What is Elmont Town Crossings?
On January 11th, 2013 a formal proposal was delivered for “Elmont Town Crossings” to the Empire State Development Corporation. There are three other proposals in consideration for the development site.
Elmont Town Crossings is an economic development plan offered by the New York Cosmos soccer club to dramatically redevelop two sections of Belmont Park in Elmont.
The extraordinary plan is anchored by a world-class soccer stadium, which seats 25,000 people, and will cost $400 million in private funds, at no burden to the taxpayer, reports say.
The soccer team’s plan also features a hotel, restaurants, retail stores, a community center and a public park.
What does this mean for Elmont?
A soccer stadium would be a major milestone in Elmont’s history.
The community will not have experienced such a large-scale, sweeping change since the construction of St. Boniface R.C. Church (1854) or the grand opening of Belmont Racetrack (1905).
What is unincorporated?
Many think of Elmont as a town, but it’s not. Elmont is a hamlet, or a very small village, if you can believe that.
Ironically, Elmont’s population reached 33,198 residents in 2010 – that’s almost four times larger than Malverne – another village in Nassau County whose 2010 population was 8,514 residents.
Malverne was incorporated as part of the Town of Hempstead back in 1921. Elmont, however, is unincorporated. What does this mean? Among a host of other things – legal, municipal and tax designations and resources – aren’t made available to largely decentralized unincorporated villages.
Elmont does not have a Mayor, a Village Clerk or Board of Trustees to act in the interest of residents and to represent the core needs of the community at a given point in time.
Just short of being incorporated, what Elmont has are dedicated volunteers, civics, public servants and residents who have advocated on the community’s behalf.
What about traffic?
Can you imagine what the Belt, Cross Island and Southern State Parkways would be like on any given event day? Local roads would certainly experience more traffic as well, from both motorists and pedestrians.
According to their website, the Cosmos propose, “to limit vehicular traffic, a pedestrian overpass will be erected connecting the stadium, south of Hempstead Turnpike, to restaurants, retail and the hotel to the north.”
The Cosmos organization also says, “Ample parking will be available to accommodate both the stadium and NYRA [Belmont Racetrack horseracing] events. There will be both ground level and underground parking.”
What about noise level?
The stadium is expected to host events 30-50 days of the year. This will no doubt have an affect on the noise level inside Elmont and throughout surrounding communities. Let’s break down whose responsibility it would be to keep noise reasonable:
New York State owns the land of the two Belmont properties through the Franchise Oversight Board, which at present has a long-term Ground Lease with the New York State Racing Association. (However, New York State has the option to terminate the Ground Lease for both Belmont sites to be sold to or leased by a Final Developer.)
All of this to say, if selected, the New York Cosmos team would be responsible for conducting all due diligence investigations such as environmental site assessments, including sampling and testing of the soil, sediments and ground water (if any).
Noise level, impact on nature and air quality are also basic considerations to be assessed by the New York Cosmos club, if in fact their plan is selected.
What about public transportation?
Anyone who lives in Elmont and has to commute to New York City is quite familiar with the daunting experience from East to West; fraught with hit-or-miss bus services, wild commuter van rides and probably even lots of walking.
A Cosmos stadium would have to mean a structural overhaul and functional renaissance for NICE, MTA and LIRR transportation services into and out of Elmont.
To keep pace with the urban shift brought about by a stadium, such fundamental improvements to public transportation would be necessary, if not for the fact they are, at present, vital and long overdue.
What about community value?
While Elmont is among the wealthiest neighborhoods on Long Island and in America, particularly among communities of color, Elmont’s local economy hardly reflects lucrative and competitive businesses that could significantly grow its sales tax base and encourage more imaginative development and investment opportunities.
Elmont Town Crossings promises to transform these Belmont properties into a “vibrant entertainment complex, with a ‘Restaurant Row’ of nine new eateries, nearly 250,000 square feet of retail space, a 175-room hotel and the development of a brand new 4.3 acre public park for the residential community.”
As for job creation, the Cosmos say their proposal “brings much needed revenue and jobs to Nassau County and Elmont. Construction at the site would create more than 500 jobs, in addition to over 3,000 full-time permanent jobs once the stadium, stores, restaurants and hotel are open.”
The soccer club goes on to insist construction alone would generate over $500 million, concentrated in Nassau County, plus more than $200 million in annual revenue.
Such a plan would in fact be feasible and would certainly help to revitalize Elmont’s work force and diversify-broaden its sales tax revenue streams. However, it may be naïve to believe that only residents of Elmont, Nassau and Long Island would occupy these jobs.
Elmont, once again, would emerge as a trailblazer for diversity on Long Island and across the country as we would welcome newcomers from all walks of life in truly unique fashion.
How soon will it be opened?
Initially, if the Cosmos’ proposal had been approved any earlier, shovels would have already broken ground in 2014, and the stadium completed by the end of 2015, with the field being installed and stadium opening in spring 2016. Given the outstanding decision to date, the project will likely be delayed a year, if we had to speculate.
What about alternative plans for the property?
Engel Burman Group of Garden City and Basser-Kaufman of Woodmere have proposed a 28-acre retail and recreation center, including a supermarket, stores, restaurants, a community center and a public soccer field.
The Blumenfeld Development Group in Syosset wants to put a big-box store on the site, surrounded by restaurants, a health club, community center and athletic fields.
Related Companies, a Manhattan-based firm, has proposed new shops, restaurants, a supermarket and 2 1/2 acres of community and recreation space.
A decision any day now is expected to come down from Empire State Development Corp. There are three other proposals for the site. Should the Cosmos plan be approved, it would again mark one of the most significant shifts in Elmont’s history, since construction of St. Boniface Church and Belmont Racetrack, spanning over 100 years.
As the winning bidder, the New York Cosmos team would inherit an obligation to the residents of Elmont. It is promised the club will create a youth soccer field, community center and public park for residential use. More than a good faith effort to “keep” local residents “in mind” and a “determination” to partner with the Elmont community (after compliance with the law) – the New York Cosmos soccer club going forward must seize every opportunity to open the lines of communication, meet Elmont residents at the table and find out where the needs of the community are.
Whether through our local civics or by way of town hall meetings, the Cosmos ownership (in order to earn residents’ buy-in and active participation) must show & prove that these much-needed jobs and revenue will not sacrifice the voice of the Elmont community. For now, though, this is all speculation at best, because the emerging plan could go to just about anyone.
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