Written by Debora Toth Friday, 09 October 2009 00:00
A dramatic new vision of Farmingdale’s downtown area was unveiled at a public information meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at Village Hall with a multimedia presentation by the consulting team of Saccardi & Schiff, Inc., Eng-Wong Taub & Associates, Economics Research Associates and Paulus, Sokolowski & Sarfor LLC.
The entire Farmingdale Village Board, along with Mayor George “Butch” Starkie and other local officials, such as Senator Kemp Hannon, Legislator Dave Mejias, and Oyster Bay Town Councilman Tony Macagnone, were also present.
“This is an exciting time to be a resident of Farmingdale,” said Mayor Starkie. “The proposals in this Master Plan will ultimately change Farmingdale’s downtown for probably the next 100 years. But we needed a comprehensive study in order to make zoning changes.”
Members of the consulting team took a fresh look at Farmingdale with their trained eyes to make proposals for the entire landscape of the downtown area. Positive aspects to the town, they noted, include its historic buildings, unique firms (such as Infinite Yarns, The Chocolate Duck and Runner’s Edge), a strong central Main Street with a beautiful village green, a railroad station and a deep commitment from local residents.
“These positive characteristics draw people from other parts of Long Island to visit Farmingdale,” said Kate Coburn, a principal with Economics Research Associates. “We want to draw on that interest from other underrepresented blocks of people, such as the faculty, staff, and students of Farmingdale State College, or encourage the use of the LIRR station to bring city residents to shop or live in Farmingdale.”
The team, however, pinpointed areas that need to be addressed. For example, there are no regulations on the type of signage allowed in the village; therefore, storeowners have different sizes, colors, and repairs needed to their signage. In addition, there is no connection between the train station and the downtown area. Too many empty storefronts and too many offices rather than interesting retailers discourage visitors. Only two percent of the downtown offers any green open space. The town’s utility lines overshadow the stores along Main Street and distract from its beauty.
“Our goal in producing this proposal is to build more interest in Farmingdale’s downtown area and help to enact more regulations to create more character for the town’s main crossroads,” says Jonathan Martin, an associate with Saccardi & Schiff. “What we’re recommending is a long-range approach to diversify the economy, make the downtown more attractive, increase the social amenities, create a connection between the LIRR station and Main Street, and improve the efficiency of transport. In addition, we’d like to see more green open spaces for restaurants to have outdoor seating in the summer months, space for festivals and fairs, and completely renovate the LIRR train station by adding stores and cafés for commuters.”
In all, the team identified 32 sites subject to change in the downtown, such as the small pocket park at the entrance to Parking Field 3, moving the utility lines along the east side of Main Street to the rear of the existing commercial development, and improve the connection between the LIRR and downtown.
Housing is a notable part of the Master Plan. The team learned that Farmingdale contains both owner-occupied and renter-occupied units, with its share of rental housing units being higher than Nassau County as a whole. According to U.S. Census data, the Village of Farmingdale has 24.5 percent rental units as compared to 17 percent in Nassau County and 4.5 percent vacant units in the village as opposed to 3.9 percent in all of Nassau County. In addition, the village is eligible and has taken advantage of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) assistance since a percentage - equal to or greater than 35.8 percent - of low and moderate-income families (defined as those families with incomes less than 80 percent of the median family income) live in Farmingdale. The village is eligible for funding for two-thirds of the village.
The Master Plan reports that there are a number of existing and potential opportunities in the village to use CDBG assistance. For example, the village could incorporate green building regulations into the zoning code or could begin to house smaller start-up businesses also known as micro enterprises. The village is currently using CDBG funds for improvements to public parking lots and walkways in the village.
After the presentation, the board took questions from the audience. One resident had a two-fold comment: he felt that the presentation lacked information on village capacity and how many more apartments, homes, and residents can the village sustain as well as a lack of discussion on the village extending past Route 109 and growing south of Prospect Street. Another resident praised the work being done and felt that Farmingdale can be a replica for other communities on Long Island.
While the previous administration had embarked on a visioning process in 2006 with Vision Long Island, Mayor Starkie claims a Master Plan is different.
“A vision is something that engages the community to get a sense of what they are willing to change,” he explained. “It’s great for rallying the community. We decided on the board level to do a Master Plan and draft generic environmental impact study. We [the board] worked for five or six months with the Downtown Revitalization Committee and Saccardi & Schiff.”
While the Master Plan is currently being drafted, Mayor Starkie said the turnaround time should be about two months, at which time the village will hold a public hearing and begin to implement the plan.
“That [Master Plan] will give us the information we need to change our codes,” he explained.
Some village building codes have not been updated in 50 or 60 years and some of the uses that the current village code allows in the D-District [area of development within the village] include hotels or bowling alleys.
The cost of the study is $125,000. The village was able to secure a $50,000 grant from Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, through Legislator Dave Mejias and a $50,000 grant from Senator Kemp Hannon.
“The village took $25,000 out of reserves,” Mayor Starkie added. “We are not borrowing money to pay for this.”
“This project was truly a non-partisan endeavor,” says Starkie. “It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue, but a Long Island issue.”
For more information visit www.farmingdalevillage.com or call 249-0093.
(Jaime L. Tomeo contributed to