Past, present and future: Judge Leo McGinity by Joan Delaney A drive down Grand Avenue in Baldwin with Judge Leo McGinity is a lesson in history, a seminar in zoning law and a master class in urban planning. The drive followed a two-hour lunch and discussion which I, along with fel- , low journalist Anthony Rifilato, had with the judge. The impetus for the discussion was the announcement- of plans by both the town and county for the revitalization of the five acres at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Merrick Road. "Zoning must be comprehensive," the judge stressed. Spreading a zoning map of Baldwin on the dining room table, he pointed out the hodge-podge of zoning and zoning exceptions that run the length of Grand Avenue. Zoning codes in the Town of Hempstead allow only 100 feet of commercial zoning along the main thoroughfares. That is no longer effective for today's business needs. The result is that over the years the town has granted scores of variances, special uses and exceptions. "I call it zoning by applause meter," the judge explained. He referred to his years both as a lawyer and a town councilman who heard zoning application cases. "The people came, mothers with baby carriages. If there was too much opposition, the applications weren't granted. If there wasn't opposition, the application went through. There was no long-term plan. It's still the same." And it is a long-term plan for all of Baldwin that the judge believes is necessary. For that reason he is suggesting
that a community forum be held. "We need a community educational forum. I would be happy to chair it and we should have representatives from the Nassau County Planning Commission and town zoning officials. It must be bipartisan. People should understand what exists and what changes are necessary for the whole community." The illustrative drive down Grand Avenue made it clear what works and what doesn't. Strip malls and businesses with parking work. Whole blocks without convenient off-street parking don't. "Street parking has to be eliminated. There must be room for turning lanes for traffic. There are many parking lots, but they must .be better maintained, with more efficient access. If necessary, people have to be forced to use them." The lot just north of Bethlehem Lutheran Church is almost always empty, with some stores less than one half block north floundering because of the lack of sufficient off-street parking. South of Pathmark, there is plenty of parking behind stores, in private lots and in the town parking lot north of St. Luke's Place. "Those lots should be joined. There should be access between all the lots and landlords should be required to fix up the rear of buildings. Concrete barriers and fences should be removed between lots." Referring to procedures followed in Garden City, the only planned community on Long Island, the judge makes a suggestion that will probably be his most controversial. "All of those private lots should be condemned by the town. They should fix them'and maintain them and then assess the costs back to the""
landlords. That's what they do in Garden City." The end result, he believes, would attract new businesses, expand the tax base, and ultimately assist existing businesses and make them more viable. Judge McGinity's personal history, growing up in Baldwin and representing the area, allows him a perspective which many residents who are new to the community or elected officials who live outside the community don't have. "How can you have a revitalization on only five acres? How are people going to get there? What's the entrance pattern for traffic along Grand Avenue? What would people see when they are driving to this revitalized area?" All along Grand Avenue, the judge notices the surroundings and traffic flow.
Just south of Southern State Parkway, he says, "Everything's fine so far. The c flag on the fire house looks beautiful, 3 but then the problems start." He points c. to the businesses which have no offstreet parking. Farther down the street, commenting on inappropriate zoning, he adds, "Look at that gas station right in the middle of town- to houses." As he approaches Pathmark, he points to numerous businesses that have inadequate ingress and egress. He stresses safety problems, particularly hazardous left turns, which residents have complained about for years to county and town officials. He believes that the continued establishment of businesses which are premised (continued on page 23)
JUDGE LEO MCGINITY is proposing a comprehensive look at zoning in Baldwin with changes that would reflect present needs. Judge Me Ginity, who grew up in Baldwin, served as a local lawyer, a town concilman and a judge. He was a judge of the Nassau County courts, an administrative judge of the courts as well as the supervising judge of the Nassau County Criminal Courts. He also served as a Supreme Court justice in the 10th Judicial District as well as a justice of the Appellate Division of the NYS Supreme Court. He recently retired but continues in private practice with McGinity and McGinity in Garde'rV City. ** ' '
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