Developers and planners envision a vibrant new Hicksville, anchored by a sprawling mixed-use development at the former Sears property, but some area residents worry the changes will exacerbate Long Island’s perennial traffic problems.
At a hearing last week in Oyster Bay for special-use permits for the proposed development, supporters and opponents raised concerns about traffic.
"This project is going to create a traffic nightmare," Hicksville resident Michael Heyer told the Town Board via video from the town athletic center in Hicksville. "Traffic from the Hicksville railroad station, LIE and Northern State, it’s already very congested and it's going only to get worse."
Seritage Growth Properties wants to build "Heritage Village," a development with 425 apartments, retail and office space, a movie theater, grocery store and parking on the 26.4-acre site.
As part of the environmental review process, the developer hired VHB, an East Coast engineering firm with an office in Hauppauge, to study the project’s impact on traffic. It concluded that with proper mitigation and site planning, increased traffic "can be accommodated."
During the hearing, Patrick Lenihan, VHB’s director of transportation, said the mix of residential, office and retail spaces won’t produce traffic in the same way a single-use development would.
"The presence of this variety of uses on a single site has positive effects on a site’s operation related to traffic and parking due to an interaction that occurs between uses on a single site," Lenihan said.
Office workers and residents would patronize restaurants and stores in the development, eliminating trips that would otherwise be made off site, he said.
"Multiple uses on a site also work to smooth out traffic peaks and better balance directional flow of traffic so that it is more easily accommodated," Lenihan said.
Mitigation projects include building two additional lanes on the access road north of the Long Island Expressway that intersects with Route 106/107, reconfiguring the timing of traffic lights to keep traffic moving smoothly, new pedestrian traffic signals and creating exclusive turn lanes on Newbridge Road and West John Street.
The traffic study noted that other planned or proposed developments in the area would also increase traffic.
Lenihan’s assurances left many residents unconvinced.
"The traffic on 107 and Newbridge Road is horrendous … and it will only get worse if this goes through," Neil Johnson, of Hicksville, told the board.
Joseph Shaulys, 78, a retired lab worker from Hicksville, said the proposed project would be a "blight" on the neighborhood he’s lived in since 1968.
"I moved into a lovely suburban area," Shaulys said, adding that the proposal "makes the town look like Brooklyn."
Other neighbors of the proposed development anticipate its presence.
Richard Pfaender said he has lived two blocks from the site since 1976 and that the project would be an "economic boost" to the community.
"I support the concept of a self-contained, self-sustaining village in the hamlet of Hicksville," Pfaender said. "Let’s bring life back to this dormant site."
The Town Board will accept written testimony from the public for about 50 more days.