Lt. Governor  Hochul Unveils Transformative Projects for Central Islip

On Thursday, Vision Long Island staff joined a select group of community residents and elected officials as Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul unveiled the winning projects to receive funding from the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Iniative (DRI) award announced last year.

Among those in attendance were NYS Senator Monica Martinez, Assemblyman Phil Ramos, Senator Phil Boyle, County Executive Steve Bellone, Supervisor Angie Carpenter, Councilwoman Trish Bergen-Weichbrodt, as well as staff from various departments and members of the Regional Economic Development Council.  Community organizations such as the Coalition for Good Neighbors and the Central Islip Civic Council were in attendance as well.

The Lt. Governor addressed the crowd discussing the goal of the state to capitalize on the underused downtown core.  She spoke of how this transformation was similar to efforts done throughout the state and specifically her own experience with this type of community revitalization effort.  “We’re building on that growth by funding projects as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative that will make needed infrastructure upgrades, streetscape improvements, and add housing and retail for residents. We are focused on revitalizing the area by supporting economic development that creates jobs, continues to attract businesses, and strengthens the economy of Long Island.” The Lt. Governor spoke about the importance of transit oriented development to be created with this funding and the necessary infrastructure needed to do it.  She discussed the goal of retaining and attracting millennials and empty nesters to live in the downtown area.  “People want to live with other people in downtown areas.  And those of us in government have to reverse some of the policies of the past that prohibit that or create limitations.”

The specific projects to be funded through the DRI include: 
  
Enhance the Pedestrian Experience in the Downtown Corridor: Install streetscape improvements along Carleton Avenue between Suffolk Avenue and Smith Street to enhance pedestrian safety and experience of the corridor, and to strengthen connections between downtown and other community resources. Improvements include corridor-wide amenities, as well as site-specific lighting, signage and trees defining a northern gateway to the corridor; a new Clayton Place Plaza adjacent to the fire department; and lighting at additional key locations. 
  
Install Infrastructure along Carleton Avenue: Introduce a sewer system in downtown Central Islip to eliminate current limitations to the area’s development and support a more varied and vibrant mix of commercial activities, including ‘wet uses’ like restaurants. This project consists of installing new sewer line along Carleton Avenue between Suffolk Avenue and Smith Street, promoting dense, mixed-use development along the corridor and laying the foundation for future investment. 
  
Redevelop Site of Former Train Station into a Mixed-Use Development: Transform the site of a former Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station into a transit-friendly, mixed-use development providing community members with affordable and market-rate apartments, retail space, a cultural facility, and a public plaza – all accessible from the current LIRR station. DRI funds will help the Town of Islip secure a developer for the site and offset costs associated with site acquisition, on-site improvements, vertical construction, parking, and gap financing. 
  
Create a Central Islip History Trail: Celebrate Central Islip’s history by developing a five-mile hiking and biking trail extending from the Federal Courthouse to the Historic Heines Homestead, with interpretive signage at historic sites along the way, encouraging historical tourism and active lifestyles. DRI funds will be used for trail costs within the DRI area, such as signage identifying six downtown sites, audio/phone enhancement, and distance markers. 

Construct a Downtown Mixed-Use Development: Construct a 26,000 square foot mixed-use multi-story building at 108 and 110 Carleton Avenue with ground-floor retail or commercial use and upper-story affordable apartments, parking, providing opportunities for downtown living, enabling new commercial uses, and increasing foot traffic. 
  
Create a Mixed-Use Development on a Prominent Downtown Corner: Build a two-story, mixed-use building on a highly visible corner of the corridor at 69 and 75 Carleton Avenue to provide opportunities for new commercial uses, parking, a mix of studio and one-bedroom residences for a multi-generational community, and a downtown destination for visitors and residents. 
  
Establish a Commercial Property Improvement Fund: Establish a grant program supporting the rehabilitation and improvement of buildings within the DRI area to support owners’ and merchants’ investment in the Carleton Avenue area, shift perception of the corridor, and attract new businesses, activities, and customers. Potential projects include façade enhancement, signage, or interior fit-out improvements. 
   
Central Islip developed a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown with $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million DRI grant. A Local Planning Committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders led the effort, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners. The Strategic Investment Plan for downtown Central Islip examined local assets and opportunities and identified economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation.

After the unveiling by the Lt. Governor, various elected officials each praised the governor, Lt. Governor, and the legislature for providing this funding opportunity to the community of Central Islip.  Many noted that this is a long time in the making and a huge step in the right direction for the revitalization the community has been looking for.

Senator Monica Martinez said, “Central Islip is now on the cusp of great things and we are all excited to see these projects come to fruition. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s smart economic polices like the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, communities across Long Island are thriving and growing.”

 Assembly Member Phil Ramos said, “Thanks for Governor Cuomo and the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council for recognizing Central Islip’s potential. The community will indeed make the most of these investments, which will pay dividends for years to come.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “This is a proud day for Central Islip, as we learn what projects will be funded through Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. These investments are smart in that they are targeted and structured to support further growth for our community.”

Town of Islip Supervisor Angie M. Carpenter said, “I am so proud of our Town and certainly Central Islip-today even more so as we see long-awaited investments come to life. Thanks to Gov. Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, our community will see positive growth and endless potential.”

Community leaders were happy to hear that the commitment to this project is still strong, however they voiced their disappointment in some of the projects not chosen for funding.  Projects such as upgrades to the community and senior centers were a top priority for the community and seen as a necessity.  There were also questions of how far into the community will the benefits stretch on some of these improvements like facade and streetscaping improvements.

Overall, the community continues to be invested in this project and will continue to follow the state closely on its progress. 

For more on this story, visit LIBN or Newsday. For more information on the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, go to: www.ny.gov/programs/downtown-revitalization-initiative.