Under the LLC, 1029 Ahbrew, Bruce Bent filed an application to subdivide his property at 1029 Plandome Rd. The 4.5-acre property is proposed to be split up into five lots, with Bent’s house being the one that abuts Manhasset Bay. The Village of Plandome Planning Board has held two public hearings on the subdivision, the first in February and the second on Aug. 21, but no final decision has been made.
Bent grew up in Great Neck and has been living in Plandome for the last 44 years on Heights Road. He has plans to make 1029 Plandome Rd. his garden. He loves gardening so much that he bought the adjacent property on Heights Road, demolished it and made the area his private garden.
He’s also no stranger to controversy. Credited for creating the world’s first money market fund, the Reserve Fund, in 1970 with Henry B.R. Brown; the fund collapsed after being exposed to the debt securities of Lehman Brothers during the 2008 financial crisis. Bent and his son were cleared of committing fraud in 2012 by a federal jury after the SEC claimed they defrauded investors.
His garden on 1029 Plandome Rd. is also coming under scrutiny, not from the SEC this time, but from residents of the neighboring Willets Lane.
“What we are faced with is an earnest volunteer planning board who is facing off against a ruthless and deceitful and ambitious developer,” said Mitchell Fox, of 11 Willets Lane.
To which Bent responds, “I’m not an ugly, money grubbing developer who is going to hit and run. I have lived in Plandome for 44 years. I expect to continue to live in Plandome until I go out of here feet first. The idea that I would do anything that would threaten my quality of life or the amount of money that I have invested in Plandome real estate, I would be an absolute fool and I don’t think my reputation is being that of a fool.”
Fox’s daughter, Samantha Fox, created a report “Response to the Proposed Subdivision of 1029 Plandome Road,” which claims to find various village code violations in the application submitted by Bent. Samantha Fox submitted the report to the planning board at the last meeting as evidence that the application was not feasible.
The application has a current roadway that starts at the southeast corner of the property and goes through the southern portion of the property from east to west, ending at a cul-de-sac. Bent says the cul-de-sac is there for emergency vehicles. The asphalt roadway is 14-feet wide with 3-feet for the shoulder, but the roadway is considered a private access easement that stretches 50-feet wide that goes onto the grass.
“I truly don’t know how they are conceiving of it,” said Samantha Fox. “They are inconsistent in the way that they’re presenting it. There are times at which in the plan it’s called the driveway and then at other points it is called a private access easement and other points it is called a roadway. Thinking people can agree that a place of two-way traffic, that connects with small one-way asphalt areas that provided ingress and egress to individual houses. That is the definition of a street. I think any way that they are presenting it otherwise is an effort in deception.”
According to Plandome Village Code, a road cannot be less than 40-feet wide. However, the applicant did not state that the roadway would be a private road and considers it a driveway even though it does not enter one of the five proposed properties area.
“They’re playing nominal games and they think they are cute or clever,” Bent said. “They’re neither. It’s a driveway. It’s a roadway. It’s a pathway. It’s an access. It’s whatever.”
Residents on Willets Lane would also prefer that the roadway start in the middle of the abutment to Plandome Road rather than the southeast corner, so the roadway does not create two front yards for Willets Lane. Bent showed a version of what that plan would look like to the board, but detests the idea of ever doing such a thing.
“It’s foolish,” stated Bent. “Foolish in all kinds of ways. You have to have 20,000-square-feet for each one of the properties. And you have to have a minimum of 100-feet frontage and you have side setbacks and back setbacks and all these things. You run the road down in the middle of the property and you have to have a cutout for the road to come down and planned on road. Number one, destroy the aesthetics of that 200-year-old stone wall, which I think would be a horrible waste. Number two, you create a situation because the car is going to be taking out from behind two corners, which is not what you have on the driveway.”
Bent also filed a short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) to the planning board, but residents of Willets Lane would like to see a full EAF. A full EAF was submitted by former tenant of the property Tim O’Sullivan when he was looking to subdivide the property before Bent.
“Bruce Bent filed a short EAF that was an utter contradiction with the full EAF,” Samantha Fox said.
The planning board enlisted village engineer Jim Antonelli to produce a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) that will go more in-depth on how the subdivision will impact the surrounding environment, specifically Manhasset Bay, since it is designated as a Federal Marine Protected Area, a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat by the NYS Department of State and an Impaired and Threatened Waterway by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The planning board also commissioned a new traffic study for Plandome Road to the same company that did the previous one. The previous study used ITE data, standard practice for traffic studies, but it does not take in account regional differences in the United States. Residents of Willets Lane want a more comprehensive study that takes in account all potential future projects.
“A proper traffic study done with sophisticated algorithms, predictive measures of what will happen to the traffic at this part of Plandome Road,” Mitchell Fox said. “If this development is completed and the one across the street is completed, the new homes down in the terrace, which are completed but not sold and the Macy’s development [is completed], that impact is profound. And if you live on West Gate, if you live on North Drive, you should know what the impact is going to be relative to pushing traffic through those places of Plandome.”
Bent does not believe a new study is needed, he sees it as overkill.
“Anything that has been requested has been filed,” Bent said. “We now have three or four traffic studies. It’s idiotic. O’Sullivan had a traffic study. I have a traffic study. The people across the street at 1020 Plandome Rd. have a traffic study. Then, we have another traffic study that considers both the plot across the street and my plot simultaneously, give me a break. We’re talking about 13,000 plus cars a day that come there and the analysis of the properties combined is nine cars an hour.”
Bent believes he has done everything that has been asked of him. Including reaching out to neighbors telling them of his plans. He says that no resident on Willets Lane has come to him to speak about the potential development.
“All I want is objectivity,” Bent said. “I’m not looking for any favors. When I bought the property, the day I closed, I went up and down the property, both sides. Knocked on the doors, if nobody was home, I came back until someone was home. I said ‘I bought the property in the back. This is what I intend to do. If you would like to come back there, I will show you what I’m going to do right behind your property.’ I have been totally open and aboveboard on everything. There are no surprises, no changes, no nothing.”
Editors Note: A previous version of this article quoted Mitchell Fox saying “rootless” and “pieces.” They have been corrected to “ruthless” and “places,” respectively.