Hempstead Village officials have expressed reservations about the location of the first building proposed as part of the $2 billion downtown redevelopment project, concerns that led the village board earlier this week to put off a vote on a $107,000 contract with a local nonprofit for a jobs and business referral center.
The board decided Tuesday to table a vote on a consulting agreement that calls for Hempstead-based ABBA Leadership Center to receive a $25,000 advance and $6,818 a month to fund the start-up.
"I'm pretty shocked and confused as to why this contract was delayed again," said ABBA executive director Reginald Benjamin, who has been preparing residents, some with criminal records, to fill some of the 10,000 construction jobs expected to be created by the revitalization project. Twenty-five percent of those jobs are to be offered first to village residents.
ABBA's contract as currently written is tied to the fate of the redevelopment project's first building -- if the site plan is rejected, the ABBA contract is terminated. Some village trustees said they were uneasy with that linkage and with the site plan itself.
Master developer Renaissance Downtown UrbanAmerica has proposed to construct a 349-unit, five-story rental apartment building on a heavily used village-owned parking lot at Washington and Front streets, across from Hempstead Town Hall. But developers have argued there is an adjacent parking garage that is underutilized.
Trustee Donald Ryan said at Tuesday's meeting he wants to approve the contract but reject the site plan. The site plan, he said, "doesn't need to be part of this agreement."
But village attorney Debra Urbano-DiSalvo said approval of the site plan would allow the village to collect zoning fees that will help fund the jobs and business referral center and an associated local contracting referral center.
"Unfortunately, this is the only way to fund the centers," Urbano-DiSalvo said.
The proposed contract requires ABBA to work with Crescent Consulting, a Peekskill-based minority-owned management consulting services firm that would run the local contracting referral center. Village Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. said at the meeting that some trustees want to interview the candidates before approving the contract.
"You had four days to meet with me before this meeting, so why didn't that happen?" said Benjamin, referring to the contract's presence on the board's online agenda the previous Friday.
"If necessary, we will hold a special meeting to get them on [the agenda] as soon as possible," Hall said.
Brandon A. Palanker, Renaissance Downtown's vice president of marketing and public affairs, said the company will work with the village to "move forward expeditiously" to start construction in the coming months.