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State announces $10M grant for Baldwin downtown

‘We’re here today to turn the tide’

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Baldwin has received a $10 million grant to revitalize its downtown area, which officials said has seen empty storefronts and vacant businesses for almost two decades.

At a packed news conference at Baldwin High School on Aug. 13, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Baldwin had won the grant out of a pool of almost 100 applicants. The funding was awarded as part of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which officials said aims to revitalize communities and boost the local economy.

The Baldwin corridor once bustled, Hempstead Town Supervisor and Baldwin native Laura Gillen said, “but over time, we saw businesses fail, stores remained vacant, and we saw that beautiful corridor suffer a decline. We’re here today to turn the tide on that decline and to see Baldwin revitalized in a way to make it even better than it was before.”

Attendees cheered as elected officials, including Nassau County Executive and Baldwinite Laura Curran, accepted an oversized $10 million check. Officials said the state would collaborate with the Long Island Economic Development Council to revitalize Baldwin’s downtown as part of Cuomo’s plan to transform communities into vibrant neighborhoods.

“We in the town will use these funds to further enhance our efforts,” Gillen said, “by creating more streetscaping improvements, green infrastructure, traffic calming and investments in mixed-use development that will bring housing, office and retail options to our residents.”

“This plan builds on Baldwin’s existing assets, including the [Long Island Rail Road], and focuses on transit-oriented development to drive economic growth in the region,” Cuomo said. “It’s not only ambitious and innovative — it is actually going to happen. And when you put boldness together with feasibility, that is magic.”

The grant comes as Baldwin and the Town of Hempstead move forward with implementing an overlay district in the hamlet, which tailors zoning requirements to the particular area to best encourage development with the least possible disruption. The modernized zoning codes are intended to attract developers and encourage growth.

“The Baldwin Downtown Revitalization Initiative will be a game-changer for local residents and businesses,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat, said in a statement. “I applaud Governor Cuomo for this investment in our community and will continue to work with my partners in government and local leaders to ensure this project derives maximum benefit for Baldwin and Long Island.”

The town recently announced that an environmental analysis of 87 acres of Baldwin has been completed, and called for a public hearing on Sept. 3 to collect input from the community. VHB Engineering and Vision Long Island, the town’s consultants for the overlay project, will then prepare the final environmental impact statement, officials explained, which is to contain all of the submitted comments and observations.

They will then enter the final stage of the State Environmental Quality Review Act work, and the town will be able to adopt the ordinance, Town Attorney Rich Regina explained at a public meeting in Baldwin on July 22.

“I’m deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo and the State of New York for providing the resources to unlock Baldwin’s great potential and applaud all of the town, county and civic leaders whose dedication and labor set the stage for this investment in our future,” County Legislator Debra Mulé said in a statement.

Baldwin is the fourth winner of the DRI. As in the first three rounds of the program, a municipality from each of the state’s 10 economic development regions is selected as a $10 million winner, “marking another overall state goal to target $100 million in funding and investments to help communities boost their economies by transforming downtowns into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family,” according to a news release from Cuomo’s office.

“With the pending establishment of overlay zoning, coupled with this new funding, I am confident that we will see a new Baldwin renaissance in the coming years and exciting new projects come to fruition for the entire community to enjoy,” said Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, who could not attend the event because of a previous out-of-state commitment related to her law practice. She has held monthly meetings at which she has updated residents on the overlay district process and answered questions.

Baldwin’s targeted area centers on the commercial corridor of Grand Avenue near the LIRR station, including the surrounding cluster of retail, commercial, institutional and public recreation places. Officials said that using the effort as a framework for future development, the grant will advance the community’s vision for a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use downtown centered on an active LIRR station.

“Baldwin joins other communities on the Island that are seeing smart developments come to life that showcase their best assets and set the stage for further investment,” State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin said in a statement. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s DRI, we will see great things develop here that will have ripple effects across Long Island.”

“This is part of the ongoing revitalization of our downtowns that will help keep our young people and grow the tax base — and make Nassau an even better place to live, work and play,” Curran said.

The plans to revitalize Baldwin’s downtown play into County Comptroller Jack Schnirman’s data-driven report released earlier this month, titled “The Deal for the Next Generation.”

“As highlighted in our office’s report on ‘The Deal for the Next Generation of Long Islanders,’ transit-oriented development and Complete Streets — which has been a key focus on Grand Avenue for years — is vital to develop public infrastructure that provides safety, flexibility, and efficient transportation for residents of all abilities and all ages,” Schnirman said in a statement. “This is a great example of how policymakers and community members can come together to attract the next generation while preserving the character of neighborhoods.”