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Rally for jobs, housing in Hempstead project

Demononstrators at a rally at Village Hall in

Demononstrators at a rally at Village Hall in Hempstead for a Community Benefits Agreement that creates jobs. (Sept. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

About 100 Hempstead Village residents, workers and business owners rallied outside village hall Tuesday, repeating their demands that the community benefits agreement for the $2 billion downtown redevelopment plan incorporate contracts for local businesses, and jobs and housing for local residents.

"The people united will never be defeated," chanted members of the Community Benefits for Hempstead Coalition, a consortium of village community organizations.

Community activists, business owners and residents have demanded that the agreement -- being negotiated by village officials and the project's developer -- create jobs and provide income-tiered affordable housing for residents, and protect current small business owners and residents from potential displacement.

"This project is all about making Hempstead a better place to live," Mayor Wayne J. Hall, Sr. said in response, adding the goal is to have the community benefits agreement completed by Oct. 2. "We are not going to do any eminent domain, displacing any residents or businesses."

Developers and village officials also said the overlay zoning code approved in July mandates that the agreement be in place before any new building permits are issued. They also reiterated that a portion of the 3,500 permanent and 10,000 construction jobs expected to be created by the project would go to local residents.

"The CBA is being worked on and it is almost finished," said Al Forde, chairman of the village's Community Benefits Agreement executive board charged by Hall with crafting the formal agreement, as he watched the rally outside Village Hall. "The average CBA takes two years, but because of this we are speeding it up."

The redevelopment plan, led by master developer Renaissance Downtowns along with UrbanAmerica Advisors, offers a combination of condominiums, co-ops and rental apartments accommodating various income levels. It also includes a hotel, shops, open spaces, parking and entertainment.

Hall and Donald Monti, chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, said they blame outsiders for "instilling fear in residents."

"It is always going to be a downtown with mom-and-pop shops," said Monti, who was at Village Hall. "We are not going to get big box stores here."

An evaluation of the village's aging sewer system along Main Street is expected to begin within two weeks, said Sean McLean, vice president of development and planning for Renaissance Downtowns. A report is expected to be completed at the end of October, he said.

Last year, the village received $5 million in state grant funds for the assessment, after citing the downtown revitalization project's potential impact on the sewage system.

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