Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 28 October 2011 00:00
The Model Blocks project kicked off on Thursday, Oct. 20 at the LIRR station house. Project leaders include Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, BID, the Chamber of Commerce, Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Town Councilman Fred Pollack.
Describing the idea as “A New Main Street,” this project aims to develop new sidewalks and streetscape enhancements along with design guidelines and zoning changes that will jumpstart the restoration and revitalization of Port Washington’s Main Street. Community partners, merchants, building owners, developers, local, state and county officials attended the kick-off to show the community they support this project, and to encourage everyone to attend the public meeting on November 17.
Residents Co-President Dan Donatelli welcomed everyone to the kick-off of Models Blocks. He said, “Port’s Main Street has not changed in the last 60 years: it has become frozen in time, circa 1950. Our buildings have gotten old and outdated and it is clear that whatever planning that was done 60 years ago is not working anymore.” He questioned, “Where is Port Washington going to be 50 years from now?”
Donatelli continued to say, “The Model Blocks Project is a ground-up community-led effort that covers just four blocks of Main Street, starting at Port Boulevard and ending at Haven Avenue. With these four model blocks, we will expose our potential design guidelines and increase and enhance Port’s charm and character.” The proposed improvements include streetscape enhancement, pedestrian-friendly shopping and strolling, the creation of a large plaza at the train station, traffic claming measures, and enhanced parking. Donatelli also noted the proposed creation of an overlay district that will encourage mixed-use development and incentivize building owners to turn old, outdated, unsightly apartments into modern, more luxurious living and working spaces.
“The rollout of the Model Blocks Project starts on November 17,” Donatelli said. “On that date, the proposal will be presented to the Port Washington community. The Port community will be asked to vote YES on this plan that revitalizes Main Street. A plan that not only inspires design but also invites community input and camaraderie,” he said, noting that all are welcome to attend this meeting on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Port Washington Public Library. Donatelli also thanked Residents members Jennifer Rimmer and Annette Oestreich, who have chaired the Model Blocks committee, for their dedication and hard work.
Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said that the Town of North Hempstead is excited to be engaged in this project, and said that Main Street has all the potential in the world. “The activism of the various organizations in Port Washington is consistently at the highest level. And so here, to be able to have local folks come together to dedicate time and effort towards improving our Main Street is really something that 1) is consistent with Port Washington’s approach to the world, and 2) is a way to actually achieve people’s dreams and visions.” Kaiman also noted that the town has recently taken over Main Street from Nassau County, and the town is committed towards improving this road, starting with some simple paving and resurfacing.
Going into more detail on the Model Blocks project, Kaiman said, “This is really is about coming together and looking to see what the future holds.” He added, “Councilman Fred Pollack and I are committed to working with Residents and the other leaders that have stepped forward. This is what we call a true partnership, this is how we get things done here, and this really will make a difference.”
Town Councilman Fred Pollack said that it was an extraordinary day to see the kick-off of this project, after years of talking to each other and the community. “It is not going to be up to Jon or me, or to Residents, or the BID – it is going to be up to the people of Port Washington,” he said, and encouraged people to attend the public meeting on Nov. 17. “We can move forward and we can make this the kind of demonstration that will temporarily be four blocks, which will ultimately spread down Main Street because it will be a success,” Pollack added, stating that once people see that something works, the idea spreads and receives more support. “I hope it will be the beginning of changing Main Street from what we talk about and complain about to being the street that everybody in Port Washington is proud of,” he said, adding that he hopes it will be the beginning of significant change and improvement for the business community and for everyone in Port Washington.
State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel attended the event to show her support, and said “I know that change takes leadership and that is the one thing that is the hallmark of Port Washington: leadership.” She added, “When we come out of the economic downturn, Port will be ahead of the curve in terms of this initiative and other initiatives…. And it will be a center for Long Island.”
Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink said, “This sounds like an exciting opportunity for the Port Washington community to push itself into the future.” He added, “There’s so much opportunity in this day and age to create what Tom Suozzi called ‘Cool Downtowns’ and what we’re calling ‘Model Blocks’ here. The opportunity exists to make our downtown a vibrant center of the community, both for business and for residents.”
The public meeting will be hosted at the Port Washington Public Library and start promptly at 7 p.m. For more information, call Mindy Germain, executive director, Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington at 767-9151, or visit the website pwresidents.org to view a presentation of this project.