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Firms finalizing Uniondale revitalization plan

From left to right, Dolores Spagnoli, Heidi Sanft,

From left to right, Dolores Spagnoli, Heidi Sanft, both of Uniondale and volunteers for the Nostrand Gardens Civic Association, who water flowers that were planted for the beautification plan with Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Uniondale. (July 27, 2012) Credit: Heather Walsh

Uniondale community leaders can see it: brick-paved walkways, Victorian streetlights, benches, decorative lighting, uniform storefronts and more trees for the hamlet's business corridors.

That vision is moving closer to reality.

For almost a year, residents, community leaders, professional planners, Hempstead Town and Nassau County officials, and Hofstra University have been working on a plan for Uniondale's future.

"We are looking for Uniondale to be a bedroom community like it was in the past in terms of being a hub," said civic leader and Chamber of Commerce second vice president Sherry Boucarut, adding that the hamlet's working-class community has struggled with crime and vacant storefronts.

"The Uniondale community deserves the best sustainable project," she said. "I love my Uniondale."

The purpose of the plan is to identify the community's priorities over the next 25 years. A draft report is being refined with input from three community meetings held since September.

"When you do a visioning, you allow them to come up with ideas," said town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, who represents the area, adding that residents requested the plan.

Goals in the draft plan include revitalizing the business district, streetscaping, redeveloping vacant and underutilized properties, and strengthening ties with Hofstra University.

"We have a close relationship to Uniondale, but we are always looking for ways to enrich it," said Hofstra spokeswoman Melissa Connolly, adding that its students volunteer in the community, events are discounted or free for residents, and local businesses participate in economic development programs on campus.

The draft plan also proposes to create commercial area design guidelines and establish new zoning districts.

"I think the visioning for Uniondale is way overdue," said Pearl Jacobs, vice president of Nostrand Gardens Civic Association. She said the civic group has been advocating for a plan for five years. "We are in dire need of face-lifting."

Consultants from Hauppauge-based VHB Engineering & Planning and Hofstra's Scott Skodnek Business Development Center are finalizing the report for a $102,000 fee, the cost split between the town and Nassau County, said town spokeswoman Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky. No release date has been set, she said.

"This is moving at a snail's pace and we want this to be expedited," Jacobs said. "Enough of the meetings. We already told them what we want. Now, we want to see something visible."

While they wait, Heidi Sanft, co-chair of Nostrand Gardens' beautification team, said her group already is sprucing up the community. It has placed 71 planters and 33 decorative receptacles and planted more than 1,000 flowers since 2009 on the sidewalks of Uniondale's business corridors -- Uniondale Avenue, Front Street and Jerusalem Avenue. About 30 volunteers water the plants three times a week.

"What we do in Uniondale is a labor of love," Sanft said, "because we want the community to turn around."

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