Written by Eric Holden and Christy Hinko Friday, 15 July 2011 00:00
Village officials held a public hearing on Monday, July 11 at the Farmingdale Public Library to field questions and concerns from residents regarding the Village of Farmingdale’s proposed downtown revitalization efforts that would affect 60 acres of land. The hearing included an environmental analysis of their downtown revitalization efforts.
In recent years, Farmingdale’s downtown area has battled against inadequate property maintenance, high vacancy rates and shuttered storefronts. As a result, the Village, along with downtown interest groups, community residents and the Board of Trustees, embarked on a study to combat these issues, and provide for the future development of the area.
Like several other villages in Nassau County, Farmingdale was cited as having the potential to have a vibrant downtown, where shopping, dining, living and working combine within a walkable, active setting that is attractive to young professionals, families and senior citizens.
The Village of Farmingdale began formulating a strategy to revitalize its downtown in 2006 by initiating a visioning process. This five-year study resulted in a Downtown Master Plan, which establishes the build-out and revitalization of the downtown area of the village. Currently, there are 375 units that are available to be rebuilt or revitalized for residential units in the Main Street and downtown village area, including units above stores and offices.
As the meeting opened, Mayor Butch Starkie emphasized that the village will continue to accept public comments until Friday, July 22 and that the board hasn’t made any final decisions or determinations on the proposal.
“The reason we’re having this meeting tonight is to discuss the DGEIS, which is the draft and environmental generic impact statement that we prepared based on the study,” said Starkie. “We have a draft of a code that is just a draft. It is the draft code that we used to trigger the study. This is our outline of why we studied this and what we’re hoping to accomplish. It doesn’t mean there’s anything set in stone.”
According to Sustainable Long Island Communications Coordinator Scott Woodson as the Downtown Master Plan was being drafted, New York State awarded a Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Step 2 Nomination Study grant to the Village, and the Village was able to use the BOA funding for additional studies regarding the proposed Downtown Master Plan. Sustainable Long Island is a nonprofit organization that advances sustainable development across Long Island.
The Village has conducted an environmental review of the proposed Downtown Master Plan, in a DGEIS, taking all aspects of downtown development into consideration. As part of the BOA Program, the DGEIS and BOA Nomination Study have been combined into one document to fulfill both requirements.
The proposed goals of the plan includes providing increased social amenities in downtown Farmingdale, as well as improving the efficiency of the transportation, circulation and parking network. Another hope is that the area will become more attractive to shoppers, employees and residents by adding improved social amenities and extending hours of activity in the downtown area.
Eric Zamft, the village’s planning consultant, stressed that Farmingdale’s new downtown will be unique to neighboring towns.
“You’re not going to compete with 110,” said Zamft. “It’s a totally different environment, but you shouldn’t have to compete with 110. Let’s try to make downtown Farmingdale a destination, but also a place where people live. Let’s make it much more attractive to the people who are living there, people who are coming there to shop, and those who work there.”
Another goal of the Downtown Master Plan is to enhance the connection between Main Street and the LIRR.
“For those to be connected to each other and work with each other is really a key asset for the downtown,” added Zamft.
Zamft went on to make a presentation of what Downtown Farmingdale would look like in 2035 if the revitalization project comes to fruition. His findings revealed that the village would have additional parking spaces, enhanced retail usage and affordable residential units.
Before the proposal is voted on, the village and special consultants will prepare a final GEIS, which will respond to all substantive comments. They will then consider changes to the plan and zoning, if necessary. The target for the Downtown Master Plan’s adoption is early fall of this year.
In the public comment segment of the evening, residents primarily voiced concerns over potential parking and traffic issues that the revitalization would create.
“Parking! Parking! Parking!,” said Valerie LiCausi, owner of Farmingdale Music Center. “We have had four cars parked in front of our store for months. We are constantly battling parking. Main Street is designed to have people to come and shop. They should not be staying more than two hours on Main Street. Parking needs to be addressed. Doors do not need to be on Main Street. They need to be in the back.”
Farmingdale resident Joe Diurno offered another strategy to enhance the downtown region of the village. “Revitalization through concentration,” said Diurno. “What that means is to create more living environments for people in the area. Therefore, you’re going to be able to revitalize Main Street.”
The village will be responding to the public comments in a revised, final impact statement before voting on the acceptance of the updated master plan.