A major commercial developer expressed interest in constructing a mixed-use commercial-residential project in Baldwin, next to the Long Island Rail Road station, at a Sept. 3 public hearing at Hempstead Town Hall. At the same session, a number of residents shared traffic concerns if downtown development were to move forward in the community.
Town officials called the meeting to hear opinions on a draft environmental analysis and zoning ordinance for a proposed overlay zoning district in central Baldwin.
Garden City-based Breslin Realty, a designated developer for retailers such as Walmart, Stop & Shop, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Starbucks, Walgreens and Trader Joe’s, plans to build the mixed-use development at the southeast corner of Sunrise Highway and Grand Avenue, within the overlay district, according to Nick Cappadora, an attorney who represented the firm at the public hearing.
Town officials said the overlay district was expected to be adopted at the end of October. Breslin’s plans had not yet been submitted to the Town Building Department. Breslin representatives did not return calls seeking comment.
VHB Engineering, a consulting team that is helping to draw plans for the overlay district, finished the state-mandated environmental analysis and collected public comments through Sept. 16. An overlay district tailors zoning requirements to a particular area to best encourage development with the least possible disruption, and is expected to incentivize developers to build and revitalize Baldwin’s downtown area.
“The Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and business community is ecstatic that a large-scale developer, Breslin Realty, is willing to invest and build the largest development in decades for the Baldwin community,” Chamber President Erik Mahler said after hearing about the proposed plans at the public hearing.
“The Grand Avenue corridor has suffered from 17 years of repeated unsuccessful urban renewal planning,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said when Baldwin was awarded a $10 million grant from the state in August to revitalize the downtown area. The “transit-oriented rezone of the corridor” would incentivize private development, she said, and “enable us to finally do something truly transformational for Baldwin.”
“I want to say thank you to all of you for moving this along expeditiously, for all working together,” Karen Montalbano, a Baldwin resident and former civic association president, said at the hearing. “It’s really a great thing to see — that bipartisan fashion led to that $10 million grant. It is much appreciated.”
At a public meeting in July, Rich Regina, counsel to the Town Board, said developers and landlords have been eyeing Baldwin’s downtown in anticipation of the overlay district. He said a developer, which he did not identify by name, plans to build a “large-scale, multi-story development” near the Baldwin Long Island Rail Road station, and another plans to develop a combined-use project, meaning commercial use on the ground level and residential on the upper level, although nothing is final.
Jessenia Velazquez, a Baldwin resident and member of the Baldwin Civic Association, who owns Clean Sweep in town, inquired at the hearing about traffic-calming measures and vehicle weight limits in the overlay district.
“One main thing that I have a big issue with is the weight limit that is able to go through the town on Grand [Avenue] and on Merrick [Road],” she said. “Being that my business is on Merrick, I have two cars that were hit, where the cars are speeding by and the trucks are there going around — it’s always a problem. Not to mention how many people have gotten hit by a car on that road because of the speed. Are they going to try to slow down the traffic in that area?”
“This is something [Nassau County] looked at in their study, and they do propose geometric improvements to the intersection of Grand and Merrick to help better control traffic as it enters the intersection — tighten it up a little, which will essentially slow traffic as it goes through that area,” Town Attorney Joe Ra said. “My understanding is they’re in detailed planning right now for implementation.”
In regards to vehicle weight limits, Ra said he would have to consult with county officials, because the county controls weight restrictions on roads.
Velazquez also said signage should be installed near the town-owned parking lots because “no one ever knows it’s there,” referring to the lots.
“A lot of businesses lose business because [people] don’t know beforehand, ‘Hey, there’s a parking lot there,’” she said.
Meta Mereday, of Baldwin, said at the hearing that she supports the overlay district, but added that many residents are concerned about the lack of a major supermarket to replace the shuttered Pathmark on Grand Avenue.
“I still have questions. I always will have questions,” Mereday said. “And I’m hopeful that we will continue to work as a united front to represent all of the interests of all of Baldwin.”