Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Cool Downtown" Concept Gets Icy Reception

Has The Revitalization Of "Main Street, Nassau County" Been Snowed Under By New Administration?

"Cool Downtowns."

An idea with the promise to take Nassau County's forgotten, neglected and often blighted downtown business districts from doom and gloom to boom, as postulated (often ad nauseum) by former County Exec Tom Suozzi.

Gone from the pages of the county's website, and, most notably, from newly-minted CE, Ed Mangano's repetoire (where talk of the repeal of the Home Energy Tax is still front and center), is any mention of Cool Downtowns, or such other programs as may serve to usher in the revitalization of Main Street.

Yes, there's still the old and time-honored "visioning" process, for places like Elmont, Farmingdale, and Hempstead Village. Hamlets that have been "visioning," mostly in the dark, and with little prospect of seeing light at the end of the tunnel, for years now. Still more "visioning," with eyes wide closed, perhaps, for the likes of Baldwin, Roosevelt, Uniondale and West Hempstead, where residents hold out more hope of turning water (courtesy of the local water district) into wine, than they do of transforming vision into reality.

Gone is the grand vision of the New Suburbia and the 90/10 Solution, replaced, on the great information highway, at least, with This page cannot be found, or, worse still (because the former intimates that the content may still be out there, somewhere), the apologist's regret.

Okay. Maybe Ed Mangano needs a little more time to get acclimated in his new job, and to thoroughly acquaint himself with how Nassau County government works -- or does not work. After all, with a mere fourteen (count 'em, 14) years under his belt as a County Legislator, we could hardly expect him to hit the ground running on Day One, let alone to come forward with fresh and innovative ideas. [Even the old, rehashed ideas need time to come to the fore, right?]

Seriously, though, if Ed Mangano and his administration are contemplating any move -- or, at least, the prospect of a relevant sound byte, whether or not it is to be given legs -- on the downtown upturn front, a consideration of more than mere allusion to the concept of Cool Downtowns is definitely in order.

"The idea of 'Cool Downtowns' is critical to the future course of Nassau County," said Muzzio Tallini, a developer with the Signature Organization in Elmont.

"How many more young people are going to leave Nassau County before we start doing something about it? It puzzles me that we spend so much money on educating children, and then fail to take the necessary steps to keep those educated children here in Nassau County, when the cost of keeping them here is next to nothing. In fact, keeping our young people here in Nassau County will only expand our tax base, and breathe some much needed fresh air into our stagnant downtowns. I hope the new County Executive as well as the various Town Supervisors and Village Mayors re-assert their commitment to the Cool Downtown's initiative."
Indeed, Cool Downtowns and the New Suburbia, by any name or incarnation, are worthy programs, if but for reviving the discussion of how we can breathe that new life (or at least get us off life support) into our many withering downtown business districts. [Besides, such initiatives make for great press releases and amazing artists' renderings!]
We're hoping that Ed Mangano and his team, in the spirit of his election campaign to move Nassau forward, will take up, if not continue outright, the challenges as well as the promises offered by Cool Downtowns and the 90/10 Solution, if not in name, then, by all means, in deed.
To see such initiates wither on the vine, only to disappear from view -- perhaps in the hope that they be vanquished from our collective memory, would be a true shame. Shades of Operation Downtown, which, during the waning, painful last months of the administration of Tom Gulotta, fell off of the radar screen, and into the abyss.
Keep your eyes peeled for a press release from the County Exec, any day now. . .
- - -
Meanwhile, speaking of icy receptions, freezes, and being snowed under --
Over at Town Hall, employees remained glued to their 52" HDTVs, watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Not to be outdone by skaters, skiers and lugers, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray -- that energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulb going off over her head yet again -- called a press conference to announce the township's bid for the 2030 Winter Games.
With Joe Mondello, now Chair of the International Nassau-Hempstead Olympic Committee (Joe Ra, Treasurer) -- IN-HOC, for short -- at her side, Murray proclaimed America's largest Town as "absolutely the best location for the Winter Olympics."
"We have more snow than Vancouver," said a smiling Murray, whose caricature will become the symbol of the 2030 games, "and our team of wise and impartial judges, GOP Committeemen all, are rearin' to officiate."
According to Murray, perfect winter weather is guaranteed for the games, a permanent "freeze" to be in effect through 2032, the year her brother is expected to retire from the Town and start collecting a pension for the next 100 years.
"Why, we wouldn't even have to spend a dime for facilities," declared an effervescent Murray. "Every venue (to be referred to as 'special districts,' seperate and collectively) is already in place."
The Nassau Coliseum -- yes, very much as you see it today -- will host the opening and closing ceremonies, both to be held at the same time, as well as hockey, figure skating, and short track.
Mount Trashmore in Oceanside will be the site of downhill skiing and slalom.
Hempstead Turnpike, as it wends its way from Hempstead to Elmont, will be covered in ice, serving as host to events such as cross-country and biathalon. [Bystanders must provide their own guns.]
Island Park's Long Beach Motor Inn and West Hempstead's Courtesy Hotel (both kept open for the next twenty years by unpopular demand) will become the Olympic Village, housing hundreds of athletes (and many more sex offenders, rapists, and violent criminals) from around the world.

Award ceremonies will take place within the cozy confines of Elmont's old Argo theater, each medal to be sold at discount for 99 cents or less.
As for the Olympic flame, upon its arrival at Mitchel Field (by bi-plane flown by the Supervisor herself), it will be carried by relay -- Tony Santino, as Senior Councilman, having the initial honor of carrying Kate's torch along Merchant's Concourse -- to the Olympic cauldron, ceremoniously perched atop the Covanta incinerator cooling tower, still, in 2030, the tallest structure in Nassau County.
Of course, before you get your Olympic hopes too high (and start scalping those halfpipe tickets for the event at the skate park in Levy Preserve), Hempstead Town will have to beat out other contenders for the 2030 Winter Games, including Debuque, Iowa, designated in 2007 as one of the Best 100 Communities for Young People (so that's where all of our kids are going), and, in 2008, the Most Livable small city in America. [Hey, we're the Most Blighted Town in America, so there!]
Debuque, a Democratic stronghold. Hempstead Town, a bastion of Republican autocracy since 1903. As Joe Mondello would say -- in fact, he has -- "Go stuff that in your duffelbag..."
And so, we leave you, much as we found you (in repose, on your couch, wondering who ate all the chips), with a touch of humor, a heap of sarcasm, hope for a better, brighter tomorrow for our Long Island, and the knowledge that what happens next is almost entirely up to you.
Swifter, Higher, Raises for Everyone
Kate Murray, Supervisor 


  1. Cool Downtowns was one of the goods ideas of former County Executive Suozzi. It started a real and necessary dialogue to chart where our future growth in Nassau County needed to be so that young people could stay here, our tax base could expand, and the community could have something to enjoy in their downtowns other than miles of blight. Sadly, it appears his idea is not a priority for Ed Mangano. Having all the pages removed from the County's website speaks volumes as to what he thinks about smart growth and re-energizing our downtowns.

    To be fair, the County Executive has little say over development in Nassau County. That responsibility lies primarily with our Towns and Villages, who have with very few exceptions failed miserably. The problem of course arises when all of the beautiful renderings come down from their easels, the lights and cameras leave, and it's time for our politicians to get something done. Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead have continuously denied, obstructed or at best frustrated any attempt to build smart growth projects in our downtowns. Baldwin, Elmont, West Hempstead and now Uniondale are some of her casualities. These communities had smart growth projects proposed with great hope and supported by their communities only to be swatted away by Kate, a person who proclaimed she would be a champion for smart growth when first becoming supervisor over 7 years ago.

    We can't afford inaction any longer. We have seen enough artist's renderings and read enough independent studies. It's time for us to get serious about swatting Kate Murray away if we want to have any Cool Downtowns in the Town of Hempstead.

  2. The whole "cool downtown" concept was associated with Tom Suozzi, and so it's not a big surprise that Mangnano would choose to abandon this. In the early days of his administration, the number one order of business seems to have been to find new and creative ways to criticize the prior regime. Some of that criticism has been legitimate; on the other hand, given that Suozzi is now history, it's not exactly productive of anything.

    Hopefully, there'll be some alternative direction offered by our new County Executive when it comes to downtown revitalization. Actually, let me make that a stronger statement: I think voters should deem it as unacceptable for our County Executive not to exert leadership in this area.

    In his first year in office President Obama was criticized for trying to do "too much too soon." On Long Island, we seem to specialize in electing people who do "too little too late." Sunday's Newsday article, outlining the problems which, decades later, not only continue to exist but have actually gotten worse, highlight the fact that as voters we simply can't afford politicians who do nothing or who make only token efforts to address the most serious issues we face.

    Let me submit that, given the current state of affairs on Long Island, we'd all be better off with elected leaders who try to "too much" as opposed to "too little." Only time will tell what kind of leader Mr. Mangnano chooses to be.