Mineola recognized as a pro-housing community

Village of Mineola recognized in first set of pro-housing communities in New York.

By Urvi Gandhi

The Village of Mineola was recognized as a pro-housing community by Gov. Kathy Hochul less than a month after receiving a $4.5 million state housing grant.

Mineola Mayor Paul Pereira acknowledged the village’s new designation and the multi-million-dollar NY Forward Award at a Board of Trustees meeting Feb 21. Only two weeks earlier, the governor named the first 20 communities in New York State, including Mineola, that would receive a “pro-housing community” label. The classification provides communities a major leg up when being considered for state funding for local housing.

“I take [the designation] as a recognition and validation of the work we have done, on our terms, with local control and local decision-making,” Pereira said at the meeting.

The Pro-Housing Community Program is a part of the governor’s goal to overcome the statewide housing shortage, aimed at “protecting current and prospective tenants and homeowners, and making it even easier to access and apply for affordable housing.”

The $100 million NY Forward program is built on the New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and adopts the same “Plan-then-Act” strategy as the DRI.

A prerequisite for the funds is they be used to revitalize the downtown area of the village, near the Long Island Rail Road station.

Pereira said he would like to improve lighting, streetscaping, walkability, wayfinding signs and minor infrastructural upgrades to parking with any potential leftover funds. He said the funds are largely aimed at more aesthetic changes that would attract more crowds to Mineola’s downtown.

“I don’t think there is enough money to make any substantive infrastructure improvements like water or sewer because those are big-ticket items, and we would burn through the funds,” Pereira said.

In the past decade, Mineola has seen the development of nearly 1,400 new downtown residential units and projects to add over 700. According to Pereira, this is also to accommodate younger people in more affordable housing.

“I take [the designation] as a recognition and validation of the work we have done, on our terms, with local control and local decision-making.”

Paul Pereira, Mineola Mayor

Rebecca Chiafullo, another recent addition to the workforce, said that besides parking, she was disappointed to see a high turnover in how often local businesses have shuttered. “On my street, at least two or three businesses have shut down in the past year. That’s why we often go to Garden City to go to a coffee shop or something, because sometimes it doesn’t seem like much is open” in Mineola, Chiafullo said.

Mineola resident and recent college graduate Sakshi Nemlekar, whose pronouns are they/them, said that while they already appreciate the walkability and convenience that the downtown offers, they agree improvements could be made.

“There is no nightlife here because everything closes at eight and parking can be a huge inconvenience. I have to wake up at 8 a.m. to pay for parking every morning,” Nemlekar said.

Chiafullo echoed the concern over parking.

Members of the village board, including Pereira, Village Clerk Bryan Rivera and Community Development Coordinator Tom Savino, presented their application for the NY Forward grant to a state committee in October.

The Pro-Housing Community Program was proposed to incentivize communities to develop their housing after Hochul received major pushback for her original proposal.

Hochul’s Housing Compact Plan was almost entirely removed from the 2024 budget after backlash from local government to prevent the state from overriding local zoning laws. Pereira also said the “one-size-fits-all” approach by the governor was detrimental to the individual needs of communities and failed to credit areas like Mineola for the strides made in the past.

“I emphatically defend the right that we as a community, in this room, should be making these decisions, and I’m glad that the governor recognizes that the approach from last year was not the right approach,” Pereira said at the board meeting.

Pereira has said deliberations over how the grant will be used are set to begin in the coming weeks. Decisions will be made by a committee co-chaired by Pereira and an adjoining state committee. The nominees consist of a range of Mineola stakeholders, including residents, local businesses, NYU Langone, developers, faith-based representatives and a fire department member.

Suggestions on how to revitalize downtown can be offered on the Village of Mineola website.