With nearly $370,000 spent to draft a rezoning plan less than four months after it was proposed, the Hempstead Town Board voted 7-0 to approve Councilman Bruce Blakeman’s Transit Oriented Development District on May 7.
Some residents of the areas that surround the Inwood and Lawrence Long Island Rail Road stations, which comprise the new district, have expressed reservations about the plan, which focuses on 11.7 acres near the Lawrence station and about nine acres near the Inwood station.
The new zoning allows for the redevelopment of light industrial and manufacturing uses in the area to encourage a “mix of housing and commercial uses” that will “sustain vibrant flourishing hamlet centers,” according to the plan. A new Neighborhood Business Overlay District now encompasses roughly five acres on Lawrence Avenue, between Mill Street and Mott Avenue, and 13.8 acres on Doughty Boulevard, between Bayview and Mott avenues.
Adam Mayer, of Inwood, has lived for roughly nine years in what is now the Neighborhood Business District. He said he thought the plan had some good elements, but ex-pressed concerns about what happens next. “The plan mentions that bars and taverns can be built in our neighborhood,” Mayer said. “I don’t want a bar built 10 feet away from my house.”
Fellow Inwood resident Mo English shared that concern. “My family and I are a part of a religious infrastructure that doesn’t frequent bars and saloons,” English said. “If someone told me that they’re building a bar near my house, I would look to petition against that.”
English, an electrical contractor, said that plans like this rezoning usually don’t move this quickly. “They held an initial meeting in February, and less than three months later, the plan was approved,” he said. “I was shocked when I found out about the vote. There wasn’t any heads-up given by the town.”
English also expressed frustration with the process. “I didn’t go to the initial meeting in February,” he said. “I wasn’t concerned, since [I] and other members of the community thought there would be more meetings held. For the 30 to 40 people who attended the meeting to be considered feedback for a community of about 8,000 people is ridiculous.”
Town spokeswoman Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky confirmed that no further meetings on the rezoning would be held, because the plan has been approved.
Blakeman introduced it to the public at a meeting on Feb. 26 in Lawrence, saying he had been considered it for three and a half years. “I would just drive past the areas surrounding the train stations and think that we can do so much more with it,” he said at the meeting. “I knew something had to be done about it.” The town paid Cameron Engineering & Associates of Woodbury $367,400 to draft the plan.
Blakeman also said at the meeting that the town planned to retain the neighborhoods’ younger and older populations by bringing in retail businesses that cater to both demographic groups. “If we don’t give the young people what they want, then they’ll leave,” he said. “If we don’t give them what they want, our community will die.”
Since the new zone surrounds two train stations, Blakeman said, he received reassurance from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that the stations would be upgraded.
English agreed that upgrades were needed. “At the Lawrence and Inwood stations, there isn’t even a place to wait besides a small bench,” he said. “The stations definitely need to be upgraded.”
English said he wasn’t opposed to rezoning. “I can’t be opposed to something that I don’t understand,” he said. “. . . I’m just a concerned citizen trying to gather the facts about this.”
Blakeman noted after the plan was approved last month that the next step was for potential developers to acquire the targeted properties. He could not be reached by press time to comment on the residents’ concerns.
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