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Elmont's Riding the Economic Development Horse

horsenoseIt was an icy winter night in 2005 when the Democratic candidate for 3rd Legislative District, Ali Mirza introduced members of the Elmont Community to Sustainable Long Island (SLI).  SLI “is a non-profit organization that promotes economic development, environmental health, and social equity.”  As a result of that introduction in the winter of 2005 the Elmont community formed the Elmont Coalition for Economic Development (ECSD), and working with SLI, the community developed a Vision Plan.  Since then, ECSD has hosted numerous meetings, press conferences and photo-ops with politicians of both parties.  But, as time passes, how is Elmont benefitting from all of the substantial and meaningful early years of planning?

One County legislator points to using the Vision Plan as the foundation for millions of dollars spent on brick sidewalks, curbside benches and antique lighting along Elmont Road north from Linden Blvd. to Dutch Broadway.  The Town of Hempstead supervisor directs attention to the triangle formed by the intersections of School Road, Elmont Road and Hempstead Turnpike as foundational to the community Vision Plan.

 A funny but thought provoking fight with Boss Tweedy, a new 7/11 on Elmont Road, Taco Bell and Applebees on Hempstead Turnpike, closer collaboration with NYRA including a horse race named for Elmont during Belmont Stakes Weekend are some other claimed victories.

A recent news article, Nashn J. (2011, November 22) Extreme Makeover: Elmont Edition Elmont Franklin Square Herald reports a list of projects (duplicating in part the aforementioned) and adds the long discussed full service supermarket on the south western corner of Elmont Road and Hempstead Turnpike.

The Extreme Makeover article list is familiar to those “in the know” but ends with an ominous and in part factually defective statement about how eminent domain “actually” works by town Spokesperson Mike Deery who says “once the Argo [the building on the south west corner of Elmont Road and Hempstead turnpike] contract is finalized and approved, RD Management will try to purchase the property from its owners in a private transaction.” He continues, “If an agreement can’t be reached, the town will condemn the property and pay its owners the market-value price for it — a requirement of eminent domain law.”  Now, these landlords are generally not good neighbors  - let’s be clear, they have neglected Elmont for years as is evidenced by the condition of their buildings and by their lack of civic participation unless it directly affects them – like having their building condemned.

Another local paper report, Argueta, M. (2011,November 25) Belmont Casino Plans Remain Dicey Until 2012 Floral Park Dispatch discusses the crown jewel of Elmont redevelopment – Belmont Park Casino.  “Not too much will happen just yet,” says Sandra Smith. “Until the Legislature goes back in session in 2012, where they [The Shinnecock Indian Nation] can really start to have communication with the governor and the legislators to see if things can move forward in terms of the Shinnecock Indian Nation getting a compact (agreement),”Smith continued.  Sandra Smith is Co-Chair of ECSD.

Elmont residents are disappointed because they understood that the casino project met Governor Cuomo’s Long Island Regional Economic Development Council scoring criteria.  Now, they are asking if the Belmont Casino was really ready for scoring or were Elmont residents mislead.

Recent economic development in Elmont looks like brick sidewalks, antique lights, talk and Boss Tweedy on the side.   But on the things that matter, the things that really invest in Elmont - well, you be the judge.

The Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development is still in labor – waiting to give birth to meaningful, job creating, community lifting redevelopment of Hempstead Turnpike Corridor.

The Town of Hempstead, according to Councilman Ed Ambrosino, “needs to burn the existing town [zoning] code” and develop a new one based on the changing needs of Elmont, and other areas within its borders.  In spite of this recognition by the councilman the town tinkers around the edges of zoning by making changes that have little practical value but uses it as talking points during election seasons.

The County – well, it put the final nail in the coffin of Belmont Park redevelopment (for now) with its ill conceived dumping of the Nassau Coliseum “idea” on the south Lot of Belmont Park and on any chance the casino had.  Why?   The Governor laid out clear and open criteria for projects to be considered and the Coliseum idea, dropped in the middle of an election campaign as talking points on jobs for incumbents, did not meet even the barest of requirements for consideration in the governor’s open and clear directive.

The State – First, Craig Johnson after photo ops, press conferences and tepid support of the community’s Vision Plan sells his supported to city Democrats.  In exchange for supporting Aqueduct over Belmont, Johnson is sited in an AEG Report on page 160  as a senator who committed to support AEG's bid in order to protect concerns over another senator's role in AEG (refresher).

The community is introduced to the dynamic team of a wealthy investor, the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Freshman Senator Jack Martins.  Together they dispatched local residents and employees to express their full throated support for Belmont as a Casino.  The proposal projected 5000 jobs, a railroad station, and soccer fields for kids etc.  However, there was no compact (agreement) between the state and the Shinnecock Indian Nation.  Along the way, the project is practically decoupled from the greater Community Vision Plan and presented for consideration to the Governor’s Long Island Regional Economic Development Council (LIREDC).  Clearly two key points of consideration were not in place?  Was this a dry run; a practice exercise? Boss Tweedy got us again?

The LIREDC mission stated that the Council’s goal is to “seek to leverage Long Island’s considerable competitive advantages - its critical mass of a superbly-educated workforce, attractive natural assets, successful high-tech businesses and world-class research centers stocked with Nobel Laureates - to create appealing new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.”  Further, the report focuses on four categories of projects:

  • Investments in an Innovation Economy – projects related to science, technology and medicine.
  • Investments in Rebuilding Long Island Communities “Smartly” – The Hempstead Village Renaissance includes 3,400 housing units 700,000 sq. ft. of commercial space and The heartland Town Square in Brentwood is essentially a self contained Suburban City.
  • Investments in our Natural Assets - An Agri-Park in Caverton and Scallops restoration on the Eastern End of Long Island
  • Investments in our Workforce – EngINE and WIN are two public – private projects that aim to boost number of engineering graduates and identifies and educate potential high-skilled workers – including high school students - for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

What went wrong with The Belmont Park Project?

The fact is, the organization charged with overseeing Economic Redevelopment in Elmont (ECSD) became an extension of local and state Republican politics.  It shouldn’t be a surprise when at some point in the near future Governor Cuomo is blamed for standing in the way jobs for 5000 in Elmont.  The Casino project (as it was presented) never had a chance of surviving the Governors open scoring process for funding.  Here is the report, no spin – you must read it!

Whether you are for or against casinos is not at issue.  What is pertinent is can ECSD advocate on behalf of and in the best interest of the whole community.  The organization, though well intentioned, must be depoliticized and revitalized as originally intended, a grassroots, community and non-partisan body that “promotes economic development, environmental health, and social equity” in Elmont like Sustainable Long Island, the organization that serves as the model for its existence.

Last Updated ( Friday, 02 December 2011 22:23 )  

Comments

 
0 # Roy 2011-12-03 21:27
I give the author a lot of credit for telling it like it is. Ms smith should step aside if she work for Senator Skelos.
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0 # Mr. Thomas 2011-12-03 21:18
Plain and simple, Elmont needs development across the board. I was at a local barbershop in Elmont today, actually named The Shop, and I happened to get involved in a conversation concerning this very issue. It was actually surprising to me that these young men, who had to be about half my age (53) we're so passionate about what's going on in their own community, that I had to get involved. Young people need to be involved in the process, and maybe some of these so called elected leaders need to take a seat at this barbershop and get some new ideas. We've invested too much in our youth to see them throw in the towel and walk away from our community, and unless we all stand up and unite, we're finished.
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0 # Lawrence 2011-12-03 08:09
Phillips, you disappoint me. This is the second time you write something and change it. Them friends you have in the Republican party is out there throwing you under the bus and you don't even know. Smith's close ties to the Republican party is important. When she talk to people they should know why she is saying what she is saying and doing what she is doing. Good article, but stop running scared.

- AUTHOR'S COMMENT -
I am sorry to hear you are disappointed. For those who read the first posting of this article, an element was removed per request. I am not sure what you mean when you say "stop running scared", but let me assure you that the integrity of the article remains unaffected.
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0 # Pat Nicolosi 2011-12-03 01:41
I have to say this atricle has all the facts, and sadly we have been played again. Some people point to West Hempstead as a success story: Really!! It only took 20 years. The sad part to that story is: The community wanted to rid the area of prostituts and drugs; well they didn't, the problem has now moved to the capri motel a few miles west. If you look at the Regional planning decissions, no mention Of Elmont, Belmont or Transit Development anywhere. They mention VS and a train station. Well what about the Train Station at Belmont. If we want to see any real job creation and not more bricks we need to depoliticize the coalition now. We have seen the forces butt heads before: Sen. Johnson and Sen. Skelos dividing the community over an advisory board. In order for our community to win this race for jobs we can't have a re- match of politcal wills. This time it will be between Majority leader Republican Skelos plus Sen. Martins against Governor Coumo. Will they try to divide the community again? Push us to one side as they dangle that carrot? If we really want to see jobs,and the plan moved forward we need to have the coalition become a part of the Chamber and have a slate of independent leaders. This is our last shot of getting this right. One more point: Why does Elmont have to work so hard just to get a Supermarket? It seems to come easy for most communities on Long Island. Here in Elmont we have to pant like a dog and wag our tails just to hear about a market. If we complain they call us trouble makers. On the other hand the Town tells us they are complaint driven. In other words the Town doesn't work unless we complain. Well let's all start complaining loud and clear: We want jobs and our plan from 2006 done now not 20 years from now!!
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open letter-02

Today, we are talking to people about sustainable economic development, because we think it's important to show support for key issues that affect our community - like places in the Elmont for young professionals to live, shop and be entertained; like keeping families closer together and rebuilding the economic and social pillars of the community.

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Barbara Reynolds is a Long Island Regional PTA Board Member and recently installed SEPTA (Special Education Parent Teacher Association) Board Member.  She sent the quoted email to a list of residents and parents shortly after being installed as SEPTA board member.
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