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Rezoning proposed near Inwood and Lawrence LIRR stations

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman tours the neighborhood

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman tours the neighborhood near the Lawrence LIRR station. Credit: Johnny Milano

A rezoning proposal in the works in the Town of Hempstead could bring walkable, affordable neighborhoods filled with hundreds of new apartments to derelict areas north of the Inwood and Lawrence train stations, backers of the initiative say.

The project areas — which extend north from the train stations along Doughty Boulevard and Lawrence Avenue, respectively — host a hodgepodge of low-rise industrial buildings, commercial yards and housing. In their place, the new zoning code, if approved by the Hempstead Town Board, would allow for buildings of up to five stories and 60 units per acre next to the train stations, receding to three stories and 14 units per acre farther from the transit hubs.

"They're good communities, but because of haphazard zoning … [they] have far too much industrial and commercial mixed in with residential, which has created virtually a ghost town after sundown and has created public safety issues and has created blight," said Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman, who represents the area and is spearheading the initiative. "The only way to correct that is to completely rezone."

Ten to 20 percent of the units would be affordable, with prices ranging from 60 to 100 percent of the area median income, according to documents provided by the town. Area residents, especially service members and firefighters, would have a preference among applicants for the affordable units, which Blakeman said would appeal to millennials and seniors in particular.

David Hance, president of the Inwood Civic Association, said he supports the initiative, as do most of the local residents with whom he's discussed it.

"We're pretty excited about it," he said. "The area definitely needs to be revitalized."

Hance said he has heard some concerns that the new development could increase the cost of living and push out   residents, but he noted the preference for locals in the affordable units.

Citing previous downtown revitalization projects in Farmingdale, Bay Shore and elsewhere on Long Island, Blakeman said the rezoning, if followed by new development, could increase property values and tax revenue, especially for schools.

Eric Alexander, the director of Vision Long Island, a Northport-based smart-growth planning group, noted the location's proximity to New York City. The rezoning proposal "makes perfect sense," he said.

The town has hired Cameron Engineering & Associates of Woodbury to draft the new section of the zoning code.

At a town board meeting earlier this month, Supervisor Laura Gillen expressed concern that the town had increased the town contract with the company from $95,750 to $275,250. She said the budget line to pay the fee contained only $25,000.

"I'm very much in support of transit-oriented development," she said. "What I'm not in favor of is sloppy accounting."

Blakeman said the contract amount grew because the town increased the company's scope of work from studying the proposal to actually producing the new code section.

He said he hopes the rezoning will be completed and go before the town board for a public hearing and a vote this summer.

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