Plainview and Hicksville are two towns linked forever, not only by proximity, but also by common interests in housing needs that clash with a fear of over-development and a drive to utilize properties in a way that meets the approval of the communities at large.
“We’re sort of an in-between community,” said Lucy Stanich of Plainview. “Aside from Country Pointe [the mixed-use development near Round Swamp Road], Plainview doesn’t see a lot of development and I for one think that’s a good thing. We’re a suburb, keep it that way.”
But there are some who believe a suburb can coexist with a modestly developed downtown. Earlier this month, the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Initiative’s (DRI) Local Planning Committee (LPC) held its third public meeting with dozens of attendees from both hamlets filling the Hicksville Community Center to hear the latest plans on how to spend the $10 million grant won as part of the state’s DRI program last year.
Erik Wood and Cecil Bakalor of the New York City-based HKS architecture and design firm led the presentation. The firm received kudos from LPC members and the public alike for the renderings of possible projects in the downtown, focused on the train station area.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is spending $121 million to refurbish the train station, the busiest in the Long Island Rail Road system outside the city. The MTA is also planning to erect a parking garage to help address the parking shortage. The Town of Oyster Bay will need to change its zoning to comply with the vision of transforming its downtown. And Nassau County is reportedly undertaking a traffic study encompassing the area bordered by the DRI and even beyond.
For both Wood and Bakalor, “decongesting the area” was one of the chief aims of their planning focus.
“A lot of improvement could be done here,” said Bakalor as a slide showing a photo near the railroad station was put up. “One of the things we feel is very important is to rationalize the access to the station.”
Plainview residents believe they should have a say in any development plans in Hicksville, especially when it comes to any “downtown revitalization.” Scott Graham, a Plainview resident for nearly 30 years, said he is in favor of rebuilding the train station and the area surrounding it, as it would have a positive impact beyond Hicksville.
“Plainview doesn’t have a downtown. Plainview has a handful of shopping centers,” he said. “A downtown area easily accessed by Woodbury Road or Old Country Road could be a good thing for the next generations of Plainview.”
The plan displayed at the public meeting calls for buildings that combine retail, commercial and housing, with integrated parking. Walkable areas will figure prominently among the million square feet of development. A series of plazas will be crowned by the expansion of John F. Kennedy Memorial Park from its current .75 acres to 4 acres. These will create the possibilities for festivals and farmers’ markets and other public gatherings.
Attendees at the meeting noted that the widening of Broadway (Route 107) and Newbridge Road (Route 106) by the state in the 1960s essentially killed the walkable, downtown character of the hamlet—the DRI vision called for these roads to become more pedestrian friendly.
Relating to a revamped Hicksville train station, Eileen Supran of Plainview put the parking problems front and center, and asked if the shortage of parking was being studied or addressed. Yes, was the answer, and later, she was told that the MTA would be building a garage on top of an existing parking lot that would add a net 900 spaces.
Supran spoke of the housing developments in Plainview, as well as Hicksville and surrounding areas. A lot of millennials with cars would be flooding the area, she noted. Many would be frequenting the Hicksville train station. She obtained statistics from the town and the MTA, and noted that there already existed a big deficit when comparing the amount of available spaces to the people who daily used the station.
“You want young people to stay here,” she pointed out. “A lot of them have to commute to the city to make enough money to sustain a life here—and the LIRR parking situation is getting worse.”
Supran said she was not a commuter, but, “I have to go into the city next Friday, and I’m stressing out. I don’t know if I’m bringing my car. I don’t know if I’ll use the parking lot or call Uber. It’s a big stress factor for people.”
—With Additional Reporting by Frank Rizzo