Major upgrades could be coming to Westbury Avenue, but those improvements won’t come without some huge changes to Carle Place’s main thoroughfare.
Nassau County Legislator Laura Schaefer discussed the county’s plan to revitalize Westbury Avenue at a public meeting at Carle Place Middle School March 31. At the meeting, which was attended by about two dozen Westbury Avenue property owners and Carle Place residents, she spoke about how the county wanted to make the street more inviting.
“We want to make everything brand new and more walkable,” Schaefer said. “This would involve resurfacing the road and sidewalks. It could involve new lighting, plants, maybe benches.”
However, one of the biggest problems with any type of streetscape project is bringing the sidewalks and curb ramps up to compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). The last road surfacing project in Carle Place was done almost 20 years ago, and since then, the ADA has changed their requirements to include sidewalks to be at least 48 inches wide. Currently, the sidewalks along Westbury Avenue are 36 inches.
Bringing the sidewalks up to ADA compliance was one of the motivating factors for the county to do the renovations, but it will be a challenge with the limited space. One of the proposed solutions to make up the extra space needed on each side is eliminating street parking on the south side of Westbury Avenue.
For local business owners, parking is one of the biggest problems. Some thought getting rid of parking on the south side of Westbury Avenue was a good idea, since many businesses on that side of the street have their own parking lots.
“You can’t drive down Westbury Avenue, there’s too many cars parked on the street,” said Mary Bormennen.However, for Michael Ryan, a manager from Greek Town Grille, that type of move would be devastating. The store relies on street parking, and he says people already have no place to park.
“There’d be no feasible way for us to have customers walk in,” Ryan said. “If we didn’t have it, there would be nobody here. It’s difficult parking to begin with. It wouldn’t be beneficial at all.”
There is only one municipal lot along Westbury Avenue. Several businesses have their own parking lots, others rely on on-street parking. The Town of North Hempstead would be the one to authorize any type of parking change but Schaefer noted that if it were eliminated, the county would have to see what other options were available.
“We need to make sure there is adequate parking,” Schaefer said. “If we decide we want to do this, we’re going to work toward making it in line with everything else we’re doing, which is making it more walkable and inviting and pedestrian friendly.”
Another option the county considered was making Westbury Avenue a one way, an option that was immediately dismissed by the audience.
In addition to the beautification, property owners noted a desire to see cleaner facades along the street, as well as cohesiveness and more stores moving into the vacant buildings.
“I’d like a cleaner facade, something more self-encompassing,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of empty storefronts. It doesn’t seem like there’s a big commercial thoroughfare like there is on Post Avenue.”
Some were skeptical that any improvements would actually happen; especially because a similar project had been proposed by the Town of North Hempstead 10 years ago, with nothing ever coming to fruition.
Maria Barilla has been a business owner on Westbury Avenue for 25 years. She says she agrees with the county’s proposed plans, but had her doubts as for the timeline and funding.
“I hope it goes through,” Barilla said. “My doubts are it won’t happen and if it does happen, it’ll be prolonged. They all mean well but when it comes down to the money…I don’t know. I’ll be glad to see it get done though.”However this time, the project does have more of a deadline. The ADA has sent notices to the county and Town of North Hempstead telling them they have to come up to compliance, or at least have a plan on how they will meet the regulations.
“The Ellison Avenue bridge project is happening so we won’t conflict with that,” Schaefer said. “But we’re going to have another formal sit down with the town and see how we’re going to proceed and see the time frame.”
There is some capital funding already secured for the streetscape project, and Schaefer is hoping to also get additional community revitalization project and state funding.