By Cristina Pinzon, Stateside Affairs
Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Maliotakis stood at the podium remembering a time, pre-Hurricane Sandy, when the East Shore was called the Fun Coast. She was speaking at a press conference August 16 announcing the formation of the East Shore Local Development Corporation (ESLDC), under the aegis of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, to revitalize this region so hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.
“Since Hurricane Sandy, this district has experienced a lot of sadness and suffering. Little by little we are inching our way toward normalcy,” the Assemblywoman said. “We are bringing recreational opportunities and hopefully attracting more businesses to this district, which is exactly what this program is all about.”
Citing the $150M allocated by the state to build a seawall, the Assemblywoman said, “This is an opportunity for all of us to work together to build the waterfront that we desire. The seawall is coming, so we are starting with a clean slate, to building more resilient homes and better housing stock. I would like to see us utilize this opportunity with the seawall coming and the tremendous investment that all levels of government are making into a district where we can do something amazing that attracts visitors, attracts residents to take advantage of the waterfront, and attracts businesses.”
ESLDC was established by the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce with a $440,000 federal Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (HUD CDBG-DR) funding. It was allocated for the area in 2015 by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), in partnership with the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The focus of the ESLDC’s work centers on four commercial corridors: Hylan Boulevard, Sand Lane, Midland Avenue, and Father Capodanno Boulevard.
“We feel very strongly that this area has so much potential.” said Linda Baran, president of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. “It was so devastated. It is now five years later and there are still things that need to be addressed. It has the potential of being absolutely spectacular.”
The East Shore is home to 45,000 residents and has the highest average household income in the city, $73,000. Approximately 200,000 commuters cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and another 70,000 ride the ferry on a daily basis.
“Let’s make this a place where the community can benefit, and we can bring in people who can actually support businesses and drive business to the area,” Baran continued. “The Chamber is committed to this.”
In addition to the CDBG-DR grant, New York City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo has arranged to add $15,000 in discretionary funds. Explained the councilman, “The devastation that Hurricane Sandy wrought on the East Shore not only forced us to rethink our built environment, it also reminded us how important our business corridors are to the economic health and resiliency of our communities. The East Shore Local Development Corporation’s ‘Vision Plan’ will build on the success we have had collaborating with local businesses, stakeholders, and city agencies to form The West Shore and New Dorp Business Improvement Districts, to help our communities rebuild and thrive, now and in the future. I am proud to provide support and discretionary funding to keep these vital efforts going.”
The ESLDC has two goals: First, to bring diverse new businesses to the area that will redefine the East Shore as a destination attracting visitors; second, to increase the number of visitors. Currently, it has 500,000 beachgoers annually. So far, the ESLDC has instituted supplemental sanitation services and has put together what project manager Dr. Abe Unger called “a toolkit with a lot of moving parts to bring further development to this real jewel in the crown of New York City.”
On August 31, the ESLDC will release zoning recommendations aimed to enhance commercial revitalization while allowing for flood resiliency needs. The report was compiled after consulting with the New York City land use firm Urban Cartographics. In addition, a district beautification and enhancement plan was completed by Larisa Ortiz Associates, and a marketing plan was developed by Stateside Affairs.
Explained Dr. Unger, “The establishment of this unique public-private partnership represents a new beginning for this district. We have developed an infrastructure for reinvestment in our community that includes marketing, zoning, planning, and staffing to support this mission, all in consideration of the unique resiliency needs of the district.”
He reported that they now have a logo, a slogan, Discover the Beauty of the East Shore and a useful and user friendly website (www.eastshorenyc.com) where visitors, residents or possible investors can find out more about what’s going on in the community. “Our goal is to support resiliency with economic development, which is something all of us can share especially this community, which has been through so much,” Dr. Unger reiterated.
Larissa Ortiz presented her conclusions in her firm’s Beautification Enhancement Plan, focusing on the four commercial corridors: Hylan Boulevard, Sand Lane, Midland Avenue, and Father Capodanno Boulevard.
Ortiz explained, “The Beautification and Enhancement Plan will provide practical recommendations to guide the ESLDC and their partners to make these districts more attractive, to drive pedestrian traffic between the beaches and the districts and make these wonderful corridors great places for businesses.”
The plan has three goals: to improve the image and perception of the East Shore; to create opportunities for enhanced activities and amenities along each of these corridors; and to improve the ability to walk or bike to make it easier and more convenient for residents and beach visitors alike to visit each of these districts.
The recommendations range from store front improvements, use of vacant lots that brings activity and excitement to the area, wayfinding and signage that improves the connections between the beaches and corridors, and sidewalk and street improvements.
This is good news for the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and ESLDC board member Mark Tranchina, owner of the Vanderbilt and South Fin Grill where the press conference took place. “ESLDC is a critical component to help revitalize the East Shore. It has been six years since Sandy, and it has been an uphill struggle. We are very encouraged at the things the ESLDC has done and will continue to do in bringing together the elected officials and the businesses in the area to help us improve at what Assemblywoman Nicole Maliotakis said is the Fun Shore because it really should be the gem of New York.”
About the East Shore Local Development Corporation
The East Shore Local Development Corporation, sponsored by the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, is dedicated to revitalizing the area into a vibrant economic community attracting diverse businesses while maintaining its unique neighborhood character. ESLDC is committed to preserving and protecting the East Shore’s delicate environment and to creating an attractive destination that will keep visitors coming back.