding" is not a neutral word. It is an insulting accusation that would not be taken lightly by anyone. You also assumed, with absolutely no basis whatsoever, that I had some concealed gripe with the Kindergarten being 1/2 day, which has nothing at all to do with anything I wrote about, not to mention, is quite the opposite of my true feelings. That being said, I felt the need to address each issue separately & as a result, I needed ample comment space to do so. I will refrain from commenting on this issue any further, since it has nothing at all to do with the topic at hand. I have always worked hard to build a sense of community & unity in EM & I will continue to do so.
Susan March 19, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Ok, I think there is a cpomprehension issue here. I NEVER mentioned that you had a problem with 1/2 kindergarten at all. My statement was "I think part of the 'decline' that you feel with East Meadow now (and I really only mean part) is the fact that our school district does not offer full day kindergarten. In this day and age where most young households have two working parents, this becomes an issue. Young home buyers look elsewhere because of this. But that's a whole 'nother story". Notice the words "I think" as in this is my opinion. You were going on about the decline of East Meadow and I was very specific in MY thought that this was "PART" of the reason. YOU brought up the drug problem in EM, not me, about the reasons you feel East Meadow is declining. I was merely pointing out that it is probably worse elsewhere. Unlike you, I do not write negative comments on the Patch about East Meadow. I have tried to present positive things about our neighborhood. (Except when I have used the tattoo parlors and We Buy Gold stores in my analogies about Sonic and even then just stated that we didn't need more). Negativity just gives those who are opposed to Sonic, more ammunition. You say you have a strong sense of community but your initial comments seem to show otherwise. Your copious additional comments obviously tell a horrible story of what you have gone though living here. I have never heard a story like yours in my 25 years of living in East Meadow!
paul March 19, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I as well as everybody else are waiting for the official ruling from the Zoning Board. We will be hoping that the owner does pursue the issue if at all possible. Myself and a group of others are planning as well on how to fight the TOH and their small minds... As most of you can see I have been in the forefront and very outspoken about wanting this project to get off the ground. It is not that tough. We are just very persistent.... Stay tuned...
Joanna G March 19, 2012 at 03:49 PM
My goodness. So many positive feelings for a national chain of junk food distributors. It will upgrade the shopping center. Really? It will become an outdoor hangout for teens who should be home doing homework during the week (open til 11PM) and a good place to sell drugs and be rowdy on the weekends (open til 1 AM or later). It will provide jobs. Really? Low paying minimum wage jobs - yes. Good jobs - no. It's not Hooters! That's an endorsement? It's not any better...and it's outdoors only! If East Meadow residents want another junk food joint and an OUTDOOR junk food place to boot - fine! But don't think it's going to upgrade that shopping center in any way shape or form, nor improve the town itself. It seems to me that one of the reasons this shopping center is a mess is the OWNER of the shopping center who has not kept the place in good condition and Sonic is trying to skirt around the issue by not leasing any of the existing space, but building a large complex in the parking lot. This is senseless. Why not tear down the shopping center if it's such an eyesore and has so many violations and start fresh. Putting in Sonic doesn't do any good if the rest of buildings surrounding it are not rentable. A place like Sonic should be by itself so traffic patterns in the complex would not interfere with traffic in the rest of a shopping center and traffic coming and going from a parking lot next door to East Meadow Avenue.
Susan March 19, 2012 at 07:18 PM
For whatever it's worth, Joanne, I'm just wondering how you are so able to predict the future. I think it's clear to all of us that you probably never attended any of the meetings about Sonic, especially the one the Hart's attended and presented at the high school. They promised 70 to 80 jobs and they are NOT all minimum wage. In fact, how do you know any of them are? Do you work for Sonic? What about managers and supervisors?? A lot of people in the area need jobs INCLUDING our teenagers. Will working there be any different than working at McDonald's?? NO, of course not. A job is a job is a job. I'm ready to put on my roller blades and apply. I know you must be gainfully employed predicting the future but some of us are not. Excuse me for being facetious but even a job paying minimum wage is better than none for some us. As far as it being a hang out for teenagers, will it be any worse than the kids I see hanging around 7-11? At least Sonic doesn't sell beer!!! For whatever it's worth, the owners have stated that they do not allow loitering. BTW, Sonic IS leasing existing space. They are leasing the old Rita's Ices location. THAT is the space that suits their needs. Do you really think the owners are going to tear down the shopping center? That will just put ALL the existing businesses OUT OF BUSINESS. Won't that be wonderful for the area?? What isn't rentable? Pearl is empty but rentable. You seem to be making things up as you go along.
paul March 20, 2012 at 02:46 AM
To Susan: Good points....
Rebecca March 21, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Joane, Sonic and any other TENANT does not control the entire center. That is what a LANDLORD does. If you would learn that distinction, maybe we can then teach you why the rest of your "argument" is too uneducated to warrant a response...
paul March 22, 2012 at 02:39 AM
The official release by the BZA has not yet been distributed. As stated by another writer it was not yet typed up for mailing. I was given the same response today in person at the TOH. If the decision is something that can be reasonably appealed I am pretty sure an attempt will be made. Keep writing/blogging all your positive comments. The right people are reading them... When an official response is received please feel let the BZA know how you feel....
Kristina Hollywood March 24, 2012 at 04:39 PM
paul March 25, 2012 at 02:48 AM
I was appalled when I read the Newsday article about the BZA decision on Sonic. Everyone should write a letter letting the Town of Hempstead BZA know that you were appalled about their reasoning on the decision. Please let them know that they got it WRONG. Do not let anyone tell you it is too late to send in a letter. If it is appealed then you will be one step ahead. Please write a letter and send it in. The TOH MUST know how you feel. WRITE THAT LETTER........ Board of Appeals One Washington Street Ground Floor Hempstead, NY 11550
Dan April 24, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I agree with Joanna G. Look at KFC, McDonalds, Checkers, Subways,(2) Burger Kings, Wendys on Hempstead Tpke. A LARGE majority of the employees are foreigners who barely speak english. They are not teens from the E.M community working part time at these fast food joints. E.M is a mess ,all we have is Fast food places, pawn shops, and convenience stores that sell beer and blunts/rolling papers to our kids. I live 500ft. from Veteran memorial Park and anytime I walk through the park to get to the post Office I smell a strong odor of Marijuana. I bought my house near the park so that my kid has a safe place to play. Calls to 911 are useless.The cops take too long to respond and when the offenders see the brightly marked Police cruiser they cease the illegal activity. Kristina Hollywood is correct EM has turned into East Ghetto. I just bought my house 4 years ago and I'm starting to regret it. I hope E.M makes a comeback. It will take more than adding yet another fast food chain to our existing repitoire of fast food eateries to turn E.M around.
Frank T April 24, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Dan, many local teenagers work at the fast food "joints" you mentioned. My son and his friends have jobs at those establishments and they are not "foreigners" and they do speak english. I would not lump in pawn and we buy gold shops with these legitimate establishments. It's odd how Joanna and others had no objections to the pawn shops but when a fast food company wants to open up and improve a blighted area they become snobbish.
Scott April 24, 2012 at 03:52 PM
There is no one thing that is certain to turn East Meadow around, however, there is one thing that is sure to destroy it; keeping the status quo. Every empty storefront is a blight on this community and it is a cancer. One turns into three which turns into ten. Customers choose to shop in other areas because the perception of this area is that it has become neglected, and they don't feel safe here. The intoxicated vagrants, which have invaded East Meadow, squat in these empty buildings, setting up residency. The empty stores become magnets for damage and graffiti. This, in turn, invites more blight, more vagrants, more drugs, more crime, etc. No, Sonic is not the cure all for the cancer which is infecting East Meadow, but it can be part of the treatment. There is no reward without risk. A temporary increase in traffic until the novelty wears off, a few inconveniences which may arise, some post grand opening meetings with the owners to iron out some bugs; these are small prices to pay in order to see SOME growth in our neighborhood. I've been a resident of East Meadow for 40 years and have seen this area deteriorate steadily over the decades, but certainly more rapidly over the last few. My fear is that it will continue to do so if the vocal minority continue to stifle potential growth. I haven't given up on this place.
Jeanne Shea Herring October 27, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Lets get a group of concerned residence of East Meadow to restore East Meadow back to the great place it was.. My e-mail is gneern@aol.com.


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