In the eyes of the federal government and the Town of Hempstead, a 3-square-mile stretch of Uniondale known as East Garden City doesn't exist.
Even after the boundaries were merged into Uniondale during the last census, residents say developers continue to mislabel their community as part of "an implicit bias" to make it more appealing to new residents while forgetting its diverse heritage.
Uniondale civic associations in the past have gathered with the school district, churches and the fire department to reemphasize Uniondale's boundaries. On Saturday, at a rally, the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition and residents renewed efforts to erase the East Garden City designation, highlighting landmarks such as Museum Row, Mitchel Field and the Cradle of Aviation.
“The community is fighting this. The community coalitions have said enough. It’s discriminatory to take away the identity of the community,” said Pearl Jacobs, president of the Uniondale Nostrand Gardens Civic Association. “East Garden City doesn’t exist. It’s a fictitious location that developers used backdoor politics to make East Garden City a more desirable name than Uniondale for economic development.”
Hempstead Town officials passed a resolution in 2015 rejecting East Garden City and reaffirming that the community is part of Uniondale.
“As far as the town is concerned, this definitely is Uniondale and not East Garden City,” said Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, who represents the area.
East Garden City was created in northern Uniondale, and runs from Hempstead Turnpike to Old Country Road. The area sat between the Village of Hempstead and Merrick Avenue and includes NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum, Hofstra University, Museum Row and Nassau Community College. It has been known as East Garden City in census records dating to the 1970s, with other references dating to World War II.
The town and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) took the name to Google Maps and the U.S. Census Bureau, which in its 2020 census completed last year, removed East Garden City from official maps and merged it with Uniondale.
“Uniondale boasts a diverse community with the largest commercial district in Nassau County,” Rice said in a statement last week. “Efforts to divide Uniondale must end and Nassau County should recognize the entirety of this vibrant community under its current borders as made official by the U.S. Census Bureau.”
The boundaries of the former East Garden City and now Uniondale include places like the Nassau County Police Training Center and Roosevelt Field mall, even though they are listed under a Garden City address.
Activists say the separate designations cause confusion for schools and first responders. Uniondale has nine ZIP codes, but less than half support the Uniondale name, said Jeannine Maynard, the coalition’s co-facilitator.
Jacobs said some developers have tried to relabel certain boundaries as Garden City or other more affluent communities to build high-end condos.
“This is definitely implicit bias. They call it East Garden City to make it sound like a more attractive area to get people to move in the area,” Jacobs said. “It takes away the identity of Uniondale. We want our boundaries respected. No other community in Nassau County has to fight for their identity.”