A green space near the Hempstead train station would be a focal point of the Downtown Vision plan. The village board of trustees voted 4-1 on Tuesday to adopt this plan and begin searching for a developer after 11 months of inaction.
(Photo from Vision Report, Village of Hempstead Community Development Agency)
After months of inaction, the Hempstead Board of Trustees voted 4-1 Tuesday night to adopt a draft plan for the controversial Downtown Vision development project.
Several residents said they were shocked by the vote and even the placement of the dormant issue on the meeting’s agenda.
“They surprised the community by putting it on the agenda, and no one knew about it,” said Katherine Garry. “Very unexpected.”
The Village of Hempstead devised a plan to revitalize North Main Street near the LIRR train station and the MTA bus terminal. In the fall of 2008, an environmental impact study determined that if the plan could be fully implemented, it would create $7.1 million in revenue for the village, whereas a scaled-down version of the plan would generate $2.4 million.
Mayor Wayne Hall said he is going to start meeting with designers and architects immediately, and put out the development of the village’s project out for bid.
“It is getting ready to get started,” Hall said at the meeting. The Village of Hempstead plan originally called for the board to draft the plan in November 2008 — 11 months before Tuesday’s meeting.
Hall didn’t mention a specific delay during discussion of the proposal at the meeting, but defended his decision not to hold further public meetings despite promises to do so after a large turnout at previous hearings held last year.
“After reconsidering, we heard from everyone that had something to say,” Hall said at the meeting.
Trustee Don Ryan cast the only dissenting vote.
The plan calls for between 2,500 and 3,000 new residential units — a mix of townhouses and condos — that Garry calls “upscale” and would do nothing but force the community out of the downtown area.
The village’s proposal calls for more than 500,000 square feet of retail space, which Garry contends would drive small businesses out.
Hempstead resident Mark Bottoms agreed, and pointed to tax breaks he says businesses would receive to come into the village.
“It’s time for the taxpayers to stop carrying the burden of blighted sites and tax burden, because developers come in and don’t have to pay anything,” Bottoms said in an interview. “The keep selling us out. Where are the benefits for the residents? Why in our backyard?
For complete Village of Hempstead meeting coverage, check our live blog.
What the 2008 Hempstead Village report says:
- Increase revenue and strengthen tax base
- Strengthen the economy while enhancing quality of life
- Promote a mix of uses including housing in the downtown
- Redevelop underutilized buildings and surface lots
- Enhance walkability and pedestrian safety
- Increase / improve / connect public open space & parks
- Focus on accessibility / intermodal center
Recommended action suggested by environment study:
- 120’ height limit within one-quarter mile of the transit center
- 85’ height limit within half-mile of the transit center
- Allow residential land use downtown
- Promote active ground floor retail along Main Street and North Franklin Street with upper level residential uses
- Create an active and functional transit plaza
The Downtown Vision plan would:
- Create spaces for multiple public activities
- Create a “signature” public space at the transit station
- Provide dedicated bicycle paths
- Create pedestrian-friendly routes
- Incorporate sustainable design strategies and maximize transit use
The Town of North Hempstead is looking next door to its town hall in Manhasset for extra parking and office space. And Monday night neighbors spoke out, criticizing the town’s planned purchase.
Supervisor Jon Kaiman told residents the town had placed a bid for $625,000 on the property at 51 Andrew St., a residence adjacent to town hall, with the aim of using it for 10 parking spots and office space.
But residents expressed concern about the cost, whether there’s a need for more office and parking space as well as the destiny of the empty three-story house.
“Is that really in the best interests of the town – all of us?” asked Terri Riggin, who lives on the other side of the available house.
The house, owned by a bank, went back on the market for $599,000 a month ago after sitting empty for a year with an $800,000 price tag, according to Riggin’s husband, Bill.
Kaiman said he wants the town board to vote on the purchase within a month before the bank has a chance to sell the property to another buyer. The board next meets on Sept. 8.
Kaiman insisted that he will not tear down the house but said future administrations would have the legal authority to do so. “If we do acquire the house, we want to do it with the least adverse effect to the neighborhood,” he said.
Kaiman said code enforcement official would operate out of the house temporarily. He said he didn’t know how much eventual work on the site would cost, but said town employees would do the construction.
Others at the special public forum said the project is being rushed and alternatives should be explored. “There’s a lack of planning and due diligence,” said Ron Rainone of Manhasset. “It’s a cowboy approach.” Residents urged Kaiman and the town to explore options.
“There is no fire. You owe it to your residents and your constituents to be transparent and to do it in a level-headed way,” said George Faeth.
September 3, 2009 by TIMOTHY ROBERTSON. Special to Newsday /
Looking to move out of a tight condo in Rego Park, John Pai looked east to Manhasset as a potential home for his family of four. He wanted good schools for his two young children and an easier commute to his job as a computer consultant in Nassau County.
For just $590,000 – $200,000 less than comparable homes in Manhasset – Pai said he found the house he wanted. And he thought he had it.
Until the Town of North Hempstead entered the picture.
“I see now it is almost impossible to beat the town,” Pai said this week.
At the end of July, Pai reached agreement with the bank that owns the house on a price of $590,000. Pai signed a purchase contract and made a $60,000 deposit.
“I thought when someone signed a contract and sent in a deposit, it was a done deal,” he said in an interview.
But the house, at 51 Andrew St., is next to Town Hall. And when town officials heard it was available, they saw an opportunity to expand.
At an Aug. 4 meeting, town board members voted to hire a lawyer to look into a potential purchase. The town then placed a $600,000 bid.
When Pai found out, he upped his bid to $620,000.
The town bid $625,000.
Pai bid $635,000 – his limit.
But he couldn’t match the town’s terms: a cash deal.
So the bank accepted the town’s offer.
“I had it for $590,000 and all of a sudden I’m bidding $45,000 more,” Pai said. “It didn’t seem right.”
He said he understands the town won the bidding war legally. He’s asked for a return of his down payment, and his attorney is negotiating with the town for reimbursement of some fees Pai paid toward the purchase.
Pai would still like to buy the house – and the neighbors want him to have it, too.
Andrew Street resident Bill Riggin said the town’s purchase “obviously changes the residential character of Manhasset – and takes away an opportunity from a family of getting into Manhasset.”
Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said Monday that the property could be used for needed office space and 10 parking spots.
The town is exploring other options, including several raised by Andrew Street residents, even as it moves forward with the acquisition, said Sidhartha Nathan, a town spokesman. The purchase awaits town board approval.
“It’s a unique parcel of land and at such a cheap price,” Nathan said. “It makes sense for the town because we have parking issues.”