Five years after the Elmont community agreed to house UBS Arena, a retail village and hotel in town, residents are asking for New York Arena Partners to fulfill its promise and build a community center in town.
“We were good community partners, because they agreed on building a train station, redoing our park and also establishing a community center,” said Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages at a rally held last Sunday. “We see two of those commitments sub-standardly agreed to, but the third one still has not been established.”
The $1.3 billion Belmont Park Redevelopment Plan, announced in 2017, is a partnership between Oak View Group, the New York Islanders, and the Sterling Development Project known as New York Arena Partners. While the Islanders gained a new home at UBS Arena, a retail village is under construction, a train station was built, and Elmont Road Park received renovations—which the Town of Hempstead is reinvesting in as its turf field because of drainage problems, the community has been left without the 10,000-square-foot community center it was originally promised.
Parents, community leaders and elected officials gathered in the snow and strong wind Sunday afternoon outside of UBS Arena on Hempstead Turnpike to implore New York Arena Partners to build a community center.
“We want what is due to us, and that is a community center,” said County Legislator Carrié Solages. “A place of learning, a place of education, a place where our communities can have nonprofit organizations that will teach our community, the young people, how to grow and how to keep our homes.”
Lynette Battle, a parent in the Elmont community, highlighted the importance of having a community center in Elmont.
“We don’t have a space in Elmont for our children to be together, to give them some afternoon activities outside of what the school hosts, and even for the community’s parents, where you have opportunities to come together, gather and learn,” Battle said.
She asked that Arena Partners be invited to voice their solutions to find space for a community center in Elmont.
Bob Barker, president of the Locustwood Gotham Civic Association, and other community members believe that one location the community center could be built is at 570 Elmont Road in Elmont. He said that the community’s recommendations have not been responded to in order to address the issue.
“We are here today asking you to come out, meet with this community, engage, and believe in inclusion as opposed to exclusion,” Barker said. “So, we want you to come out. We want a seat at the table—not just to have a piece of the pie, but we want part of the entire pie of having everything in this community.”
Fenol C. LaRock, one of three executive directors of Elmont-based nonprofit Universal Interactions, spoke about his organization’s mission. Their goal is to build a community center in Elmont, and unify the generations throughout the Elmont community. Through the nonprofit’s website ElmontCommunityCenter.org, people can enroll in a monthly donation program to raise funds to build the community center.
Universal Interactions has additionally started a GoFundMe to raise money to build the center, which can be found at bit.ly/ElmontCommunity. At press time, $405 has been donated to the cause, which has a goal of raising $500,000.
Tamar Paoli-Bailey, event coordinator and board member of the Elmont Cultural Center which was established in 2009, spoke to the importance of having a place where community members can gather.
“It is sad that all across Long Island, other communities have spaces where they can talk and they can commune with each other and we can’t,” Paoli-Bailey said.
In response to the Herald’s request for comment, a spokesperson for New York Arena Partners said the organization was “thrilled to welcome the Elmont community to the Free Family Skate, and we look forward to engaging with the community on more programs and initiatives that benefit our neighbors.”