Friday, April 04, 2008

Elmont Elevating: Saying YES To A Revitalization Plan

A Community's Vision Gets Thumbs Up From Local Assemblyman

Community's good friend, Assemblyman Tom Alfano, graces The Community Alliance blog with his thoughts on the resurgence of Elmont.

It is, indeed, a "vision" thing, one which the good people of Elmont must never lose sight of nor belief in.

After all, as Elmont goes, so goes the rest of Nassau County.
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Elmont: A Coalition of the Willing, Building A Better Tomorrow

Over the past three years, Elmont community members have been working with Sustainable Long Island to revitalize our commercial corridor. This great effort developed into the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development. Led by community minded people from all of our civic and public service organizations, the coalition has been the driving force for revitalizing the community.

The Elmont Coalition hosted a visioning weekend at Elmont Memorial High School. That weekend affair was one of the most productive efforts I have seen in Elmont in many years. I attended the workshop portion of the visioning weekend and sat with some of our young people as they brainstormed about their hopes and dreams. On a personal note, it was truly refreshing to see people come together of all ages and backgrounds with the sole purpose of rebuilding and revitalizing their community.

During the sessions, people came up with outstanding ideas about how to improve Hempstead Turnpike. Dozens of subcommittee meetings were held regarding areas like business, transportation and culture. One might ask what was the objective of that effort? It was to put together the best and brightest ideas into reality.

Since that visioning weekend, I am seeing the fruits of our collective labor being developed into real tangible initiatives that will make a difference. Make no mistake, we’re just beginning the process of revitalization for Elmont. Now is probably a very good time to note what our objectives are for Elmont.

In today’s global economy, we are not just competing against companies located right in the United States, but throughout the world. In order to be prepared for those challenges, we must have an economic environment that welcomes business and provides key ingredients to make them a success. In a nutshell, that means we must provide a quality workforce, space, positive working environment, infrastructure and incentives.

Elmont truly is a desirable place to site business today. First, through a great team effort, I was able to help bring an Empire Zone to Elmont through the collective work of former Governor George Pataki and Senator Dean Skelos. Empire Zones give businesses great state incentives to build, create jobs and expand existing business operations. Second, a grant from Restore New York has delivered a $2.5 million dollar outlay to the Town of Hempstead to redevelop the former Argo Theatre block. Third, Elmont has one of the largest tracts of land completely undeveloped on the Turnpike on the former NYRA property. Incidentally, as part of the NYRA deal, that land area is now state property. Fourth, commercial properties up and down Hempstead Turnpike are prime locations for business development and are currently available.

One area that must be singled out in this discussion is transportation. Elmont has multiple bus routes, access to our parkways and has Hempstead Turnpike as its roadway backbone. Further, I will state publicly that I am strongly in favor of reopening the Long Island Railroad Train Station at Belmont to help foster more transportation options for working families. Not only are we affording more options to local residents who need quality, dependable transportation, but we are also bringing great convenience to commuters who are our neighbors in Elmont and South Floral Park. Finally, with an open LIRR station, we will be setting the stage by welcoming would be shoppers to a redeveloped, revitalized community. This effort is already in full swing. Senator Dean Skelos and I have written to MTA President Eliot Sander and requested a scoping study for the opening of the station.

Economic development is the only way we can cut taxes for homeowners in our community. By expanding the commercial tax base, we are taking the tax burden off the shoulders of seniors and working families. Expanding the commercial tax base creates jobs not only for those who are underemployed and unemployed, but provides quality part time for jobs for young people that are desperately needed.

As an aside, I can’t tell you how many times I have had high school students talk to me about their great desire to have a part time job after school or during the summer to help save for college. By fostering an economic environment that brings business and creates jobs, we can make those dreams a reality for our young people.

It’s clear that Elmont is truly in the driver’s seat when it comes to the revitalization of our commercial corridors. What we need to do is to encourage all proposals for business development. We need to welcome business people and tell them to come to Elmont. We need to encourage existing businesses to get involved with the community. And, we must be known as a community that is open for business.

Part of that economic development plan includes Belmont Racetrack. Whatever the final result of the Belmont deal, the status quo at Belmont can not continue. Today, the Elmont Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of an initiative that would build a hotel at the park along with shopping. I wholeheartedly agree with their proposal. The construction of a hotel would create jobs, expand our tax base, provide a service and meet a community need. Ideas, like that of the Chamber of Commerce, must be encouraged and celebrated.

What Elmont does not need is the culture of “No.” In order to develop the very best community possible, we must listen to all who want to come and make a home in Elmont. What Elmont does not need is economic development in the form of parking lots of new cars renting spaces at Belmont for car dealerships. What Elmont does not need is economic development in the form of carnivals and tag sales that are here today and gone tomorrow with no lasting impact for the community. What Elmont does not need is economic development where properties up and down Hempstead Turnpike are taken off the tax rolls and therefore shifting the tax burden to homeowners. Last but not least, we do not need economic development that will not be supported by consumers and investors. That leads to shuttered storefronts and community decay.

What Elmont needs to do is to work from facts and from real proposals. We need to work within the framework of the revitalization plan. We must follow the lead of the Coalition and work together to make our community a better place. What Elmont must do is use that creative energy from the visioning weekend and revision our community into what it should be.

Tom Alfano
Assemblyman, 21st District

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