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Hempstead takes step forward on downtown 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

Moving one step closer to a $2 billion downtown revitalization, the Hempstead Village board approved a supplementary environmental impact study at Tuesday night's meeting in a 4-1 vote.

"This is another procedural step leading to the revitalization of downtown Hempstead," said special counsel to the village John Kirkpatrick, of White Plains.

The village board will now distribute the approved study -- a supplement to an environmental impact study passed by the board in 2008, it took a deeper look into traffic, parking, and air and stormwater management issues -- online and at the village's library.

Board member Donald Ryan was the sole "no" vote. Ryan has criticized the project previously and, in an interview, said he remains concerned about its potential impact on Hempstead's suburban character. The plan calls for condominiums, co-ops and rentals accommodating various income levels, as well as a hotel, shops, open spaces, parking and entertainment.

"My feeling is that jobs are important, but not synonymous with tall buildings," Ryan said. "As the direction of project goes up, my enthusiasm goes down. I'm for moving forward. I'm not for moving up and up and up."

The next step is a public hearing on the proposed zoning on Tuesday, followed by a vote July 9.

The proposed zoning code states that residents and developers must agree on a community benefits agreement before any new building permits will be issued.

The master developer, Renaissance Downtowns chief executive Donald Monti, said the project's greatest challenges are the village's old sewer and water systems. "It may cost $30 to $50 million to get everything right," he said.

Last year, Hempstead Village received a $5 million state grant to evaluate its sewer systems, and is planning to apply for funds to study its water system.

The revitalization project had stalled in 2007, largely due to concerns about possibly urbanizing the village, and questions about current residents' displacement and gentrification.

To quell these concerns, last month Mayor Wayne Hall set up a community benefits committee with a cross-section of residents to help develop an agreement.

Village officials, community members and developers say that passage of a community benefits agreement will ensure residents have a voice throughout the process and that developers are held accountable after the project is completed.

In an interview, Monti said he hopes the agreement will be in place in 60 to 90 days. The agreement will likely include quotas for local construction jobs and permanent jobs and local contracting opportunities, he said.

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