If there's one thing Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall wants Long Islanders to know, it's to forget what they've heard about his village.
"There's many times where you hear all these things that are bad about my village, but this is shedding good light on Hempstead," Hall said as he accepted the award for government leadership at Vision Long Island's Smart Growth Awards on Friday. "There are good things going on in Hempstead, and I'm going to see them through."
For Hall, the award was welcome praise for nearly a decade of effort revamping Hempstead Village's downtown, a controversial $2.5 billion project expected to begin this summer.
Hall was among 11 officials and community leaders the smart growth advocacy group honored for their work at its 14th annual awards at Crest Hollow Country Club. More than 900 government, business and community leaders turned out for the ceremony, which featured addresses by county executives Edward Mangano of Nassau and Steve Bellone of Suffolk.
Winners included the Village of Northport and Suffolk County, which shared the environmental award for work on the Northport Sewage Treatment Plant. Valley Stream's Brook Point residential complex and North Amityville's Liberty Village center for homeless veteran housing were recognized in the housing choices category. And the Village of Port Jefferson was credited for its master plan, which prioritizes pedestrian access, open space and diverse housing options.
"It's really difficult for a small community to put it all together in one document, but we've been working hard on it, and we're really excited about the recognition," said Margot Garant, Port Jefferson Village mayor.
More than 50 of Long Island's 103 business districts have downtown revitalization projects underway, and the selection committee sorted through 45 nominations for the 11 awards. Only four of the awards went to individuals, while the rest focused on group projects.
Jorge Martinez, Freeport deputy mayor and winner of the community leadership award, said the awards are a good tool to inspire neighbors to take note of what others are doing and to collaborate on projects.
"We forget that right next door, good things or bad things are happening," he said. "Long Island is a great place, and we have to start getting more creative, and we have to start working together."