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Uniondale: Skipped over and sold short

By Denisse GirónSpecial to the Chronicle Nothing excites a Hofstra student more than stepping outside his or her dorm building to be greeted by high school seniors and their parents looking for the nearest bathroom — a sure sign of campus touring season. My experience is a little different as a commuter. Usually, I’m stuck behind a long line of cars on the Hempstead Turnpike, or fighting parents for parking spaces on the South Campus. I am eternally grateful for the tour guides who are willing to steer visiting students and parents through campus as the rest of us go about our usual days. But recently, when I saw what appeared to be a father and son being led through campus by a Hofstra student, something struck me. It was not the tour guide’s description of our campus, but that of our neighboring towns. He said, “East Meadow is good. Safe. It’s a really diverse community. And to the north we have one of the wealthiest towns, Garden City.” To most, this may seem like a safe thing to say. We want to promote Hofstra University as best we can, and so we bring forth its best qualities. But what about Uniondale? I have noticed a complete degradation of Hofstra’s brother-town, Uniondale. It seems that words like “ghetto” get thrown around among students who refuse to even walk down Uniondale Avenue. I was raised in Uniondale, and I continue to live there, and I am personally offended when my peers describe it as “sketchy,” or feel afraid to visit. It hurts when people point fingers at the residents of Uniondale or Hempstead for local crimes, or blame us for not looking “pretty enough.” In recent years, Uniondale has acquired a poor standing fueled mainly by socio-economic impact from sources and agendas outside of its own community. You need only reach out to organizations like the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition (GUAAC) to learn the stories: unfair redistricting, a lack of community resources, faltering trash management, inefficient use of tax money, and a poor public education system. These are examples of negligence from our local government officials that have cost Uniondale’s reputation over the last couple years. We are an unincorporated village that isn’t being heard and that has faced countless funding cuts. Recent fights that GUAAC has faced include the carving up of Northern Uniondale — which includes attractions like parts of Hofstra, Mitchell Field, Nassau Coliseum and Museum Row — to move the taxes to East Garden City. The town that I love has been taken advantage of, criminalized, and victim to censorship. Yes, I am calling out all of those who have made fun of my home, but I am also inviting you to visit. You haven’t experienced livelihood until you’ve experienced Easter mass at St. Martha’s Church, had breakfast at La Sevillana to try a Colombian empanada, or spent the day playing on the baseball field at Uniondale Park. As a commuter, I am always asked how it feels to live at home. But there is no need to ask me — just step outside of the college bubble to see for yourself. So please, do not exclude Uniondale, Hempstead or Roosevelt from your conversations or college tour discourse. Instead, embrace the diversity and cultural exchange that is available just a few blocks away.

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