Although Nassau County has not held a public meeting since June regarding County Executive Tom Suozzi's somewhat controversial Nassau Hub proposal, the county's team of consultants has been scrutinizing the project's more technical aspects, such as land use, transportation design issues and ridership demand modeling.
Historically, the Hub has been defined as the three-square-mile area bounded by Old Country Road on the north, Hempstead Turnpike on the south, Clinton Road on the west and Merrick Avenue on the east. The area stretches from the EAB Plaza on the southeast to Roosevelt Field Mall on the northwest, including the Nassau Coliseum, Eisenhower Park, Nassau Community College, Mitchel Field, Hofstra University and The Source Mall. With approximately 15 million square feet of commercial and office space and $50 billion in annual revenue, Suozzi believes the Hub represents a significant economic engine for the county.
But its concentration of retail and commercial space and its sports and entertainment destinations have contributed to a "sharp" increase in traffic, which concerns many, particularly those living in Garden City's eastern section. Left unchecked, traffic will increase 36 percent from 480,000 daily "person trips" in and out of the Hub to 650,000 a day over the next 10 years, according to projected estimations. Suozzi fears even more congestion could bring Nassau County's economic engine to a resounding halt, which is why, he said, redeveloping the Hub is so important.
To help combat the problem, Suozzi suggests implementing a long-term plan for a new commuter system that would take workers and visitors not only to Manhattan but to Long Island's downtown as well. A preliminary screening of alternative transit modes and alignments, presented during a March public meeting, discussed numerous alternatives under consideration. Of the 27 separate alternatives, one includes possibly extending commuter rail service from the Long Island Rail Road's Garden City station to the Hub via a Garden City secondary line.
Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy recently announced that the fiscal year 2005 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by both houses of Congress contained $2.5 million for Nassau County transportation improvements. Specifically, the bill earmarked $1.5 million for the Nassau HUB Improvement Program.
"These improvements will significantly help commuters, business owners and residents of this area so important to Nassau County's economy and culture," McCarthy said in a recent column. "Improvements to the Hub will ease traffic congestion and allow for new economic opportunity for new and existing Nassau County businesses."
Back in June 2003, Nassau County began its Major Investment Study (MIS) of the Nassau Hub, a comprehensive process whereby community residents, civic leaders, elected officials and area stakeholders participated in an exploration of transportation and land use options for this multi-faceted area. Four public meetings, in which the public shared ideas and concerns, were held to date, including June 2003, September 2004, March 2004 and June 2004. Garden City officials, as well as the village's Environmental Advisory Board (EAB), have been keeping a close eye on the situation. The EAB, which canceled its Dec. 8 meeting, is slated to meet at 8 p.m. Jan. 26, 2005 at village hall.
Furthermore, the county will host a final public meeting, date and time to be determined, according to Karen Rice, a county spokesperson, in early 2005. Following the meeting, the county and its team of consultants will unveil the proposal's design concepts and present its analytical results. County officials still stress that the Hub study is preliminary at this time and could see several changes. Stay tuned to Garden City Life for more details.