Hempstead, Southampton earn downtown-demo dollars

Do-over: Round Five of the Restore New York Communities Initiative includes $2 million for Long Island downtown-redevelopment projects.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Two Long Island downtown-redevelopment efforts will be bolstered by a cool million, each, in state funds.

Round Five of the Restore New York Communities Initiative doles out a total of $81 million to 71 statewide projects, including $1 million stipends for demolition projects in downtown Hempstead and downtown Southampton – both clearing the way for modern multi-use developments.

The latest round of competitive RNYCI funding was dispersed in the FY2017 state budget, with Empire State Development Corp., Albany’s economic-development driver, calling the shots.

Municipalities around the state were invited to request support for rehabilitation projects – including demolition, deconstruction and reconstruction work – targeting vacant, abandoned, condemned or surplus properties. Projects located in “economically distressed communities” earned the closest looks, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

“Downtown communities are vital to keeping our economies thriving and to attracting businesses and families to put down their roots in New York,” Cuomo said Monday. “The Restore New York Communities Initiative recognizes communities teeming with potential and invests in their transformation and their future.”

Among the Round Five winners was the Town of Hempstead, where a $1 million award will assist with the demolition of 12 Grand Avenue buildings, to be replaced by a multi-use development featuring ground-floor retail, second-floor office or medical space and two upper residential floors suitable for 200 students or 100 family units.

Also grabbing a million-dollar check was the Town of Southampton, where two vacant buildings will be wiped clean: a former auto-repair shop on Peconic Avenue, to be supplanted by a new restaurant and “kayaking recreation facility,” and a defunct diner on Riverleigh Avenue, to be replaced by “a mixed-use development,” according to the governor’s office.

Jay Schneiderman: Riverside spur.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman called the RNYCI funding “exactly the kind of catalyst we’ve been looking for to spur economic development in the Riverside area,” while Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone – noting the county’s $5 million-plus investment in the modernization of the Riverside traffic circle – said Suffolk lawmakers “look forward to working together with New York State and the Town of Southampton to continue this important revitalization in Suffolk County’s most economically distressed community.”

While impressive and appreciated, Long Island’s dual $1 million hauls were by no means the largest eggs in Round Five’s Easter basket. The largest single award went to the Village of Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley: $6 million to facilitate the demolition of abandoned and condemned warehouse space at a former Beech-Nut facility, resulting in 15 pristine, shovel-ready acres.

Other big fish frying in Round Five include the Finger Lakes Region’s City of Rochester ($5 million for the rehabilitation of eight privately owned properties, creating 145 new housing units and more than 64,000 square feet of commercial space); Central New York’s City of Syracuse ($4.8 million for work at 20 sites, creating a slew of commercial and residential uses); and the Mid-Hudson’s City of Yonkers ($2.5 million for the redevelopment of a severely distressed low-income public-housing property).

New York City receives a $857,874 stipend this round for the demolition of four structures, to “accommodate a new public space and critical safety enhancements,” according to the governor’s office. The effort includes widened sidewalks, new subway entrances and other pedestrian-related improvements.

A full list of Round Five awardees is available here.

By backing projects “that can have a transformative impact on neighborhoods and downtowns,” the RNYCI is zeroing in on efforts promising real economic gains, according to Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky.

“With our support, cities and towns are tearing down vacant, blighted buildings and rehabilitating outdated structures to help revitalize their community and generate new economic opportunities,” Zemsky said in a statement.