They're fighting for the heart of Lakeview


In recent months, neighbors in Lakeview have watched their once thriving downtown continue a transformation into what they describe as an industrial eyesore.

A few years ago, the corner of Woodfield Road and Eagle Avenue was known as Lakeview Plaza. Neighbors shopped at a beauty salon, a barbershop and a clothing store and dined at a Chinese restaurant, and there was a locally owned automotive shop as well. But since a 2021 fire ravaged those small businesses and the apartments above them, the area has become not only unattractive, neighbors say, but nearly unwalkable.

Antonio Lopez recently moved his masonry business, originally headquartered in Queens, to the corner of Woodfield and Eagle. Around the same time, large trucks — flatbeds and dump trucks — began disrupting traffic on Woodfield, a two-lane street that is the primary road through Lakeview.

Nearly 50 neighbors came to a June 12 Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals meeting to voice their opinions on the situation.

“People cannot walk on the sidewalks,” Gerry Wright, of Lakeview, said. “The streets are blocked. They have cones in the street, and a person directing traffic going into the other side of Woodfield Road. And when they have a delivery, both sides of Woodfield Road are obstructed.”

“It used to take me 15 minutes to get to work,” Jacqueline Cuffey said. “Now it’s a half hour, 45 minutes.”

“I have to go into the oncoming traffic, and I can’t see around these great big trucks and don’t know if somebody is going to come down,” Patricia Terrelongue said. “We don’t need another dead child on Woodfield Road.”

In the past three years, at least three people — including 12-year-old Thomas Molina — have been killed in traffic accidents on Woodfield Road, and several others have been seriously injured.

The intersection of Woodfield and Eafle is near Hempstead State Lake Park and a number of schools, including Gersh Academy, for children on the autism spectrum.

“I have a son who’s autistic,” West Hempstead resident Michael Sexton said. “Thank God he didn’t have to travel this route every day.”

Much of the ire was directed at Lopez, who insisted that the trucks that were blocking traffic on Woodfield were not his. Neighbors remained unpersuaded — until one last person got up to speak.

“I take the blame,” said Michael Pasquaretto, owner of Island Mason Supply, which operates just down the block from Lopez’ company. “I never realized the trucks were blocking traffic.”

Pasquaretto promised the attendees that he would make immediate changes, and that the trucks would no longer be a problem. Since the June 12 meeting, neighbors have noticed a significant improvement in traffic conditions on Woodfield Road.

But for many, that didn’t solve the problem. Island Mason is symptomatic of a larger problem, people say: neighbors watching the heart of their community turn into an ugly industrial center after they have worked for years to beautify the downtown.

“I have invested hours of my time and resources into the beautification of the Lakeview train station, as well as other locations throughout the community,” Cilicia Jolly said. “The work of this business is undoing the efforts of our local community.”

Howard Herman grew up in the building destroyed by the fire. His parents, Lillian and Carl, owned a candy store on the corner. His voice caught during his plea to the Board of Appeals.

“When you folks start looking at photos and saying, ‘Well, this looks to be an industrial area’ and so forth, that would not have been the case if not for the fire that happened three years ago,” Herman said. “It is the misfortune that that fire took place that this whole area has now become what it is.”

“It looks horrible,” Stephanie Chase said. “Do we need another Masonry? I don’t think so.”

“The purpose of that area was never really intended to be industrial,” Lisa Ortiz said. “It was mixed-use for a reason. It’s a residential area. This is in our downtown Lakeview area — not an industrial area.”

Helping restore the downtown would have been a perfect opportunity for the Town of Hempstead to show its purported support for small, locally owned businesses, Cecilia Capers said. “We got a flyer — I’m sure all of us saw it in the mail — that said, ‘Save our suburbs,’ and it came from the Town of Hempstead,” Capers said. “We have to prevent a certain level of urbanization from developing in our neighborhoods. Because what does that mean? The quality of life goes down. What does it mean? It means communities that we built and made to be family-oriented continue to get fragmented.”

“It would be wrong to just give away the land to the highest bidder,” Angel DeMara said, “when really, it should go back to the community, to those who have been displaced.”

“If you’re going to come to Lakeview,” Doris Hicks Newkirk said, “give back to Lakeview.”

In the coming weeks, the Board of Appeals will make its decision on the conditions under which Lopez’ masonry company will be permitted to open for business.