Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
We must never allow ourselves or LIPA/National Grid to think that the utility has done Glenwood Landing and our larger North Shore community a favor by being there in that prime waterfront location, just because it has paid its taxes. The taxes paid by the utility over the years cannot begin to make up for our lost real estate wealth and revenue and our quality of life. Let us imagine that the power plant had never been there, and that those lands, pristine and picturesque, had been allowed to develop in the way all prime waterfront properties traditionally develop —giving our communities a vastly more beneficent and enduring tax base in that location — to remind ourselves that we owe nothing to LIPA or National Grid.
Quite the opposite: The time has come for the utility and the Town of North Hempstead to compensate our communities for enduring the visual blight, noise, air-ground-and-water pollution of this monstrously ugly utility in such close proximity to our densely populated neighborhoods for so many generations —immeasurably and permanently reducing area property values by virtue of its presence there. Even now, as it bails out, it leaves behind fouled lands, horrid turbines, oil tanks and high voltage overhead power cables and transmission towers.
Presently, LIPA/National Grid are poised to apply to the Town of North Hempstead for demolition permits to eliminate anything of value on the site to reduce their tax assessment. They plan to demolish the classic brick building — the utility’s only attractive and redeeming feature — before proper consideration can be given to that grand structure’s potential benefit to the community. Elsewhere, such monumental landmarks are increasingly being repurposed as showcase, community-oriented, commercial enterprises.
We must not allow LIPA and National Grid to demolish what is no longer useful to them, merely to reduce their own tax assessment. They have an obligation, first and foremost, to give full consideration to helping the community that they have exploited for generations. We have every reason to demand compensation and reparations from the utility and the Town of North Hempstead in the form of creating something wonderful in that location and in that building — something that will contribute to the regeneration and future well-being of Glenwood Landing and the greater North Shore community.
Let us stop lamenting and fully embrace the demise of the Glenwood Landing (GWL) power plant as a unique opportunity for re-imagining the building and site as a fabulous, revenue-generating asset and resource for the greater North Shore community.
Just last week, The New York Times featured an article on the growing practice of successfully repurposing power plants, because their location near water, their solid construction and their unusual size and shape make them ideal for repurposing (See “From Power Plant to Civic Renewal Centerpiece,” The New York Times, April 25, 2013).
Let us re-imagine the GWL plant’s magnificent waterfront building and site, for example, as a revenue-generating commercial sports and recreation facility that would be a win-win-win-win for all concerned — for the tax-paying community, for National Grid/LIPA executives and investors, for political leaders and, last and most important: for area team-sports families and enthusiasts, whose demand for playing fields and sports facilities such as this has long exceeded supply.
The GWL building appears large enough to house several regulation playing fields indoors, one on top of the other, with plenty of room to spare for other recreational and arts activities. Just last year, Chelsea Piers CT launched such a facility in a residential area in Stamford, Conn., completely inside a repurposed Clairol factory, eliminating any concerns neighbors had about noise and lights in the area (www.chelseapiersct.com). The conversion took just two years to complete (See “Chelsea Piers Puts Ashore in Stamford,” The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2012).
To succeed as a viable commercial undertaking, such a facility in GWL would necessitate optimal access. In addition to existing routes from the north, south and east, a western link, from Glenwood Road across to Bar Beach and beyond, would offer total access from all directions. A short bridge, attractively designed in keeping with the GWL brick arches perhaps, with multiple lanes for accommodating strollers, skaters, bicycle riders and anglers, as well as motorists, would need no more than a single support pier (if that) to span that narrow channel. It would not block the tidal exchange and hardly disturb the sea floor.
This long overdue direct link from Hempstead Harbor’s east to its west shore and to 25A and beyond, would also allow Glen Cove/Sea Cliff/Glen Head/Glenwood Landing commuters to bypass many miles of tortuous, narrow back roads through Roslyn Harbor and Roslyn, while easing the horrific twice-daily traffic congestion in those communities.
Imagine a generous, newly revitalized and accessible stretch of natural waterfront, plus a world-class recreational facility, housed completely inside a repurposed GWL plant. Imagine a waterfront walkway, jogging lane, skating and bicycle path, leading all the way from Sea Cliff to Port Washington. Imagine what a glorious asset to the North Shore, the Towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay and Nassau County such a facility would be in that place, where area residents, for generations, have endured the visual blight of the relentlessly ugly and polluted GWL utility.
The greatest obstacle to realizing a good idea is the lack of imagination, will and courage on the part of policymakers and politicians.
Let us spark their imagination and ignite their enthusiasm. Let us remind them of their responsibility to the communities they serve. Let us insist that they find the will and courage to do the right thing, at long last, for Glenwood Landing and for the larger North Shore and Hempstead Harbor community now and for future generations.