East Meadow's vacant lot about to get busy

CarMax to fill 5 of 10 acres of Hempstead Turnpike parcel


East Meadow residents have been eager to know what would fill nearly 10 acres of property on Hempstead Turnpike, where a Home Depot used to operate before closing its doors last September.

The home improvement store had been in East Meadow for roughly 15 years. The chain immediately opened another location a short distance away, in Levittown.

“I think people are pretty upset,” said Ross Schiller, 48, of East Meadow. “I know I’m upset that Home Depot left us.” Schiller and other residents have said they hope to see a retail store open in the vacant space to attract more people to the community.

Eileen Napolitano contacted representatives of Christmas Tree Shops, which has two locations on Long Island, and asked if the company would be interested in the spot. She created a petition and collected dozens of community members’ pleas to the chain to consider the location, but it has not shown an interest.

In the meantime, officials at CarMax, the auto retalier, announced that the company had leased half of the space. Representatives of the company answered residents’ questions and addressed their concerns at a meeting of the Council of East Meadow Community Organizations on July 12.

“If CarMax makes their way into the community and supports our community, then it can’t hurt,” Schiller said. “That’s what it’s all about: what they could bring to East Meadow.”

The location would have roughly 250 used vehicles of a variety of models in its inventory, and offer vehicle repair and maintenance services, according to CarMax representative Lindsey Duke. She added that customers could request any used vehicle in the corporation’s nationwide inventory of 50,000 and have it delivered to East Meadow. And each store creates up to 100 jobs, Duke said.

“The community, from my take, is in support of CarMax being in East Meadow,” said Joe Parisi, the president of CEMCO, adding that residents were able to speak one on one with CarMax officials at the meeting to allay any worries about their new potential neighbor.

“After hearing their proposal and maybe even more importantly . . . how they work with nonprofits, I feel more positive with their place in our community,” Napolitano said, referring to the company’s support of the nonprofit organization Kaboom, which builds playgrounds for children in low-income areas.

Others were not so optimistic, however. David Rothman, who has more than 40 years of experience in the auto industry, said that not all of his questions were answered at the meeting. “I’d like to see more details, more guarantees,” he said, adding that one of his concerns is with CarMax’s potential test drive route, which company representatives said only would not include residential neighborhoods.

Rothman added that he would like to see the company follow up with more community meetings. Its next steps are to seek approval from the Town of Hempstead legislative and zoning boards.