Imagine, for a moment, a world in which the Village of Hempstead embraced development opportunities, welcomed affordable rental housing, and seized the moment to help its residents and jump-start an economic resurgence.
It might be too much to expect from the village and its mayor, Don Ryan. But it shouldn’t be.
Right now, there are two affordable housing projects proposed for vacant parking lots across the street from one another at Main and Bedell streets. They’re ready to go, with developers who also have promised millions of dollars to upgrade the village’s infrastructure, and hundreds of thousands more toward community benefits. They’d provide safe, well-priced housing for residents at different income levels, and they could energize a new economic beginning for a village that was an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic and needs the economic boost.
But Ryan and other village leaders won’t even put the projects on a board meeting agenda. And that puts both projects in jeopardy, because state funding and tax credits earmarked for them are set to expire by December. Time is running out. Both projects need approval of reduced tax payments known as PILOTs. The developers say they need a village vote to then go to the Nassau Industrial Development Agency. IDA chief Richard Kessel says he supports both projects, but needs the village on board.
Here’s what would come to Hempstead if its mayor and trustees had a bit of courage and a lot of vision.
Carmen Place, developed by Conifer Realty and the Community Development Corp. of Long Island, would feature 228 affordable apartments for residents earning between 30% and 90% of area median income — as low as $24,520 — and 25,000 square feet of commercial space.
Across the street would be Estella Housing, developed by Georgica Green Ventures and Concern for Independent Living. Estella would add 96 affordable rental apartments for those earning less than 60% of area median income. Thirty units would serve as supportive housing for disabled individuals. Hempstead village residents would be given priority for the rest, with preference for veterans built in as well.
So, what’s the problem? Ryan’s concerns start with the need for sewer and water infrastructure upgrades. Both developers have promised money toward that, and state funds will help, too.
Ryan also said he won’t support apartment buildings that “did not create significant jobs in the village.”
That’s nonsensical. Both projects will create jobs, first in construction, then in permanent positions. And they’ll likely lead to more, as development leads to more development.
Unnecessarily complicating matters further is what’s known as the Hooper amendment, named for Earlene Hooper, a former member of the State Assembly who represented the area. The law requires the IDA to add four village representatives to vote on any project specifically in Hempstead or Freeport. She was voted out, and the amendment should be, too.
But to make these projects a reality, Hempstead village residents need just one thing: Leaders who put their future first.
— The editorial board