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Uniondale Avenue getting new sidewalks, streetlights

Uniondale civic leaders Pearl Jacobs, left, and Heidi

Uniondale civic leaders Pearl Jacobs, left, and Heidi Sanft stand Thursday near some of the updated sidewalks and street lighting improvements they advocated for on Uniondale Avenue. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The unofficial Main Street of Uniondale is getting a face-lift.

A Nassau County and Town of Hempstead initiative is bringing new sidewalks, streetlights, benches and trees to a heavily used stretch of Uniondale Avenue, town officials said.

The roughly $1.5 million project, which began last year and is expected to wrap up by the summer of 2020, is meant to beautify the half-mile commercial and residential strip and make it safer for pedestrians.

The upgrades are sorely needed, said Pearl Jacobs, president of the Nostrand Gardens Civic Association, who said she spent a decade advocating for the project. The avenue’s cracking, crumbling sidewalks are particularly perilous to older people, she said.

“Their canes would actually get stuck,” Jacobs said of some elderly neighbors. “It was appalling.”

It was the advocacy of community members that put the project on the town and county agenda, said Joseph Marshiano of Hempstead’s Department of Planning and Economic Development, which is overseeing the town portion of the initiative.

“They’ve been asking for it, and we’re very pleased that the town can deliver,” he said.

The upgrades, financed through federal and state grants and county capital funding, will stretch from Jerusalem Avenue to Front Street, town officials said. New sidewalk ramps and other features should also make it safer for the disabled to navigate the thoroughfare, Marshiano said.

Jacobs said the project is especially welcome given the perception shared by her and some neighbors that Uniondale receives short shrift from the local governments compared to other neighborhoods.

“We are an underserved community,” she said. “Everything that we have received, which is not a lot, we’ve had to fight for. Everything.”

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen echoed the sentiment.

“Historically the Town of Hempstead has treated different communities differently,” said Gillen, who assumed office last year. “They’ve allocated resources to communities where elected officials live and generally ignored corridor communities,” she said, referring to a string of predominantly minority areas in the town. “But we’ve made improving [Uniondale] a priority.”

Close to three quarters of Uniondale’s 24,800 residents are African American or Latino, compared with 37% of residents in the Town of Hempstead as a whole, according to census data.

Hempstead Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, whose district includes Uniondale, disputed the idea that it receives less than other communities, saying its many businesses bolster its tax base.

“Uniondale has done very well,” she said. Goosby, who pushed for the streetscape improvement project, said it will “help beautify the community.”

Gillen noted that Uniondale Avenue leads directly to the Nassau Hub, the proposed site of a $1.5-billion mixed-use development project.

“I think it’s great to have a beautiful thoroughfare leading directly to the Hub,” she said. “It’ll tie everything together nicely.”

Hempstead spokesman Mike Fricchione said the town board will likely vote at its Dec. 10 meeting on signing an intermunicipal agreement with the county to carry out the second and final phase of the project.

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