When two homemakers from Farmingdale decided to launch their own website, fdale.com, in March, they opened it as an informal forum to help their friends keep in touch. Nine months later, their baby has developed into a communitywide website that has gotten people throughout Farmingdale talking.
The website is now a full-time job for Fran and Darlene, the creators of fdale.com, who wish to keep their identities obscure. "It started slowly. Our friends started telling their friends, and everybody started using the site," Fran recalled during a recent interview at her South Farmingdale home, where she spends several hours a day maintaining the site. "Before we knew it, a lot of people in Farmingdale were using it." In the first two weeks of December alone, the site has attracted over 43,000 visitors.
Fdale.com has also caught the attention of the Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce, which awarded Fran and Darlene a contract to produce a website for the merchant organization. The web wizards have also created websites for individual local businesses. The revenue from these ventures, plus advertising they provide for merchants on f.dale.com, helps offset the costs of operating the website, such as server and browser fees.
The site features a community forum, on which visitors post ideas and opinions, as well as photos of local events, business listings, profiles of community organizations, sports league and community group schedules, and even a column by a Farmingdale homemaker, Rosie. It also includes several links to other sites which Fran and Darlene feel are useful to Farmingdale folks, such as those providing information on local history and parenting.
Fran noted that she and her partner wish to expand the site to include more involvement from the community. For example, she would like to recruit more local homemakers to learn about the web and help produce the site. "We want moms to do this, because moms are the ones who are involved in the community," Fran said. She would also like to increase the amount of advertising done for local merchants, and said she is not looking to make a large profit, only cover costs. "We're just hoping the site is going to pay for itself, so we don't have to pay for it ourselves," said Fran.
The website also helped plant the seeds for the establishment of the Farmingdale Civic Association, after information and commentary about the Republic Airport expansion issue was posted, and sparked interest among local residents. The civic association is being formed by concerned citizens, many from South Farmingdale who say they have noticed an increase in aircraft noise from planes flying to and from the airport in recent months.
The operators of Republic Airport, the New York State Department of Transportation, are in the process of developing a Master Plan Update for the aviation center. The current draft of the plan includes recommendations to change the airport to better accommodate large Design Group CIII aircraft ,which include 200,000 pound 727 jets. It also recommends increasing the useable length of Runway 19 by 789 feet and Runway 14 by 150 feet, and increasing Runway 1/19's runway/taxiway separations to provide wing tip clearance for larger planes and increasing the widths of taxiways A, B and D. (Runway 14/32 can already handle CIII aircraft.) Airport administrators argue the changes are necessary to meet Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements, but many local residents and surrounding civic associations oppose the changes, because they feel these will bring a flurry of new jet activity to the airport.
"I get tons of [editorial] contributions from people against the airport," Fran described, as she navigated through f.dale.com's section on Republic. "I haven't received one yet from people who are supporting it." She noted that she wants to present both sides of the issue, in order to keep the website balanced, and welcomes editorial contributions voicing support for the airport plans. Fran added that the website hopes to tackle other major issues confronting Farmingdale, such as the long-awaited cleanup of the Liberty Industrial hazardous waste site on Motor Avenue.
The producers of fdale.com are optimistic that the website will continue to grow and be successful, and will be propelled by the explosion of the Internet. "I think in the future, everything is going to be done on the web," said Fran. "I think it's just making a revolution in the way we live, and the way we work, and the way we research - and do everything."
Editors Note: The producers of fdale.com welcome communication from the community via their website. They are also planning a millennium party for Farmingdale families, to be held at Perkins Family Restaurant on Hempstead Turnpike, on Friday, Dec. 31 from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. Tickets are still available, and cost $60 each for adults and children, although admission for children under 3 is free. To make reservations, one may visit www.fdale.com/Millennium, or call Andy Teger, manager of Perkins at 420-0202.