Thursday, November 15, 2007

America's Most Blighted Township

Kate Murray, Supervisor

When it comes to studying the blight in its midst -- and officially designating it as such -- no one (and we mean no one) tops the Town of Hempstead.

No sir, in Hempstead Town, Blight (with a capital "B") is king [or queen, as the crown may fit the Supervisor's pretty little head], and the study of such deviation from the suburban dream -- as prelude to condemnation proceedings and ill-advised "urban" renewal plans -- has become all the rage.

First it was the Baldwin Blight Study, where the Town envisioned a revival of the less than Grand Avenue, "downtown improvements (to) include streetscape upgrades such as brick paved walkways, Victorian street lamps, newly planted trees and attractive planters."

As Kate Murray concluded in the Town's pro forma press release, "The adoption of the blight study and the upcoming redevelopment plan portend a bright future for Baldwin neighbors. Councilman Santino and I are committed to making the great community of Baldwin even better."

Then it was Oceanside's turn, where it was "blight to beautiful," the Town turning valuable land (the site of the former Oceanside Motel), with its potential to serve as a centerpiece for revival of a forlorn business district, into a paved paradise -- a municipal parking field.

As per the Town's communique, "The lot, which was completed this summer, includes a decorative 'Welcome to Oceanside' sign, brick-paved walkways, Victorian lampposts, attractive plantings, stylized benches, distinctive fencing and accent lighting."

Once again, Murray opined, "Councilman Santino and I worked hand-in-hand with neighbors to make Oceanside an even better place to live, and this parking field is a useful and attractive community addition for residents and local businesses."

The Supervisor concluded, "We have come a long way in Oceanside in the last few years and the future looks bright for this community."

Next, it was on to West Hempstead, where "blight" has become the community's middle name, and come all ye hapless to the "Fight The Blight" Study -- making what should have been the routine task of taking the wrecking ball to the infamous Courtesy Hotel tantamount to setting man upon the surface of Uranus.

"This study confirms what neighbors have long known," said Murray. "The Courtesy Hotel and some surrounding parcels are a blight on the West Hempstead community. We will work with developers to bring about economic revitalization in the area."

That was back in May of 2006. [Well, no one ever said Kate Murray was a quick study.]

"The town continues to work closely with the West Hempstead community to develop a plan for this area, concluded Murray. "We are committed to making this an even better community in which to live, work and shop. West Hempstead has a bright and promising future."

Hmm. Where have we heard that before. Baldwin and Oceanside, perhaps?

And now, not to be outdone, the Town has undertaken a Blight Study in Elmont (a study that no one in Elmont was even aware of, until its proposed adoption was to come up for a vote before the Town Board on November 13th).

Apparently, the Town of Hempstead needs to study whether the old, and now dilapidated, Argo movie theater -- the site on which community groups have long proposed a supermarket -- should be declared, in the official sense, "blighted."

Hey Elmont, you're blighted! Join the club.

We can be assured that, in the Supervisor's soon-to-be released release, Ms. Murray will proclaim Elmont as a great community where the future (defined as sometime between now and never) is looking bright. Or was that, "blight?" Hard to tell the difference.

Forgive us our skepticism of the Murray Plan to revitalize Hempstead Town (if General George Marshall had such a plan for post WWII Europe, Berlin would still be in ruins), but this promise of a bright future, and "an even better community in which to live, work and shop," has grown long in the tooth.

And what about the rest of Hempstead Town, where much of the unincorporated township suffers silently (apparently, even at the polls) as blight consumes "downtown" and "Main Street?"

Feeling slighted that you haven't been designated as officially blighted?

Not to worry. Word on the street has it that Hempstead Town Attorney, Joe Ra [he who, as a Town Councilman back in the gulliable 70s and 80s, told residents he was going to rid the town of illegal accessory apartments], is himself studying a program that would make every hamlet and hovel eligible for its own Blight Study.

So stand fast, overtaxed and underrepresented homeowners and shopkeepers of America's largest -- and now, most blighted -- township, for tomorrow, your future may look bright and promising (always promising), too, this in the land where absolutely any community can -- and will, without further (and we do mean, "without further") -- be crowned, "blighted for a day."

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