Local leaders vowed Monday to ensure that more than one Long Island downtown receives state business aid later this year.
Members of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council have been charged by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with identifying a single community for $10 million from his new Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The recommendation is due to Albany by June 30.
But council members, meeting at Hofstra University on Monday, said the runner-up downtowns could still receive funding for sewer expansion, energy, developments near Long Island Rail Road stations and other projects.
“We have the ability to recommend priority projects” for other state grants and tax credits, said Stuart Rabinowitz, council co-vice chairman and Hofstra president. “It provides an opportunity, if it’s a really good, strong project . . . to maybe smooth out the fact that there will be one downtown in one county” winning $10 million.
Council member Jim Morgo, a former chairman of the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, agreed, saying, “This is going to be very daunting to pick one downtown.”
Communities have until May 20 to email their applications to LIREDC@esd.ny.gov. More information is available at on.ny.gov/1r3LGrI.
“We aren’t looking for you to have a fully-baked list of projects,” said Stephen Ridler, a state planner who is working on the downtown initiative, which will distribute $100 million across the state. “We are looking for what you want to become . . . Tell your story and why we should invest in you.”
He said applications must come from municipalities, not chambers of commerce and other private-sector groups. A downtown’s boundaries should be defined and zoning laws in place to promote development.
Ridler also said the ideal candidate would already have good streets and other infrastructure, be able to accommodate affordable housing and food stores, be home to cultural institutions and attract people from adjacent neighborhoods.
Business owners and advocates for local downtowns were enthusiastic about the state program.
“I’m very glad downtown revitalization is taking priority . . . Main Street businesses are facing fierce competition from the Internet,” said Julie Marchesella, owner of the Queen of Hearts clothing boutique in Merrick and president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce.
Eric Alexander, director of the smart-growth group, Vision Long Island, said the timing is right: “There are over 100 transit-oriented development projects, there are 40 downtowns that are actually approving stuff and another 20 have plans . . . I don’t know how you are going to decide on one.”