New Hyde Park officials to draw drivers in

Joseph DePaulis photographed outside of his New Hyde Joseph DePaulis photographed outside of his New Hyde Park pizzeria, Ginos, on Jericho Turnpike. (June 1, 2013) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

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Five years ago, Joseph DePaulis launched a plan he hoped would get drivers whizzing past his Jericho Turnpike pizza shop in New Hyde Park to slow down, stop and maybe shop.

He put up bright red lights and a circular cursive "G" sign, poking from the store's facade. Drivers couldn't miss it, he figured.

Now DePaulis is getting help from the village and state in drawing more foot traffic -- and business -- to downtown.

The state plans to repave 6.3 miles of Jericho Turnpike, from the Queens border of Nassau County to Glen Cove Road. The $21.6 million project involves safety upgrades, officials said, such as new right- and left-turn lanes, pedestrian countdown signals, and raised medians.

Village officials plan to add "traffic calming" and streetscaping, including curb extensions; freshly bricked paved walkways; and plants and flowers, trustee Donald Barbieri said.

"You have to be noticed," said DePaulis, who has owned Gino's Pizzeria since 2004. Before he installed his lights, people speeding down Jericho were "definitely going to miss us."

Village officials expect bids from construction companies to come in this week for the village portion of the project. About 80 percent of the funding is expected to come from federal grant money -- up to $1.4 million -- the village recently received, Barbieri said.

"People believe this is a highway," said Anthony Lopez, an assistant manager of Umberto's Pizzeria and Restaurant on Jericho Turnpike. With new safety measures, Lopez said, "They'll notice the local businesses; maybe they'll stop."

The village project, dubbed "Operation Main Street," has been years in the making. Barbieri said that in the mid-2000s the village began remaking sidewalks with bricks.

New Hyde Park is among many Long Island communities that have long grappled with ways to revitalize downtowns. Several have approved new performing arts centers, while others have sought high-end retail stores or mixed-use retail and apartment complexes.

But New Hyde Park's revitalization is distinct, officials say. "The traffic passing through is faster than a lot of the local Main Streets; that's something that they must overcome," said Tom Savino, whose Plainview-based Vision Accomplished Inc. is consulting with the village.

"They don't need to grow their residential base, they need to slow things down and make it more amenable for those that are coming through," he said.

Jennifer Larsen, who owns a dance studio on Jericho Turnpike, said the four-lane road is difficult for pedestrians to cross, and she has seen "an accident a week" involving vehicles outside her shop.

Still, some residents were skeptical that new measures would result in a more walkable downtown.

"It's very congested," said Neena Koehler, 48, who lives several blocks from Jericho Turnpike. "I don't think this is going to be something where people could just hang out and walk around. Too busy."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect title for Anthony Lopez.

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