Albany’s Housing Plan Will Hurt Long Island
By Keith P. Brown
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s housing plan will not “liberat[e] Long Island to be the best that it can be,” as she is quoted in Newsday, but, rather, it will forgo state environmental laws, bind Long Island to unrealistic housing goals and give Albany bureaucrats the final say over the growth of our communities.
During this year’s State of the State address, Gov. Hochul announced misguided plans aimed at addressing the statewide housing crisis. The proposal will also take away the ability for local communities to make their own zoning decisions and give that power to a “super zoning board” in Albany. This plan will be detrimental to New York’s suburbs, particularly on Long Island.
Rather than taking away the self-determination of local communities and using the state’s authority to force development, Gov. Hochul should attempt a softer approach to incentivize housing development to diversify Long Island’s housing stock. Take Brookhaven Town for example, which has a “Commercial Redevelopment District” (“CRD”). The CRD is an 18-acre zoning district created with the purpose of revitalizing unutilized commercial shopping centers, bowling alleys and health club properties. Along with revitalization efforts, the CRD establishes a maximum residential housing unit base density requirement of 10 housing units per acre. This maximum base density can be increased if the property meets certain requirements, such as being within 2,000 feet of mass transit, is able to utilize an existing sewage treatment plant, incorporates LEED construction methods, or has been specifically targeted for redevelopment, among others. Programs like this are what is needed.
Also, the Transit Oriented Development (“TOD”) provisions of the Governor’s Housing Compact go too far. TOD zones will encompass a half-mile radius from rail or subway stations. The new plan will establish a tier system to determine residential housing requirements based upon the proximity to New York City. Tier 1 zones, which are located in or within 15 miles of the city, will be required to have a minimum residential housing density of 50 units per acre. For some areas of Long Island, such as Cold Spring Harbor, this would require the construction of five-story buildings, which are not in keeping with the surrounding area.
Further, Long Island asked the governor for approximately $100 million to incentivize construction. Instead of helping Long Islanders achieve their housing goals, last year Gov. Hochul hypocritically only provided approximately $3 million in funding, while simultaneously claiming that our communities are not doing enough.
The threat of population growth outpacing infrastructure is greatly increased by Gov. Hochul’s proposed super zoning board. If a local municipality votes against an affordable housing project, the applicant can appeal to the new board in Albany, where a panel of bureaucrats will have the final say. This new policy is an assault on Home Rule, the principle that local governments have sovereignty over local affairs, which is the foundational bedrock of New York’s structure of government.
If the Governor is truly interested in addressing the housing problem on Long Island, a softer, incentivized, bottom-up approach will yield better results.
Keith P. Brown (R,C-Northport) is the New York State Assemblyman for the 12th District and a member of the Assembly’s Committee on Housing.