By GREGORY ZELLER //
Downtown Westbury will get a $10 million lift through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Cuomo, who’s been touring New York’s 10 economic zones this week handing out $10 million stipends to reward downtown planning proposals, visited The Space at Westbury theater Thursday afternoon to pump up community-revitalization efforts in the village’s downtown area.
The Downtown Revitalization Initiative, first announced in Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State address, is a comprehensive plan to transform local neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live and work. Winners in each of the 10 economic zones were selected through a competitive process, with Regional Economic Development Councils helping whittle down the entries.
Included among the winners is a plan to leverage public-private partnerships for transit-oriented multiuse development in downtown Westbury. The Long Island economic zone’s winning plan was crafted by village and state lawmakers and a team of regional stakeholders.
One of the plan’s most attractive features, according to Cuomo, is that it “uses the diversity of the community as an asset.”
“This is a well-deserved reward,” Cuomo told an invitation-only audience at Thursday’s Westbury press event. “I believe it’s going to be a great investment for the people of New York.”
The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is chaired by former New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales, who headed a squad of state planners and private-sector experts in the awards-selection process, with support from Empire State Development, Albany’s main economic-development engine, and other state agencies.
The 10 REDCs each submitted plans selected from a larger number of regional entries – roughly 20 total downtown-revitalization pitches were submitted from across Long Island – based on criteria including size of the downtown center, the availability of public and private investment, clear quality-of-life improvements and other factors.
“Our Regional Councils have played an integral role in generating economic opportunity in communities across the state,” Cuomo noted. “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative will build on that momentum by investing in local assets to attract jobs and private investment and to transform downtown areas into vibrant, diverse and economically active hubs.”
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who joined Cuomo at The Space at Westbury for the check presentation, called the Westbury strategy an “excellent plan and something that is certainly transformative.”
Having the ceremony at The Space – once a movie theater, then a decrepit eyesore, now a popular concert venue and the poster child for Westbury’s revitalization efforts – was ideal, according to Mangano, who said Westbury’s downtown award was also the perfect complement to other community-redevelopment initiatives underway across Nassau.
The county executive specifically cited transit-oriented development in Farmingdale as a strong example of an effort to make downtowns “more livable and more walkable,” thereby creating both residential and economic opportunity.
“This is a sweeping initiative to position Westbury for long-term growth,” Mangano said. “This creates jobs and housing opportunities for our Millennials. We are very excited about it.”
Westbury’s plan topped revitalization pitches from across Nassau and Suffolk – including proposals from Hempstead, Central Islip and other larger Long Island municipalities – to win the LIREDC’s favor.
Cuomo also announced Thursday that a plan to revitalize the City of Elmira’s downtown district was the $10 million winner in the Southern Tier economic zone. Other regional winners already announced this week include Middletown (Mid-Hudson economic zone), Geneva (Finger Lakes zone) and Plattsburgh (North Country zone).
Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association and co-chair of the LIREDC with Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, praised the Downtown Revitalization Initiative’s decision to select the Westbury plan.
“This is a $10 million shot in the arm for a worthy village that has demonstrated a commitment to transit-oriented development and affordable housing,” Law told Innovate LI.