Hundreds gathered Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony on the Wyandanch Rising project, the start of an ambitious community redevelopment 11 years in the making that residents hope will turn the neighborhood around.
While many people in the community question if it will actually happen this time, the ceremony was proof that work is starting on the first phase of this 40-acre, mixed-use development that will create a new downtown with a mix of apartments, shops and a new park near the Long Island Rail Road station. The first five-story building will feature retail and 91 residential rental units.
“People are trying to come back now,” said Felice Holder, a Wyandanch resident for more than 40 years who’s seen a reversal since crime and economic decline chased families away in the past. “We want a fair chance.”
In an era when such mixed use developments aimed at retaining young professionals—and plugging the brain drain—are often proposed and then scrapped on Long Island, the ceremony marked a breakthrough for the region and a community longing for revival.
“When all is said and done, this project will provide 150 new jobs for New Yorkers and a much brighter future for one of the most economically distressed communities on Long Island,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
Albanese Development invested $75 million in the project that is leveraged by $26 million federal, state, county and town funding. The entire project is expected to cost $500 million. Sewage construction on Straight Path that will link to the development preceded the groundbreaking.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who has pushed for the project since holding his prior post as Babylon Town Supervisor, noted that Wyandanch Rising is the first new downtown oriented around mass transit.
“It’s never been just about building new buildings, but helping people to change lives,” Bellone said. “Today we show we can do big things, we can do hard things on Long Island.”
Anne Stewart, a Wyandanch civic leader, was optimistic at the promise the construction brings to her community.
“Breaking ground means something is going to happen,” she said. “As they say, it takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a village to make this happen.”