Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Will Elmont Rise From The Ruins Of The Argo?

$2.5 Mil Says It Will!

They say you can't buy happiness. But how about the rebirth of a decaying, blighted downtown, and a renaissance for a communty too long on the fringes?

The gateway to Nassau -- or at least a small part of it (that surrounding the all but abandoned Argo movie theater, once a mainstay of a then-thriving Elmont business district) -- stands to take a giant leap into the 21st century, with the infusion of $2.5 million in grant money as secured through the RestoreNY project by State Senator Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Tom Alfano.

The confluence of all levels of government working alongside members of the Elmont community has helped secure an infusion of money that, representing, if not a transformation from blight to beauty (no one expects miracles), then certainly, a step in the right direction.

Kudos go not only to Mssrs. Skelos and Alfano, often called the fairy godmembers of the community for their ability to bring money for revitalization into the areas they represent, but also to Hempstead Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino, and the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development (which Ambrosino co-chairs), for setting the wheels in motion.

With the money soon to be in place for the redevelopment of this 3-acre site (small, but its a start), the big question is (a) will this seed money ($2.5 mil just doesn't go as far as it used to) be used wisely by the Town of Hempstead, which will administer this money, as well as the rest of the State monies totaling $8 million as designated for the revitalization project, and (b) if they build it, will private investors follow suit, bringing both dollars and sense to what in its day was -- and tomorrow could be again -- not only the gateway to Nassau, but the county's pre-eminent showcase.

Sure, $2.5 million can buy a whole trailer load of Victorian-style street lamps, and the lackluster, almost feeble facade "improvements" that the Town of Hempstead has historically passed off as "redevelopment" hasn't demonstrated much in the way of either planning or foresight.

With much at stake here, however -- for both the Elmont community and America's largest township -- the impetus exists to do more than throw down a few blocks of brick pavers.

Indeed, more than ever before, this is Elmont's time. From Belmont Park to the Argo site, revitalization and renewal are in the air.

It behooves the Town of Hempstead to get it right!
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From The Elmont Herald:

Grant would clean up three acre site for economic development

Elmont received good news from Assemblyman Tom Alfano and Senator Dean Skelos when they secured state funding totaling $2.5 million for a revitalization project in Elmont for the Argo Theater Revitalization Plan. The grant comes from the Restore NY project which encourages rehabilitation and reinvestment in communities and will be used to revitalize a three acre site at the intersection of Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road.

“I could not be more proud to team with Senator Dean Skelos to help deliver the money that is desperately needed for this restoration project,” Assemblyman Alfano stated. “I am especially proud of the effort of the community led by Councilman Ed Ambrosino, the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development and Supervisor Murray in helping jumpstart this initiative in applying for this Restore NY grant. We showed the state just how vital state assistance would be to our community and there is no doubt that this funding will help to bring about a new day and outlook for the gateway to Nassau County – Elmont.”

“This is just the beginning of great things for the Elmont community. Assemblyman Alfano and I are committed to revitalizing Hempstead Turnpike, creating jobs and lowering taxes for homeowners. The work the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development has done has helped us realize this funding,” said Senator Dean Skelos.

“My priority, along with Senator Skelos, is to revitalize and help create jobs for Elmont. Further, when we fund projects like this, it helps bring in new business and raise revenue so that we can cut property taxes,” said Assemblyman Alfano.

The Restore NY is a program designed to encourage economic development and neighborhood growth by providing municipalities with financial assistance for revitalization of commercial and residential properties. For the 2007 round of requests, up to $100 million was available for distribution to various municipalities in accordance with need and importance.

As part of the cooperative effort between and among the different levels of government committed to Elmont revitalization, the Town of Hempstead, as the municipality, made application to the State for the grant. The State is providing the funding and the Town will administer it.

According to Senator Alfano’s office the money is specifically earmarked for the economic development/revitalization of the 3 acre site at the intersection of Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road, referred to as the Argo Theater, and can’t be used by the Town for anything or anywhere else. It will be, of course, imperative that Elmont community members, civic leaders, and the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development diligently participate and monitor the funding and its use.

According to Alfano, Seklos and the governor’s office, the total project’s costs will be $8 million, of which Elmont, through the Town of Hempstead, had asked for $2.5 million to help defray the costs of construction and clean up at the three acre site at the intersection of the Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road. Because of the significance of the town and the proximity to the famed Belmont Park Race Track, the state was compelled to fully fund this project.

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