At the April 4th Elmont Chamber of Commerce meeting it was evident that Republican led Town of Hempstead political rhetoric supporting small business, economic development and the Elmont Community is just that, rhetoric. The community was having none of it and questioned the role presently played by the Town of Hempstead in creating a fertile environment for economic development in Elmont.
Councilman Ed Ambrosino was the invited guest and he opened his remarks by acknowledging the three points of interest to the large gathering of small business owners and community residents:
- Why did the town approve a Walgreens for the southwestern corner of Meacham Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike?
- Why did the town restrict mixed-use development to the intersection of Elmont Rd/Plainfield Ave and Hempstead Turnpike? Mixed use development is a central tenant of the now half a decade old Elmont Vision Plan.
- Why did the town reject a small business proposal with broad community support for an IHOP at the old Blockbuster location on Hempstead Turnpike?
“Big Business” Walgreens, after getting parking variances from the Zoning Board to use a taxpayer supported town parking lot will displace the “biggest drug trafficking establishment in Elmont” said Councilman Ambrosino. The Walgreens deal puts 7 small businesses, including the alleged drug den in the strip mall out of business. In the end, these 7 small businesses were rejected by the Town of Hempstead in favor of one Big Business who cleverly used the law firm of a sitting Republican Assemblyman and a well connected landowner to approve a development that had little community support.
In January the town announced a “dynamic new zoning for Hempstead Turnpike”. After business owners and the Elmont Chamber of Commerce reviewed the proposal it was discovered that the town had completely eliminated a central aspect of the Hempstead Turnpike redevelopment plan, mixed use development. The Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development was silent on the matter then and is silent now. Residents and businesses protested and Councilman Ed Ambrosino appeared to champion the cause of the people by making motions to reinsert mixed uses development along Hempstead Turnpike.
Sadly, the new zoning proposal appears to be more of the same, silver words with no substance. The area compacted on the four corners of Elmont Road – Plainview Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike offers little or no opportunity for mixed use development in the near future. On the issue of shared parking it fails miserably. In fact, it puts potential investors in the very boat the proposed IHOP investors found themselves – standing before a Zoning Board presenting plans only to be struck down on parking variances.
An analysis of the situation on the ground at the Elmont Road - Plainfield Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike intersection yields as follows:
- The southwestern corner: A proposed full service supermarket, set back off of Hempstead Turnpike to accommodate parking in front. This logically must eliminate most of the town parking on the rear of the present structure and according to preliminary plans are not slated for mixed use. As such, this property is likely not to be developed for mixed-use.
- The southeastern corner:The Elmont Fire Department facility presently accounts for a sizable portion of the area that forms the triangle bounded by Elmont Road, Hempstead Turnpike and School Road. In addition, Elmont Online has learned that the Mobil Gas Station, now closed, has been renovated by the owner. New underground tanks and other gas station infrastructure improvements were recently made suggesting that a gas station will probably return to the area. As such, these properties also are likely not to be developed for mixed-use.
- Crossing to the north side of Hempstead Turnpike directly adjacent to the Jamaica Square Improvement League. The Councilman has publicly stated his desire to build a YMCA on the property once occupied, now condemned, by the welding establishment (a/k/a the Jamaica Square lots). West of the Jamaica Square lots is Town owned Hendrickson Park. Once again, these properties are likely not to be developed for mixed-use.
- North on of Hempstead Turnpike on Plainview Avenue there is fire station. Sadly, we don't see the fire station being torn down and replaced with a mixed-use building anytime in the near future.
You get the point. Where is the opportunity, the shared parking central to smart growth, the incentive for mixed use development? Certainly on the issue of parking variances the Zoning Board is unbending, unless, maybe you have the right connections like Walgreens.
Speaking of IHOP, sadly their parking variance was denied and Elmont once again loses. In a lengthy written rejection, the Zoning Board denied the small business investor and provided ample cover for the local politicians and their operatives. However, Elmont Online learned that IHOP representatives, in an effort to move the project forward, offered to reduce the number of seats from 154 to 139 and added valet parking to the mix. The owner of the proposed IHOP also negotiated with neighboring businesses to share the use of existing parking lots and was ready to reduce the number of seats even further from the 139 number. Sadly, despite the outpouring of support for the IHOP from Elmont residents and businesses alike, the Town did not negotiate with IHOP on the number of seats and an opportunity to bring a good family friendly business to an otherwise vacant and abandoned property was lost.
Is this Politics over People? You be the judge.
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