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Residents, Officials Celebrate Ongoing New Cassel Revitalization

National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra Tracking Progress

A year after the completion of key pieces of the long-awaited revitalization of New Cassel that included street improvements, shopping, and new buildings on Prospect Avenue, a continuing study by the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University (NCSS) has found that many residents are noticing a big difference.

To celebrate the publication of the study, hundreds of residents, public officials, students and church leaders gathered Oct. 1 in the parking lot of the First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury for a Farmer’s Market and special ceremony. Those who helped with New Cassel’s initial revitalization successes and continuing progress were recognized for their contributions and honored with commemorative certificates.

The study, which was authored by Hofstra University Media Studies professor Dr. Mary Ann Allison, focuses on the various levels of government, nonprofit organizations, religious groups, and private businesses that came together to create a model for renewal — one that may serve similar communities around the nation.

“This is the second study,” Allison said. “There will be at least one more, and a book publisher has contacted me to ask if we will turn this into a book in a couple of years. The answer is yes, and the reason for that is so other communities can learn how to [revitalize],” she said, also noting that New Cassel will become a “worldwide example.”

In the last two years, three new small businesses—an athletic shoe store, a hair salon, and a family dental practice—have celebrated grand openings in New Cassel. A pharmacy, a Caribbean restaurant, and a grocery store are nearing opening dates as well, with others to follow. Collectively, they will provide the types of goods and services the community requested during a major participatory planning event that took place in 2002. The report also documents newly emerging goals and activities—a sign of health in a rapidly changing environment. Formally adopted by the Town of North Hempstead in 2003, the revitalization plan helped a multilevel government partnership raise more than $120 million in public and private funding and continues to guide the renewal work. Furthermore, surveys conducted for the study show that many of the people living in the 200 newly completed affordable apartments have come from New Cassel and surrounding communities. Affordable rent was the most important reason the majority of the people chose these new buildings. “We’re standing on a success,” added Allison. “We’re standing on a beautiful new street. We have new businesses. We have pharmacies and tennis shoe stores, a dental office and more. This is the heart and soul of what makes a community really work.”

Projected to cost more than $20 million, a new 60,000-square-foot community center is also currently under construction, which is set for completion by Spring 2012. The center will offer two NBA-sized basketball courts, an Internet café and computer training center, dance and TV studios, lounges for youth and seniors, a fitness center, conference rooms, and a multipurpose social gathering space.

The leaders who were committed to the revitalization project fought through several obstacles over the past three years, including an economic recession, charges of substantive corruption directly related to the revitalization process, and significant changes among the government teams supporting this work.

Those named as leaders by residents in several of the new buildings are Rodney A. Caines (Westbury Board of Education), Bishop Lionel Harvey (First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury), Howard and Phillip Kimmel, Pastor Leroy Mitchell (New Life Christian Rehabilitation Center), Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Viviana Russell, Dr. Marjorie E. Toran, Nassau County Legislator Robert Trioano, Jon Kaiman (Town of North Hempstead Supervisor), Pastor Stanley Williams (Grace Temple) and UNCCRC Executive Director Kennetha Pettus.