Residents and village officials of Hempstead are considering voting to become a city. Proponents argue it would draw millions more in state aid, sales tax and federal funding. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara, Steve Pfost; Kendall Rodriguez

Hempstead Village is vying to become the third city on Long Island, which officials say would allow the municipality to receive millions more in state aid and sales tax revenue.

Village officials on Sept. 6 appointed a 10-person commission to explore the feasibility of incorporating into a city. The committee is charged with drafting a charter that will lay the groundwork for cityhood, but the process could take one to two years to complete, involving public hearings and approvals from state legislators and the governor before a referendum is held.

"There is nothing that has been etched in stone as we explore becoming a city," Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. said at a community forum on Sept. 22. "I said when I became mayor, I was going to do everything I could to get Hempstead the money it deserves."

If the village is successful in its bid, it would create the first new city on Long Island in a century, joining Long Beach and Glen Cove, and could have wide-ranging implications for the community of about 55,000 mostly Black and Hispanic residents. 

Village officials and proponents of cityhood argued that becoming a city could bring millions in additional state funding to reinvest in infrastructure for the new city, while opponents said leaving the Town of Hempstead would eliminate services for residents. If cityhood prevails, it could have major political ramifications by threatening the lone Democratic seat in the town by removing the village from the town's minority district, experts said.

A Newsday analysis of data from village and city budget reports and the state budget division shows that the village of Hempstead could stand to gain millions of dollars as a city because of a funding formula that favors cities and towns over villages. Cities and towns get a larger share of sales tax distributed by the county, while villages only receive a fraction of sales tax revenue.

Nearly every village mayor for the past two decades has attempted cityhood, but none has been able to overcome logistical and political obstacles.

The driving force behind their pursuit, officials said, has been an attempt to gain a greater share of sales tax from Nassau County and funding from a program called Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, known as AIM.

The state has followed a tax formula since 2010 that entitles villages to "no more than one-sixth" of sales tax distributions based on population. Nassau keeps the first 3.5% of its 4.25% sales tax rate and then distributes the remaining 0.75% to towns, cities and villages, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office. Towns and cities receive distributions from one-third of the 0.75% of sales tax.

Hempstead Village has received just under $150,000 annually in sales tax funding from 2018 to 2021, according to village data. By comparison, Long Beach and Glen Cove, both in Nassau, have received between about $1.4 million to about $2 million in sales tax revenue during that period, although both have a smaller tax base of about 30,000 or fewer residents, city data shows. 

Drawing on such comparisons, village officials make the argument that Hempstead as a city could gain millions of dollars. Hobbs, however, did not offer concrete figures, saying the village is still studying projections.

"When I consider this is the largest village in New York, I'm sure based on comparisons, we would look at millions more in revenue," Hobbs said.

Hempstead Village also receives less than $650,000 in annual state, or AIM, funding, compared with about $3 million each year for Long Beach and Glen Cove, state budget division data shows. A state comptroller's report issued in February said the "outdated formula" generally favors cities rather than villages and does not consider demographic or financial status.

As a city, Hempstead could also impose up to a 3% surcharge on property taxes on utilities, additional taxes on restaurant meals and increase a hotel occupancy tax. Hempstead also could see a greater share of state aid under the mortgage recording tax and could shift costs to the state for maintaining village courts and salaries by making court staff state employees, Hobbs told residents during the community meeting.

Village residents now pay $850,000 annually in property taxes to the town, according to the Hempstead Town comptroller's office. They also pay about $63.7 million in village property taxes, in addition to school taxes. If the village becomes a city, residents would no longer have to pay the $850,000 in town taxes, village and town officials said.
"That means more funding for the budget and making sure we have money to address infrastructure and roads," Hobbs said. "We want to have that extra money where we could address those services without any extra burden on the taxpayer." 

Officials did not say how much in additional fees the city could gain. The city charter commission is still determining how incorporating as a city would affect residents' taxes and other cost and revenue projections, Hobbs said.

A new city would continue to operate its own police department, volunteer fire department and garbage collection but would need to offer its own animal control services, Hobbs told Newsday.

Some residents and civic leaders fear cityhood could increase population, gentrify Hempstead and increase residents' costs of living.

Hempstead Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, who represents the village on the town board, worried about the connotations of becoming a city, bringing an influx of people and traffic into the dense village and adding to the already strained school district.

"I live here and I don't want to live in a city. I want to live where I've been most of my life," Goosby said. "They're going to have to face opposition and a lot of people in the village don't want this. If you can't take care of a village, how are you going to provide for a city?”

But the mayor said cityhood would not change the overall suburban culture of the village.

"We want our residents to understand we're not trying to make the village look like Queens or Manhattan," Hobbs said. "It will still have a suburban look and aesthetic of a downtown revitalization with benefits of more revenue to come to the village."

Goosby also expressed concerns that city residents would lose out on town services like parks, beaches and access to senior programs, which are offered through the town.

Village board members acknowledged becoming a city would eliminate some town services but pointed to state parks, beaches and shared services that city residents could use.

A change in Hempstead's status could alter relationships with town and state partners, said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University's National Center for Suburban Studies, and could have political implications for the Democratic component of the otherwise predominantly Republican township.

"There are financial considerations, but also political and personal considerations in how it would change the number of Democrats that participate in town elections and how individual Democrats in the town would be affected in their races," Levy said. “That all goes into the basket of consideration one way or another before they make a decision."

Levy said the one thing that's clear is there will be fewer Democrats voting in town elections by removing the village from the town. He said the city could gain more authority of its operations, but not more representation or influence.

Divorcing from the town would significantly reduce Goosby's town board district.

That means she would no longer represent the village and eliminate the predominantly Black and Latino Democratic village from her 1st District, which also includes Uniondale and Roosevelt. 

Goosby has served as the only Democratic council member for the past two decades and the first and only Black woman to serve on the board, since she brought a civil rights case to create council districts more than 20 years ago. 

But Goosby said she's not worried about her seat.

"I'm not worried about my district. It's a much larger area," Goosby said. "We love this area. We don't need more people coming in to make it impossible to move or walk."

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin has not taken a position on the village's pursuit.

"The Town has a great working relationship with the mayor and the village and we look forward to learning the residents' thoughts on the issue," Clavin said in a statement.

Hempstead trustees have held two community meetings to explain the process to residents. After collecting input, the commission will submit a draft to the village, state legislators and the governor for approval. The village will then hold a referendum for a final vote on whether to incorporate into a city and adopt a new charter, Hobbs said.

Takema Pellot, a commission member and mother of five, said she wants to see her tax dollars stay in Hempstead.

"Hempstead needs to go in a different direction. This is the first time we've been presented as a community with options of where we can go," Pellot said. "I pay the same taxes as Garden City and I don't understand how I can go up the street and my community looks like this."

Petal Scantlebury, also on the commission, said she wants to see the village get additional funding to grow and prosper. 

"I want to see a change in Hempstead, and I hope residents would want to see improvement with who makes the decisions on what funding we get. I think we should be able to progress from what we are," she said. "We will be governing ourselves and wouldn't have to wait for the funds from Albany to be distributed through Nassau." 

Some residents who belong to a civic group called the Hempstead Coalition of Concerned Citizens said they oppose cityhood, citing fears of overcrowding, overdevelopment and tax breaks for developers.

"The money in Hempstead does not compare to Glen Cove and Long Beach," said Bradley Hinton, of Hempstead. "Where is all the money coming from? The taxes are too high right now and there is no transparency in Hempstead. With gentrification, people aren’t going to be able to live here."

Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead) said she supported the village's cityhood bid and has no concerns about leaving the town. She said she has held meetings with residents and would consider drafting state legislation.

"We have a lot of homeowners who feel deprived that they don't get a good return on their investment," Darling said. "People have made so much money off Hempstead's dysfunction. Now they're looking for opportunities for Hempstead to have control of their own operations."

With Arielle Martinez

Hempstead Village is vying to become the third city on Long Island, which officials say would allow the municipality to receive millions more in state aid and sales tax revenue.

Village officials on Sept. 6 appointed a 10-person commission to explore the feasibility of incorporating into a city. The committee is charged with drafting a charter that will lay the groundwork for cityhood, but the process could take one to two years to complete, involving public hearings and approvals from state legislators and the governor before a referendum is held.

"There is nothing that has been etched in stone as we explore becoming a city," Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. said at a community forum on Sept. 22. "I said when I became mayor, I was going to do everything I could to get Hempstead the money it deserves."

If the village is successful in its bid, it would create the first new city on Long Island in a century, joining Long Beach and Glen Cove, and could have wide-ranging implications for the community of about 55,000 mostly Black and Hispanic residents. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Hempstead Village is seeking to become the third city on Long Island, joining Long Beach and Glen Cove.
  • Village officials believe transitioning into a city could draw millions more in sales tax and state aid.
  • Becoming a city would mean leaving the Town of Hempstead. Residents could save $850,000 in town property taxes but they could also lose some town services such as access to parks and beaches.

Village officials and proponents of cityhood argued that becoming a city could bring millions in additional state funding to reinvest in infrastructure for the new city, while opponents said leaving the Town of Hempstead would eliminate services for residents. If cityhood prevails, it could have major political ramifications by threatening the lone Democratic seat in the town by removing the village from the town's minority district, experts said.

A Newsday analysis of data from village and city budget reports and the state budget division shows that the village of Hempstead could stand to gain millions of dollars as a city because of a funding formula that favors cities and towns over villages. Cities and towns get a larger share of sales tax distributed by the county, while villages only receive a fraction of sales tax revenue.

More state aid, sales tax revenue expected

Village Board members appoint members to a city charter commission...

Village Board members appoint members to a city charter commission to study becoming a city. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Nearly every village mayor for the past two decades has attempted cityhood, but none has been able to overcome logistical and political obstacles.

The driving force behind their pursuit, officials said, has been an attempt to gain a greater share of sales tax from Nassau County and funding from a program called Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, known as AIM.

The state has followed a tax formula since 2010 that entitles villages to "no more than one-sixth" of sales tax distributions based on population. Nassau keeps the first 3.5% of its 4.25% sales tax rate and then distributes the remaining 0.75% to towns, cities and villages, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office. Towns and cities receive distributions from one-third of the 0.75% of sales tax.

Hempstead Village has received just under $150,000 annually in sales tax funding from 2018 to 2021, according to village data. By comparison, Long Beach and Glen Cove, both in Nassau, have received between about $1.4 million to about $2 million in sales tax revenue during that period, although both have a smaller tax base of about 30,000 or fewer residents, city data shows. 

Drawing on such comparisons, village officials make the argument that Hempstead as a city could gain millions of dollars. Hobbs, however, did not offer concrete figures, saying the village is still studying projections.

"When I consider this is the largest village in New York, I'm sure based on comparisons, we would look at millions more in revenue," Hobbs said.

Hempstead Village also receives less than $650,000 in annual state, or AIM, funding, compared with about $3 million each year for Long Beach and Glen Cove, state budget division data shows. A state comptroller's report issued in February said the "outdated formula" generally favors cities rather than villages and does not consider demographic or financial status.

As a city, Hempstead could also impose up to a 3% surcharge on property taxes on utilities, additional taxes on restaurant meals and increase a hotel occupancy tax. Hempstead also could see a greater share of state aid under the mortgage recording tax and could shift costs to the state for maintaining village courts and salaries by making court staff state employees, Hobbs told residents during the community meeting.

Village residents now pay $850,000 annually in property taxes to the town, according to the Hempstead Town comptroller's office. They also pay about $63.7 million in village property taxes, in addition to school taxes. If the village becomes a city, residents would no longer have to pay the $850,000 in town taxes, village and town officials said.
"That means more funding for the budget and making sure we have money to address infrastructure and roads," Hobbs said. "We want to have that extra money where we could address those services without any extra burden on the taxpayer." 

Officials did not say how much in additional fees the city could gain. The city charter commission is still determining how incorporating as a city would affect residents' taxes and other cost and revenue projections, Hobbs said.

A new city would continue to operate its own police department, volunteer fire department and garbage collection but would need to offer its own animal control services, Hobbs told Newsday.

Drawbacks to breaking away

Some residents and civic leaders fear cityhood could increase population, gentrify Hempstead and increase residents' costs of living.

Hempstead Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, who represents the village on the town board, worried about the connotations of becoming a city, bringing an influx of people and traffic into the dense village and adding to the already strained school district.

"I live here and I don't want to live in a city. I want to live where I've been most of my life," Goosby said. "They're going to have to face opposition and a lot of people in the village don't want this. If you can't take care of a village, how are you going to provide for a city?”

But the mayor said cityhood would not change the overall suburban culture of the village.

"We want our residents to understand we're not trying to make the village look like Queens or Manhattan," Hobbs said. "It will still have a suburban look and aesthetic of a downtown revitalization with benefits of more revenue to come to the village."

Goosby also expressed concerns that city residents would lose out on town services like parks, beaches and access to senior programs, which are offered through the town.

Village board members acknowledged becoming a city would eliminate some town services but pointed to state parks, beaches and shared services that city residents could use.

A change in Hempstead's status could alter relationships with town and state partners, said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University's National Center for Suburban Studies, and could have political implications for the Democratic component of the otherwise predominantly Republican township.

"There are financial considerations, but also political and personal considerations in how it would change the number of Democrats that participate in town elections and how individual Democrats in the town would be affected in their races," Levy said. “That all goes into the basket of consideration one way or another before they make a decision."

Levy said the one thing that's clear is there will be fewer Democrats voting in town elections by removing the village from the town. He said the city could gain more authority of its operations, but not more representation or influence.

Divorcing from the town would significantly reduce Goosby's town board district.

That means she would no longer represent the village and eliminate the predominantly Black and Latino Democratic village from her 1st District, which also includes Uniondale and Roosevelt. 

Goosby has served as the only Democratic council member for the past two decades and the first and only Black woman to serve on the board, since she brought a civil rights case to create council districts more than 20 years ago. 

But Goosby said she's not worried about her seat.

"I'm not worried about my district. It's a much larger area," Goosby said. "We love this area. We don't need more people coming in to make it impossible to move or walk."

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin has not taken a position on the village's pursuit.

"The Town has a great working relationship with the mayor and the village and we look forward to learning the residents' thoughts on the issue," Clavin said in a statement.

Residents, others weigh in

Hempstead trustees have held two community meetings to explain the process to residents. After collecting input, the commission will submit a draft to the village, state legislators and the governor for approval. The village will then hold a referendum for a final vote on whether to incorporate into a city and adopt a new charter, Hobbs said.

Takema Pellot, a commission member and mother of five, said she wants to see her tax dollars stay in Hempstead.

"Hempstead needs to go in a different direction. This is the first time we've been presented as a community with options of where we can go," Pellot said. "I pay the same taxes as Garden City and I don't understand how I can go up the street and my community looks like this."

Petal Scantlebury, also on the commission, said she wants to see the village get additional funding to grow and prosper. 

"I want to see a change in Hempstead, and I hope residents would want to see improvement with who makes the decisions on what funding we get. I think we should be able to progress from what we are," she said. "We will be governing ourselves and wouldn't have to wait for the funds from Albany to be distributed through Nassau." 

Some residents who belong to a civic group called the Hempstead Coalition of Concerned Citizens said they oppose cityhood, citing fears of overcrowding, overdevelopment and tax breaks for developers.

"The money in Hempstead does not compare to Glen Cove and Long Beach," said Bradley Hinton, of Hempstead. "Where is all the money coming from? The taxes are too high right now and there is no transparency in Hempstead. With gentrification, people aren’t going to be able to live here."

Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead) said she supported the village's cityhood bid and has no concerns about leaving the town. She said she has held meetings with residents and would consider drafting state legislation.

"We have a lot of homeowners who feel deprived that they don't get a good return on their investment," Darling said. "People have made so much money off Hempstead's dysfunction. Now they're looking for opportunities for Hempstead to have control of their own operations."

With Arielle Martinez

Latest videos