A recent building boom in Mineola has generated millions of dollars for infrastructure projects, including the $2 million renovation of a park that is set to open Friday.
The contributions from developers approved for building projects have been set aside to pay for costly capital projects. Mineola, with a roughly $20 million annual budget and stuck with a shrinking state tax cap, cannot afford multimillion-dollar capital projects such as a park’s rehabilitation, Mayor Scott Strauss said.
However, with the proceeds of the Development Incentive Bonus fund the village has added an amphitheater, new tennis courts, LED lights and paved walkways to Mineola Memorial Park.
Strauss said that, at first, officials were going to replace the park’s gazebo, damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011. But the project “morphed into something bigger,” and Strauss said he wanted to add a bandshell to the park.
“We would not have been able to do this if we didn’t have these projects coming through,” Strauss said. “What municipality would take a loan out to take $2 million to rehab a park?”
The village has welcomed new development projects to the community, sometimes raising the ire of residents and local school officials, who worried that the pace of development would cause overcrowding in schools. The March village election, in which Strauss and incumbent trustees won re-election, was considered a referendum on the village’s approval of construction projects.
The village board approved the Development Incentive Bonus fund in 2007, when State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) was mayor. Developers’ applications in downtown areas are handled by the village’s board of trustees, instead of multiple land use boards, in exchange for committing funds to the bonus fund. There is no fixed fee or percentage required for donating, officials said, noting there is a negotiation.
Recent developments in the village include the expansion of a Winthrop-University Hospital research center, and the development of residential housing complexes ranging from 20 to 300 units.
Since inception, the village has collected roughly $4.6 million in cash payments for the bonus fund, including $1 million from the Winthrop Research Center project and $3 million for the Modera Mineola housing complex.
Developers have also provided noncash incentive payments totaling roughly $4 million, including the addition of street lighting and senior affordable housing.
“A lot of their projects are coming to fruition at once,” said Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a smart growth nonprofit based in Northport. The renovation of the park is a “public benefit of redevelopment, a direct physical improvement to the downtown area,” Alexander said.
Strauss said the village has plans to build a new gazebo in the park. A series of concerts will take place at the amphitheater, with the first scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. The Cold Spring Harbor Band, a Billy Joel tribute band, will perform.