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Hempstead trustees delay development vote

Diane Goins, left, and Roberta Adams, both of

Diane Goins, left, and Roberta Adams, both of Hempstead, rally oustide Hempstead Village Hall before the Hempstead Village board of trustees meeting. (Dec. 18, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

Hempstead Village's board of trustees postponed voting on the community benefits agreement for its $2.5 billion downtown redevelopment plan, after some community activists, residents and business owners protested the deal didn't guarantee jobs and contracts for residents and did not provide enough affordable housing.

An overflow crowd of about 200 had a mixed reaction to the board's decision last night to put off a vote on the agreement negotiated by village officials and master developer Renaissance Downtowns UrbanAmerica.

"I was ready to go," said Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr., adding the board did not vote because some trustees were not able to review the agreement with the outside attorney hired as a consultant. "This is about jobs for the people."

Hall did not allow any public comments, citing tradition for the year's last meeting. He said the board might vote on the agreement on Jan. 16.

"I was going to vote against it because I didn't get to go over the package," trustee Perry Pettus said about the agreement released Friday on the village website. "I don't think it needs to be rushed at this time. Residents need to see it."

The agreement calls for "good faith efforts" to give 25 percent of construction and permanent jobs first to village residents and 25 percent of contracts first to village contractors, and to provide a minimum of 10 percent of units for affordable housing. The project -- which includes various housing options, a hotel, shops, open spaces, parking and entertainment -- is expected to create about 3,500 permanent and 10,000 construction jobs.

"My hope is that we are able to move forward," said Reginald Benjamin of the ABBA Leadership Center, who sat on the committee tasked to work on the agreement. "We came up with a pretty reasonable document and we will hold the developer accountable."

The agreement outlines plans to establish local contracting and jobs/business referral centers and says the developer would assist the village if it decides to establish a small business incubator and a recreation center. It also says the developer and village agree they do not intend to use eminent domain to acquire properties for the project.

"I have no concerns that they tabled it," said Donald Monti, chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, which is working with UrbanAmerica Advisors on the downtown makeover. "There is no question it is a phenomenal agreement. Whatever we commit to, we do . . . We are going to make it happen."

More than 20 people from the Community Benefits for Hempstead Coalition rallied outside Village Hall before the meeting to demand the board reject the agreement, arguing it doesn't guarantee jobs for residents or protect existing small business owners and residents from potential displacement. They also demanded that 35 percent of housing units be affordable.

"It is a victory for the people and we will continue to fight," said Diane Goins, a member of New York Communities for Change, a group that's part of coalition. "We want to make this the best CBA and I think they will listen."

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