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Committee to mull Franklin Square revitalization

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As members of the Franklin Square Historical Society were deciding which buildings should be preserved as part of their proposal to create a historic district, they started to talk about the need to revitalize the community.

“You really can’t just landmark things,” Nancy Youngfert, vice president of the historical society, said. “You have to think about how you’re going to revitalize the downtown. You have to give people a reason to come into the community, shop and buy.”

There are now several empty storefronts in Franklin Square’s business district on Hempstead Turnpike, which Youngfert partially attributes to a lack of parking. She noted that she sometimes winds up shopping at King Kullen if she can’t find a place to park for the T&F Pork Store on the turnpike, even though she prefers the quality of the food at T&F.

To address these and other issues related to downtown revitalization, Youngfert and her husband, Bill, attended a Vision Long Island discussion a few weeks ago, at which they learned about ways to improve downtown areas. There, Nancy said, VLI Director Eric Alexander spoke about how to slow traffic — including installing countdown timers, re-ducing speed limits and widening sidewalks — make buildings more attractive and keep signs visible without cutting down trees.

Inspired, the Youngferts formed a steering committee of Franklin Square residents to meet to discuss potential redevelopment. They reached out to people from various organizations, and the committee now comprises Joseph Camolli, Carl Gerrato, Frank Culmone, Phil Malloy, Katherine Tarascio, and the Youngferts. They  regularly exchange ideas with one another, Nancy said.

Gerrato is involved in the Chamber of Commerce, the civilian patrol, and the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, and serves on the Franklin Square library board. He said he decided to join because his family has lived in the community for almost 100 years, and is “really interested in making sure the community is revitalized.”

Culmone, meanwhile, is secretary of the Franklin Square Civic Association. He became involved in the committee because, he said, he “is very protective of our community” and wanted “to maintain that community feel.” But certain proposals, like developer Nauman Hussain’s plans to convert a Synergy Fitness, an AT&T store and a jewelry store into a three-story storage facility, were “in opposition of how I thought the community should look.”

He said, however, that “a group of three or four residents can’t speak for the whole community,” which is why the steering committee is holding a Community Downtown Revitalization meeting. Residents are invited to attend the meeting and share their ideas, so the committee can develop a comprehensive plan for Franklin Square’s downtown.

“We want to make sure that everyone’s on board and everyone’s on the same page,” Gerrato said, adding that Franklin Square’s elected officials have also been invited to the meeting.

It will begin with an introduction of the committee members. Then residents will be able to list and prioritize their ideas, before town officials offer their views. The meeting will be held on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Franklin Square Public Library.