Long Island officials presented another initiative to aid downtowns ranging from Great Neck to Farmingdale while many continue to have difficulties navigating the ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative is called the Downtown Travel Pass, a free, contactless phone application that sends its users offers and promotional codes for some of Nassau’s downtown areas that were greatly impacted by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.
Residents are able to sign up for free, contactless mobile offerings by visiting www.discoverlongisland.com/deals. A link is sent to the participant’s mobile phone, which opens a “virtual passport” and directs the participant to add an icon to the home screen, easily accessible at any time.
A participant ready to redeem a pass hands the phone over at the checkout counter to access a deal, promotion or special offer.
The new free mobile travel pass was designed to boost economic recovery efforts in the region through incentivized marketing efforts ranging from small businesses to general attractions.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran joined with her Suffolk counterpart, Steve Bellone, Nassau Industrial Development Agency Chairman Richard Kessel and other business development leaders on Long Island on Thursday to make the announcement.
“Embracing and growing Nassau’s vibrant, walkable downtown communities near transit and housing has been a priority of my administration since day one,” Curran said. “Following our COVID-19 frontline response, my priority focused on boosting the recovery of our small businesses and revival of these once bustling, beloved Main Street communities – the heartbeat of our local economy.
“The small businesses that make up our charming downtowns are the lifeblood of our communities and a top priority during these unprecedented times,” Kessel said. “We are excited to collaborate with Discover Long Island to launch this new Downtown Deals Travel Pass that will provide an economic boost to our local businesses.”
Discover Long Island President and CEO Kristen Jarnigan touted the support the organization received from both county IDAs and said the aid provided to the hospitality industry throughout Long Island was vital.
“The $6.1 billion hospitality industry has been the hardest hit industry in our region as a result of COVID-19 and the small businesses in our downtowns need immediate assistance to drive economic recovery,” Jarnigan said. “We are grateful to Nassau and Suffolk County IDAs for their partnership in supporting this new mobile Downtown Deals Travel Pass and we encourage our residents and visitors to utilize this digitized platform to explore the endless hidden gems in the vibrant downtowns that are the fabric of our community.”
The first group of downtowns that are listed on the website includes Great Neck, Rockville Centre, Greenport, Farmingdale, Huntington and Patchogue. Officials said more than 100 local businesses are expected to be included within the virtual passport, with more potentially on the way.
Curran has been trying to aid small businesses and downtown areas, opening main streets for outdoor dining in early June, after the first phase of reopening began. The open streets program created a fast track for municipalities to get approval from the county to close county-operated roads so restaurants can provide outdoor dining and increase curbside pickup options.
In September, before the pandemic, Curran introduced funding for transit-oriented development projects for qualified municipalities throughout Nassau. The funding was part of the federal Community Development Block Grant program received by the county each year, according to a news release from Curran’s office, and is meant to “support project costs and promote development that maximizes the amount of residential, business, and public open space within walking distance of public transportation.”
The county allocated $1 million for the initiative and intended to fund at least three projects before the pandemic hit. The maximum award for a municipality would total $400,000.
“I want to encourage businesses and residents to sign up for the new free Downtown Deals Travel Pass and explore downtown districts throughout Long Island,” Curran said. “Not only will you find fantastic ways to enjoy a staycation but you will be supporting the businesses that employ so many of our neighbors, family, and friends.”
Curran stressed the importance of supporting local businesses throughout the county, especially with the looming $384 million debt Nassau faces this year due to the pandemic. A report conducted by Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman in late June anticipated the county’s sales tax revenue could decrease by as much as $417 million this year, and more than $601 million in 2021 if a second wave of the virus were to hit.