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Development

State approves downtown revitalization projects for Baldwin

Mixed reactions as officials tout plan, but residents are skeptical

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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, alongside New York state and Town of Hempstead officials in the lobby of the Baldwin LIRR Station, announced the approval Tuesday of seven of 12 projects for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative that the Local Planning Committee submitted to the state last October after being awarded a $10 million grant in 2019.

Now that the awards have been announced, the application process for the specific projects will begin, and interested parties are encouraged to submit plans to the Hempstead Town Building Department.

Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said he does not foresee any significant delays in the effort this year, as state and town officials and residents had already developed plans for the DRI when the pandemic hit. “It is because of the tenacity of the people who live in Baldwin that this is going to go,” he said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, herself a Baldwin resident, said the county stands ready to partner with the town to be helpful in any way that it can. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky echoed the sentiment in a statement, saying, “This substantial state investment will be a game-changer for Baldwin and its downtown. I will continue to work with my partners in government and local leaders to ensure this project delivers for Baldwin residents."

“The Baldwin Chamber of Commerce is extremely pleased that most of the funding went to major, transformative projects for the Baldwin community,” President Erik Mahler stated. He also noted that they’re ecstatic with the developers investing in the approved projects, but that they hoped for more developers for the “blighted” Grand Avenue.

The President of the Baldwin Civic Association, Darien Ward, in its May meeting said, “While we are happy that the construction is going to take place in Baldwin, the dispersion of the funds seems that it was highly targeted around the Long Island Railroad area.” He said he considered the prioritizing of high-density over low-density areas in the overlay zones as a mark against the approved plans, as only one project in Baldwin’s downtown was approved by the state.

Some residents took to social media to air their grievances of the approved projects, and the DRI overall, citing concerns with potential school crowding, tax hikes and a lack of investment in small businesses. Mostly, they deemed the approved transit-oriented initiatives an impending threat of overdevelopment and urbanization.

“People moved to Baldwin to get away from apartment living ... If we wanted a walkable downtown, we would move to NYC,” said John T. Flippen, a 20-year Baldwin resident. Other Baldwinites likened a post-DRI Baldwin to Queens. John McCarroll, a former Baldwin resident, expressed relief he moved away as he expects the initiative to turn Baldwin, “from a suburban haven to ghetto hood.” 

Other residents said they are cautiously optimistic, but cited confusion regarding the next steps. Kerri Stevens said she considers these projects great news, but has questions. “Is there a timeline of plans and associated phases?” she asked. “Is there a planning and oversight board?” 

This same uncertainty was echoed in the Chamber’s May meeting, as members asked, “What now?” Dr. Zodelia Williams, a member of the initiative’s Local Planning Committee told the group, “I don’t know.”