In a joint press conference held on the southwest corner of Elmont Road and Hempstead Turnpike, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray announced that $80,000 in county and town grants will pay for a community visioning project for Hempstead Turnpike, from the Franklin Square border to Belmont Park.
The two firms that have been selected for the project are Sustainable Long Island and Saccardi & Schiff, which will target Hempstead Turnpike and, with community input, devise ways to improve the turnpike.
"Elmont is a solid community with good housing and schools," Suozzi said. "It surrounds Belmont Park and sits right on the city line, but it's clear that this community's commercial strip could use some sprucing up and revitalization."
Murray also sees the potential the Elmont community has. "That potential includes a more vibrant commercial district, a more attractive downtown, the development of more skilled job opportunities as well as the promotion and enhancement of sports and entertainment," she said.
Elmont, which is known as the gateway to Nassau County, does have potential as witnessed by the community, which banded together to turn the dilapidated Alva T. Stanforth Junior High School into a state-of-the-art public library complete with a theater.
Co-chair of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Long Island Sandra Smith said she is looking forward to working with the county and the town and hearing the voices of the community for the new formulation of Elmont.
"I'm very happy that this is happening," said Joyce Stowe, president of the Elmont Community Coalition Council.
Suozzi said the purpose of the process would be to take all the different ideas from community members and try to build a community consensus around a common vision that makes sense economically and fits in with the quality of life of the community.
While the redevelopment of Hempstead Turnpike may sound like an attractive idea to the residents of Elmont, whether an area that is already densely developed can undergo major changes remains to be seen.
"The key is to take these existing properties and recycle them and re-use them in a way that they're more economically productive where the owners and developers can make more money. We're not opposed to people making money but do so in a way that makes the community better," said Suozzi.
The county said that taking properties by eminent domain is not part of the plan. "You let the private sector know what the community wants and if the community sector's wishes mesh with an economic vision for them, that's when you have a big success. I guarantee a supermarket would love to locate in Elmont. They just don't know where to go," Suozzi said.
Murray said the whole visioning process is to see what the community wants. She mentioned a supermarket. "Beyond that, bottom line we'd love to see exactly what all our residents want to see along this downtown business corridor," she said.
Three community education workshops have been scheduled for the Elmont Memorial Library from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 5, 10 and 18. The firms' visions will be presented to the Elmont community in mid to late October.
Assemblyman Tom Alfano, who was not at the press conference, supports the process of revitalization. "I'm looking forward to hearing what the residents want to see and what their hopes and dreams are about the turnpike and greater community. We need residents to take an active role and share their thoughts on what we need to do. All the stake holders are at the table and now comes the hard part - we have to make it happen," he said.