Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Civic Presidents, Past And Present, Blast Murray, Town Board

Courtesy Saga Far From Over, Community's Crusade For Closure Continues

The voices of the West Hempstead community may have fallen upon deaf ears as the Hempstead Town Board adopted the much maligned Urban Renewal Plan, but clearly, the voices of community will not be silenced.

For the latest on the Courtesy hotel, and other matters of community concern, check in regularly with the West Hempstead Civic Association.

Read on, as Seth Bykofsky, past president of the WHCA, and Rosalie Norton, the organization's current chief executive, lament the Town's verdict, and vow to fight on for the benefit of our West Hempstead.

Kudos, and our sincere thanks, to these courageous stalwarts of community!
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From The Three Village Times:

We Shall Not Stand Idly By

The longstanding sentiment in the West Hempstead community has been to permit the forces of private enterprise and the marketplace to prevail, while keeping the intervention of government at a minimum.

At the same time, the Long Island Index released a study that revealed a majority of Long Islanders in favor of increased housing density in and around "downtown" business districts, as well as the creation of additional rental units, thus easing the affordable housing crunch.

Unfortunately, the voices of reason, smart-growth advocates, and community collectively fell upon deaf ears at Hempstead Town Hall, as members of the Town Board, blindly following the lead of Supervisor Kate Murray as she meanders down that road of suburban blight, voted to adopt the ill-conceived and community-opposed Urban Renewal Plan.

In so doing, the town nixed the Trammell-Crow proposal to build upscale rental apartments on the Courtesy Hotel site, citing its objection to density, and rebuffed the pleas of a community to boldly move forward, not only with the revitalization of its eastern gateway, but with a smart growth initiative that could well serve as a model for the new - and sustainable - suburbia.

In taking a staunch and unyielding position, contrary to both the conventional wisdom on fashioning livable suburbs, and to the will of the community they were elected to serve, Kate Murray and the Hempstead Town Board stood modern precepts of suburban revitalization on head, and negated the very hallmark of representative government - a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The latest skirmish before the Town Board may have dealt a blow to our hamlet's, if not the township's, efforts to rebuild and rejuvenate, but as anyone who has been joined in this battle to take back our town (now going on 13 long years) will tell you, we, as a community, and as the guardians of this hamlet's tomorrows, shall not stand idly by as Kate Murray and company hold hostage our town's future.

The fight will go on, in the trenches along the avenue, at Town Hall, and in the press, for we dare not surrender to those who would usurp local control and undermine the wishes of the governed, under the guise of telling us what is best for our own community.

Seth D. Bykofsky

(The writer is the former president of the West Hempstead Civic Association.)
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Town Ignores Residents' Wishes

The Town of Hempstead voted on Jan. 22, 2008 to adopt an Urban Renewal Plan for West Hempstead which promotes sprawl, prohibits needed density, doesn't provide the greatest tax benefits, embraces the status quo, and deprives our community of promises made to facilitate the closing of the Courtesy Hotel as quickly as possible.

The town board has completely ignored thousands of West Hempstead residents, our religious leaders, and the members of the West Hempstead Civic Association who opposed the town's Urban Renewal Plan for West Hempstead. Six out of the seven members on the town board chose to adopt a plan, which is flawed and provides little relief from the most important problems facing our community, which are, the Courtesy Hotel, lack of housing for our young people, seniors looking to downsize, revitalization of our business area, and some relief from our high taxes.

Terrible messages were sent by the town to the residents of West Hempstead and to other unincorporated communities - don't give us the benefit of your ideas, knowledge and thoughts for what is best for your community, because we won't listen and we will do what we want whether you like it or not. What a sad commentary on representative government and a perfect example of poor government.

If the town thought they could bully the residents of West Hempstead into becoming submissive lambs or silence our voices, they are very much mistaken. They have only succeeded in provoking us into taking more action and making us more determined to be treated fairly and with dignity. The West Hempstead community is not going to be silenced or discouraged.

Can we influence the town board to do what our residents want? I don't know. What I do know is that we will make sure that the entire Town of Hempstead will know that what is happening in West Hempstead could happen in their community. We want to alert everyone that if the town continues on its path to obstruct the private sale of the Courtesy Hotel, every unincorporated community in the Town of Hempstead had better beware.

The Courtesy Hotel and all its problems can come to your community or one near you, and this could happen with the town's help. Under the Urban Renewal Plan adopted by the town, they are obligated to help the owners of the Courtesy find a different location within the town. Will the town or perhaps the owners choose your community?

Something else happened on Jan 22, 2008. The town board broke its promises to the residents of West Hempstead. One promise was made in May of 2007 that they would close the Courtesy by the end of 2007. The other was made back in 2005 when they told the attorney for the Courtesy Hotel that they would gladly work with any reputable developer to facilitate a private sale. As the old saying goes, "Promises are made to be broken and a promise is only as good as the person making it."

Many have likened the plight of the residents of West Hempstead to watching a match between people and the government, between right and wrong. Government won this round, but at the expense of losing the faith and confidence of the people. When good people continue to stand up for what is right they expose the shortcomings of a government, which tramples on the basic premise of our constitution. Government should rule by the people, for the people and of the people. It would do well for the town board to remember that arrogance always comes before a fall and to totally disregard the West Hempstead community is wrong, unconscionable and could become their Achilles Heel.

Rosalie Norton
President, West Hempstead Civic Association