Written by Debora Toth Friday, 26 March 2010 00:00
More than two dozen residents of East Farmingdale turned out on Thursday, March 18 at the East Farmingdale Fire Station for a community meeting to discuss the East Farmingdale Conceptual Plan involving the reopening of the old Route 110 LIRR train station. The presentation was led by Town of Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone who was accompanied by a representative of the TOB Office of Downtown Revitalization, city planner Jeff Speck of Speck and Associates LLC in Washington DC, planning and development consultants Saccardi & Schiff, Inc., and Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international engineering and program management organization.
Surrounded by charts, photos, maps, and a slide presentation, Bellone began the meeting by asking the residents, “How can we continue to grow our local economy in the 21st century?” The Route 110 corridor, he said, has the most jobs on all of Long Island yet its biggest problem is the traffic. Fortunately, said Bellone, there is a way to grow the area as a vibrant place to live and work using smart growth.
“We have a plan to change the decline in jobs and property values,” he said. “We are sparing no expense to bring in the foremost experts in the country to help us.”
With that, Bellone introduced Jeff Speck, who advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design. Speck, who has been working for the past year to redevelop the Town of Babylon’s area around the Wyandanch railroad station with a state grant fund, narrated a slide show of both positive and negative urban areas and discussed how Long Island, and in particular East Farmingdale, is better poised to make changes.
“Long Island does not need to be tethered to a car,” said Speck. “If you give people a reason to walk instead of drive, you improve everyone’s quality of life.” The last best idea, Speck added, was the development of Airport Plaza.
The next speaker was Lawrence Lennon, an assistant vice president of the New York office of Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), who described the high-speed rapid transit bus systems being developed for the Route 110 corridor.
The service would run from Sunrise Highway to the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington Station and meet train travelers at the newly-proposed East Farmingdale LIRR train station, he said. Workers and visitors would be able to “embark on the stylish, efficient bus line with fewer stops and pre-payment possibilities to their jobs in Huntington Quadrangle and beyond,” he explained. “For those who work at businesses like Newsday that are not on the direct line, van service could be arranged to carry employees to the main hub.”
Eric Zamft, an associate of the White Plains, New York consulting firm Saccardi & Schiff, Inc., concluded the presentation by saying that East Farmingdale needs more walking-friendly, welcoming sites with a transit-oriented hub. His firm, which is also working with Mayor “Butch” Starkie in Farmingdale to redevelop its village, chose to highlight the East Farmingdale golf range on Route 110 and Brunswick Hospital in Amityville as large parcels of land that are not being used efficiently.
Many residents at the meeting were upset they weren’t allowed to ask questions or add any input into the development plans.
Thomas H. Joseph, Jr., president of the East Farmingdale Civic Association, said, “I am not fully behind the supervisor and his proposal. The supervisor’s plan includes a train station, buses, apartments and businesses. The plan calls for the area to be walkable. I do not believe Route 110 can be traveled by foot safely. I have expressed my views with Supervisor Bellone and stated I would not be for any plan that included housing unless Route 110 was made safer for foot traffic. I believe the train station could be a very good idea if the area is developed properly. I believe buses could help lessen traffic congestion on Route 110 if it is done correctly. I am willing to listen and discuss plans to develop the area, but it all must be done with community involvement and be done smartly.”
Others were optimistic that plans are being drawn for a dilapidated area left vacant for so many years.
“I think more study needs to be done,” said Karen Williams, vice president of the Woodland Civic Association representing East Farmingdale residents. “It’s just the beginning of the process.”
One angry resident interrupted Bellone as he began his presentation by asking him, “Who is going to pay for this? Who is going to pay for this?” Bellone reminded the resident that he would be able to ask those questions after the presentation.
Bellone reported that more upcoming meetings will be held in which the residents will be invited, as well as a walking tour of the proposed site.
“I hope everyone will join me in the walk,” said Bellone. “Afterwards, we are going to see a free movie and have other prizes. No one has ever walked this site and why would you? Google a sky-view map of the location for yourself. It’s a wasteland. I have to believe that we can do better for our quality of life by developing this property.”