"A Blight In Elmont Today, Left Untreated, Will, Eventually, Infect Every Tree In Wantagh"
It was at least fifteen years ago, maybe more, that residents of Elmont began to complain to the Town of Hempstead about abandoned trucks on Hoffman Avenue. Simple enough, one would think, to have these vehicles tagged and removed, the area cleaned up, and everyone goes home happy.
Yet, here we are, more than a decade later, trudging to Hempstead Town Hall, at the doorstep of our local legislators, making the same complaints, each as if for the first time.
Local civic associations and their stalwarts come and go (some, like old soldiers, never die :-), each generation of community advocate raising the flag - and reinventing the wheel - in the hope that, this time, someone at Town Hall will not only listen, but will actually do something.
"We're working on it." "Give us time." The customary parlance of Townspeak translating into "Done that, been there" and "If we ignore them long enough, maybe they'll just go away!"
How long can we ignore that blight along "Main Street" - or Elmont Road? How many times can local officials turn their heads, pretending they don't see the 6 electric meters on the side of that single-family house, or the trash accumulating on the sidewalks adjacent to storefronts in violation of Town Code? How many times do we have to complain about the very same issues before we get action -- or before we simply give in, throw up our hands in disgust, and walk away?
The troubles of which we write are not limited to Elmont. One among many unincorporated areas in our township, Elmont is but a microcosm of the transition from sleepy suburban bedroom community to the spillover of urban sprawl. It is, in many respects, a crystal ball of sorts -- a look into the future of other hamlets in the township, should we neglect to take up the challenge to redirect the course of community.
To the east of Elmont, not all that far in distance from those rusting relics along Hoffman Avenue, lie other long-term detractors from our suburban quality of life -- West Hempstead's no-tell hotel (or two); waste heaped upon abandoned truck tires behind a hole-in-the wall railroad station that literally sits at the end of the line amidst weeds, garbage and long-forgotten shopping carts; the stark unreality of Hempstead Turnpike from the City line past Belmont Racetrack, bisecting village and hamlet with what the New York Times once described as "twenty miles of ugly." The same concerns we complained about yesterday. The same problems we pay twice as much for today.
In Seaford, seemingly light years away from the demolition derby on Elmont's Hoffman Avenue and the incivility of West Hempstead's Courtesy Hotel, evidence of blight rears its ugly head. Nothing major by comparison to the horror show playing daily on the township's western front, but nonetheless precursors -- like Scrooge's visit to Christmas future -- of that which may yet come. Construction equipment at the Seaford train station, usurping parkland; Town-"maintained" sidewalks along Seamans Neck Road crumbling -- for more than a decade; overgrown trees with limbs begging to be trimmed; a municipal parking field (S-1) behind the local library, described by Seaford residents as resembling a lunar landscape. The same concerns we complained about yesterday. The same problems we pay twice as much for today.
Now, we know that there are some among us who are saying, "Wait a minute. We don't have these problems in our community. Our business district looks spiffy. Our streets are clean. Yeah, we pay alot in property taxes, but look at the great services we get. What are you folks complaining about?"
Ah, lucky is he who can feast on the lamb while the grazing fields next door lie barren. It doesn't take a Nostradamus to tell you that, without a course correction of some significance, your day, too, will come. After all, a blight in Elmont today, left untreated, will, eventually, infect every tree in Wantagh.
We can span the township, regailing our readers with tales of woe from Freeport to Merrick, Baldwin to Uniondale, but you have already lived and relived them every day. For how long? Toward what end? At what cost?
So why should folks in Wantagh care about Elmont? Why complain in Garden City if Valley Stream has it tough? Why? As a matter of self-preservation. Why? Because if you don't stand up and raise your voice, when the blight does reach you -- today, tomorrow, or that far-off day after that -- there will be no one left to complain.
In a comment to a recent blog, someone postulated that it makes no difference who we vote into -- or out of -- office. Kate or Harvey. Tom or Greg. The subsequest poster begged to differ, asking whether, during the dark days of the Great Depression, it would have made no difference whether we had a Herbert Hoover in the White House, or the likes of a Franklin Roosevelt.
To us, leadership -- those in whom we place our greatest trust and our highest hopes -- makes all the difference in the world. The difference between advancing the shining promise of a bright future, and clinging to the edge of the dark abyss knowing that tomorrow will be no better than today, and just the same as yesterday.
We suppose its all a matter of perspective. Is this as good as it gets or can we do better? At the risk of sounding overly optomistic, we believe that we can do better -- that we must do better.
We have every expectation that our dreams, our visions, our hopes for the future of the collective community of Hempstead Town will become tomorrow's reality, and that our lofty aspiration, pursued throughout the years, of restoring that suburban quality of life to America's largest township, will not be left to rust along the roadside, like so many abandoned trucks on Hoffman Avenue.
Election Day -- Tuesday, November 8th -- is less than 4 weeks away. Share the vision. Dare to dream. Say "no more" to the status quo. Fear not the prospect of change. Take a long, last look back, and then, go boldly forth to tomorrow!