Baldwin scores $10M in Albany’s 2019 DRI competition

Downtown upturn: Expect plenty of pedestrian-friendly innovatons in Downtown Baldwin, home of the landmark Koch Building.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Downtown Baldwin has taken the regional crown, and the $10 million jackpot, in Albany’s annual downtown-revitalization competition.

Following wins by Westbury in 2016, Hicksville in 2017 and Central Islip in 2018, Baldwin – a census-designated hamlet in Nassau County’s Town of Hempstead – will enjoy a $10 million state stipend aimed at sprucing up its downtrodden downtown.

On Tuesday, Baldwin became the first winner announced in the fourth-annual Downtown Revitalization Initiative competition, which will ultimately dole out $100 million in redevelopment funds – greasing the skids in downtowns in all 10 of the state’s regional economic development zones.

Selected on a competitive basis, the winning downtowns each meet a specific set of criteria, including diversity, community engagement, a municipal redevelopment strategy, impending job growth and the ability to catalyze future public and private investments, among others.

The plan submitted by Baldwin’s stakeholders certainly qualifies, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who noted the DRI competition is meant to encourage downtowns to consider comprehensive strategies, “and Baldwin did exactly that.”

Laura Gillen: Breaking the cycle.

“This plan builds on Baldwin’s existing assets, including the [Long Island Rail Road], and focuses on transit-orientated development to drive economic growth in the region,” said Cuomo, who braved heavy rains to come to Baldwin High School for Tuesday’s big announcement. “It is not only ambitious and innovative – it is actually going to happen.

“And when you put boldness together with feasibility, that is magic.”

Downtown Baldwin’s plan – which was selected as the Island nominee by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council after a competitive review of applications from across Nassau and Suffolk counties – focuses primarily on the Grand Avenue commercial corridor.

The hamlet’s downtown, which enjoys close proximity to Baldwin’s LIRR station, contains a cluster of retail, commercial, institutional and public-recreation uses – and Hempstead Town officials have already embarked on a “holistic approach” to revitalizing the neighborhood, according to the governor’s office, including “innovative zoning and design guidelines.”

Noting the Grand Avenue corridor “has suffered from 17 years of repeated unsuccessful urban-renewal planning,” Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said she focused her administration on breaking this “cycle of failure” – and said the $10 million DRI award would go a long way toward effecting “a transit-oriented rezone of the corridor.”

“This rezoning will allow the uses and bring the density that will incentivize private development,” the supervisor said Tuesday. “We will use these funds to further enhance our efforts … through streetscape improvements, green infrastructure, traffic-calming and investments into mixed-use developments.

“This is much more than a breath of life into this main street,” Gillen added. “It is a repeatable model of sustainable economic development that, as supervisor, I am proud to usher into our town.”