It's About Saving Nassau County From The Dust Bowl
If the Lighthouse Project was only about keeping the hapless, and nearly winless, Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum (home to the International Great Beer Expo), we would almost certainly be inclined to say -- no, to beg -- 'take 'em away!"
But this planned redevelopment of what is now an asphalt wasteland --reminiscent of the great plains during the 1930s, sans the tumbleweed and the dust storms -- is about so much more than keeping a hockey team (is that what the Islanders are?) on Long Island.
The Lighthouse Project would not only be a job creator, an economic booster, and a civic center for a county whose hallmarks, at least over the past quarter century, have been sprawl, brownfields, and suburban blight, it would be a boom to an aging island population, trying to keep Generation Next close to home, and beckon those next door to take a second look.
"It would be too big, too massive, too tall?"
Well, what does it say for a county whose tallest structure, by far, is the Covanta incinerator chimney in Westbury?
How do we stop the brain drain and attract a young, vital workforce, when redevelopment is defined as a white picket fence circa 1952?
Where is the vision that will take America's first suburb from the current nightmare scenario, where flight seems right, to the full potential of the suburban dream?
Are we lacking visionaries? Leadership? The will to find a way?
We have the visionaries, apparently. Folks who see the big picture and understand that a thriving suburbia is a great deal more than Levitt capes surrounded by vacant strip malls.
Is it the lack of leaders who can take an island with a 1950s mindset into the 21st Century?
Well, face it, Kate Murray is no Moses, and the Town of Hempstead, whose Zoning Board ostensibly holds the key to any changes in the infrastructure of the greater part of Nassau County, is much better at carving out exceptions to the Building Code than in incorporating Smart Growth principles into the Town's agenda. [We'd say, the Town's Master Plan, but clearly, beyond Blight Studies and faulty "Urban" renewal schemes (scams?), there really is no Master plan!]
As much as we chided Katuria D'Amato (Al's wife) as a patronage hack in her early days on the Town ZBA, she's proven herself the brightest member of the Board, shaking her head when one or more of her fellow Board members chimes in with a foolish comment or altogether dumb question, and rolling her eyes whenever the Chairman opens his mouth or counsel needs testimony repeated because he simply cannot hear. [As opposed to the rest of our Town officials, who can hear, but simply choose not to listen!]
Actually, Katuria D'Amato (congrats on the new baby, by the way) gets it. Too bad no one else at the Town of Hempstead seems to.
The will to find a way? Maybe they're all stuck in traffic on the Merchant's Concourse. Or it could be that the vision thing we so often speak of is shortsighted rather than long term.
Imagine if planners of yore (not mine, but yore), did not have the vision to turn a filthy, downtrodden slum into what would become Lincoln Center? An overflowing great ash heap into Flushing Meadow Park (and two World Fairs)? Or a flat, nearly barren plain, twenty miles from the City, into America's first suburban community?
Before us, right here in the Town of Hempstead, Nassau County, Long Island, New York -- that place we so humbly call home -- lies the great opportuninty not only to reimagine the future of suburbia, but to reinvent it, and to make it work again, for ourselves, our children, and generations of Long Islanders yet to come.
We are, each of us, pioneers of a new sort, in a new and significant era, on these Hempstead Plains.
We are, each in his own way, Islanders!
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Cue the tumbleweeds. . .