Around 200 residents sacrificed a beautiful Saturday afternoon to pack the Baldwin Public Library’s Community Room on Oct. 22 for the inaugural meeting of a new civic association.
Heading up the meeting were David Viana, an 18-year-old freshman at Stony Brook University, and Linda Degen, 51, a school secretary. The pair met when each discovered that the other was trying to organize a group with the idea of revitalizing Baldwin. Viana was working with a FaceBook page that grew from 10 to more than 400 “friends” in a matter of weeks, and Degen was attempting to reinvigorate the dormant Baldwin Civic Association. The energy generated by the pair compelled many world-weary residents to give local organizing another chance.
“I’ve been to so many of these things and nothing ever gets done,” said Sarah, an educator who declined to give her last name. “Everyone rants and raves and then nothing happens. Who knows, maybe this young guy has a new perspective. It would be nice to get something done for once.”
“We just hope they follow through,” said Jessenia Velazquez, who, along with her husband and daughter, attended the meeting in homemade “Save Baldwin” T-shirts. “I was happy just to come in and see so many people in the room.”
The meeting had an ambitious agenda. Representatives of the 1st Police Precinct addressed public safety; Linda Reed, of Town Councilman Tony Santino’s office, spoke about the redevelopment of Grand Avenue; and Doug Weidman of Sanitary District Two spoke about keeping Baldwin clean. Kristie Lengel, a new business owner, discussed her decision to open in Baldwin, and County Legislator Joe Scannell detailed his plans to bring more funding to the hamlet. (Scannell’s challenger for the 5th L.D. seat, Chris Browne, raised his hand to speak, but was not called on by the meeting’s chairs.)
Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce were on hand, as were members of the school board, the Fire Department and the Baldwin Civic Oaks. Jacqueline Bell, president of the Oaks, said that her organization was delighted by the enthusiasm in the room and echoed the sentiments of many in encouraging the new civic association to maintain its momentum. “We welcome this and any other associations that want to form in Baldwin,” Bell told the Herald. “David started with us when he was still in high school, and we’re happy to see him still working for Baldwin. We’ll get together with them in any way and do whatever we can to help. This is a great arena for new ideas.”
Viana and Degen both said they were surprised and pleased by the turnout on Saturday. “It was amazing,” Viana said. “We’re very happy.”
“That showed how much the community cares,” Degen added. “We have a lot of projects we want to take on. We understand the economic environment, but we need these storeowners to keep glass in their windows, to limit the size of their signs, to make their businesses look presentable.”
Viana and Degen said they are planning to form committees to focus on such issues as graffiti, real estate development and small business development. They said they are trying to figure out how to incorporate under the Baldwin Civic Association charter and are planning their next get-together for mid-December. According to Degen, the group signed up some 150 new members on Saturday, and expects more to trickle in over the next few weeks.
For more on the civic association, search FaceBook for Baldwin Needs Revitalization or email BaldwinCivic@yahoo.com.