The Babylon Town Board has approved the formation of a committee tasked with fighting blight in small commercial districts throughout the town.
The Better Main Streets Committee will aim to spruce up these micro-neighborhoods, whose dilapidated appearance may be depressing property values and stunting development, Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said.
The committee will be staffed by 10 officials from various town departments, according to a town board resolution passed last week. By tackling code violations, vacancies and other problems facing these “mini main streets” holistically, the group, Schaffer hopes, will be more effective in resolving them.
“We’ve been approaching the problem the same way for so many years,” he said. “Instead of just thinking singularly and in little silos, [we want to] think about how you can bring this all together.”
Representatives from chambers of commerce throughout Babylon expressed cautious optimism about the initiative.
“If the Town of Babylon wants to work with us on the concerns that we have in the community and improve economic conditions, that’s a positive,” said Jason Koch D’Ambrosio, a Deer Park Chamber of Commerce board member.
“What I want to see is action,” D’Ambrosio said. “It’s one thing to talk about it, but putting things into action is another thing. And that’s what I hope they’ll do.”
While the committee already has some sites in mind, such as stretches of Oak Street in Copiague and Straight Path in West Babylon, it will seek input from local chambers of commerce and civic associations before finalizing its list of 10 initial project areas, according to Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez.
The committee will then meet with local business and property owners to hear their perspectives on what’s dragging down the districts. The committee itself will likely bring its own grievances to the table, Schaffer said, like boarded-up shops and vacant, trash-strewn lots.
While the town has no current plans to itself fund any potential improvements identified in this process, the committee will offer other forms of assistance, Schaffer said, like fast-tracking permit approvals, resolving code violations, and helping property owners find tenants.
The committee may seek grant funding for specific projects in the future, Schaffer said. And revising building or zoning codes could also be part of the equation.
Schaffer hopes that the chance to improve property values will be incentive enough for owners to participate. But the town may respond more aggressively to code violations, summonses and tax liens should any prove reluctant, he said.
The committee’s targeted, hyperlocal approach to neighborhood revitalization represents a departure from the grand-scale projects that have defined redevelopment in Babylon during the past decade, like projects in Wyandanch and Copiague.
The committee’s work will complement those larger efforts, Schaffer said.
WHO’S ON THE COMMITTEE
- Planning Department commissioner
- Downtown Revitalization director
- Chief building inspector
- Code enforcement deputy director
- Public Safety deputy commissioner
- Fire marshal II
- Public Works Department commissioner
- Chief of staff