Roosevelt group renews 10-year push for civic center

Jacob Dixon, chairperson of the Board of Directors

Jacob Dixon, chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Roosevelt Community Revitalization Group, speaks to citizens of Roosevelt at a public meeting on April 16, 2014. (Credit: Johnny Milano)

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A nonprofit community group is trying to renew a long-stalled vision for a civic center in Roosevelt, rallying support from residents and other community leaders.

The Roosevelt Community Revitalization Group for years has been pushing the Town of Hempstead to build an 8,600-square-foot multipurpose facility that would include shared space for nonprofits, and offer commercial and office space to help sustain the operation of the building.

"It's a way to build change here," said group chairman Jacob Dixon, who presented the plan last week to 120 residents at the Roosevelt Fire Department headquarters. "It is a place we could call our own and get together as a people."

The one-story building would offer about 5,000 square feet for offices, conference rooms, work cubicles and a reception and lobby area that could be used by educational, cultural, social and civic nonprofits. The other 3,600 square feet would be available for one large or as many as three small retailers.

"They don't have a recreation center" in Roosevelt, where "there is a need for a place where nonprofits and businesses could come together to provide services to the community," said Erin Thoresen, director of programs for Sustainable Long Island in Farmingdale.

The revitalization group identified a quarter-acre vacant parcel on Nassau Road and Whitehouse Avenue as the potential location for the center. The town-owned land has an appraised value of $335,000, town officials said.

"Our ultimate goal is to get site control," Dixon said. "We're not looking for dollars from the town."

The center was reduced from its original three-story plan to one floor after funds from the Port Washington-based Amy and Horace Hagedorn Foundation dwindled. The foundation set aside $3.5 million in 2007 to launch the project, but after losses attributed to the weak economy, $900,000 is left and the foundation plans to close by 2018.

"We're still very committed to the project," said Liz Axelrod, grants manager for the Hagedorn Foundation. "We took a hit like everyone else."

Sustainable Long Island, the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County in 2002 held community meetings about a visioning plan for Roosevelt, and residents indicated what they wanted most was a community center. More than a decade later, local leaders and residents say they feel the town hasn't responded to their need for a community space.

"The town is dragging its feet," said Barbara Carlisle, a revitalization group board member, who has lived in Roosevelt for more than 40 years. "Everything they have asked for to be submitted has been submitted."

But Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby said the town has not received a formal proposal for the project. She added that under town code, a request-for-proposals process is required since the project involves public land.

Dixon said two separate plans have been given to Goosby.

"I know they are making a lot of noise because they want what they want, but we are not breaking the law," Goosby said, adding town representatives have met with the group to discuss their ideas.

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