As demolition equipment crashed through the walls of West Hempstead's shuttered Courtesy Hotel, neighbors cheered at the demise of a decrepit community eyesore. After years of casting blight over West Hempstead, Town officials dispensed with courtesy by tearing down the blighted hotel to clear the way for new train commuter-friendly homes. Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray joined with Councilmen James Darcy and Edward Ambrosino, Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, New York State Assemblyman Ed Ra and Maria Rigopoulos, Managing Director with Mill Creek Residential Trust, the developer of what promises to be a beautiful apartment complex along Hempstead Avenue. Also at the demolition event was Rosalie Norton, President of the West Hempstead Community Support Association and a driving force behind a movement to shut down the Courtesy Hotel.
"Today we bid a courteous goodbye to a community eyesore and hello to the construction of beautiful new apartment homes that will complement a great community," stated Murray. "I want to thank West Hempstead community leader Rosalie Norton, the residents of this lovely hometown and the developer for working with the town to deliver on the promise of a prosperous future at this site."
Hempstead Town officials paved the way for the 150 "train commuter-friendly" apartments abutting the West Hempstead railroad station in November of 2008 when the Town Board created a groundbreaking transit-oriented development zone. The new building zone provided greater development density for residential construction projects that encourage mass transit usage. In the case of the Mill Creek Residential project, the new apartments will stand immediately adjacent to the West Hempstead train (LIRR) station. Town officials called the new zone the first of its kind on Long Island and applauded Mill Creek for its investment in West Hempstead and its commitment to a new and innovative type of development geared toward railroad commuters.
"The town thought 'outside the box' in addressing community priorities at the site of the Courtesy Hotel," stated Darcy. "By creating a transit-oriented building zone, Hempstead addressed the interests of young professionals who want easy access to the city and a beautiful home in the suburbs," continued Goosby. "This new project will replace a community eyesore and restore luster to West Hempstead's downtown while championing 'smart growth' principles like encouraging use of mass transit," added Ambrosino.
Mill Creek Residential Trust will be enhancing the 3-acre site with a four story apartment home development that is rich in amenities and luxury features. The four and a half story project features highly stylized architectural accents, a resort style swimming pool, landscaped courtyards, a clubhouse, a fitness center and internet lounge, theater room, cafe/coffee bar and garage parking. Individual units will feature gourmet kitchens with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Full size washers and dryers along with walk-in closets and nine foot ceilings will create the type of homes in which residents can "unwind" after a day at work. The project will also be environmentally conscious, meeting U.S. Green Building Council LEED standards.
"We've worked closely with West Hempstead residents to create a development that compliments the community and embraces the priorities of residents," said Maria Rigopolous, Vice President of Development in the Northeast for Mill Creek Residential Trust. "This project is the result of a public/private collaboration between the town and Mill Creek Residential Trust. Hempstead Town's building zone provided a unique opportunity for the development of commuter-oriented development and West Hempstead neighbors added their voices to a successful process."
Town officials noted that they had taken several steps over the past few years to rid West Hempstead of the Courtesy Hotel before reaching a successful conclusion to their efforts. Hempstead Town utilized a public nuisance law in 2004 to seek a court order to shutter the hotel based upon criminal activity at the site. Subsequentially, Hempstead's town board adopted an Urban Renewal Plan and considered acquiring the Courtesy property through eminent domain. Ultimately, however, the creation of Long Island's first-of-its-kind transit-oriented housing zone proved the key to success for the site.
"This project is a symbol of the saying 'a bend in the road is not the end of the road’ unless you don't make the turn," stated Murray. "Thanks to my colleagues on the town board, people like Rosalie Norton and Maria Rigopolous, we have made the turn for neighbors in West Hempstead."
"When government officials, business and community residents work together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish," concluded the Supervisor.