Bill Furst said he remembered when he would see military police guarding the former U.S. Army base that formerly sat across the street from his North Bellmore home of 40 years.
"When I was in the military I used to bring my equipment there to be fixed," he said.
However, the 17-acre property on Maple Avenue has sat vacant for nearly 17 years and residents finally want to see it put to good use.
The military base, once known as the Bellmore Logistics Facility, was used by the Army to repair heavy equipment and vehicles. Built during World War II, the facility was shuttered by the federal government in 1994.
Buildings that remained on the property were demolished nearly five years ago after it was purchased by KABRO Associates, a commercial real estate developer.
According to North Bellmore Civic Association board members Reinaldo Nunez and Dan Checkla, the developer initially wanted to build market-rate senior housing. Both reside adjacent to the property and wanted to see a mixed used development that included a combination of affordable senior housing and single family homes.
"We wanted some [affordable] senior housing so people who lived here would be able to retire and stay in the community," Nunez said. "And it would control some of the flow into the schools."
Kay McKiernan, president of Habitat for Humanity of Nassau County, recalled when her organization proposed 20 affordable houses be erected on the property in 1996.
"We got a great deal of opposition," she said.
McKiernan said that some of the residents were concerned that the area property value would reduce, the economic and social makeup of the neighborhood would change, schools would become overcrowded and that all of this would be a burden on area social services.
More than a year ago, KABRO Associates were approved to build only single-family homes on the property by the Nassau County Planning Commission, Checkla said.
Nearly 80 homes are slated for this development. They would be built on mostly standard-sized lots.
Other residents also had opinions on what should be built on the vacant property.
Lauren Russo lives across from the Army base with her family.
I would love to see houses built there with a park for families," she said. "Something should be done with it that will benefit our neighborhood. It is a huge property that is being wasted."
Furst agreed that Bellmore residents should benefit from the vacant space.
"Affordable housing should be built because many children who grew up here can't afford to live here anymore," he said.
Bellmore Patch will regularly spotlight vacant commercial properties in effort to initiate a discussion within the community about alternative uses for these abandoned places. If you'd like to know more about a specific property, please comment below.