Because I’m a native of Baldwin, the vitality of Grand Avenue is near and dear to my heart, and addressing the economic and developmental needs of the corridor is a focal point of my administration. While it’s unfortunate that the course set in prior administrations, via the Baldwin Redevelopment Plan, hasn’t produced a single dollar in investment or improvement for the hamlet, I remain hopeful that we can still take three strategic steps toward correction.
Step One: Accept the Baldwin Downtown and Commercial Resiliency Study. Commissioned by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery through the Baldwin NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan, and completed in the spring of 2017, the study consisted of a yearlong planning initiative that included the input of civic groups, public and private entities and environmental and economic planners.
It identified the needs of the community, and made recommendations on how zoning and design could improve Grand Avenue beyond the scope of the town’s originally designated redevelopment area.
Step Two: Remove the looming specter of blanket condemnation that has stonewalled investment by clarifying to residents that an urban renewal plan does not exist, nor was one ever adopted.
The town should place a suggested zoning overlay district on Grand Avenue to promote development along the corridor. This could be created for the Grand Avenue corridor, and community members could take part in the review and design before it is presented to the town board for adoption.
Step Three: Work with our county, state and federal partners to help identify ways to attract private companies to engage in mixed-use development, workforce housing and façade and streetscape improvements.
My administration is focused on setting the table for private investment, public benefit and true economic development without sacrificing millions in taxpayer dollars through extreme payments in lieu of taxes and tax breaks.
Our goal is to build an environment for such investment that offers development tools that include zoning and financing to attract new development, as well as property-improvement programs to preserve existing community assets on Grand Avenue and Merrick Road.
It’s a plan that looks at the Baldwin community as a whole, instead of just two streets, because anyone from Baldwin recognizes that our community doesn’t start or stop on Merrick or Grand.
That’s why, in a sense, we have never seen a single success from past efforts.
I am confident we can create a thriving local economy that stays true to the character of our community.
Laura Gillen is the Town of Hempstead supervisor.