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Public Comment Sought for 'New Main Street' Plan in Port Washington

Feedback wanted on a proposed 'model blocks' program.

The Port Washington community now has the chance to weigh in on a "model blocks" program, a proposed plan for a "new Main Street" that extends from Port Washington Boulevard to Haven Avenue.

The plan was presented on Thursday, Nov. 17, by Residents for A More Beautiful Port Washington at the . 

"Main Street is old and outdated and it's clear that whatever planning was done 60 years ago is just not working anymore," Dan Donatelli, co-president of Residents for A More Beautiful Port Washington, told the audience. 

The proposal is just for four blocks,"because we think it's prudent to move slowly and carefully," he said. "If it works, we can always expand it later on."

Representatives from the spoke at the meeting, as did those from the , and BJF Consulting, a New York-based firm whose expertise includes planning and whose work can be seen in Garden City, Southampton and more.

Donatelli pointed to the Town of North Hempstead visioning process, which took place from January through June in 2005. He spoke of "the community concensus that arose from those meetings." That concensus included reducing the number of empty storefronts and enhancing Main Street without diminishing its existing charm.

Now, he said, it's time to take the next step, moving to "specific zoning and planning tools that help us achieve those visioning goals."

The model blocks project is a "ground-up community-led effort," he said, encouraging local residents to provide their feedback on the recommendations. 

Proposed plans included:

  • Creating an overlay district that encourages mixed-use development and incentivizes building owners to "turn old, outdated buildings and unsightly apartments" into "beautiful, modern, more luxurious living and working spaces." Recommendations include zoning for four-story buildings of a maximum height of 48 feet. There would be a capacity here for shared parking, with residents who park in the area at night freeing up spaces by day when heading to work. Other recommendations include shared dumpsters and enforced refuse pickup to prevent litter on Main Street. 
  • Burying underground electric utility wires.
  • Developing architectural design guidlines to enhance Port's charm. Recommendations include proportioned windows, well-designed awnings, limited size of commercial signage, flower boxes and attractive window displays. 
  • Making the most of parking facilities, including converting the Shields property visible on Port Washington Boulevard into merchant parking, thereby increasing shopper parking. Also, reconfiguring existing parking lots where possible to increase the number of spots.
  • Enhancing streetscapes to encourage pedestrian-friendly shopping, strolling and dining.
  • Beautifying the Main Street train station, so that the plaza in front of the station can double as a town square.

Residents for A More Beautiful Port Washington board members say they have worked with building owners, merchants, developers, special districts, the real estate community and local community groups in developing the model blocks program.

When the plan was presented to community members on Thursday, several audience members took issue with some of the elements of the plan. 

Referring to the overlay district and the ability to convert buildings into four-story structures, Lauren Wolf, a local real estate agent, said, "You can't get permits in the Town of North Hempstead."

Others, who lived just steps away from the model blocks area thought the shared parking concept wouldn't fly, voicing concerns about the potential for increased traffic and density. "You can't get parking now," one resident said. 

However, recommendations for burying the utility wires and reducing litter on Main Street drew applause.

Donatelli pointed out throughout the evening that this effort is a process. "The end result should be a Main Street we are all proud of."

Copies of the presentation are available at the library.

Nassau Taxpayer November 21, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Bury the utilities and eliminate the street-side clutter/trash/garbage and you're 80% of the way there for 20% of the cost of "the Full Monte".
Local Resident November 21, 2011 at 08:32 PM
Some of the ideas are good. But the first question should not be "Why just four blocks"...it should be "Why THESE four blocks"? If the "test" works, then great. But what if the plan does not work as the planning team has proposed? If (or when) the plan does not work, then this "test" has destroyed Main Street at its most visible location.
R Miller November 22, 2011 at 11:37 AM
My question is how do you make the parking work? Add more lving space means more parking which there is not enough of. Also the famous questions how long for permits 1 year, 2 years, 3 years? I think it is interesting and if thought out could and will benefit this town. The potential is enormous.
Bryan Jay November 22, 2011 at 01:09 PM
I must agree with the above comments.."why just four blocks?" Does it make sense to "blow the wad" on just four blocks, when perhaps some other improvements can be made which would include more areas of Main street, that are in true need? What about the area further down Main Street past the Beacon? Let's not forget that area and those business's. I also agree with burying the utility lines, which will be expensive and mean tearing up the new black top that was just put down, which is a shame and a waste of resources. So does that need to be done now? I was born and raised here, but all of the people that have moved here, came here for a reason. For it's quaint small town feeling. Why is it that I get the feeling that the sentiment is "I love this town! Now let's change it!" Some change is good, but change just for the sake of change is not good. Also, if the changes do occur on Main Street, will we be renaming it like what has happened to the many other spots in this town that get fixed up, and then renamed for people that while they have been beneficial to the town, have been here a relatively short time? Let's use the money wisely and ensure it is for improvements that make long term sense, so that future generations will benefit from this too.
Nassau Taxpayer November 22, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Hence the 80% benefit / 20% cost solution of burying utilities (under the sidewalks) and banning sidewalk trash/garbage the entire length of Main Street, then expand the utility burial to all residential areas. How many more times do we need LIPA to kill trees and "repair" aerial wires?
Marilyn DiToro November 22, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Beautifying Port Washington and re-creating its town ambience is an idea that has been too long in coming. However, any plan that includes more traffic through narrow Main Street should be scuttled. I know the Shields property is an eyesore. Yet, the entrance and exit to the proposed lot could have a negative effect on the aforementioned traffic as cars pour onto Main Street. I shudder to think what Main Street and Port Washington Boulevard will be like in the early morning and at school dismissal time. Then there is the other end of Main Street. There cannot be any more traffic-producing additions to that area of town. The left turn lane onto Shore Road, while a good idea on paper, has done little to alleviate the traffic build-up. I think developers have to consider a town's design, structure, and personality as well as its limitations when they draw up outlandish blueprints. Main Street was not constructed for huge eighteen wheelers and hundreds of cars. If those who would like to convince us that we need gargantuan structures to make our town vibrant lived in this town, they would realize soon that the additional traffic does nothing but create pollution and stress. We can move into the 21st Century while keeping the small-town atmosphere we have loved and enjoyed through the years.
Nassau Taxpayer November 22, 2011 at 02:21 PM
With respect, any objective analysis of the left-turn lane onto Shore Road indicates it has been hugely successful in eliminating a traffic tie-up that at times previously extended well past Louie's and the yacht clubs onto Plandome Road.
Local Resident November 22, 2011 at 02:46 PM
At the Town Board Meeting on September 14, 2010, after it became clear that a parking lot was being planned for the Shields property, the Board approved a traffic study in the area around Main Street, PW Blvd, Ohio Ave, North Maryland Ave, etc. It appears this study did not occur and a separate project continued that proposes rezoning/higher density on Main Street. This proposal creates even more traffic in the area, thus further requiring the need of a traffic study. On the other hand, maybe a traffic study has been performed (although it was not mentioned at Thursday's meeting). But if it has not, this is a case of putting "the cart before the horse". As a resident of the immediate area around Main Street that would be directly affected by the rezoning/higher density, I do not want additional car traffic on our streets. I am all for the beautification of Main Street (buried utility lines, brick sidewalks, new planting, etc), but higher density for the sake of increased foot traffic is counterproductive. Already there is plenty of foot traffic on Main Street to support business. I think a better idea is to try to determine what types of businesses would thrive in our unique environment and try to develop, or attract, those types of businesses. On a final note, why did the presenters continually press against the storefront of Arena Sports on Main Street? This is one of the successful businesses on Main Street...maybe the planners should pay closer attention.
Bryan Jay November 22, 2011 at 03:14 PM
What is wrong with the Arena Sports store??? These presenters spent time focusing on that? That is the type of change for the sake of change that I was refering to in my comment! That is a town business that serves our community well, and a great resource for our children. So now they want to change that? Who are these people and why are they suggesting we change our town? What is their objective? To ensure Port Washington becomes a streamlined strip mall with every building uniform? What??? That is not the town we all know and love!
Local Resident November 22, 2011 at 03:16 PM
The presentation at last Thursday's town meeting only showed us how Main Street would look like in the ABSOLUTE, BEST CASE scenario. A redeveloped Main Street that was a perfect case study of one, two, three and four (with a set-back of course) story buildings with nice awnings, lighting, window openings, planter boxes, etc...all very nice. But, what if it the redevelopment does not go according to this best case scenario? We potentially have four continuous blocks of Main Street with four story buildings on both sides of the street. They conveniently did not show us what this WORST CASE scenario would look like. Did the planning committee / planners not ask what this condition would look like? Or, was the question asked, and they did not like what they saw?
PW Resident November 22, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Perhaps the issue isn't how to fill the vacate storefronts that we have - but instead lets look at how much retail space Port can handle? We are a peninsula, already with a high density. There is no ability to increase the ingress/egress to/from the peninsula. I believe the town has let too much retail space develop. How about the town buy back one strip of retail buildings, allow existing stores to relocate and fill open storefronts that stand along main street now. Then raze the building and either 1. Create much needed Green Space in town, or 2. Add extra parking. Maybe then we can entertain the idea of 4 story residential along main street - As parking will increased, and the threat of the cavern of 4 story buildings lining Main Street is minimized. I agree with the posting above commenting on this rezoning happening at the most visibly impactful point of town. With the planning board's idea of testing 4 blocks - if it works great, if it doesn't then it stops moving forward - is absurd! You've used the begining of Main Street as the 'test'? This is the section of town that is most visible, and also the section of Main Street that would most negatively affect town via a 'bottleneck' of traffic.
Ben November 22, 2011 at 05:03 PM
To do all of this work to showcase "For Rent" signs? All of the For Rent signs that hang in the new Port Washington Blvd complex so many new retail storefronts with NO retail tenants -- because the rents are too high for a merchant? The long term tenant Port Bike Shop moved to Soundview because the landlord wanted more rent than he could afford to pay? @ NassauTaxpayer the traffic at Shore Road and Main street is STILL backed up to Louie's most drivers are making the left turn and are not proceeding up Main Street the traffic jams are still here every day the new left turn lane has done very little to improve the situation. I do not think that Arena Sports and any other merchants on Main Street are doing that well most are barely getting by in these hard economic times.
PW Resident November 22, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Agreeing with Bryan above. While only a resident for approx 6 years, my family moved here for the quaint feel. I often laugh at how we live in "Mayberry" and I love it. I use Main St. I eat at the restaurants, buy from the Bakeries, my kids hair is cut by Nina at the barbershop. All the while, we enjoy bumping into many neighbors that are on foot around town running their errands. The town is charming, albeit outdated in it's styling in many instances. The proposed guidelines for better astethics is wonderful and I think welcomed by most. The 'growth plan' is garbage. I've heard that the money spent on this 'study' by the planning company that presented pretty sketches cost upwards of $35K. Yikes! Really??? That money could have been spent SO much better to the benefit of the town. UNLESS there was more meat to the 'study' that was conveniently left out of the presentation as it wouldn't have been received as well (insert laugh here, as what was presented wasn't very well received on Thursday night either)! .... sarcasm.
Nassau Taxpayer November 22, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Ben, the traffic on Lower Main Street now flows so well and is so calm that I no longer drive through the neighborhoods. Win-win.
Local Resident November 22, 2011 at 05:32 PM
It very well may be the case that Arena Sports and the other merchants on Main Street are not doing very well. The economy is very tough and I have no way of knowing how well they are doing...BUT, they are still here on Main Street! My point is that the presentation focused on the cluttered storefront of Arena Sports...and it is still an operating business on Main Street...this does not make sense to me. Why focus so much attention on how much a merchant hangs in its storefront? Who cares? There are much bigger, more important, issues to be addressed. The bigger issue, in my opinion, is why so many storefronts have remained vacant for many, many years. Why not focus on making it more advantageous to property owners to lease the space at a lesser rent than to allow the space to remain vacant. There has to be a way to encourage property owners to rent the space (and possible renovate the storefronts) other than to provide them with the opportunity to develop a four-story, mixed-use property...this is way overboard. The fact that the Shields property has remained vacant and in the condition it is in for so long is really incredible to me. Is this a hint of what Main Street is to become? Take care of what you already have before we, as a community, allow you the opportunity to screw it up further.
Ben November 22, 2011 at 06:10 PM
@ Nassautaxpayer, I live on Fifth Ave and I am on Main Street several times per day and the traffic is still backed up so much so that I often turn left and go to Plandome Road to do my errands.
Ben November 22, 2011 at 06:23 PM
@ Local Resident For decades store fronts in Port Washington remain empty due to high rents that a merchant can not pay and you feel that "property owners should lease space at lesser rents" so that a merchant can run a business. I respect your idea however I feel that you are being niave landlords in Port Washington are here to make money to get market rents for property and are not interested in providing affordable rents to merchants and prefer to have a For Rent sign hang in a window rather than a thriving business. How do you plan to get landlords that include the new complex on Port Blvd that has so many vacant retail spaces to lower rents?
Ben November 22, 2011 at 06:26 PM
For decades i had heard a rumor that the Sheilds Property that incuded the old house that was on Main Street next to the shop that had been Chicken Delight were tax shelters for the corporation.
Local Resident November 22, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Being a business owner myself, I am not being naive to the concept of capitalism. Please do not take my comment out of context...I never said "property owners should lease space at lesser rents". If the landlord can charge high rents (and get it) then count me in, I am all in favor. However, this is not the case. The landlords are not getting the rents and the spaces are remaining vacant. If this situation has gone on for decades, then all I can say is that this sucks. What I did say is: "The bigger issue, in my opinion, is why so many storefronts have remained vacant for many, many years. Why not focus on making it more advantageous to property owners to lease the space at a lesser rent than to allow the space to remain vacant." Why is it more advantageous for the landlord to allow the space to remain vacant than to lease the space at a lesser rent? Yes, I know the answer is taxes. My point is this...Is there a way, that is specific to Main Street in Port Washington, to flip this unfortunate status quo? There are many, very smart people in Port Washington, why can't we think out of the box? Is the answer: mixed-use, increased density, more traffic, etc...I don't think any of these factors are going to remove the "For Rent" signs from any of the vacant storefronts anytime soon.
Nassau Taxpayer November 22, 2011 at 07:03 PM
LOL. If so, we must be talking about different realities...
Ben November 22, 2011 at 07:09 PM
@ Local Resident. I like your idea and and I respect your idea however I do not think that this plan will fly - EVER! Landlords have taxes, utilites, mortgages, a few Family Trusts are on Main Street responsible to share holders who use the quarterly checks/money to pay for rent, food, etc. for themselves. The problem is money no one has enough of it and most everyone would like to have more of it and therefore landlords demand market rents. The high rents on Main Street and Port Blvd, etc. prohibit most small business from a shot here sad but true.
Local Resident November 22, 2011 at 07:28 PM
I don't have a plan...right now there is no plan other than the mixed-used, increased density plan that was proposed last Thursday...does this proposal work on Main Street? My feeling is a resounding no, it will not work. It will not cure what is wrong with Main Street...and in my opinion, it is the vacant storefronts on Main Street that is the problem. If the storefronts were all occupied with thriving businesses I don't think we would be having this discussion. Utilities would be buried, sidewalks would be bricked, new trees would be planted, garbage would not be on the sidewalks at 3:00 in the afternoon...these are all no brainers, and I think everyone in Port Washington would be on board. The problem is the increase density and traffic proposals that accompanied the beautification ideas. Are they mutually inclusive to each other, or can we simply do the beautification items and move on. Maybe that is enough to revitalize Main Street, I don't know. Start small and see how it works. What I do know is that rezoning and developing the four blocks of Main Street to allow for four story construction is NOT my idea of starting small to see how it works. This is jumping in the deep end without a life preserver. I like the scale of Main Street...I don't like the vacant storefronts. However, I do like the single-story vacant storefronts MORE than I would like a vacant storefront with 3 stories above it for the length of the four blocks.
PHIL November 22, 2011 at 07:38 PM
I am curious and maybe someone from Residents can explain it....Dan Donatelli opened the evening by telling us all that this was not political. However, Residents has taken money from the TNH recently and I think that might make it political. Also, I found it odd that the gentleman from BJF was "joking" with the Town just the other day. The Town seal was in the presentation. And all that makes me wonder if the Residents have a conflict of interest.
Ben November 22, 2011 at 07:51 PM
As I understand it we have Town Ordinances related to garbage that are NOT enforced by the Port Washington Police Department beacuse they do not enforce quality of life violations. Each night we walk up Main Street to the Post Office and back to Fifth Ave dancing around garbage left out for pick-up by merchants, bikes and scooters on the sidewalk in front of Dunkin Dounts, etc. And I am told that there is a Town Ordinance that prohibits garbage being put out all night long it is supposed to be put out early in the morning for pick up. And bikes are not supposed to be ridden on sidewalks or left on the sidewalk outside of Dunkin Donuts. The garbage and the bikes are a hip fracture waiting to happen. Perhaps if laws that are allready in place that prohibit garbage being left outside all night long, and bikes were placed on a bike stand, etc. Main Street would be a better place sooner rather than later? As I understand it the PWPD has a policy NOT to issue fines for garbage or bikes or leaf blowers, etc. quality of life violations. Is there a law prohibiting garbage left out all night long on Main Street? Is there a law prohibiting a bunch of bikes on the sidewalk in front of Dunkin Donuts?
JC November 22, 2011 at 08:01 PM
It would be nice to have a more varied type of stores. Many people leave port to go to the Americana or Great Neck to shop for clothes and other things. Its nice to have small business but a mix that included those more established stores like Gap or A& F could better withstand the rents and the economic downturns so we'd see less vacant stores all the time.
Amanda Z. Lambertoli November 22, 2011 at 08:05 PM
I was at the meeting and some very nice members of the community spoke up and I think they are correct - I think the residents group did a nice job with proposing brick sidewalks, and utilities underground, and cleaning up the parking lots. And I agree that rezoning for mixed use is a bad idea. We don't want or need 3 & 4 story concrete buildings lined down main street, this only helps the builders, not the entire community. You don't need to rezone and add mixed use multi story buildings to improve main street. Someone at the meeting stated the hardware store and book store renovated their facade without guidelines and did a great job!
Local Resident November 23, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Since it appears that Residents is using the comment cards collected at the town meeting as a way to determine whether or not the rezoning proposals are favored: my vote is: NO...I am against the rezoning of Main Street.
Mark Johnson November 23, 2011 at 09:10 PM
As a Resident of Port Washington who lives close to the 4 block section of Main Street affected by these proposals, it heartens me that there seems to be general consensus that the beautification ideas are good, but the 4 storey/rezoning idea is not. I do not understand why RFAMBPW and ToNH have felt the need to link these things, as it is certainly possible to do the former without the latter. I am also concerned about the way that these proposals have been developed in relative secrecy over a 2 year period. This doesn't breed trust and is not the first time that RFAMBPW has claimed to represent the view of the community, only to have to back-track later (i.e. the parking garage debacle....they were initially for it until a 1,000 strong petition against it was handed to ToNH). As someone who is involved in major engineering projects, and the planning associated with them, i know that the mantra for community involvement is "early and often"....something the Residents and ToNH don't seem to have grasped. I agree with many of the other comments here that the rezoning/4 storey idea is ill-conceived and won't achieve the goals that Residents and ToNH are aiming for. As with everything, the devil is in the detail, and in this case the detail has not been thought through, in particular the exacerbated traffic issues that will be generated by greater density and the potential for this to result in Main Street looking like a 4-storey canyon.
Dina Scobbo January 27, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Being a resident of PW for over 45 years and living on Ohio Ave. I am against any 3 or 4 story buildings being built on Main St. I invite anyone who thinks it's a great idea to come and sit on my front porch from 6:am till 8:30am and watch the amount of cars that come down Ohio Ave. to North Maryland to Main St. You take your life in your hands just trying to pull out of your driveway. Their is already too much traffic in this Town. How much money was spent to make Port Wash. Blvd. "look nice". And how many of those stores are empty?????? How many stores on Main St. are empty????? And no they are not empty because of the look of the store. It is the rents that businesses have to pay. Sure Main St. can use a little cleaning up. The land lords of these properties need to be held responsible for that. If you walk down Main St. to Bellview Ave. count the amount of bicycles that are chained to TNH sign post, meters and garbage cans and telephone poles. The "Residents" want to make Main St. look nice, building 3 or 4 story buildings is NOT the way to do it. .... Dina Scobbo

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