The Hicksville downtown revitalization effort advanced to its next stage this past week as the firm hired to study the dormant character of the downtown community and to devise remedies to revive it, Project for Public Spaces, presented its final report.
From the over 600 surveys collected from Hicksville residents, business owners and high school students, the final report echoed concerns that had been brought to light in preliminary reports from PPS in January and March. The undesirability and underutilization of the Hicksville Railroad Station and Kennedy Park, and the adverse effects that the vastness of Broadway has on the community were highlighted in the report.
Despite their present conditions, the representatives from PPS agreed that these areas have a lot of potential and could be developed easily and inexpensively.
Cynthia Abramson, PPS' project manager for Hicksville, stated that Kennedy Park has an enormous amount of potential. "The goal is to make the park a community place, a center, a place that we can all use. It's nice to get trees and better planting in there, and to organize the memorials and get the signage right, but that is not the end all, be all. The goal is to make it a square that works for the community and becomes a gathering place for all of us."
The report indicated that the Hicksville LIRR station, described by Fred Kent, president of PPS, as being one of the worst stations that he has ever seen, could be turned around rather easily and quickly.
"The goal is to make the train station safe, clean and easy to find information, but it also can become a gateway to the community and function on a lot larger scale for activities, such as flea market festivals," said Abramson. "You want it to become a community center that has more going on than just the one dimensional experience of taking the train."
Kent noted that he has seen a notable change in the Hicksville community since the beginning of their study.
"There has been a change since we first arrived late last year that is extremely positive," said Kent. "I think there has been an outpouring of people who care and love this community . . . now [the community] must maintain that movement."
"I think that the Oyster Bay government has become a lot more responsive. I think the LIRR has become a lot more responsive. I am still not sure about the NYS Department of Transportation, but I definitely think that there is a momentum here," added Kent.
Although the study was only recently completed, there are numerous plans waiting to be put into action. A LIRR official at the meeting indicated that the LIRR hoped to begin renovations of the Hicksville station in the next 12 months. The renovations would include new waiting and ticket areas. The LIRR has already replaced the trash receptacles on the platforms after it was suggested at previous meetings that they were an area that needed to be addressed.
Plans are also in the works to redesign the south end of Kennedy Park, hopefully in time for a May 9 spring celebration being held in the park, said Patricia Conway, president of the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the revitalization effort. The work will not begin, however, until the town obtains the necessary permit from the state to relandscape the property.
Conway has solicited donations for the project and the Town of Oyster Bay has pledged its full support to the maintenance of the property.
"This is being donated by a very high profile landscaping firm that is willing to design and plant the entire site," said Conway. "With the help of different community groups and the Town of Oyster Bay Parks Department we are going to maintain this."
The spring event will take place on May 9 at Kennedy Park and will feature dancing and music among other things.