Thursday, March 22, 2007

America's Largest Township Out Of Control

Unincorporated Areas of Hempstead Town Left Hanging Over Abyss of Neglect

On Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont, virtually in the shadow of Belmont Raceway, what remains -- call it "ruins," if you will -- of the old ARGO movie theater.

In its heyday in the 1950s, the Argo, with its ornate balcony, outside box office, and high-ceilinged lobby, was the pride of the community.

Today, having been shuttered for what seems like, well, decades (how apt that the theater was operated by the Century chain), the Argo is but a blighted shell of its former self.

The de-evolution from attractive movie palace to a Discount Department Store, its incarnations including a rather seedy Club Malibu and a storefront Baptist church, the former Argo now stands as a testament to the Town of Hempstead's indifference, a brownfield-in-residence that resonates with the sentiment of community that the Town has simply lost -- or given up -- control.

A lack of control is certainly nothing new in Hempstead Town. Indeed, the rant on this blog alone bespeaks a township spiraling out of control, from the top offices at Town Hall (where the Supervisor abrogates control to those who lack self-control), to the garbage heaps of the Town's Sanitary Districts (over which the Supervisor avers she has no control).

The Supervisor of Hempstead Town will tell you, in mailings by the dozen, that the Town has no control over tax assessment, no control over special taxing jurisdictions (even those that operate under title and seal of the great Town of Hempstead), no control over the Town's ex-Building Commish (who lives on the Supervisor's very own Levittown street), no control over the revitalization and redevelopment of the business and commercial districts that subsist in the Town's unincorporated areas west of, say, Wantagh.

All right. On the last score, the Supervisor will tell you that she has control -- that the Town is moving "with all deliberate speed" (as in, when snails win the Indy 500) to renew, refurbish, rehab, and refresh.

And yet, save the convenient placement of a few Victorian-style street lamps, ornate benches upon which we may rest our weary limbs amidst the rubble, faded brick pavers, and dying, uncared for plantings, the Town of Hempstead has little to show on the community front for its "efforts" to restore suburbia.

Yes, we have seen the "new Elmont," in artists' renderings handed down from Supervisor to Supervisor. We have heard the plans for a "sustainable" Elmont, but have managed only to sustain a steady decline along Elmont's Main Streets. [Place this one under the heading of "that vision thing."]

There has been talk -- and lots of it over the years -- about reopening the Argo as a movie theater. Just talk.

The latest out of Hempstead Town Hall is the prospect of a Condemnation Proceeding -- a long, drawn out process that may ultimately lead to the demolition of the Argo's skeleton -- making way, perhaps, for a supermarket, or even a Discount Department Store.

If Elmont can take any solace in Hempstead Town's seemingly unexhaustible supply of "no control," it is that we are not alone on the Town's darkened radar screen.

Just to the east, in the unincorporated hamlet of West Hempstead, the Town has been closing a crime-ridden no-tell hotel -- the Courtesy -- for more than a decade. We'll "condemn" blighted properties -- in that eternity which passes ever so slowly as "Town Time" -- but not the likes of those who would condemn entire communities to suffer the indignities of a painful and "sustained" absence of control.

They're studying "bilght" in Baldwin [the Town is most studious], and, no doubt, we'll eventually see those Victorian-style street lamps sprouting along Grand Avenue.

True, every once in a long while, the sun does shine through from Hempstead Town, but even then, its typically paving blight -- as in Oceanside -- to put up a parking lot (cue the Victorian-style lampposts).

Still, it remains mostly cloudy for far too many who reside in the township's unincorporated areas, where "control" cedes daily to chaos, and, much like the Town's Levy Preserve, hopes of recapturing the glory days of community icons such as the Argo remain "forever wild."
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  1. There is a song; and in that song the words " They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. It really is a shame and we'll go on with a vision that goes no where. I know some will say that I am negative, but when you have lived here for 40 years there isn't much to be positive. The only thing I would really like to see, is the Queens boarder moved east. This is the first time in recent years that property values in Queens is higher than Nassau county: Number one reason; Taxes. So now we will try to white wash our problems.

  2. Out of Control In ElmontThursday, March 22, 2007 4:41:00 PM

    "Out of control?"

    My God!

    There are centenarians in nursing homes, drooling at the mouth and wearing Depends, who have more control of things than do the folks at Hempstead Town Hall.