New Hyde Park's Operation Main Street, a 12-year, much-delayed project to transform a portion of busy Jericho Turnpike into a more pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically pleasing thoroughfare, is complete.
The $1.46 million in improvements, along a half-mile from Ingraham Lane to Hillside Boulevard, were finished last month.
Upgrades include pavers, planters in center lane medians with built-in irrigation systems, miniparks, bicycle racks, curb repairs, new benches and trash receptacles, traffic signals and countdown devices. Funding was provided by the federal government, New York State, Nassau County and the village.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony last month marked the end of what officials described as a long travail that for years was marked with red tape, funding challenges, plan changes and other obstacles.
"We're very happy to see this come to fruition after looking at plans for so many years," Mayor Robert Lofaro said in a subsequent interview. "It gives the village a distinctive look as opposed to the other communities you drive through along Jericho Turnpike. Jericho Turnpike was so homogenizing that you didn't see a difference when you were going to different communities."
Lofaro, who said the project name refers to Main Street because Jericho Turnpike (state Route 25) is the village's chief venue, said the improvements have spurred some local businesses to spruce up their facades and make other changes to attract customers.
"It gives them an incentive to do more for themselves," Lofaro said. He said the village wants to showcase its local businesses. "The challenge we've always had is that our main street is a busy highway, but you make the best of what you have. The first impressions of the community are now very positive."
"This morning as I was driving here [on the way to work from Brooklyn] I realized how nice it came out," said Joseph DePaulis, an owner of Gino's Pizzeria in the Operation Main Street area. "It looks like the area has been given new life. It's definitely different than what it used to be."
Village Trustee Donald Barbieri led the effort to get the project done. He noted it is augmented by the repaving of Jericho Turnpike in the area, completed last fall as part of a $21.1 million project from the Queens border to Glen Cove Road. "It's really been spruced up," Barbieri said. "The overall [Operation Main Street] project little by little has happened over the past 12 years."
Barbieri said traffic calming features such as countdown signals to help pedestrians cross the street more safely have allowed motorists and pedestrians to take in the improvements and notice the huge change in New Hyde Park's Jericho Turnpike.
"They have slowed down so they notice the neighborhood -- we've tried to make Jericho Turnpike less of a highway and ease up on the speed of traffic," Barbieri said. "They're definitely aware of their surroundings now. They're spending more time here looking around than just breezing through town."
"It gives us more of a village feel," said Pete Papaseraphim, owner of the Sweet Tart bakery cafe in the operation zone. "It's a nice face-lift. Hopefully, it will lead to more pedestrian traffic coming to our businesses."
Pete Pinay said he's happy since moving o New Hyde Park six months ago from Manhattan. He was one of thousands enjoying the village street fair on Jericho Turnpike on Saturday.
"It looks great," Pinay said of the improvements. "It really makes a difference in terms of the aesthetics . . . slowly the area is picking up."