NEWSDAY: Baldwin residents urge Hempstead officials to approve Grand Avenue mixed-use project
By Grant Parpan
Baldwin residents urged the Hempstead Town Board to approve a $100 million mixed-use development project at a former parking lot along Grand Avenue after traffic flow concerns were addressed by the developer.
At a second public hearing Nov. 22 for The Grand at Baldwin, a 215-unit transit-oriented rental project proposed by Breslin Realty Development Corp., several residents said the time has come to move forward on the project they hope will spark redevelopment of the area.
“We’ve lived with an unsightly and dirty storage lot for many years and it’s time that we move beyond just looking at this ugly lot and get something in the ground,” said Steven Greenfield of Harrison Avenue, the street that would see the greatest traffic impact from the development.
Residents along the street had expressed concern over a prior traffic plan that would have allowed residents and visitors of the property to make a right-hand turn onto their street toward residences. At the request of Town Supervisor Don Clavin, the developers will instead require all outbound traffic head north to Sunrise Highway, away from the homes. The exit itself will be designed to make it difficult for drivers who might choose to ignore posted signs to make a right-hand turn, said Rebecca Goldberg, civil engineering director at Cameron Engineering in Woodbury.
The town is also working with the developer to post “no-parking” signs on both sides of Harrison Avenue for 350 feet south from Sunrise Highway to alleviate congestion around that narrow section of road.
The changes follow a meeting Breslin consultants had with residents who spoke at an initial public hearing in October. Those same representatives for the developer said it was important to address community concerns to propel the project forward.
“This will spark commerce in that area and it will spark many jobs,” said Elisabetta Coschignano, an attorney for Breslin.
Still, not every resident who spoke at last week’s hearing is convinced the proposed modifications will work. Some said Long Island Rail Road commuters who park along Harrison Avenue would continue to do so, even closer to the residences, once parking is prohibited in the vicinity of the new development. Other residents said existing traffic problems heading north to Sunrise Highway during morning rush hour will only be exacerbated if the apartments are built. Another neighbor was skeptical the project would really make a difference.
“I’ve seen many changes in Baldwin and not for the good,” Janice Hartmann told the board.
Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said this is the type of project that can bring positive change.
“This is what we’ve been working on for the last 10 years,” D’Esposito said. “We’re hoping for smart development to protect quality of life.”
New York State awarded a $10 million downtown revitalization grant for Baldwin in August 2019, with $2 million designated for the lot where the building has been proposed. A mixed-use overlay district was created to give the town oversight on the proposals as they move forward.
While the town board reserved a decision on the site plan after closing out the hearing, several Baldwin residents said they hope that day comes soon.
“Vote for this project,” said Susan Cools of Grove Street. “It’s not perfect, but no project is.”
The town has not yet set a date for a vote on the proposal.