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Residents support Hempstead downtown project

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

More than 100 residents of Hempstead Village passionately spoke in support of moving forward with a $2 billion downtown revitalization project, at a special public meeting Monday night.

The meeting was intended to allow residents to provide input on the supplemental environmental impact study conducted by the village and Renaissance Downtown, the Plainview-based master contractor for the project. The village board of trustees will consider approval and adoption of the study at a meeting Tuesday night.

Most speakers said they would rather move on with the project than let it become stalled by debate over smaller details.

"We don't want to see another Brooklyn or Manhattan," Village of Hempstead Housing Authority Board of Commissioners chairman Cornell Bozier said. "We do want to see Hempstead developed. We need to sit down and decide what we need, how much of it that we need and let's go from there. It hurts me growing up here to see what Hempstead has become."

Attendees included members of a village committee given the task of seeking input from residents in order to form an agreement between community members and developers.

"No site plan will be reviewed and no building permit will be issued until such time as a community benefit agreement is in place," Renaissance Downtown chief executive Donald Monti said.

Another Renaissance official said that developers are looking at "sustainable green-building practices" to reduce the carbon footprint of the proposed project.

Residents said they were most concerned about the project's potential impact on the village's water, sewage and parking, as well as the heights of the buildings.

Last year, Hempstead Village received $5 million in state grant funds for an evaluation of its sewer system. Sean McLean, vice president of development and planning for Renaissance, said the village will apply this year for money to study its water system.

Carrie O'Farrell, one of the preparers of the environmental impact study, said the village has a 10-million-gallon daily water capacity and uses 7.5 million gallons per day. The revitalization project will add an additional 1.1 million gallons of water per day according to O'Farrell, who works at the Melville-based environmental planning firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis.

Several residents said they were concerned there would not be enough parking.

Several youths from the village spoke about their hopes for the project, particularly a community arts center that has been proposed on the website renewhempstead.com, which is a crowdsourcing partnership between developers and village members.

"I'm actually leaving Hempstead to attend college," said Xavier Shorter, a graduating senior at Hempstead High School. "There's nothing here to keep my interest. Why is that? All I see up and down my street are underutilized buildings, debris . . . We need a positive change."

Shorter said residents "need to understand that it's not just about them, or how tall or narrow the buildings should be. It's the impact on the youth. It's about pride in our village, being proud of where we come from. This is a chance for Hempstead to be as vibrant as it used to be."

Though the comment period on the environmental impact study closed on June 11, Monti said he and other officials will meet with any resident or business owner who has concerns or ideas about the project.

A public zoning meeting is scheduled for June 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hempstead Village Library.

Hall indicated at the meeting that the June 26 date may be rescheduled, as it is the same day as the state's presidential primary.

Though Renaissance has conducted outreach with several local businesses, several residents affiliated with a local chapter of the advocacy group New York Communities for Change urged the company to increase its efforts.

"The environmental impact study wasn't written in Spanish," village resident Sarah Mitchell said. "This is especially problematic because a substantial population " speaks Spanish, Mitchell said.

Village officials said they fulfilled their legal obligations and that the study is available online.

"This project has been in the works for seven years," Mayor Wayne Hall said. "We had the environmental impact study out almost three weeks . . . I'm not extending the comment period . I'm not putting it in Spanish. We're moving forward."

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