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A. Thomas Levin Quoted in The Island Now, “G. Neck Estates Passes On-Site Smoking Ban”

Media Source: The Island Now, The Great Neck News

Levin_TomThe Village of Great Neck Estates on Wednesday became the first Great Neck village to pass a law banning businesses that permit on-site smoking.

Thomas Levin, the village attorney for Great Neck Estates, said the purpose of the new village law, which was passed unanimously, was to “make clear that [on-site smoking] uses are not permitted.”

Levin said the law would not prohibit businesses in the village from selling “tobacco products.”

The villages of Great Neck and Great Neck Plaza both recently voted to extend temporary moratoriums on on-site smoking businesses for an additional eight and 10 months, respectively.

Both Great Neck and Great Neck Plaza had passed temporary moratoriums last year following the Village of Great Neck’s approval of Fountain Blue Hookah, located at 435 Middle Neck Road, last July despite public comments urging the board to deny the application.

Great Neck village attorney Stephen Limmer told the board last year it had no legal authority to revoke the permit or regulate the smoking of non-tobacco products.

Great Neck and Great Neck Plaza officials said the moratoriums are intended to allow trustees to discuss possible restrictions on alternative forms of smoking, such as hookah pipes and e-cigarettes that could pose public health risks before voting on a permanent moratorium.

In other developments:

The board unanimously voted to adjourn a public hearing on the proposed demolition of the First Playhouse Theater to Sept. 8, after the theater’s owner First Playhouse of Great Neck Corp. requested more time to work on the plan.

William Bonesso, an attorney representing First Playhouse of Great Neck, said a traffic consultant from engineering firm VHB is in the process of “gathering information to respond to comments” made by the village’s traffic engineer.

“Our consultant has been reviewing it and responding to it,” Bonesso said.

Village of Great Neck Estates Mayor David Fox has expressed frustration over the project’s delay and two months ago told the owners of the theater they had until the August meeting to present a complete plan to the board of trustees or the application would be withdrawn.

Efforts to reach Fox for comments on the project’s delay were unavailing.

The theater, which dates back to 1925, attracted many leading acts throughout the years, including the Marx Brothers, Irving Berlin and Oscar Hammerstein.

A plan to replace the theater with luxury apartments was first approved in 2007. That proposal would have kept the original facade of the theater and renovated the inside. Those plans fell through when engineers said it would be much more cost-effective to completely rebuild the property.

The project has been criticized by many of the local residents, including Great Neck Estates historian Ilse Kagan.

“It is considered by outsiders and insiders as a very important building in the village, and the history of course is phenomenal,” Kagan said last April. “The playhouse recalls Great Neck’s glorious days.”

Kagan has said the theater’s history makes it worthy of landmark status and that the building should remain as is.

“Now to say that they’re going to take it down and rebuild it is absurd,” Kagan said. “I don’t think that’s a solution.

The Great Neck Historical Society, in a letter written to the village last year, said they would like to see the existing facade retained.

“It is a reminder of an exciting period in our history when we were both literally and figuratively just ‘30 minutes from Broadway,’” the letter said. “A substitute copy of the building is not the same.”

Part of the property, which sits on the corner of Middle Neck Road and Maple Drive, is also within the Village of Great Neck Plaza.

The villages of Great Neck Estates and Great Neck Plaza have been holding discussions on the property’s future since 2005.