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OpinionColumnistsRandi F. Marshall

Hicksville's makeover gets the county's help

Broadway in downtown Hicksville.

Broadway in downtown Hicksville. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hicksville’s redevelopment lies mostly in the hands of the Town of Oyster Bay.

But Nassau County does have a limited role in traffic and transportation planning and on Wednesday executive Laura Curran unveiled the county’s "complete streets" report for the hamlet. The recommendations in the report include everything from curb extensions and expanded medians to bike lanes, streetscaping and redesigned street crossings.

None of it came as a surprise to Oyster Bay officials, who said they were involved in the county’s work, and some of it dovetails with plans that are part of the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI – a $10 million state grant Hicksville received in 2017.

Perhaps most significant among the eight recommendations: A revamp and streetscaping of Broadway, between E. John Street and Old Country Road. The county estimates it would cost nearly $6 million to improve traffic and pedestrian flow, add buffers, lighting, planters, and bike racks, and create curb extensions on side streets to give pedestrians more space.

Other suggestions include developing a network of bike lanes and bike parking, narrowing roadways, adding signals and crosswalks particularly at Duffy Avenue near the town parking garage exit, and reconfiguring the Long Island Rail Road station entrance and parking area to include a pedestrian plaza and a specific pedestrian route from the station to the street. Improving access to and expanding the center median on Jerusalem Avenue, expanding Kennedy Park, and adding lighting and expanded medians stretching under the LIRR tracks were also among the recommendations.

Support from the state and LIRR for the suggestions will be key, especially for work under the railroad overpass, and changes to state roads, like Broadway. James McCaffrey, Oyster Bay’s deputy director for planning and development, told The Point that town officials hope to meet with state officials within the next couple of weeks.

Curran told The Point that the report fits with the rest of what Oyster Bay officials are doing, especially in rezoning the area around the train station.

"It will make whatever development comes more attractive, more of a magnet," Curran said. "With so many folks now looking for homes out here, this is a really good opportunity for us. Hicksville is the biggest, most used, most centrally located transportation hub on Long Island."

The cost of the eight projects ranges from under $100,000 to about $6 million. But even with relatively modest price tags, the uncertainty lies in how to pay for it all. About half of the funds, McCaffrey said, are budgeted, as part of the DRI, or in the form of other grants the town received.

But the rest remains a question mark. In more normal times, the county or town might seek state economic development grants, but they’ll be harder to come by now. Curran said there’s federal money available in some cases, and McCaffrey noted that private developers and contractors could help, too, because they’ll ultimately benefit from the improvements. While the town had focused on adding mostly residential, with some ground floor retail, to Hicksville, McCaffrey said there are now corporations calling. The pandemic is making them more interested in suburban office space for workers who don’t want to commute into New York City.

McCaffrey said the town expects to hold a public hearing in November on the Hicksville rezoning, which could pave the way for a vote on the zone come January. He said other plans in Hicksville, like the redevelopment of the Sears property, also could see a vote in January.

"There’s going to be plenty going on for Hicksville coming into the new year," he said.