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Hempstead OKs controversial agreement on downtown plan

An artist's rendering of the proposed development on

An artist's rendering of the proposed development on North Main Street in Hempstead Village. Credit: Handout

Hempstead Village has approved a controversial community benefits agreement for its $2.5 billion downtown redevelopment plan, despite protests from activists, residents and business owners opposed to the deal.

The board voted 3-2 Tuesday night to approve the agreement with the project's master developer, Renaissance Downtowns UrbanAmerica.

Reaction to the decision was mixed, with some in the audience of about 100 people clapping, and others shouting "shame!"

Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. voted in favor of the resolution, along with trustees Livio Rosario and Henry Conyers. Trustees Donald Ryan and Perry Pettus opposed the move. "I feel this is the best way to protect my village," Rosario said.

The agreement requires the developers to make "good faith efforts" toward giving the first 25 percent of construction and permanent jobs to village residents, as well as 25 percent of contracts to local or minority contractors. In addition, at least 10 percent of residential units must be affordable housing. Failure to comply with the agreement could trigger fines, stop-work orders or even jail time.

The downtown project is expected to create about 3,500 permanent and 10,000 construction jobs. Now that the agreement has been approved, the developer can submit a site plan.

"This has to be one of the biggest days for Long Island. It now truly clears the path for jobs and economic development. I am a man of my word and I am going to prove that," said Donald Monti, chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, who is working with UrbanAmerica Advisors on the downtown makeover.

Community activists had demanded that the agreement guarantee local jobs and provide more affordable housing, as well as protections for existing small businesses and residents who could be displaced.

"I am devastated. I never thought this was going to happen," said resident Diane Goins, a member of New York Communities for Change. "All we want is a guarantee for those jobs. We will continue to be watchdogs."

In September, residents and business owners sued the village's board of trustees, Community Development Agency and master developer to block the project. Hall said Tuesday that a Nassau County judge has dismissed the suit.

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