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Editorial: Wyandanch nears a moment of truth

The Town of Babylon is ceremonially renaming a

The Town of Babylon is ceremonially renaming a Wyandanch road in honor of a longtime resident who died earlier this year. The Wyandanch clock is shown in the area's downtown on Monday, June 23, 2014. Credit: David Reich-Hale

Years in the planning, the massive Wyandanch redevelopment project finally is reshaping the landscape of the distressed hamlet.

Most notably, a much-needed apartment building is rising just north of the railroad station. Another will follow, with a plaza in between. A new sewer line is in place downtown. The Long Island Rail Road has started work on a parking garage. Hope slowly grows.

What comes next is critical because hope alone won't stem Wyandanch's decline. Cynics -- and there are many -- say progress will be stymied by problems with gangs, crime, poverty and a poor-performing school system. Those are legitimate worries. But there is reason to believe those issues can be overcome.

The developer erecting the two buildings with their 177 apartments initially received 1,500 expressions of interest, with the only advertising or marketing being a phone number on banners on either side of the Straight Path construction site. Those interested presumably are aware of Wyandanch's problems and still are considering placing a bet on its future. Price is an attraction -- 70 percent of the apartments will be restricted to those earning between 50 and 90 percent of the area median income, depending on the unit. So, too, is the scarcity of rental housing and the convenience of being adjacent to the train station.

Also encouraging is nascent interest from businesses in occupying the retail space on the ground floor of the two buildings, as well as upgrades being done by other property owners -- like new lighting for the Compare Foods supermarket and a new commercial building going up on Merritt Avenue, one block off Straight Path.

The first residents should arrive in November. Presumably, businesses will follow. And then we'll begin to see whether the revitalization of Wyandanch is more of a hope or reality.