East Hampton business study could give solution to Great Neck

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An East Hampton Town Board member, Sylvia Overby, said the Great Neck peninsula could benefit from following in her municipality’s footsteps in hiring a consultant to study its downtown business areas.
In October, East Hampton hired a Massachusetts-based firm, Dodson & Flinker Inc., to conduct studies of the town’s five hamlets in an effort to identify areas of the business districts that could be improved.
“We have a business committee, and that committee, working with  the Planning Department, wanted to ask about certain problems and successes that we’ve had in East Hampton,” said Overby, who is the board’s liaison for the study. “So they had a list of items they wanted consultants to look at and comment on.”
Dodson & Flinker was hired for $285,000 to study  Wainscott, Springs, East Hampton, Amagansett and Montauk.
Overby said the study would help the town identify how it could support and improve local businesses.
“We want to make sure local businesses are supported,” she said. “For us local business is best. It means money goes within the community.”
The study compiles comment from officials, business owners and residents for what they would like to see in each of their hamlets, Overby said.
“What I think I’ve heard from the community participating in this is that there are certain areas in town that almost need to be redone and areas of town where people love it,” she said. “Other areas of town would like enhancements, maybe better infrastructure and a better connection with other areas.”
In Great Neck, about 13 percent of storefronts in the business district are vacant.
Saddle Rock Mayor Dan Levy, who is president of the Great Neck Village Officials Association, has said it was a worrisome number and that he felt the best way to find a solution was to have everyone working together.
“I think we ought to come up with some ideas and call a meeting with the mayors and discuss the things we are thinking about,” Levy said. “It would be more productive.”
But, he said, it was difficult to have those types of discussions without “stepping on anybody’s toes.”
Overby said the hamlets being studied had similar concerns about other communities getting involved in their business.
So, she said, the town decided to split the study into separate sections specifically focused on each hamlet to prevent any disputes.
Overby said that East Hampton is seeing a decrease in retail stores and an increase in businesses that provide services.
“People want services, whether it’s grooming themselves or their yards or someone to help them shop,” she said. “Those are the places that are expanding.”
Overby also said that the study is looking at how the Internet is affecting the town’s business districts and what it could  do to fight that competition, a factor that a number of Great Neck officials have said is hurting the peninsula’s businesses.
“We feel that if there’s a company out here selling products that you can get on the Internet, why would we want them there?” she said.
Jay Corn, vice president of the Great Neck Plaza Business Improvement District, said that if Great Neck villages hired a consultant for a business study, it may only result in a temporary solution to the problem.
“My experience with the consultants is they take the lead from what the village wants them to say,” Corn said. “Then the village can justify that because they have an independent consultant who comes up with this opinion.”
“After they give their report and they leave, I think things usually filter down to the way it was before they started,” he added.
Corn said that the Great Neck Plaza BID already serves as a consultant to the Plaza, which has the most storefronts and businesses on the peninsula.
But, he said, the BID could not promote or do any work for any villages outside of Great Neck Plaza.

By Joe Nikic

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