Wyandanch community members Wednesday night began the first discussions on creating an arts and culture master plan for the hamlet.
The event, a roundtable of sorts allowing input and ideas to be bandied about by residents, organizers and government officials, was the jumping-off point for the plan, which is part of a larger redevelopment of the area.
Arts and culture have long been a part of the town’s vision for Wyandanch Rising, the $500 million public-private effort to revitalize the economically distressed hamlet. The town last month awarded a $105,000 contract to AKRF Inc. of Bohemia to create the master plan.
“Our mission is to work with this community, with the residents, with the businesses, with government to create an arts master plan that will conceptualize an identity for downtown Wyandanch and make it a cultural destination,” said Vanessa Greene, president and CEO of Global Arts Media Inc., which is subcontracted by AKRF.
Jonathan Keyes, the town’s director of downtown revitalization, noted that the town has already made steps toward incorporating the arts into the area just north of the Long Island Rail Road station.
Two apartment buildings with retail space were recently completed there, with work on a third commercial building underway. The latter building will be the site of the first permanent home for the Long Island Music Hall of Fame museum, which “lends itself to all sorts of collaborative opportunities” with various performing arts, Keyes said.
Between the buildings is open space that can be used for performances or craft fairs, Keyes said. Last year a new LIRR parking garage there was also completed, with a 60-foot-tall, glass-painted art installation that pays tribute to legendary jazz musicians. Keyes said that in addition, there are plans for an artistic floor mosaic to be created in the new LIRR station that is being built.
Greene said the plan will serve as a “road map” that will show the community how to “integrate arts and culture into this magnificent work that’s being undertaken here.”
The meeting at the Wyandanch Senior Nutrition Center was attended by about a dozen local residents, with some noting that the event conflicted with local school meetings.
Residents spoke of a need for cultural activities, particularly for teens and young people, and finding a way to celebrate and bridge the community’s Native American and black roots with a growing Latino population.
“When we talk about arts and culture, part of it is bricks and mortar,” Greene said. “But it really has to do with heart and spirit and people.”
More meetings with residents will be held, Greene said, and the plan is expected to be completed by the end of the year.