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From the Desk of Assemblyman Thomas Alfano: September 18, 2009

Progress in Elmont Takes Teamwork

Excitement is building. Momentum is going our way. Consensus grows. The will is there. That’s how you could describe the continuing work surrounding Hempstead Turnpike and the vision that has been developed and nurtured.

When you look at Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont, you can’t help but be very bullish on its future. Unlike many communities where “NIMBYism” reigns to the detriment of progress, Elmont says, “Let’s hear what you have to say.” Where some places you get shouted down at the mere mention of economic development, Elmont listens.

What exactly is happening in Elmont? In a word, progress. But there are many challenges ahead that call for creative solutions. The foundation for Hempstead Turnpike’s success can be found at Belmont. The ideas and interest from developers have caught the imagination of everyone. The State’s economic feasibility study is in its final stages, community input has occurred, recommendations from stakeholders have been taken into account, and a plan that is viable, and makes sense, is being developed for the property.

The goal of this new Elmont renaissance can be simply stated. We need to create good paying jobs, expand the tax base and attract business that will rejuvenate the entire Hempstead Turnpike corridor. To make this plan work, the Belmont property and surrounding area must be shovel-ready and have a “can-do attitude.” It also needs elected leaders to rise above partisanship to get the job done.

Over the past couple of years, over $5 million has been channeled to the community through the Restore New York grant process. These two grants have been targeted towards the Argo Theatre and Hempstead Turnpike Street-scaping programs. Both projects are complimentary in nature and will provide a necessary facelift to the area. But more needs to be done.

We need to clean up the area. That means businesses and people have to take renewed pride in their community. We need to pick up the trash, clean up the graffiti and have a zero tolerance for any action that lessens the quality of life.

There must also be renewed, consistent code enforcement on state and local level that is proactive in nature that sends the message that the Elmont community is reclaiming its neighborhoods. Buildings can no longer fall into disrepair and be ignored while the community at large is forced to look the other way to avoid disgust.

Absentee landlords have to clean up their properties and understand that Elmont is not a cash cow where you just pick up the check and drive away. The days of landlords irresponsibly renting and selling properties to non income generating entities must end. In Elmont’s case, homeowners can’t continue to have properties come off the tax rolls and have the tax burden shift to them any longer.

Government must play an active role as well. The Governor must renew the Empire Zone legislation and the Senate and Assembly must pass it without delay. Empire Zones are a critical piece in the economic development puzzle that help foster job creation and attract business. Empire Zones help business with building, energy and construction costs and tax incentives. Further, they assist expanding businesses with employee costs and expansion planning and development.

Next, the Governor, Senate and Assembly have to end the turf battles and allow the free market to reign by allowing Video Lottery Terminals (VTLs) not only at Aqueduct, but also at Belmont. Let developers, in concert with communities, put together development plans that create good paying jobs, fulfill a community need, and, in the case of Belmont, cross pollinate and help horse racing.

Unlike many issues where communities draw the line in the sand and protest issues, a general consensus has been built in the case of Elmont. This consensus was forged through the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development and through a visioning process that took input from every corner of the community.

What needs to be done now is simple. From the Governor’s office, to our Town of Hempstead and Nassau County, leaders have to take off their partisan uniforms and remember that in this game we are all on the same team. The team is Elmont and we cannot afford to lose this once in a generation opportunity.