Part two of a three-part series. Read the first part .
When Woodmere business owner Vassa Couture attempted to hang "Welcome to Woodmere" banners from light posts along Broadway to encourage shoppers to stop, she said her plan was put on hold by the Town of Hempstead, which owns the light posts.
Even though measures have been taken to create programs encouraging community development, many feel the political process in Woodmere may ultimately be hurting growth. Woodmere's business district has about 16 vacancies, according to a Patch count.
“Unfortunately, we’re owned by the Town of Hempstead,” said Couture, owner of Wedding Dresser Couture and Woodmere Merchant's Association's Beautification Committee leader. “[It] really makes it a little bit more challenging.”
Many business owners said they feel things would get done quicker if Woodmere were an incorporated village and had a mayor, however, Dr. John Santopolo, head of the , is not convinced the pros would ultimately outweigh the cons in that scenario.
“You would have to pay more, and I don’t know that people would be excited about that,” he said. “It would be beneficial, but more costly to people in the village because of the extra incorporated village tax.” He added that business owners are already paying too much to keep their doors open.
The neighboring , like Woodmere, is part of the Town of Hempstead, however, as an incorporated village, Cedarhurst’s politicians have a closer ear to the community’s needs with an acting mayor, according to Cedarhurst Trustee Ari Brown.
Brown said he believes this is the main reason for the economic downfall of Woodmere’s business district.
“The reason why we have the strongest business development, less than seven percent vacancy in Cedarhurst, while Woodmere and Lawrence are suffering, is that we have a working board and a full-time working mayor,” Brown said. “Our mayor (Andrew J. Parise) is an 84-year-old that works like he’s in his 40s. I’d say 20, but you wouldn’t believe me.”
Everywhere from the street signs to revenue and taxes, Brown attests that Cedarhurst is the only village with a mayor sitting behind the desk with his hand in every decision made in the community, all of which, he explains, directly affects the potential for a successful business district.
Ann Schockett, president of the Woodmere Republican Club, is confident that if more people were aware of the political process in the Five Towns, more store owners and residents would become more involved in lobbying for issues important to the community.
“Some people don’t know the difference between a councilman and a legislator, and I don’t blame them,” Shockett jokingly said. “Unless you’re on top of it, you don’t know what each person is supposed to do or where you are even.”
The Community Enrichment Mini Center offers courses in real estate services, resume writing and civics classes — all intended to help educate the community about the political process in the Five Towns.
Along with education, the Woodmere GOP also encourages store owners to get involved with programs like , a project developed to invigorate store owners to keep their storefronts clean and bring some life back to Broadway.
Schockett said she believes that community involvement is crucial to bringing the community back to where it was just years ago. But it might not be people's top concern, she said.
"People are so involved with so many things in their lives," she said, "it's almost like they don't have time to think about the vacancies."
You may say: Hewlett is not incorporated, why is its business district okay? One word: parking. Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of this series.