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Group gathers ideas on revitalization plan

An artist's rendering of the proposed development on

An artist's rendering of the proposed development on North Main Street in Hempstead Village. Credit: Handout

A coalition of community activists promised Hempstead Village residents their voices will be heard in the forging of an agreement between the community and the developer of a $2-billion downtown revitalization project.

Members of New York Communities for Change huddled with more than 100 concerned village residents at a local restaurant on Wednesday night to gather public input on the decade-long project being managed by Renaissance Downtowns of Plainview.

Coalition representatives said they will use the input to form a list of benefits they want included in a pending agreement between Renaissance and the community.

Some worried that housing promised by the project would not be affordable enough.

Hofstra University professor Christopher Niedt, invited by the coalition to analyze the special downtown overlay zoning the town approved Tuesday, questioned whether the housing costs would be manageable for residents.

The plan calls for 10 percent of new housing to be affordable to households making 80 percent to 130 percent of village median income, or between $43,928 and $71,383.

Sean McLean, a Renaissance official at the meeting, disputed Niedt's conclusions, saying the census tract he used is "misleading" and imprecise.

Coalition members said they would like the agreement to increase the percentage of affordable housing to 35 percent.

The formal agreement is being crafted by a 29-member village committee appointed by village Mayor Wayne J. Hall.

Committee member Reginald Benjamin, executive director of ABBA Leadership Center, suggested that a third of the expected 10,000 construction jobs go to local residents, as well as a significant portion of the projected 3,500 permanent jobs.

George Siberon, executive director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association, said the job-training program -- included in the master developer agreement -- must begin immediately to ensure that "local minority contractors have a fair chance to work on this project."

Committee chairman Al Forde and member Charles Renfroe said they will consider and vet the ideas suggested by the coalition. The village committee plans to hold public hearings to gather more input, likely starting in early August.

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