The Village of Rockville Centre was awarded on June 8 for its ability to attract people to live, work and play. The accolade, titled “Sense of Place,” was given by nonprofit organization Vision Long Island at its 17th annual Smart Growth Awards, and recognized the village’s thriving downtown.
The group aims to promote livable, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible growth across Long Island. Last year, Rockville Centre was nominated for the award, but lost, while Great Neck Plaza was honored for improving its downtown area. This year, however, the village was one of 12 municipalities that won out of 46.
“There is not one thing that stands out,” Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander told the Herald. “There are quite a few things that make Rockville Centre worthy.”
Rockville Centre has more than 500 businesses and about 100 restaurants. At the presentation, Jeff Greenfield — a resident who is vocal at village meetings and calls himself “Citizen Taxpayer” — labeled Rockville Centre as the “restaurant capital of Long Island.”
Other notable improvements Rockville Centre has accomplished in recent years, according to Vision Long Island, include increasing its housing availability, expanding parking options and improving sidewalk conditions. There are now 349 one- and two-bedroom apartments situated near the Long Island Rail Road station — intended for young professionals commuting to Manhattan for work — and parking is free after 6 p.m.
Sidewalks along North Park, South Park and Village avenues were redone, and a partnership with AARP is in place to help identify trouble spots for residents in the downtown. There are also seven parks for playing and six green spaces for relaxing — covering 140 acres — that have been spruced up.
“All of these things put together make it a clear destination and worthy of an honor,” Alexander said. Occupancy of downtown businesses is 99 percent, according to Vision Long Island, up from 82 percent seven years ago, and the group says people are trading their high-valued homes for smaller apartments and condominiums close to the downtown area. Additionally, Rockville Centre is notable for its ability to “retain millennials” and on the flip side is one of the best cities for seniors in New York State, as it is rated high for its health care and social assistance accessibility.
“I am sure [this award] comes as no great shock to the residents of Rockville Centre,” Mayor Francis X. Murray said in a statement. “Our schools, recreation programs for our youth and seniors, safety, thriving downtown and overall quality of life is second to none.” At the event’s presentation, he concluded, “Rockville Centre is a wonderful place to live, work and play.”