Aug 08 2012

Hold the Date 10/3/2012: Public Hearing on Rezoning the Site of the Levittown Grandstand & Press Box

On Wednesday, October 3, 2012, Crocus Lane Estates, LLC and Josato, Inc will be petitioning the Hempstead Town Board to rezone the Levittown property on the former location of the Long Island Motor Parkway and Vanderbilt Cup Race grandstand and press box. This meeting was postponed from the September 4, 2012 date.

The public meeting will be held at the Hempstead Town Hall, 1 Washington Street beginning at 10:30 AM. 

I encouraged all involved people to attend the meeting and express their opinions.


Howard Kroplick


The Hempstead Town Board resolution concerning the petition from Crocus Lane estates and Josato, Inc.

The rezoning petition requests that the Hempstead Town Board allow a 50-unit condo complex to be built in the middle of a residential community.

This 2012 Bing Map shows the area that will be the subject of the September 4th meeting.

As seen in this 1993 Levittown sign, the effort to preserve this area has been ongoing for over 18 years.

The historic Vanderbilt Cup Race grandstand on the Long Island Motor Parkway (1908 to 1910)

A 1928 Motor Parkway Atlas showing the location of the grandstand.

A 1910 view looking east to the Jerusalem Avenue Motor Parkway.

A 1908 view looking west. Over 15,000 spectators watched the race in this area.

This historic photo show George Robertson driving "Old 16" Locomobile to victory in the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup race. It was the first American car to win a Vanderbilt Cup Race.

A unique view of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race from the grandstand.

The #18 Alco Black Beast winning the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race.


Aug 10 2012 Howard Kroplick 2:42 PM

From Cecelia Summers:

“Hundreds of people must show up to protest against this or the birthday cards that have been going to the town of Hempstead will be granted and the people in our town will not have a say ever again about our land and our Levittown”

Aug 11 2012 Howard Kroplick 8:17 AM

From Paul:

Interesting story.
I for one love historical sites…
First - Who owns the land now?
Second - Does it have landmark status?
Third - Why did it sit vacant so long?
Fourth - When was the grandstand etc knocked down and was anything else on that site since it was a racetrack?

Aug 11 2012 Howard Kroplick 8:19 AM


1. The property was purchased by a developer Josato, Inc for over 20 years ago.
2. The property has never been landmarked.
3. It has been vacant because under the current Hempstead zoning laws it was too small to build any houses.Josato will petitioning to rezone the property to allow a 50-unit condo complex.
4. After the last Vanderbilt Cup Race was held in 1910, the grandstand and press box in the “Hempstead Plains” was taken down in 1912.

One of the first private country club airfield in the United States was adjacent to this property until sold to William Levitt in 1948:

Aug 11 2012 Howard Kroplick 10:27 AM

From Henry:

“Why has preservation of this piece of American History with a park, celebrating the Long Island Motor Parkway, never been discussed? The historic site should not be compromised.

Open common green spaces in William Levitt’s original plan should be preserved. He had the foresight to build around this historic site, as well as other areas that all play an important role in feeding our water supply.  Legally, while the owner is obligated to invite concerned residents to a “public hearing” to express their views regarding the development of the property, there’s nothing truly “public” about a Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. meeting: It’s like winning the lottery for the lot owner and their lawyers. A fair representation of public concern is inhibited by the meeting time and place. The concerned citizens who are affected by the proposal and would like to participate, may not be able to take time off to attend. Also, the location may be restrictive to the disabled and seniors in the area.

It is the property developer’s responsibility to ‘Be a good neighbor’ and create a plan that adheres to the LRPD zoning ordinance, along with respecting the Long Island Motor Parkway historic site and the neighborhood. This rezoning meeting will affect our community’s future. Please attend the Hempstead Town Hall meeting to voice our opposition to this proposal.”

Aug 11 2012 Howard Kroplick 10:45 PM

From Mac:

“I think the idea this is some historic site is nonsense to keep the developer from building. Why wouldnt where the initial groundbreaking be historic? It’s like saying Levittown itself is historic and in reality it is so we shouldn’t build. The last race was held there one hundred years ago and what has been done since? Can someone tell me what the historical significance is? With that said spot zoning cannot be allowed a development in that area could destroy the fabric and history of Levittown. This is not what levittown represents are what should be built.”

Aug 11 2012 Howard Kroplick 10:46 PM

Mac, since history is very much in the eye of the beholder, a look at the criteria for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places might be helpful:

To be considered eligible, a property must meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. This involves examining the property’s age, integrity, and significance.

• Age and Integrity. Is the property old enough to be considered historic (generally at least 50 years old) and does it still look much the way it did in the past?

• Significance. Is the property associated with events, activities, or developments that were important in the past? With the lives of people who were important in the past? With significant architectural history, landscape history, or engineering achievements? Does it have the potential to yield information through archeological investigation about our past?

In my opinion, based on these criteria, the start/finish grandstand site of the first American victory in a major automobile race, on the first road built exclusively for automobiles, on a property virtually unchanged from 104 years ago, would easily qualify as a state and national historic place.

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:26 PM

Here is how major publications reported on the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race:

From Harper’s Weekly, “A great American automobile victory…The Vanderbilt Cup race was won by an American car with an American driver at record speed.”

Motor Magazine was effusive in their celebration of this “completely American” success: “An American car, driven by an American, designed by an American, built in an American factory in one of the thirteen original States, won a really remarkable race and the first of the world’s big motor trophies to come to America.”

Other newspapers, such as The Automobile, asserted that, “America has finally come into its own…. ”

Motor Age said, “With Robertson’s victory came the recognition of America, and American cars, as premier factors in future road racing.”

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:27 PM

From Henry:

The property size is135’ wide and 823.47’ deep.

Previously, the property owner proposed building houses on this property on substandard lots along substandard streets which was rejected at every level from the County Planning Commision, all the way up to the Court of Appeals in Albany, the highest court in New York state. They all upheld the LPRD zoning ordinance.

The owner’s business name has changed, but the property size or LPRD zoning has not. Josato, LLC is now applying for ‘special district’ business rezoning to undermine the LPRD and eliminate the ‘protection against piecemeal developement on scattered parcels which would change the well-ordered character that is Levittown’s trademark’.

Please help protect the LPRD ordinances and Levittown by expressing your disapproval of Josato’s plan in writing to the Board of Appeals, your TOH representatives and by attending the Sept 4 public hearing.”

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:29 PM

From Chris Wendt:

“You cannot fight this with the argument that “We don’t want Condos”.
Better if you arm yourselves with data that indicate the “We don’t NEED Condos”.

For example, here are the US Census population totals for Levittown NY, Census Designated Place (CDP), showing a significant and continuing decline in total population:

2010 51,881
2000 53,067
1990 53,286
1980 57,045
1970 65,419

I think this amply demonstrates that there is no need for high-density housing in Levittown, and no need to violate the LPRD zoning. But someone needs to put together the argument and the data, and present it at the hearing, both orally and in writing. Preferably the person or organization to do that will live in the immediate vicinity of the property in question.”

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:30 PM

From Mac:

“Chris I agree with you. Howard you are right history is in the eye of the beholder but I hardly believe a three year event held on Motor Parkway from 1908 - 1910 hardly holds any real historical value. If that was the case the same race was held at Roosevelt Raceway for the same amount of time and what happened there? If you want to get the town behind you they need to here facts about how their lives will change. How will this effect them directly? To ask people to get behind an obscure event from 100 years ago that wasnt even originated in Levittown but groundbreaking in Bethpage is a stretch. I would venture to guess 99 of 100 levittown residents would have no idea what you are talking about when mentioning the race or what the Levittwon Motor parkway. My guess is when asked about Levittown Motor Parkway they tell you thats where the town hall is. I do firmly believe this development shouldnt take place. perhaps if thsi historic site is so important and significant you can raise money to buy the land and convert it to a museum. But I dont think you would find enough support.”

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:31 PM

From Henry:

Excellent point! Our declining population clearly demonstrates there is no need for high density-housing in Levittown.

I agree with one statement you made: Levittown itself has secured a place in history.

“Levittown’s place in American cultural history is assured in part by the way each part of it was constructed: the site, the neighborhoods, the community, but most of all the individual houses’
- Peter Bacon Hales, Art History Department, University of Illinois at Chicago

Preserve Levittown as originally planned and developed: A suburban community of one-family dwellings as evidenced by various declarations of restrictions which were filed in the office of the County Clerk of Nassau County.

SPOT ZONING can’t be permitted!”

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:32 PM

From Mac:

“Henry well said that is my point. We dont need to dwell on some race or parkway.”

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:32 PM

Thanks for your opinion.

I actually agree with you that it is more important to maintain the integrity of the community than the historical significance of the site.

But, what happens if the rezoning effort is rejected? What, if anything, will be done with the property? For the last three years, Nassau County has considered purchasing the property as part of the Motor Parkway Trail and working with the community on its development.

Brian Schneider, Assistant to Deputy Commissioner of Public Works in Nassau County, has stated; “Department of Real Estate Planning and Development reached out to Josato, Inc. and their attorney William Cohn several times over the last three years to initiate negotiations for the purchase of the property and were rebuffed each time”.

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:33 PM

From Paul:

Henry /Howard:
Do we know or is their a trail of who owned this large parcel over the years?
Was it not supposed not to be sold to a builder/developer etc???
Was it supposed to have been preserved?
Was the county/TOH supposed to keep it as park land????

Aug 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 12:33 PM


When the Long Island Motor Parkway closed in 1938, this property was transferred to Nassau County. I believe the property was auctioned by the county over 20 years ago and was purchased by Josato for less than $100,000. The relative low price reflected the zoning restrictions.

Aug 14 2012 Howard Kroplick 6:02 PM

From Thomas rus:

““Henry - We may not have lawyers on retainer, but the law is very much on the side of the LPOA and those who should (and do) oppose this development. Specifically, the LPRD—which you cite—articulates very eloquently the need to avoid piecemeal intrusion in a planned community like Levittown. More specifically, it sets forth the major concepts which have formed the basis of zoning law since the Euclid case, namely, the right of towns and homeowners to preserve the safety and well-being of residents, avoid creation of dangerous traffic conditions, and maintain the character of a neighborhood with single-family, detached homes. The corporate predecessor of Josato, Terra Homes, applied in 1984 for variances on another portion of the Old Motor property, and was denied by the NYS Supreme Court in 1987, which finding was affirmed by the NYS Court of Appeals. A similar application by Powerhouse Road Associates with respect to the Crocus Lane property was defeated a few years later. It’s worth remembering that neither the LPOA nor residents in opposition should say that they oppose any and all development—rather, they oppose development that is not in conformity with the LPRD. Keep the faith, as they used to say. - Tom”

Aug 14 2012 Howard Kroplick 6:03 PM

From gj:

““It is my understanding the grandstand resembled a large herring and was painted bright red.”

Aug 14 2012 Howard Kroplick 6:04 PM

From Lin Test:

““I live very close to the proposed location of these “condos” and can honestly say that there is just not adequate room for the level of congestion this building would cause. Firstly, Orchid Road and the surrounding blocks already have a traffic and speeding problem. Secondly, the area is zoned for residential single or two family homes. I would have no problem with the developer building two or three houses in the location much like was done off Jerusalem Avenue in Hicksville, directly across the street from the Spindle Road intersection. That location has a single road into it for access, but there is no greater strain on the community services and neighbors in the area. I think that this would allow the builder to still make a profit, without destroying the general landscape and feel of the area. I also believe that while I would love to see some historic park developed here, it is not the builders responsibility to do that. I do, however, feel that he DOES have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the community that he purchased in. If he bought land under the mistaken idea that he could get the land use re-zoned that is his bad investment and no one else’s fault. But let’s not be naive and say he should make some skate park. REALITY - he wants to make some money and we want to maintain our community——CAN ANYONE SAY COMPROMISE?”

Aug 15 2012 Howard Kroplick 1:21 AM

From Henry:

“Lin: Thank you As stated in Levittown Planned Residence District (LPRD), Article XV states: ‘Levittown was planned and developed as a whole community; piecemeal intrusion on scattered parcels by development will change the physical character of the residential areas and reduce open space. The Town Board intends to accomplish these purposes, thereby protecting, preserving, and promoting the public health, safety, general welfare and amenity of the Town of Hempstead.’

High density housing is not permitted under the current zoning and is not right or needed in Levittown. I hope the property owner’s business rezoning application is denied and he proposes single-family homes in accordance with the plot’s current LPRD zoning. Additional single-family homes “fit” the neighborhood and will have a much smaller impact on area. Please let your government representatives know you oppose this rezoning request and attend the public hearing on Sept 4. Preserve LPRD Zoning and Save Levittown.”

Aug 26 2012 Howard Kroplick 10:29 AM

From Henry:
““I hope you and your neighbors will join me at this critical Tues., Sept 4 hearing. If it is impossible for you to attend, but wish to have your opposition to their rezoning application considered as part of the official record, please submit comments in writing by Sept 4 to: Town of Hempstead Hempstead Town Board/Crocus Lane Hearing Attention: Town Clerk’s Office One Washington Street Hempstead, NY 11550 For your correspondence to be recorded, it must include your name (print & sign), full address and phone number. The property owner is obligated to build within the constraints of the current Levittown Planned Residence District (LPRD) single family zoning. Any change in zoning would set a precedent for other incongruous development that will destroy Levittown. Working together, we can stop this rezoning, preserving Levittown’s character and suburban quality of life we currently enjoy.”

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