$4.5M grant for downtown revitalization


The City of Long Beach and the Village of Lindenhurst, in Suffolk County, have each won competitive grants of $4.5 million to help them revitalize their downtown business districts, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced Tuesday.

The funds are the first round of the state’s NY Forward building program, an extension of its Downtown Revitalization Initiative. State officials said that the $100 million NY Forward program has adopted the same “Plan-Then-Act” strategy as the downtown revitalization effort “to support a more equitable downtown recovery” for the state’s smaller and more rural communities.

Funding will be awarded to other communities in each of the state’s 10 economic development regions, officials said.

“The availability of a second round of NY Forward will be determined by the annual budget process,” Jason Gough, a spokesman for Hochul, said, adding, “There are currently no restrictions on previously awarded communities who may wish to apply for more funds.”

Long Beach is preparing to disclose a draft of a comprehensive plan to revitalize its downtown that a special committee, and outside consultants paid by the city, having been working on for about a year now. A previous attempt to developing such a plan, in 2007, ended after it was adopted but never acted on.

In a statement, Patricia Bourne, the city’s director of economic development and planning, said, “The NY Forward grant provides the City with an amazing opportunity to have the Long Beach community work together so the central business district on Park Avenue reaches its full potential.

“These are highly competitive grants,” Bourne continued, “and we’re thrilled that (the Long Island) Regional Economic Development Council and Governor Hochul recognize the recent progress made by the City and see us as deserving.”

John Bendo, who two weeks ago was selected again to be city council president, thanked Hochul, and added that Long Beach is not only home to some 35,000 residents, but is also “a major destination for visitors in the summer.” Bendo added that a “thriving business district is key to Long Beach’s success. With this historic investment, we can now focus on a much-needed renewal of our central business district to meet the needs of our residents and visitors alike.”

While the city has yet to disclose its plans for the downtown business district, the topics of discussion have included bikeways, and more greenery. The city is also working on a perennial Long Beach problem: parking. It has heard from a large consulting firm about the potential of installing high-tech parking meters downtown, but no decision has been made on that part of the plan.

A number of people saying they are taking a wait-and-see attitude until they see the Comprehensive Plan.

In her announcement, Hochul said, “Our downtowns crate a vital economic lifeline for so many of our smaller communities to thrive, flourish and reach their full potential. As we continue to assist New York businesses recover from the pandemic, we are executing an equitable plan with NY Forward to uplift our business districts during the successful blueprint of our Downtown Revitalization Initiative.”

The state said in a companion announcement that the Long Island Economic Development Council had conducted a thorough and competitive review process of proposals submitted from communities throughout the region before recommending Long Beach and Lindenhurst as nominees.

In a joint statement, Development Council co-chairs Linda Armyn, chief strategy and marketing officer at Bethpage Federal Credit Union, and John Nader, president of Farmingdale State College, said, “This funding will provide a vital boost to smaller and rural communities, allowing them to create opportunities for long-term growth and prosperity.”

On its website, the city said, “In New York State, comprehensive plans are not required for municipalities, but many communities choose to adopt a plan in order to guide and support future development. The City of Long Beach last updated its Comprehensive Plan in 2007.”

The website statement added, “These plans typically address housing, economic development, transportation, land use, as well as sustainability, historic and natural resources protection, and infrastructure, among other issues.”