The effort to revamp Baldwin’s civic association — dormant since the 1990s — has brought many members of the community into the public eye. One of them is David Viana, an 18-year-old college freshman who looked somewhat out of place at a public meeting at the Baldwin Public Library on Oct. 22, ceding the podium to veteran public speakers like County Legislator Joe Scannell and Linda Reed of Town Councilman Anthony Santino’s office. The 200 or so concerned citizens who attended were full of questions about Viana: Who was he? How did he get involved? Was he running for something? The Herald spoke with Viana last week.
Baldwin Herald: How old are you, and what are you studying in school?
David Viana: I just turned 18, and I’m studying atmospheric and oceanic sciences with a meteorology track.
BH: What’s your history in Baldwin? Where did you go to school? What local organizations did you belong to?
DV: I went to the Community Nursery School on St. Luke’s Place. I attended Plaza Elementary School, Baldwin Middle School and St. Mary’s College Preparatory High School in Manhasset. I’ve lived in Baldwin since I was born. I still live in the Plaza School area.
BH: How did you get involved in community organizing?
DV: I was in the Boy Scouts when I was little, but didn’t really start getting involved with Baldwin issues until sophomore year, when I began volunteering for the Baldwin Civic Association. In sixth grade I cleaned up the field behind the Baldwin Historical Society and got the attention of local residents when they saw the work I was trying to do. A resident called Scannell’s office and I received a citation for the cleanup.
Three years ago I started to do some volunteer work for the Baldwin Oaks Civic Association, and worked to protect the field across the street from Coes Neck Park. Both of these things were ways for me to feel like I was beautifying Baldwin and helping improve the community. But cleaning one park hasn’t sped up the Revitalization Project, brought back the marigolds that used to be all over Baldwin or brought back businesses that would fill up all those vacant storefronts. My letters to [Hempstead Town Supervisor] Kate Murray were answered by people who said the same thing over and over again — “The project is taking longer than usual, but we’re still working on it” — so I decided I wanted to take things into my own hands. I was tired of waiting for change to come to Baldwin, so I thought I’d try to become the change that Baldwin needs.
BH: How did you start doing that?
DV: I thought the easiest way was to make a FaceBook page called “Baldwin Needs Revitalization,” to see how many people I could get interested. Once I had enough people to make a group, I wanted to organize a meeting at the library, where we could meet each other and discuss what we could do as a group to bring change. People liked the idea. They were really excited to come together and discuss the things they wanted for Baldwin: things they missed from when they were children, things that changed over the years, businesses they felt would do well here, and why there are so many empty storefronts.
BH: How did you hook up with with the revamped civic association?
DV: After the preserve across the street from Coes Neck Park was no longer threatened by Molloy College, I told [Civic Oaks President Jacqueline] Bell I was interested in either creating a civic group for all of Baldwin or trying to move the Baldwin Oaks meetings to the library, where more residents could attend their meetings. She was happy to work with me on whatever I wanted to do. Then the school year got in the way, so nothing happened until the following summer.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a woman named Linda Degen. She had heard about my page and reached out to me. She told me she wanted to start a new civic association for Baldwin, since Baldwin hadn’t had a civic association since the late ’90s. Since then we’ve been working together every day: calling people, contacting different offices, brainstorming ideas and trying to organize ourselves into a new civic association that will bring the “beautiful” back to “Beautiful Baldwin.”
BH: What has the reaction been in the weeks following the meeting at the library?
DV: After the meeting we got another 100 fans on FaceBook and we are now up to about 530 “likes.” With articles in both Newsday and the Herald, we’ve been able to spread the word that we’re looking for more people to join us!
BH: What is the status of the
DV: One of the residents on the FaceBook page volunteered to help us apply for a tax I.D. While doing so, he found out that the name Baldwin Civic Association was already in use here by an organization that was started in 1945. Since the organization is no longer active, we requested a copy of the charter and expect it within the next week or two.
The BCA has not yet had its first meeting as the “BCA.” So far our meetings have been held under the name Baldwin Needs Revitalization. Once we receive our charter and elect officers, we’ll be on our way to becoming an official civic association. The goals, however, are the same regardless of the name.
BH: Do you have political aspirations, or are you just a volunteer kind of guy?
DV: As of right now I’m sticking with meteorology. But whenever someone says, “Oh, you must plan on being a politician in the future,” I must admit that I do think about it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll run for office one day. If I do become a meteorologist, you’ll still see me around because I love my town and I want to do my best to make it better.
BH: What’s next for the organization, whatever it’s called?
DV: We’re in the process of finding a different venue for our next meeting, since the library’s community room couldn’t hold everyone last time. We’re hoping to have our next meeting before Thanksgiving or during the first week in December at the latest. We’ll announce the date as soon as we have one.
The committees for the BCA have been made, and at our next meeting we’ll have sign-up sheets for each committee. Towards the end of the meeting we will split everyone up into the different committees so they can exchange phone numbers and emails. The committees so far include: Finding Potential Businesses for Baldwin — making phone calls to businesses like Starbucks, Panera, Old Navy, etc.; Finding Developers for empty properties; the Adopt-a-Block program, our version of Adopt-a-Highway; Violations and Graffiti Cleanup; Beautification — getting new lamppost banners, planting, getting certification for becoming a Tree City USA; and, finally, a Local Business Involvement Committee, which will get businesses more involved in the overall revitalization of Baldwin.