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Hempstead Town takes a smart step to keep its young adults

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman tours the downtown

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman tours the downtown Lawrence LIRR station on April 9, 2019. Credit: Johnny Milano

Today’s lesson in good zoning decisions is taught to you by . . . the Town of Hempstead. Yes, that’s right.

First, the Hempstead Town Board recently approved a crucial rezoning of the areas near the Inwood and Lawrence train stations, allowing for buildings up to five stories and 60 units per acre, with as much as 20 percent of the housing deemed “affordable.” The board also approved plans for a 230-unit apartment building in Oceanside.

Then, Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney announced plans to form a commission to review the town zoning code to make sure mixed-use and apartment projects are not prohibited by “antiquated, 1970s-style zoning ordinances.”

The councilwoman’s move forward was in part inspired by research by nextLI, a Newsday initiative that found that two-thirds of young Long Islanders plan to leave Long Island within five years.

Of course, there’s a long way to go before Hempstead Town really changes its attitudes toward housing and new projects. Just this month, two councilmen emerged with typical “suburban way of life” concerns about Belmont Park’s redevelopment.

But any path forward starts with a few forward-thinking leaders. Hempstead is smart to get on board. Rethinking zoning is one step toward finding ways to attract and keep the younger generation that wants to stay, but can’t afford to do so.

Each town and village also must do more to welcome different types of housing and projects. The track record on that remains mixed. In one example, Islandia Mayor Allan Dorman said last month that he does not support apartments in the village. “Not once. Zip. Nada.”

The consequences of Islandia’s response, if replicated by other municipalities, will be devastating to the region’s future. Hempstead is trying a better way.

 — The editorial board