The Village of Mineola, NY, is working to transform its downtown from a transit and employment hub into a mixed-use center with life after the end of the workday.
Mineola has approximately 19,000 residents and is located in central Nassau County, 20 miles due east of Midtown Manhattan. The Mineola station is one of the busiest Long Island Rail Road stations. Connections are available from the train station to public bus routes, as well as shuttle service to the nearby Adelphi and Hofstra University campuses.
Compared to many other Long Island downtowns, Mineola is unique in that it has a significant number of downtown office buildings. Winthrop University Hospital is located in Mineola, and several Nassau County government office buildings are located within close proximity to downtown. These buildings help account for an over 40% increase in daytime population in the Village.
As an aging suburb, Mineola has been facing issues similar to many other suburban communities on Long Island: a changing commercial base, traffic congestion, and a fading downtown in need of new energy and definition. The presence of the hospital, large private office buildings, and nearby governmental office centers are assets to Mineola, but also pose challenges. These uses generate significant volumes of traffic and workers during the daytime, but very little pedestrian traffic in the downtown or activity after the end of business day.
To improve the situation, the Village of Mineola formed a Community Planning Committee in 2002 to focus on station-area streetscape improvements and a redesign study for the rail station. In 2004, the Village developed a Master Plan to identify opportunities for mixed-use and residential redevelopment, especially around the train station.
In 2007, the Village amended its zoning code so that regulations would be in sync with the Master Plan. The Village adopted a zoning overlay enabling mixed-use or residential development proposals to bypass the usual permitting process red tape and instead go directly to the Board of Trustees for approval. This streamlining of the development review process provides a significant incentive to developers, allowing them to get through the process faster and receive more regulatory flexibility in exchange for providing greater amenities and for helping the Village to achieve its vision.
Several major residential development proposals within walking distance of the train station have been fast-tracked to approval, and they provide amenities ranging from streetscape improvements to public structured parking. The Village of Mineola has successfully incentivized investment in its downtown, laying the groundwork for an expanded tax base and round-the-clock vitality.
Mineola provides an excellent example for other Long Island downtowns that are interested in exploring redevelopment opportunities around rail stations. Hicksville, Ronkonkoma, Hempstead, and Freeport have similar potential to develop more transit-oriented residential and mixed-use activities around the stations.
When a jurisdiction develops a plan for its downtown, as Mineola has done, negotiations with developers are often more expeditious for the developer and more beneficial for the community than they would have been without a plan in place. From the beginning of the process, developers know what the community’s vision and expectations are for new downtown projects.