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Calls for more oversight of 123 Sterling Ave. project

As work on the 123 Sterling Avenue development project begins to take shape, some in the community are calling for more transparent oversight of the construction process.

Speaking on behalf of the Sterling Basin Neighborhood Association last Thursday, Mitch Pickman called for more consistent supervision from an engineering firm hired by the village to fortify inspections at the site.

Steel beams are currently being installed for a 45,000-square-foot, three-story building that will include commercial space and 17 condo units. Five of those units will be offered at affordable rates.

Developer Paul Pawlowski had proposed a series of modifications to a 2007 stipulation agreement that would have reduced the amount of commercial space, increased the number of market-rate condos and moved the affordable units to a separate building altogether. But he ultimately withdrew the request during a public hearing in late August and vowed to adhere to the original legal stipulation.

“It’s a very big project. We just want to make sure that everything is being done correctly,” Mr. Pickman said, alluding to the oft-used saying that asking for forgiveness is easier than getting permission.

“They are building according to the plan at this point,” Mayor George Hubbard Jr. replied. “So there is no forgiveness that’s going to be needed.”

A discussion at last Thursday night’s work session was marked by village officials attempting to dispel misinformation surrounding the project.

While weekly reports from the village building and code enforcement departments suggest that, to date, builders are complying with the 2007 agreement, Trustee Mary Bess Phillips agreed that more transparency and communication is needed in order to restore trust between the neighborhood, Village Board and developer. She questioned why the engineers haven’t conducted an inspection of the steel framing already completed for the first and second floors.

But village administrator Paul Pallas noted that framing work is still underway for the third floor and an inspection will be done when that work is completed.

Trustee Julia Robins said that while she understands the need to reassure the community that the village is carefully monitoring the work, she’s confident in the building department. “I don’t really see the need for a premature framing inspection,” she said.

According to a contract between the village and J.R. Holzmacher, the Ronkonkoma-based engineering firm approved last year, the firm will assist the village building department with reviews of the electrical, plumbing, mechanical, structural, architectural, fire suppression, ADA compliance and means of egress and accessibility plans for the property. Upon completion of each type of work, the firm will prepare individual reports on their findings for the building department. 

The engineering firm’s fee is being covered by the developers.

Katie Moraglia, a Sterling Avenue resident, said that while she isn’t an SBNA member, she, too, shares concerns about the project.

“We’ve been watching this thing go up now and every day it looks higher and higher,” she said. “We just want to know that what is going up is really what’s supposed to go up.”

Trustee Peter Clarke said he supports the idea of increased inspection and communication and asked for more details to be included in the weekly building department reports.

“This is the type of information that the community is looking for,” Ms. Phillips said, noting that the information will become more important to share especially as framing work wraps up and walls start going up, preventing neighbors from being able to see what’s going on. “The community wants to be secure that the project is moving along,” she said.