Elmont residents once frequented a Blockbuster video outlet on Hempstead Turnpike at Lincoln Avenue, but with the surge in Redbox and Netflix rentals, the store closed. The building is now boarded up and covered with graffiti. Local civic groups and developers proposed putting an International House of Pancakes in the location in January.
When local attorney Alan Stein met with residents at an Elmont East End Civic Association meeting in January to discuss the plan, he noted that parking in the area might be a problem. Based on the building’s layout, the Town of Hempstead requires 54 parking spaces for the lot. Stein said that the current parking lot would be used and that he had spoken with local businesses, like the nearby Elmont Funeral Home, which were willing to share parking with the restaurant as needed.
At a Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on Jan. 11, a proposal for the IHOP was presented, requesting variances for side street parking as well as permission to allow “stacked” parking at the facility. But the BZA announced on April 2 that the requests had been denied, and since then the building has remained vacant and undeveloped.
Carl Achille, a Chamber of Commerce member and the owner of The Shop, also on Hempstead Turnpike, said that Elmont business owners want new business to come to the hamlet, especially at sites like the old Blockbuster. “Absolutely nothing is going on — it just looks like a mess,” Achille said of the vacant building. “It’s disgusting, and the community is outraged.”
In April, after the IHOP plan was rejected, the construction of a Walgreens was approved on the southwest corner of Meacham Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike. Seven local businesses were demolished so that the pharmacy could be constructed.
Achille said that he and other community leaders want to see viable businesses developed in Elmont. An IHOP would have drawn people into the community, he said, while the Walgreens is simply one of many pharmacies along this stretch of Hempstead Turnpike.
“I’m advocating for investment in the community,” he said. “We want to develop projects that will lure people into our community, spend money and ultimately help the residents out.”
Residents have requested things like a grocery story, Achille said, which Elmont currently does not have. The main goal he and other Chamber members have, he added, is to bring viable businesses to Elmont. “We want to bring people into our community,” he said, “not keep people out.”