At a time when we are looking for a bit of normalcy, a possibly contentious Long Island public hearing over a long-vacant piece of property might be just what we need.
Thursday night, the developers behind Heritage Village, the planned mixed-use development at the former Sears site in Hicksville, will present their plans at Oyster Bay Town Hall. Public comment, sure to include a mix of support and opposition, will follow.
But this won’t be like most other public hearings. This time, there won’t be a standing-room-only crowd in Town Hall. Instead, residents will be spread out among four locations — Town Hall, Hicksville Community Center, Hicksville Athletic Center, and the ice skating center at Bethpage — so they can remain socially distanced. There will be temperature checks and contact tracing, and masks on hand. It’ll be livestreamed, and comments can be emailed to PublicComment@oysterbay-ny.gov.
However different it will be, it’s an important step in the region’s efforts to help jump-start the economy and important developments, and to bring together communities in planning for what’s next.
Across the 27-acre property still home to the once-iconic but now-vacant Sears building, Heritage Village would rise just three stories, and include 425 apartments, plus a grocery store, shops and offices, and plenty of open and green space. The proposal was supposed to be the subject of a public hearing in March, but it was canceled as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and Long Island shut down.
Oyster Bay officials deserve praise for getting the hearing process going again. They have to keep the project at the forefront of the town’s agenda, and move it forward. If all goes well, ground could be broken next year.
Heritage Village has been five years in the making, and has had many stops and starts. It’s a shame that the number of units and height of the buildings have been reduced so much. Is a four-story building on Route 106 right across from the Broadway Mall really too much of an ask? But even in its current form, the project is needed now more than ever, especially as more people move to the suburbs, and as Long Island will need a massive economic comeback. Even before the pandemic, some studies suggested the region required 100,000 more housing units. And advocates of the Hicksville project say it’s just a small piece of what the community and the town need.
The developers may have to consider changes in light of the pandemic, and will have to be nimble in the months to come. But it’s also important to note that the project won’t be completed for several years, and a lot can change in that time.
For now, though, we start with a familiar scene — a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday. We hope everyone participates. Then, after the hearing, all parties must come together to make this project a key part of the region’s recovery.
— The editorial board