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Plans for artists' space in Amityville have stalled, officials say

Plans for an income-restricted development with apartments and studio space for artists in Amityville Village's downtown have stalled, village officials and the potential developer said.

Officials said this week they have been unable to find a suitable parcel for development and money to fund the Artspace project.

"We just are sort of floundering right now," downtown revitalization committee chair Tom Howard said.

The delay of the project is a blow to the hopes of Amityville residents and officials alike who saw a chance for a renaissance of their fiscally struggling village.

Village board meetings and an information meeting on Artspace at the high school auditorium last November drew hundreds of supporters who pointed to neighborhoods of Brooklyn and even Patchogue, where Minneapolis-based nonprofit developer Artspace built an $18 million live-work building in 2011, as proof that art could catalyze commerce and community growth.

But, while low-income tax credits and grants would have ultimately funded much of the possible multimillion dollar project, Amityville would have had to raise about $750,000 for pre-construction costs, Howard said.

Village officials said they sought grant money and asked Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, a village resident, for help, but had been unsuccessful.

In a statement Thursday, Gregory's spokeswoman said he was willing to help but there must be a clear plan for the project before that funding can be secured.

Private contributions funded most of the $15,000 that Artspace charged for a feasibility study last year. Mayor James Wandell announced in February that the village would move ahead with a $30,000 study of the project.

Even that relatively modest commitment was difficult to justify given continued unease over village finances and an unexpected bill for $1.3 million in separation pay after the retirement this year of four police officers, including the department chief and his second-in-command, Wandell said.

Trustees say they are gradually improving village finances and shrinking a $256,000 deficit, but other projects, like road and lighting improvements, compete for money and attention.

"It's our fiscal condition that limits us," Wandell said.

Officials confronted a similar Catch-22 in attempting to find a suitable parcel for development for Artspace.

Some of the best spaces downtown that are within walking distance of the railroad and large enough for multiunit living and commercial development are privately owned and too expensive. Municipally owned options are also limited.

"There's a lot by the library, but to give up that lot, which is a pretty big lot, would hamper our parking," Wandell said. "We're trying to get downtown back, and Artspace, I believe, would help, but at the same time if cars can't come into the village, then we have another problem."

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