By Nathan Duke
The state has approved a chamber of commerce for Douglaston Village as a nonprofit, allowing the group to move forward with its plans to revitalize the small shopping strip on 235th Street along the Long Island Rail Road tracks.
Dorothy Matinale, who operates Station Realty, said the Douglaston Village Chamber of Commerce was approved by the state this week to function as a corporation, enabling the organization to collect funds from members and open a bank account.
“The goal is to revitalize the village area,” said Matinale, who is the executive director of the chamber. “It’s become less the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. People want more businesses they can support — shops they can patronize when they get off the train. We want to preserve the quaintness of the village. We don’t want it to become a strip mall.”
In past years, the village has been overtaken by business offices, she said.
The chamber, established in April, currently has 15 members, including business and building owners. There are a total of 47 businesses along the strip.
In the 1800s, community residents could walk more easily between the stores, Matinale said. But the LIRR later separated the two halves of the shopping district along 235th Street.
Matinale said the community is calling for a meat market, a florist and a bakery along the street, but also a book shop, art studios and a community center for theater or youth groups.
Dan O’Byrne, co-chairman of the Douglaston Little Neck Historical Society’s Visioning Committee, said his group held meetings in June and November, during which they asked members of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, Doug-Bay Civic Association, Douglas Manor Association, Douglaston Village Chamber of Commerce and the Douglaston Civic Association as well as residents from Douglaston Manor and Douglaston Hill for ideas about the shopping strip.
“The idea has been to ask both tenants and merchants in the village what they’d like to see before a developer comes in,” he said. “We all love the village, but it is looking a little depressed. It needs help, some uniformity. Some stores have shutters, some don’t. There are water issues in front of stores and sidewalks are cracked.”
The historical society and area merchants planted bulbs in the village last weekend and Christmas lights have been hung in several storefronts to brighten up the strip.
In October, Douglaston Village hosted its first arts festival, where as many as 40 artists displayed their various crafts and musicians provided entertainment.
Matinale said the chamber of commerce is also seeking streetscape upgrades, gaslight lanterns to replace city lights, flower plants and upgraded signs for some storefronts.
The group would also eventually like to create additional parking along the street.
“Many commuters from outside the area park here, which doesn’t allow for people who live here to get in and out of these shops,” she said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.