By Rabia Gursoy and Cindy Mizaku
Trustees of Hempstead Village voted on Feb. 20 to take legal action against the developers in charge of a downtown revitalization project that has remained inactive for the past eight years.
The trustees will approach the resolution as a way to open communication with the developers about what’s to come next.
“The next step will be definitely to reach out to the developer,” Village of Hempstead Trustee Waylyn Hobbs Jr. said, “And sit down and have a conversation and see, you know, if we can work together to make sure this happens […] Hopefully by doing that, we can avoid litigation or loss.”
With 11,000 of Hempstead’s residents living in poverty, the revitalization project sought to develop the village’s transportation and create jobs for the area’s low-income families.
The developers have breached agreements related to the proposal to build apartments, hotels and public squares on parking lots downtown, the board of trustees and Mayor Don Ryan claimed before deciding on the vote last week.
“I think it’s a good thing [village trustees voted to allow legal action],” Co-CEO of Renaissance Downtowns, Sean McLean, who is one of the developers working on the project, said. “I think it’s something that will get everybody back to the table to open up communication again.”
Among the developers working on the project, including UrbanAmerica and RXR Realty, McLean said he jumped at the opportunity to develop Hempstead’s downtown area to apply his interests in mixed-use and transit-oriented projects to a neighborhood that he saw get disinvested growing up.
The Village of Hempstead is one of 16 communities in New York State selected as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI)—an initiative that encourages the community to develop plans to reduce poverty. In Nov. 2018, Cuomo granted $1.1 million in state funds to go towards nine programs in the Village of Hempstead, including the village’s Community Development Agency.
Because Hempstead is approaching its constitutional tax levy as assessed values are declining, Trustee Jeffery Daniels said that the village will lose state aid without the downtown’s expected growth.
“If [the administration] does not accept its growth, it will no longer be viable economically for residents that are currently living there, and it will just downward spiral,” he said.
The Village of Hempstead is among the most densely populated areas of low income. When compared to the rest of Nassau County, the village has the highest number of low-income houses.
Real Estate agents in Nassau have encouraged the developers to build multifamily residences with commercial units in the Village.
“If the developers start building multi-family properties in Village of Hempstead, the village’s income will increase tremendously so the village property tax-will drop like in Village of Islandia,“ Haldun Yavas, Real Estate Agent, said.
The Village trustees aim to appeal to young professionals and college students by aiming to build multifaceted facilities where they can live, work and shop in order to keep them in Hempstead.
“I think the village of Hempstead is a place that’s of incredible importance to the future of Nassau County,” McLean said, “It should be a place that is exemplary in the future of what a diverse, smart development and gritty downtown semi-urban place should be.”