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Long IslandPolitics

Hicksville awarded $10M state grant for downtown revitalization

New York State will spend $10 million to help create a walkable downtown in Hicksville, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday.

The grant gives a big boost to a yearslong effort to redevelop the area surrounding the hamlet’s Long Island Rail Road station into a vibrant neighborhood that would include retail stores and other businesses at street level and up to three floors of housing above.

Cuomo said in a speech at the Hicksville Community Center that the grant, part of a statewide downtown revitalization initiative, will help create the type of pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented neighborhood that young adults increasingly want. Parking lots and office buildings dominate much of the neighborhood now.

The governor said that with the revitalization, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $121 million revamp of the LIRR station and a third track that will improve train reliability, “Hicksville is going to be stronger than it has ever been before.”

Hicksville Chamber of Commerce President Lionel Chitty said the state’s financial commitment to downtown revitalization will help attract developers and boost support for the effort.

“This is basically the catalyst,” Chitty said. “This will show everybody that Oyster Bay [Town] will be able to turn this area into a place where people can live, work, shop and play.”

Residents and officials have been talking for years about various redevelopment plans, and the chamber and other groups have held multiple workshops to get community input.

Hicksville competed for the grant against 10 other downtowns in Nassau County and 10 in Suffolk County.

The money will be used for streetscaping, a proposed elevated plaza and walkways, and other enhancements, said Howard Zemsky, president and chief executive of Empire State Development, the state’s chief economic development agency. Some of it also could be used to fund inducements to developers to build housing that young adults can afford, Zemsky said.

The proposed landscaped plaza connected to the walkways — which would carry pedestrians from the train station over busy highways 106 and 107 — would “give a heart to the downtown area ... where people can hang out, have a coffee, have an ice cream, push a stroller,” town Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia said.

The plan is ambitious, but “this money is going to make that type of project a reality for us,” she said.

Oyster Bay officials late last year unveiled a revitalization plan for 162 acres surrounding the LIRR station that is almost identical to a 2013 plan released by the Hicksville chamber and Vision Long Island, a nonprofit that promotes mixed-use development. The town has been holding public meetings to gather community input before the board votes on a rezoning.

Lifelong Hicksville resident Linda Ruggiero, 62, a member of a revitalization committee formed by the chamber and the Hicksville Community Council, recalled how downtown Hicksville once was “beautiful” and filled with pedestrians before the state in the 1960s widened Routes 106 and 107, tearing down businesses in the process. Now she never walks in downtown Hicksville.

“It’s not pleasant, it’s not clean,” she said. “It’s in desperate need of updating. You see other areas all around being beautified. It’s about time that something be done here.”

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