I’ve been following the heated controversy over the proposed building of a three story assisted living facility at the now shuttered North Levittown Lanes bowling alley. Many objectors are saying put the facility at the old Kmart location on Hempstead Turnpike because it’s a more suitable location. No one wants a large building in their backyard, so the question is what would be suitable for the bowling alley site? And then there’s the bigger question of what to do with all those empty storefronts along Hempstead Turnpike?
I would like to put forth a modest proposal. But first let it be known this is an idea put to paper without research. I am not a lawyer, a politician, or a business person. I know nothing about who owns what, what power local government has over property in its jurisdiction, tax consequences, insurance matters or the hundreds of other issues that will come up. It just a suggestion that I would like to see explored.
Would the local politicians, property owners associations, business owners or whoever has an interest in these empty buildings please approach the reenactment groups based in your community and make a deal with them to use the buildings for the short term until a tenant can be found?
Most reenactment groups are made up of volunteers; some groups are even recognized as not for profit organizations. This means there is little money that needs to go a long way. One way groups save money is by having meetings in someone’s home. Mail often goes to a P.O. Box. Wouldn’t it be great for a group to have an office to hold a meeting in? Wouldn’t it look more professional to have a real street address instead of a PO Box? Most meetings will attract no more people than your neighbor’s party.
Medieval groups need space to held fencing, heavy weapon or dance practice. The SCA is always on the lookout for a space with cooking facilities to hold feasts.
Pirate groups need rehearsal space and storage space for the sets they take to festivals.
Why doesn’t the community reach out to reenactors with an offer of no or little rent, or some type of community service for the use of a building? Many reenacting groups do a lot of charity work, so the concept of giving back to the community is not foreign to them. I’m no Merlin so I can’t predict how this will go over, but what a way to get a dialogue started!
Reenactment groups are filled with artists of all types. People make jewelry, do leatherwork or metal work, create stained glass, create clothes, cook, and brew. Imagine the closed Waldbaum's on Hempstead Turnpike as a medieval market place.
Allowing reenactment groups access to empty buildings may not be a permanent solution, but it’s a step in the right direction. And this concept can be applied to our local painters’ group, dance troupe, actor’s studio, writer’s workshop as well.