To reclaim is to save or recover something that has been affected by wrongdoing or error and return it to its rightful course. The title of this proposal, “Reclaiming Community,” refers to the goal of reclaiming two important communities within the Village of Hempstead: ecological and residential. The populous village has a wealth of cultural diversity, a government presence, and is in close proximity to the site of a proposed new semi-urban community and Nassau Coliseum. These factors afford the village the opportunity for positive change and smart growth.
This proposal seeks to grow vertically instead of horizontally (promoting density over sprawl), maximize use of brownfield sites, establish educational programs, provide desirable affordable housing, and explore new modes of transit and mobility. In the process, it aims to restore the Hempstead Plains and provide a sustainable urban agricultural enterprise. These urban design strategies and programmatic elements can generate a diverse demographic profile, enriching and providing opportunities for multi-generational and multi-cultural social interaction.
The village can benefit from the support from the Coliseum project and its efforts to provide a community of mixed-use development, offices, sport complexes and hospitality. Rather than fabricating a new environment from the ground up, the project can focus on retrofitting and repurposing the established downtown and expand upon its existing transportation and infrastructure system.
Balancing the built form and the ecology will affect individuals in the Village of Hempstead, as well as be an influential model for all downtowns of Long Island.
The Hempstead Plains
The Hempstead Plains Preserve, two miles east of the Village of Hempstead, is one of the most rapidly vanishing ecological habitats in the world.
Underused or abandoned parking lots and paved-over areas in the Village of Hempstead have the opportunity to be transformed into natural wildlife habitats.
Brownfield Remediation Project Sites
A brownfield is a formerly contaminated industrial or commercial site. As a method for remediation of brownfields, the Hempstead Plains habitat can be reconstructed. Thus, brownfields in the Village of Hempstead can take on new importance as natural wildlife landscapes and urban ecologies.
The Hempstead Plains Project will be the heart of the revitalization of the Village of Hempstead. The entire community can participate in the restorative efforts of the plains. Local schools can use the sites as outdoor classrooms where they can learn about Native American history, ethnobotany and native plants, preserving globally rare endangered plants and wildlife, and stewardship of the land. Trail systems and interpretive signage will be provided.
The land where an auto mall currently exists is repurposed into an expansive urban farming laboratory and wind power grid. Multiple layers of topsoil can replace asphalt and can be used for growing a variety of fruits and vegetables. Citizens can participate in this, as well as beekeeping and raising livestock. Local students of all ages can get involved and make urban farming an integral part of their education. They can be taught the importance of locally grown food supply that can help them develop a self-invested relationship between person and food.
A local bazaar/marketplace neighboring the urban farm can help in the distribution of goods by local vendors, including food and arts and crafts.
As part of the Hempstead Plains Project, historic Horse Brook will be naturalized. By dechannelizing the waterway at Brierley Park and stabilizing the watercourse with a constructed riparian environment, the park can be a demonstration of the historic habitat and a point of interest for locals and visitors. This micro-habitat will increase biodiversity and can be a study ground for urban ecological research and experimentation.
A Better Burb
Through rezoning and retrofitting, an unoccupied home can be transformed into a business that can serve its own community: a restaurant that serves seasonal dishes using locally grown produce, a market, a clothing boutique. Steadily, the sprawling suburban landscape can become more dense and mixed-use.
The Art of Industry
Many urban cities have an arts district/colony or visual and performing arts institution that supports its creative dwellers. Most of these zones have unoccupied warehouse space in common. In the southern region of the village’s downtown, just outside the half-mile radius boundary, lies vast real estate ideal for the future makings of Hempstead’s very own arts district. Conveniently, there is very little that needs to be done to move forward such a district, as this environment shouldn’t be hyped, franchised, or overdone. What makes an arts district so appealing is the industrial and unfinished feel of the place. The arts district can form holistically according to the needs of its artists.