Hempstead Town officials are considering rejecting a reasonable rezoning proposal for...

Hempstead Town officials are considering rejecting a reasonable rezoning proposal for transit-oriented housing. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Town of Hempstead's initial attempt toward walking away from an effective rezoning effort near the Inwood and North Lawrence train stations is a disappointing step backward.

Town officials are likely to repeal a so-called “overlay district” for the two communities, which would have allowed transit-oriented development, with apartments over stores and offices, and some row houses and town houses. The proposal to rescind that zoning implies it would negatively impact “among other things, community character and quality of life” and could become a “threat to public health, safety and welfare.”

That's an unfortunate shift from the perspective held by the town board just five years ago, when it approved the rezoning. Then, town officials emphasized the need for new housing and downtown revitalization. The editorial board at the time applauded the town as “smart to get on board” and called Hempstead officials “forward-thinking leaders.”

The 2019 rezoning, which allows for up to 60 units per acre in some places, was spearheaded by then-town board members Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman, both Republicans, at a time when the town was led by former Supervisor Laura Gillen, a Democrat. The only “no” vote on the board was cast by Republican Anthony D'Esposito, now a freshman member of Congress whom Gillen is challenging again in a 2024 House race considered pivotal in the battle for the majority.

The repeal proposal comes after a lengthy moratorium and smacks of politics, a possible effort to support D'Esposito — even if that means that housing Long Island desperately needs will remain unbuilt. Nassau County's housing supply grew just 2.7% from 2012 to 2022, ranking it 131st out of 141 large counties nationwide. That leads to rising rents and home prices, making it harder for those young and old to live here.

The repeal, which will be the subject of a public hearing in July, also comes in the wake of efforts by Gov. Kathy Hochul to promote new housing construction, including her failed attempt to mandate higher density zoning around train stations. In challenging Hochul's plans, Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin consistently argued that local governments should control zoning, that town officials could pursue “smart development” on their own. The Inwood and North Lawrence overlay district could have served as a prime example. Instead, if Clavin and the town board go ahead with the repeal, it would reveal that when they talk about “smart development” they really mean “no development.”

Town officials say a repeal is needed to address community concerns — especially about traffic. But the town board could do that by making tweaks where necessary. The board also could work with developers who've bought property or proposed developments in Inwood and North Lawrence, to make sure their plans still work.

Instead, they're considering a wholesale rejection of a reasonable and thoughtful rezoning. Town officials should move forward on housing and rethink this repeal.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.