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Ground Blessing Ceremony at Community Center Site

Joined by North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Councilman Robert Troiano and political representatives from the county and the state, scores of New Cassel residents reacted with excitement recently as the answer to a longtime prayer – the building of a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose community center – took its first step toward reality.

 

The Oct. 24 ground blessing ceremony on the three-acre site of the new $24.5 million community center at Garden Street and Broadway in New Cassel follows in the wake of the hamlet’s massive, nearly-completed revitalization project.

“This is a unique moment in time,” Kaiman told those in attendance. “For a decade or more, North Hempstead Town, its Community Development Agency and the county have been looking to move this project forward.”

According to the supervisor, the 50,000 square-foot building – with its two regulation-size basketball courts, television studio, recording studio, stage for theatrical productions, research/reading room, Internet café, meeting rooms, social hall for events and exercise facilities “will symbolize one of the great successes of the town.”

Plans are also in the works to break ground on the proposed center in spring 2010.

“This is truly a community project and it is my hope that each and every member of this community will share in its use. We want to make sure the building gets built on consecrated and blessed land,” said Troiano.

Praying in Haitian Creole, Salvation Army Captain Joseph Lubin “asked God to make the project happen” while Bishop Lionel Harvey, pastor of the First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury and president of the Unified New Cassel Community Revitalization Corporation (UNCCRC) – a principal role player in New Cassel’s revitalization, prayed that the center will become a “beacon of light.” He said, “We consecrate this land to you God that everything that is done is done in good order.”

New Cassel’s revitalization was launched when Harvey and other religious leaders joined residents “Seeking a Shared Vision for New Cassel.” These brainstorming sessions resulted in a New Cassel Vision Plan that was later adopted by the town.

The 1.5 square mile hamlet in the southeast corner of North Hempstead is on the tail end of its $60 million revitalization project. In addition to three multi-use projects boasting residential units atop retail space that opened in February, four other projects along Prospect Avenue include affordable rentals and condominiums with attached rentals. New Cassel will soon have a supermarket, pharmacy and a bank for the first time in recent memory, thanks to the revitalization, which began under the administration of former North Hempstead Supervisor May Newburger.

For the community center, five schools in the Westbury School District participated in a one-day visioning effort – a process used to solicit input from residents about plans impacting their communities. Input was also solicited from the school district’s administration, Westbury Memorial Public Library, the Village of Westbury Recreation Department and residents.

Julia Reid, whose son, Martin “Bunky” Reid was memorialized with a park adjacent to the proposed community center, was recognized at the October blessing ceremony. Reid said that outside of the early years after she moved to the hamlet, she has not witnessed so much excitement as that surrounding New Cassel’s turnaround and the prospect of a new community center. “This is good in that it will become the glue that bonds this community, the glue that helps keep it together,” said Reid, who moved to New Cassel in 1962.

In addition to Reid, Troiano honored four longtime community residents who he said were avid civic activists responsible for advancing the community. Among those receiving the Medals of Appreciation were Alpine and the late Alfred Brown, Mildred and the late Kenneth Little, Ruth and the late Everett Reese and the late Alethia and Fred Meeks, to name a few.

Some $10 million in funding for the center will be provided by Neptune Regional Transmissions System LLC as part of an agreement Kaiman and Troiano struck with the Connecticut-based firm when they proposed bringing a 65-mile long underwater, underground electric transmission cable from Sayreville, NJ to a point south of Jones Beach and then to a facility at Duffy Avenue in New Cassel. Through the Neptune cable, 1.2 million MWh of low cost power is being transmitted to Long Island in the peak summer season.