Merchants have mixed feelings about whether retail is the right track for the area near New Hyde Park’s Long Island Rail Road station.
While some think it could have benefits, business owners and managers said village officials should try to leave room for the existing industrial businesses in their proposed retail district.
“I think the retail side would be good for this area, but at the same time hopefully there’ll be a balance of both for folks like us,” said Sean O’Hara, the director of sales and operations for Surya Brasil, an organic cosmetics company that has its U.S. headquarters at 1327 Second Ave.
The village wants to use a forthcoming $5 million state grant to transform the area into a commercial plaza centered on the LIRR station, complete with shops, restaurants and possibly housing. The initiative grew out of talks between village and state officials about the LIRR’s plan to build a third track on its Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville.
Village officials have said this could mean transitioning some industrial businesses out. But Mayor Lawrence Montreuil stressed that the plan is in its infancy — it has not been determined what streets or lots the district would comprise, or how exactly the plan would affect those industrial businesses, he said.
“It’s in such an early stage that we don’t know which properties we’re going to look at closely,” Montreuil said. “We’re just framing it out right now.”
The village’s law firm, Spellman Rice Gibbons Polizzi & Truncale, and an urban planner, Paul Grygiel, are expected to give the Board of Trustees an initial report on what creating the district might entail in September, Montreuil said. But questions about the effects on industrial businesses will be answered later in the planning stages, he said.
In addition to its corporate offices and 5,500-square-foot warehouse, Surya Brasil has a small retail shop where it sells a sampling of its products, O’Hara said. Some of Surya’s 15 employees have tried to draw commuters in with free samples in recent years but met little success, he said.
O’Hara and George Santos, owner of Ryder Joe’s Deli at 1201 Second Ave., said more foot traffic in the area could boost businesses. But the new retail district would need diversity to be successful and do right by existing merchants, they said.
Surya has no intention of moving its warehouse, from which it ships products to some 2,200 clients — including Whole Foods supermarkets — in the U.S. and Canada, O’Hara said. For Santos, another deli coming in could draw customers away from the one he’s run there for six years.
“I think change is good, so I think it could help. But like I said, it could hurt, too, depending what they bring in here, what kind of businesses,” Santos said.
But Matt Roth, vice president of Overnight Mountings Inc. at 1400 Plaza Ave., said the village’s plan is an overall bad idea. His company, which manufactures jewelry mounts, has been in New Hyde Park for nine years and has no plans to move, he said.
“We bought this building a couple years ago and it’s important for us to be where we are,” Roth said.
Bringing more shops and restaurants into the train station area could take customers away from those two blocks away on Jericho Turnpike, New Hyde Park’s main commercial thoroughfare, Roth said.
“I think brick-and-mortar retail is dying all across the country,” Roth said. “To try to establish a retail area where there is not demand for one doesn’t make sense.”
Business is sometimes tough for Santos’ deli, even though it’s “the only name by the [train] station,” so it could be hard for other shops and eateries to get established, he said.
But O’Hara thinks commuters and others would welcome the chance to get a meal without having to walk to Jericho Turnpike, he said.
Creating a retail district could also give the area more “curb appeal,” as Surya and some of its neighbors have done recently, O’Hara said. The company’s building is painted bright green and currently bears a mural celebrating its 20th anniversary. There’s also a garden in front where employees grow plants, O’Hara said.
“We’ve really made it into a great space, and if there were other neighbors in the area that intend on doing this in the future, we definitely would like that,” O’Hara said.