Hempstead to seek new developer for Elmont

Pat Nicolosi stands at the 2.9-acre property on Pat Nicolosi stands at the 2.9-acre property on Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road where the Argo Theater property is located. (Dec. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Hempstead Town will begin searching next month for a new developer of the former Argo Theater property in Elmont -- after the old developer pulled out, disappointing community activists who said nothing was done at the blighted site.

The town board selected RD Management Llc in July 2011 to develop the 2.9-acre site and adjacent properties on Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road. Initial plans called for a 35,000-square-foot supermarket, but the Manhattan-based company withdrew from the project last summer, town spokesman Michael Deery said.

"I think we caught them [RD Management] with their pants down, because we found out the old developer is not going to develop the property," said Pat Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Association. "Nothing is happening in Elmont, even though they tell us otherwise. This just sickens me."

When asked about the project, RD Management vice president Robert Grossman said, "I don't know what you're talking about," adding that the company usually does not "disclose any information." He later referred questions to president Rick Birdoff, who did not respond to requests for comment.

The town will release a request for proposals in January seeking developers interested in building the supermarket and/or proposing other uses for the site in Elmont's business corridor, Deery said.

"We'll aggressively move forward and continue to press to have a successful renewal project take place there," Deery said.

The news left despondent some community leaders who had supported development plans for the theater opened in 1950 about a half-mile from Belmont Park racetrack. RD Management beat out two other bidders interested in developing the property.

The town board adopted an urban renewal plan for Elmont in March 2010 that called for acquisition of four properties on the site and the demolition and relocation of existing businesses there in order to redevelop the area. The site's four property owners objected to the plan.

Under the plan, the developer would have had to negotiate the purchase of those properties. If no agreement could be reached, the town could have deemed the properties blighted or underused and seized them under eminent domain.

"It's a shame that we have gone through this process" and no work at the site has begun, said Sandra Smith, chair of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development.

Despite the recent setback, Smith said she is still looking forward to the redevelopment of the area.

"It is still a project that is moving forward as far as what the community wants to see there," Smith said.

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