Tuesday, June 07, 2005

To Bed, Bath & Beyond . . .

Remember the Flea Market at the old Roosevelt Raceway? Many an afternoon spent looking for bargains, and finding the torn and tattered Wranglers mom tossed – 3 pair for $10. [Today, those same jeans – you know, the ones with holes in the knees and the frayed bottoms, faded beyond recognition of anything that might have been blue – sell (under a famous label, of course) for $200 a pair at National Jean Company. Mom, I coulda been a contender!]

In case you hadn’t noticed, Roosevelt Raceway – Flea Market and all – is no more, the surrounding area supplanted by a curious mix of big-box stores, restaurants, and now, housing.

In an era of “Smart (as in ‘Smart is what Smart does’) Growth,” one expects – indeed, desires - a favorable mix of retail, commercial and residential use, and yet, the Roosevelt Raceway “hub” (for lack of a better term) defies the rule of planned development.

True, we now have more stores than Disney’s Main Street, but no main street in the area can be crossed in safety by residents of the newly built apartment complex, and woe to the residents of the soon-to-be constructed “gated community” for the over 55 crowd, who will no doubt become prime targets for motor vehicle traffic en route to, well, Target.

The idea behind Smart Growth, at least as we understand it, is to create a truly livable community, centered around a “downtown,” interspersed with affordable housing and plentiful green/recreational space, accessible to all – ideally by means that promote pedestrian traffic. At least give us a tram!

Okay, so the Raceway Cinema will have to suffice as a reasonable excuse for recreation (at least on a rainy day), but let’s face fact – in the shadows of the American Ref-Fuel facility and within earshot of the Meadowbrook Parkway, we have built out of the wasteland a, ah, wasteland. Look, you can’t get from point A to Point B – or from your gated apartment to Chili’s – without a car. As if traffic congestion wasn’t bad enough, let’s add hundreds of residential units – many to be inhabited by seniors – and invite more cars, more congestion and more pollution. [A note to prospective tenants: Do not sign long-term leases. Assuming you don’t get whacked crossing Merchant’s Concourse, the Carbon Monoxide from all those cars passing under your balcony (overlooking what, I have no idea) – or the “harmless steam” flowing from the stacks of the trash recycling plant – will be sure to get you. Forget the gated community. You need a bubble. Hey, what did you expect for $300,000 plus, Shangri-La?

And let’s tax those underground aquifers – the limited source of all of Long Island’s drinking water – like we tax everything else: to the max. Why, we could establish a Special Aquifer District (SAD for short) tax, not based on usage, mind you, but rather, on how many times you visit the Home Depot.

As for green space, heck, this is the Town of Hempstead, County of Nassau – if anything appears to be “green” or “open,” build on it. Need a variance? No problem. Zoning issues? Fugetaboutit! See Mrs. D’Amato next Tuesday at the Town Meeting Pavilion. You want green? Go to the food court at The Source or stop by the Olive Garden. They’ve got a great salad bar.

Anyone who ventures out to the maze that is now the Roosevelt Raceway hub will tell you – it’s a hellish nightmare. Why anyone in his/her right mind would want to live amidst this mess is beyond me, but I’m certain that the planners have this all figured out. Anyway, it really doesn’t matter. Someone’s gotten a sweatheart deal, made a buck or two, and paved over what little is left of paradise. No, not you. Someone else.

As for planning, development and “Smart Growth,” come on. Who are you kidding? This is, after all, the dominion of the Town of Hempstead Zoning Board of Appeals – the benefactors of 20-miles of ugly we call Hempstead Turnpike; the sentinels of that long-standing tradition of “if there’s a rule, carve out an exception;” the folks who say, “build it, and they will come” (to rue the day).

There’s a Rolling Stones song the chorus of which goes something like this: “You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you'll get what you need.” Seems we don’t ever get what we want. We hardly ever get what we need. We do, of course, get what we get. Could it be that, sometimes, we just don’t try?

Well, if not to infinity and beyond, at least to Bed, Bath & Beyond. “Get in the car, kids, we’re going to the hub!”

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