The recent bankruptcy of National Wholesale Liquidators, and the store's prospective closing, cast a shadow over Hempstead Turnpike, as residents ponder the loss of tax revenues and shake their heads in disbelief at the thought of yet another vacant commercial premise in West Hempstead.

Even so, there is reason for optimism in this community's business district, and more than just wishful thinking that Liquidator's liquidation - and perhaps the end of an era for this not quite shopping mecca that once was home to S. Klein and Shopper's Village - is the precursor of much better days to come.

Consider this: instead of an empty, unsightly 1950s building (a damper on the turnpike's resurgence, at best), surrounded by similarly outmoded and dysfunctional properties (the long-vacant Breslin site; the old Mutual Fuel Oil building on Hempstead Avenue; the AVF waste transfer facility adjacent to the railroad station along Hempstead Gardens Drive), why not open the door for the global redevelopment of the Liquidator's venue, and all of its downcast environs?

After all, the so-called Urban Renewal Plan, though neither artfully drawn by the Town of Hempstead, nor fully approved in its present incarnation by the Nassau County Planning Commission, has been drafted and sits in waiting. Did not Town Supervisor Kate Murray envision a more universal approach to the improvement of this part of West Hempstead beyond merely tearing down a hotel? And wasn't it County Executive Tom Suozzi who said that West Hempstead had the potential to have a "cool downtown?"

Imagine the stark and altogether seedy landscape bounded by the turnpike, the avenue, Broad Street to the east, and Westminster to the west, transformed into a vibrant, vital mix of retail, residential, and recreational space. In the process, we create jobs, construct sustainable housing, and stimulate the local economy. Now that, friends and neighbors, would be "smart growth!"

With the Alexan at West Hempstead Station as the anchor, a revitalized shopping district along a street-scaped Hempstead Avenue mere steps away, and a train ride to the city literally at the doorstep (presuming the MTA doesn't curtail service), the evolution of these underutilized parcels - relics of a past life that today stand only as roadblocks to our suburban revival - is within this community's grasp.

True, on Long Island, planning is too often an afterthought, and zoning is by exception, rather than rule. Still, where there is abundant vision, coupled with unbounded determination, anything is possible - even a renaissance in West Hempstead!

Seth D. Bykofsky

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