Mineola starts planning process to spend $4.5 million state grant

Mineola starts planning process to spend $4.5 million state grant
Bfj Planning Principal Susan Favate and Mineola Mayor Paul Pereira speak at a New York Forward planning meeting Thursday. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

Mineola is planning how to spend a $4.5 million New York Forward grant that the state awarded the village in January.

The New York Forward grant branched out from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, a New York State program launched in 2016 to transform struggling downtown areas and provide a better quality of life. The DRI is a $10 million grant. In 2024, the state awarded the DRI grant to Kings Park, a Suffolk County hamlet in the Town of Smithtown.

The New York Forward grant is awarded to rural communities with the opportunity for growth and improvements in their downtown area. Mineola has applied for the DRI and New York Forward grants the past few years.

“We do have parameters and there are rules and this is a very thoughtful and thought-out process about how to use this money,” Mayor Paul Pereira said at a planning meeting Thursday. “There certainly are rules of what we can and what we can’t use it for, but suffice it to say that we will make every effort to spend every single penny of those $4.5 million to your benefit.”

Due to the strict rules on how the funds can be spent, the state hires a consultant company, in this case Bfj Planning, to help each village present its project proposals.

The New York Forward grant has some clear goals, Bfj Planning Principal Susan Favate said, including the creation of a lively downtown area that is walkable with public spaces for community events.

The grant also comes with a tight timeline. Project ideas are pitched, refined and chosen to be presented to the state between April and December. Then final plans are submitted to the state, which selects its winning projects, and work begins on these projects between 2025 and 2030.

Although changes are not immediate, community projects are set to be completed within the next two to five years, Bfj employees said.

Eligible community projects include public improvement efforts like park and transportation upgrades; small projects like a new sign for a small business; development projects like the renovation of downtown buildings; and marketing projects meant to draw in residents and tourists.

Despite the structure inherent to the New York Forward grant, community members still have a say in how these funds are utilized.

The village helped create a Local Planning Committee to act as liaisons between the consultant group and the Mineola community. The LPC consists of about 10 people, from a local business owner, real estate agent and NYU Langone Health employee to a member of the Mineola Irish Society and a person connected to the Mineola School District.

A vision survey launched Thursday night on the Mineola NYF website, mineolanyf.com,  invites residents to share preliminary ideas with Bfj Planning and the LPC.

“This is what [Bfj gets] paid to do…to take all of those ideas and consolidate them and then kind of mold them into something that could be presentable,” Pereira said.

An open call for projects, which Bfj employees said they hope to launch in late June, will be open to Mineola community members for around four weeks.

The first LPC meeting will be held at the Mineola Community Center on June 17 at 6 p.m.

The village will host multiple New York Forward workshop sessions at the Mineola Community Center. The next workshop is tentatively slated for September or October, Bfj employees said.

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