Westbury beat out 20 Long Island rivals to win a $10 million award to amplify the revival of its downtown, officials said on Thursday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo handed village officials an oversize replica of the check in The Space at Westbury. The former movie theater-turned-performing arts complex has become a linchpin of attempts to reanimate Post Avenue with new businesses after its own $10 million overhaul.
“The thrust for us is always economic development . . . if you’re developing jobs, that basically is the engine that pulls the train,” Cuomo said.
Preventing older suburban cities, towns, and villages from withering means attracting employers and skilled workers by offering affordable housing located near mass transit links, officials said.
“If you show me a downtown that is incentivized and growing, that is where the jobs are going to grow,” Cuomo said.
His Long Island announcement mirrored appearances Wednesday, when he also handed out $10 million grants from his new $100 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative to three upstate communities.
Over the last decade, Westbury officials have spruced up the village’s downtown, which stretches along Post Avenue from the Northern State Parkway to Old Country Road. There are new storefronts, lampposts and planting, and about 600 apartments near the Long Island Rail Road station.
Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said the new money would help it achieve a more prosperous future, possibly through expanded parking and multifamily housing:
“It really gives you a big impetus to get this done.”
The award will pay for as much as $300,000 to tap private-sector experts to assist local planners in devising a strategic investment plan by early 2017 that will “identify specific economic development, transportation, and housing and community projects,” Cuomo’s statement said.
Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said: “We can position this region for long-term growth and success — and that’s what this initiative is all about.”
Westbury has followed a selective approach in its revival. A year ago, it blocked a proposed gambling palace on Old Country Road, arguing that would have rolled back the positive developments on Post Avenue in recent years.
The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, a panel appointed by Cuomo, judged the applications for the grant based on criteria including their pursuit of transit hub development and proximity to workforces, for example, said council co-vice chairman Kevin Law, who also is president of the Long Island Association business group. “Westbury stood out,” Law said, declining to identify the runner-up.
A Cuomo spokesman by email said no decision had been made on whether to hold the competition again next year. If it is repeated, Law would like to see even more Long Island downtowns enter. “The question is why didn’t certain cities, towns and villages apply?” he asked.
Law urged the runners-up to apply by the July 29 deadline for funding for individual building projects as part of the 2016 Regional Economic Development Councils competition. Up to $750 million in state tax credits and grants is available.