Part three of a three-part series. See part two .
Potential shoppers, the fuel cells for a struggling business district such as Woodmere, can only peer from their cars as they crawl through the daily bumper-to-bumper traffic in search of a parking spot on Broadway.
Just a few blocks north however, neighboring Hewlett presents storefronts full of thriving boutiques, grocery stores and restaurants, a very different atmosphere than that of Woodmere’s “ghost town.”
Most importantly to Hewlett's success is it’s ample and accessible parking.
“The streets and sidewalks are mundane,” said Ann Schockett, president of the Woodmere Republican Club, referring to Woodmere’s parking availability.
Schockett said she has made several steps towards the revitalization effort in the shopping district, but she points out that times are changing and so might the types of businesses in Woodmere.
“We could have 25 more hairdressers and salons, but it’s not the type of stores that are going to keep the people on the streets,” she explained. “We don’t have the types of stores here to keep people out shopping.”
Lewis Barbanel recently moved his family owned and operated real estate business, Barberry Rose Management Company, Inc., to his hometown of Woodmere.
“I think it’s a great neighborhood, I like Woodmere and I put my office here,” Barbanel said. “It also has a parking lot in the back, which was very appealing.”
While this might not attract a restaurant or a boutique, which typically relies on street access and visible parking to reel in customers, a real estate company or office complex would be able to find practical use for a back lot.
Barbanel said he believes that the current state of the district lies simply in the demand of the types of businesses, typically based on village demographics.
“If you need a very large lunch crowd and you’re kosher, you need to be in Cedarhurst,” he said. “You have all the schools there.”
Matthew Sonfield, professor of management at Hofstra University’s School of Business, theorizes that parking and business location is the root of many business districts' problems.
“It can sometimes be something as trivial as parking,” Sonfield said. “If you can’t find parking, you can’t attract customers.”
Dr. John Santopolo, head of the , has long pushed to solve the parking problem in Woodmere.
“Parking has always been an issue,” Santopolo said. “If you have a place to park your car, there will be foot traffic,” in turn leading to a prosperous shopping district.
In the past, Santopolo has pushed for the construction of parking garages and the refurbishing of old parking lots to make the neighborhood more accessible to the consumer, he said, however, he has not had success getting it through the Town of Hempstead.
“We have exhausted what the Woodmere Merchants Association can do,” he said. “We can only lobby and we do not have, quote unquote, political power.”