Local leaders gather for State of Elmont meeting

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The Elmont Chamber of Commerce held its annual State of Elmont meeting at the American Legion Post 1033 at the end of April. At the meeting, local officials outlined current concerns floating around in the Elmont community, ranging from dealing with its aging population to hopes for the proposed Belmont Park Arena project.

Town of Hempstead Councilmember Edward Ambrosino said that the areas near Belmont have become Empire Zones, which qualifies them for grants and low interest loans in anticipation of the development at Belmont Park.

“These are going to be challenging but exciting times here,” he said.

While residents appeared split between supporting and opposing the development at Belmont, Tudor Manor Civic Association President Joyce Stowe, who is also a member of the Belmont Park citizens advisory committee, wanted members of the Chamber to stay on top of the promises Empire State Development (ESD) made to help revitalize Elmont’s economy. ESD is overseeing the arena project in conjunction with Sterling Project Development. Elmont is currently plagued by poor economic development, which was evident by the low number of businesses operating on Elmont Road, Stowe said.

Julie Marchesella, of the Chamber of Commerce, also blamed online shopping as a factor contributing to Elmont’s poor economic performance. Because of laws regulating sales tax, people who make online purchases from retailers outside New York are depriving their communities of much needed help, she said.

“For every dollar spent in Elmont,

it goes around six more times before leaving the community,” Patrick Boyle, director of Elmont’s Gateway Youth Out-

reach added.

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman explained that it was not just Elmont, but the county as a whole that was facing economic troubles. Schnirman blamed a system of decentralized operations, weak internal controls, lack of transparency and ignorance of data, as well as ongoing corruption cases and the fiscal distress that the county has been facing for the past 20 years.

“If something doesn’t get done, we’ll be experiencing a full blown crisis,” he said.

Schnirman hoped to use a series of audits and new technology to help make the county’s finances more transparent. In one initiative, undertaken in conjunction with County Executive Laura Curran, the comptroller will launch a new system that displays the county’s finances and can be accessed by local residents.

Elmont residents also highlighted another troubling pattern in their community in the form of decreased youth engagement. Nassau County Veterans Service Agency Director and Elmont Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Ralph Esposito said the fire department was having trouble keeping young volunteers. The department essentially runs on the older volunteers because younger members just don’t stick around.

“I can’t even keep them for 5 years,” Esposito said. “They don’t last.”

Esposito and other members of the community blamed the rising cost of living for the drop in youth engagement. Because Nassau County is one of the most expensive counties in the nation — and the fire department depends on volunteers — Esposito said younger residents choose to leave Elmont for more affordable locations. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau found that in 2016, a majority of Elmont residents were 35-years-old or older. Residents also said that students have to focus so much of their time on school and work that they are left with little or no time to volunteer or take part in local civic meetings and events. The fire commissioners will look into whether or not they can use social media platforms, such as Facebook, to promote the Elmont Fire Department to younger residents.