Developers want to build three apartment buildings on a blighted lot behind the West Hempstead LIRR station, seeking to boost ridership and preserve local rail service.
Commack developer Heatherwood Luxury Rentals is asking the Town of Hempstead to rezone two properties off Hempstead Avenue, between Westminster Road and Broad Street, from business to residential.
The rezoning, which the Town Board will vote on at a future meeting, would allow developers to build 428 apartments on about nine acres behind the West Hempstead train station.
Heatherwood’s Uniondale attorney, Bill Bonesso, said the $170 million project would build the apartments on two vacant parcels at the site of the former Wholesale Liquidators, which is buttressed by many vacant storefronts.
"Both properties in their current state are blighted parcels. They’re unsightly, they’re underutilized and the assessed value is decreasing every year," Bonesso said.
The apartments would range from studios to 3-bedroom units in two three-story buildings and one four-story building. Developers say the buildings meet zoning requirements and would offer more than 750 parking spaces in an on-site lot and basement garage.
Developers said the additional apartment units could revitalize the community and local businesses while increasing ridership and preserving the waning West Hempstead Long Island Rail Road station.
"This project is an opportunity for this area to make a big change and revitalize the blight with much needed housing. Clearly this type of housing is needed near mass transit, to generate new business for local retail facilities and even help retain the West Hempstead rail station, which is in jeopardy due to declining ridership," Bonesso said. "This is a true opportunity to significantly improve the area and the surrounding community."
Aaron Donovan, MTA deputy communications director, said: "We welcome opportunities for developers and communities to partner with us in early stages of planning transit-oriented development, to best ensure we can support each other."
Despite the pandemic and the fiscal challenges it created for the LIRR, the railroad took pride in developing service plans to meet the needs of essential workers across Long Island, Donovan said.
Heatherwood president Christopher Capece said developers planned to seek scheduled tax payments in a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, from the Hempstead Industrial Development Agency.
Apartment rents would range from $2,000 to $4,000, officials said. Developers argued the vacant property would not attract new retail, so apartments are a sorely needed fit for the community.
Capece said the new development would bring additional commuters and make an argument to maintain service on the West Hempstead rail line.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said he wanted assurances the West Hempstead LIRR branch would be maintained.
"I want to make sure the LIRR keeps up their end of the bargain and doesn’t cut the legs out from under us," Clavin said.
Developers said the project was not expected to increase traffic or affect parking and would not add to the local school district.
The Town Board reserved a decision before voting on the project, but there was no opposition at last week’s hearing.
Developers have met about the planned apartments with several local civic associations, who have signed petitions supporting the project, as well as local carpenters and building associations.
"This will transform a very blighted area in need of desperate help," said Rosalee Norton, a West Hempstead resident of 54 years. "I hope the board expedites the process so we don’t have to look at that blighted property longer than we have to."
West Hempstead development
- Proposed $170 million project to build 428 apartments
- Built on nine-acres behind the LIRR Station
- Awaiting Town Board approval