More than 20 acres of land that surround the Inwood and Lawrence Long Island Rail Road train stations is targeted for development after the Town of Hempstead’s board unanimously approved the creation of a Transit Oriented Development District on May 7.
The district will consist of roughly 11.7 acres near the Lawrence LIRR station and nearly 9 acres by the Inwood station, based on the town’s plan. The new zoning will propel redevelopment of light industrial and manufacturing uses adjacent in the area to encourage a “mix of housing and commercial uses” that will “sustain vibrant flourishing hamlet centers,” town officials said.
Councilman Bruce Blakeman represents the Third District which includes Inwood and Lawrence. He said he has considered the idea for the past three and a half years. He unveiled the concept at a public meeting in Inwood on Feb. 26. “I would just drive past the areas surrounding the train stations and think that we can do so much more with it,” Blakeman said. “I knew something had to be done about it.”
Another goal of the plan is to have people out of their vehicles and create a “main street” that meets the demand for mixed-use development and incorporates housing and commercial uses in a “walkable” environment, Blakeman said.
“The current areas surrounding the train stations are filled with vacant stores and industrial land use,” he said. “We want people to be able to get out of their cars, grab a cup of coffee and run their errands.”
Kevin McAndrew of Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering outlined the zoning plan at the May board meeting. “A problem that some places have in Long Island is attracting and retaining the younger and senior population,” he said. “This code makes it easier to retain those populations by making affordable housing for local residents.”
To achieve that goal, McAndrew said that 20 percent of the housing will be classified as workforce residences preferably for military veterans and volunteer firefighters and other first responders who live in Inwood or North Lawrence, close to the Lawrence station.
Blakeman said that the key stakeholders attended the February meeting such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Lawrence and Cedarhurst villages, the Lawrence School District and the Inwood Civic Association. “The MTA came to the stakeholders meeting and they ensured us that when development starts, they will reconfigure and beautify those stations,” he said. “I think they realize that the stations are underutilized.”
Inwood Civic Association President Dave Hance attended the stakeholders meeting and he supports the plan. “Both of these stations are underutilized and it would be great for the MTA to do some work to beautify the stations,” he said.
Hance added that he hopes a restaurant will be built near the Inwood station with the plan. “It would be great to actually have a cafe or restaurant to sit down at in Inwood,” he said. “I think that would help attract more people to come to the area.”
The next step in the process according to Blakeman is for potential developers to acquire the targeted properties.