At Vision Long Island’s 19th annual Smart Growth Summit, which was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, Lynbrook Mayor Alan Beach was one of many mayors and town supervisors who spoke about overcoming difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This experience is a first,” he said, “and most of our residents are paying attention and following guidelines. Our downtown is still staying vibrant. There are some restaurants open, but others had to put their plans on hold. We have been in contact with all of them.”
The Smart Growth Summit was hosted by Vision Long Island, an economic development advocacy agency. It was a virtual gathering of more than 1,000 Long Island community, business and government leaders, who have worked collaboratively to help businesses stay open and advance downtown development and infrastructure in an unprecedented time.
The three-day event was held from Dec. 2 through 4, and featured 125 speakers. Many topics were addressed during the summit, including helping local small businesses survive the pandemic, downtown revitalization and infrastructure investment, transportation improvement, streetscape beautification initiatives and other community needs, including housing, health and food insecurity.
Beach spoke during the first day of the event, and said the village was greatly helped by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act), through the help of Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin and Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito. He added that village officials have worked with the school district and other communities to try and bolster resources.
“We have a very tight-knit community,” Beach said. “We have a Community Chest that takes care of some of our people in need. There’s a very nice joint effort around this area, and people are very receptive.”
Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said that even though the summit couldn’t be held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury with 1,300 attendees like it usually is each year, it was vital to still host the event virtually so that community leaders could share ideas and network. Alexander added that while some businesses have had some hard times, the downtowns have remained strong and it’s important to provide resources to help them continue on.
“This is all of us coming together to help each other through a really tough time,” Alexander said, “and a tough winter ahead.”
Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino also spoke at the summit, and provided an overview of how the community came together during the crisis. He said he has been in contact with all the mayors in the Town of Oyster Bay, and they created a Covid-19 response team and a digital platform to help with tracking and tracing residents who have come in contact with the virus. Additionally, he has kept a frequent dialogue with local hospitals to stay up to date on progress toward the creation of a vaccine, and is working toward a distribution plan for when one comes to fruition.
Additionally, Saladino said, he hosts various sessions with the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce over the video conferencing platform Zoom in order to brainstorm ways to help struggling local businesses.
“Helping the business community is a very important part of this,” Saladino said. “We lobbied to get the state to open up dining in Phase Two earlier than expected with outdoor dining, and we continue to make sure they have access to our research and our experts.”
Saladino did note, however, that he was frustrated that the Town of Oyster Bay was overlooked by Nassau County when it came to acquiring CARES funds, “We haven’t received a dime,” he said.
Saladino lauded the community for coming together to collect more than 20,000 tons of food to help those in need during Thanksgiving, and noted that there is a blood drive in the town and a Toys for Tots drive this holiday season. Additionally, the Career Center has been helping unemployed residents find jobs, and the Building Department has begun offering same-day permits online.
Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand praised Saladino for collaborating with him to help the community at the height of the pandemic. He said village officials took an “aggressive’ approach to finding more resources.
“We gave out 5,000 masks to our residents,” Ekstrand said. “We put signs up telling the community to wear masks, sanitize and wash their hands. Last week, our infection rate was at 1.74 percent, which is phenomenal. People are listening.”
To learn more about Vision Long Island and its initiatives, visit visionlongisland.org.