Smart Growth On Long Island: 2018 – A Look Back

Check out our 2018 Year in Review where we reflect on the year and all the tremendous Smart Growth progress that has been made across Long Island!

Smart Growth On Long Island:
2018 – A Look Back

We hope folks have had a happy holiday season through the New Year.

Reflecting on 2018, we recognize the tremendous progress that has been made on downtown revitalization, transit oriented development, complete streets, infrastructure investments, and support for our Main Street businesses. 

We hope you take a moment to review the collective work done over the last year in the many communities where we have had the opportunity to work. 

As we look to 2019 we would like to thank the local community organizations, chambers, municipalities, developers, property owners, environmental leaders and labor organizations who have been supportive of the Smart Growth movement and the many projects underway.

We look forward to working with all of our Smart Growth supporters and community partners in the coming year!

Top themes of 2018

Downtown Revitalization & Transit Oriented Development

Complete Streets & Traffic Calming

Parking & Alternative Transportation

Infrastructure Investments

Major Projects

Long Island
Small Business

The New York
Youth Summit

Community Voices

The Long Island Smart Growth Awards

The Long Island Smart Growth Summit

Vision’s 20th
Anniversary Gala

Opinions & Editorials

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Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Meeting Introduces State Proposals

Vision Long Island board members and staff, Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee members, and civic and chamber members attended a presentation this Thursday from NYS Downtown Revitalization Initiative State planners.

The planners shared their design ideas for the downtown. The good news is that the preferred scenario is nearly identical to the Town of Oyster Bay’s proposed zoning that has been vetted with the public over a number of years.

The goal of this NYS planning effort is to invest the $10 million from the state grant. The key priorities included walkability, public space, maintenance, safety and security. The consultants continued recommendations for ground level walkability improvements that have been called for for many years that are also in alignment with the Town and community’s rezoning efforts.

Increasing the downtown public space at Kennedy Park and investments in arts, events and cultural activities were also included.  Station area improvements that were a priority of the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee were also part of the presentation. Thankfully these recommendations were part of the ongoing work.

The issue of the proposed Hicksville Highline was recognized by the consultants as a long term investment and that street level improvements need to come first. This was also in line with the existing community driven planning and rezoning work.  Thankfully the consultants did not speak about their earlier views about 6 story buildings that will not fly with the character the community is looking for.

Lastly the State consultants recommended that the downtown zoning plan move forward without delay as changes in land use to reinvest in vacant buildings or parking lots cannot occur without these changes.

Town of Oyster Bay Economic Development’s James McCaffrey presented some of the communication they have had with private property owners that would seek to redevelop in the train station area as part of the rezoning proposal. Small scale mixed use development including retail, apartments, small boutique hotels, a day care facility, health care facilities, a transit training facility, a high tech incubator and a local craft brewery were presented.

Over 100 Hicksville residents and business owners were out with 20 from the long running Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee. Comments included:

Phil Heckler, President of the Hicksville School Board and member of the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee spoke to the synchronicity between the Revitalization plan and the State consultants recommendations. Nassau Legislator Rose Walker spoke to the small scale potential projects that have been underway for some time that can now come to fruition.  Lionel Chitty, Director of the Hicksville Chamber spoke to the movement of existing projects that have been considered for many years.  John Sarcone supported the public space as part of the $10 million investment from NYS.  Councilman Tony Macagnone also supported the investments of NYS money in public space and improvement to small business.  Greg Carman, Oyster Bay Deputy Supervisor spoke to the ability to pull in infrastructure dollars beyond the $10 million grant to secure support from the State.  Nick Sarandis, President of the Hicksville Gardens Civic Association was concerned about traffic from Sears but supports the redevelopment of downtown Hicksville.

Comments from residents included investment and security from the MTA/LIRR station, support for a hotel, concerns about traffic from Sears, one was also concerned about construction equipment and the amount of folks from outside Hicksville who use the area don’t benefit the community.

Residents from outside Hicksville were opposed to some of the changes: A resident from Plainview was concerned about parking for her and her family at the train station.  A resident from Syosset was concerned about increased traffic that will impact him and others.

Informally most residents polled were happy about the recommendations around the Hicksville train station.

The specter of the Sears redevelopment was a buzz among some in the room and the confusion created by this proposal is still an issue. The good news is that the Town of Oyster Bay has pushed back on that proposal until the train station area rezoning is completed. Unfortunately that action by the Town hasn’t been reported so the misinformation that that project is eminent still exists.

Good to see the majority of the room filled with familiar faces of residents who have been to numerous revitalization meetings over the years and also meet a handful of new folks.

Hicksville Community Council Honors Downtown Revitalization Committee

Vision Board and staff were out at the Hicksville Community Council annual dinner this past week honoring the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee.

Vision was happy to see the bulk of the Committee make it to the dinner as well as the support of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino and Councilman Tom Hand, along with Nassau County Legislators Rose Walker and Laura Schaefer.  Vision, as a member of the Committee, was part of those honored with the 2018 Hicksville Community Council Community Service Award.

While there is still a lot of work ahead, the dedication of the revitalization committee laid the ground work for the current redevelopment efforts in Hicksville. Vision is proud to work with all of them.

Special thanks to Community Council President Harry Single along with their leaders Tom Bruno, Stan Kobin and Joel Berse.

Governor Cuomo Announces Hicksville DRI Funding

Vision Board and staff were out this week along with the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee to hear Governor Cuomo announce Hicksville DRI funding.

The initial round of funding includes money for train station upgrades, public space and pedestrian walkways, and support for ground level retail and housing.  These improvements have been priorities for the community over many years according to the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee.

“They don’t want to do the commute. They don’t want the big backyard and to cut the grass,” Cuomo said, speaking on New York State’s commitment to funding downtown Hicksville. “They want those walkable, dense — ‘smart communities’ they’re called. And that has to be a new vision for Long Island, and that is exactly the vision that you have here at Hicksville.”

Vision was happy to see a good turnout from local community leaders representing four different civics, the chamber and the majority of the revitalization committee.  Elected and appointed officials also in attendance included: NYS Senator Elaine Phillips; Assemblymembers Michael Montesano, David McDonough, and Chuck Lavine; Nassau County Legislators Rose Walker and Laura Schaefer; Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joe Saladino; Councilmembers Rebecca Alesia, Michelle Johnson, and Lou Imbroto; Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey; and LIRR president Phil Eng.

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding – now in its third year – has been a priority of the LI Lobby Coalition for a long time now and Hicksville is the second winner of the grant after the Village of Westbury.

This funding from NYS will assist the implementation of the zoning plan that was shaped by the local community over the last 8 years and is now moving forward with the Town of Oyster Bay.  We are excited to see the Governor embrace the vision for downtown Hicksville developed by local residents and business owners who are in touch with what is needed in the community.

You can read more here and here.

Renaissance Downtowns Second Phase Approved at Huntington Station

The next phase of construction for Renaissance Downtowns at Huntington Station is currently being planned.

This new phase will be a $21 million project called Gateway Plaza at Huntington Station and will be a mixed-use redevelopment featuring 61,000 square feet of apartments, commercial, and retail space.  The project is located near the corner of Olive Street and New York Ave in Huntington Station, a couple of blocks away from the train station.  It will feature 66 studios, one- and two-bedroom units, but mostly 1 bedrooms, and around 13,000 square feet of ground floor retail and commercial space.  Renaissance is working with the Suffolk County IDA to secure a package of economic incentives in order to help move the project forward.

The site is currently made up of a number of lots with some owned by the Town and others owned privately.  It also sees an estimated 18,000 foot traffic trips daily according to officials.  It is hoped that this traffic will help spur development in what has been an underutilized municipal site into one that generates income and an economic boost to the surrounding area.

Vision is pleased to see this second project, which is tied to the Huntington Station revitalization and Renaissance Downtowns, move forward with a majority vote by the Huntington Town Board.  While many efforts in the past have stalled due to lack of community input, the persistent efforts of Source the Station and local community leaders have been instrumental in keeping these projects on track.

You can read more here.

Developer Applies for Approval of 36 Apartments in Downtown Huntington

A Huntington developer is taking another shot at approval for 36 apartments along Main Street in downtown Huntington Village.

This marks the third time that 263-265 Main Corner LLC as applied for approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals in order to get the project off the ground.  The proposal outlines 16,000 square feet of retail on the first floor (to be filled by current tenant Ann Taylor Loft), and around 17,000 square feet of apartments on the second and third floor.  There would be 36 total apartments evenly divided across the top two floors including 31 studios, 3 one-bedroom, and 2 two-bedroom apartments.

Town planners have deferred to the zoning board on this matter, which is considering a set of variances.  One of the holdups is the fact that such a project would require 153 parking spaces to meet town code.  One option for the developer is to request to utilize municipal parking to cover the parking requirements because the property is within 300 feet of the Elm Street Lot.

The Zoning Board of Approvals have yet to set a hearing date for the plan.

You can read more here.

NYS Approves Land Transfer for Huntington Station Redevelopment Plans

4 acres of state owned land near the Huntington train station and central to Huntington Station’s redevelopment plans have been approved for transfer to the Town.

The property includes a portion of the parking lot next to the Community First Aid Squad, which will go towards plans to build a hotel, and a linear lot between Railroad and Church, which will have artist lofts on the site.  The land will be assessed at fair market value and then sold to the Town, who will then sell the land to Renaissance Downtown for development.  Terms of the transfer to Renaissance have not yet been finalized.

This serves as another bit of good news from a fractured and chaotic NYS legislative session. After over three years of lobbying for the move, Vision and Long Island Lobby Coalition are happy to see the NYS Senate and Assembly approve the transfer.  The land can now go from an underutilized parking lot in Huntington Station to help assist in the long-awaited revitalization.  NYS was instrumental in tearing down the old downtown over 40 years ago to create parking lots, and now can help bring back a true center.

We would like to give a special thanks to Long Island members of the NYS Senate and Assembly who pushed for this change, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci who fought for it as an Assemblyman, Master Developer Renaissance Downtowns, and members of the LI Lobby Coalition for regular meetings to help keep this project going.

You can read more here.

Ribbon Cutting held for Renaissance Downtown’s Northridge Development

Monday, Vision attended the ribbon cutting for the first completed project of the Huntington Station revitalization. 

The Northridge project on New York Avenue includes 16 one bedroom apartments with about 5000 square feet of retail space below and is just a five minute walk from the train station.  May’s Gourmet Deli is getting ready to open a second location in the building, bringing new food options to the neighborhood.  Future projects include the Gateway project just a block to the north, adjacent to the existing plaza, artist loft housing and a hotel.

Congratulations to Renaissance Downtowns and Blue and Gold Homes on the project.  Source the Station has been working with the Huntington Station community since 2012 to gather public input for revitalization and redevelopment and this is the first project completed to begin to bring back the downtown that Huntington Station once had.

Hempstead Officials seek Feedback on Grand Ave Baldwin Plan

Vision recently supported a meeting with over 250 members of the Baldwin community and Town of Hempstead officials hearing input on a proposed overlay district for Grand Avenue.

In the past, local owners and developers have expressed frustration at what they consider an onerous and difficult process when it comes to getting variances and building permits.  In response, the Town has been working with engineering firm VHB to create a zoning overlay district along Grand Ave that expands slightly beyond in the East and West.  The exact boundaries will be established during the planning process.

The plan is modeled after the Baldwin Downtown and Commercial Corridor Resiliency Study, which was officially adopted by the Town as a guiding document for the revitalization of Grand Ave.  The new district was originally suggested in that plan, and will aim to establish new criteria for properties in the district.  Those criteria will allow developers to build more projects as of right instead of needing to apply for variances from the board of appeals.

The district has drawn interest from local residents as they have pledged to keep an eye on it to ensure that the vision for their downtown comes to fruition.  “Many people are already watching it,” said Karen Montalbano, president of the Baldwin Civic Association. “I’ve already been approached … there are people who are out there who keep their eye on it.”

Vision is happy to see the process that began with civic engagement is playing out, with the Town working with local communities to implement their plan.  Economic incentives coupled with a new overlay district has the potential to provide much more economic growth than empty storefronts will.

You can read more here.

Baldwin Awarded $1 Million State Grant for Revitalization Efforts

This past week saw Baldwin awarded a $1 million grant for downtown revitalization as part of the Restore New York Communities Initiative.

The grant is part of round 5 of the Initiative and was awarded by Empire State Development, which is responsible for distribution.  The funds from this grant will be used to demolish 12 buildings along Grand Ave and build a mixed-use development.  The new development will feature retail, office, and residential space capable of housing 200 students or 100 multifamily units. 

“I am very pleased that the Restore New York Communities Initiative has awarded $1 million to the Baldwin community,” said 21st District Assemblyman Brian Curran.  “This grant breathes new life and exciting expectations into the long awaited revitalization of Grand Avenue.”

This comes after 15 years of efforts to update the downtown, an effort that has been spearheaded by the Baldwin Civic Association in recent years.  Process has begun to pick up lately as Nassau County, aided by the Civic and VHB with Vision Long Island as a sub consultant, has been working to gather community feedback on what can be done to battle blight in the area.  An economic and storm resiliency plan was adopted in recent years thanks to these efforts. 

Last year also saw the Hempstead Town Board award a contract for the redevelopment process to Basser-Kaufman in Woodmere, and the Engel Burman Group in Garden City.  Those developers are currently in negotiations to acquire the necessary buildings and lots on Grand Ave, but eminent domain has not been ruled out.  This comes as the Baldwin Civic, along with a lot of the same players from the resiliency plan, have worked on a study on how to make Grand Ave pedestrian friendly.

Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, who serves the Baldwin district, said “I am delighted at the news that Baldwin has received this $1 Million dollar Restore New York grant. These funds will be incredibly helpful to attract new economic activity and business to the Baldwin community. Revitalizing downtowns is a top priority for me as Town Councilwoman, and I thank our State officials for their commitment to long term growth in Hempstead Town.”

“The Baldwin Civic Association is encouraged by this latest round of funding and Grant. It shows the commitment of the government of the Town of Hempstead and New York State to this project of revitalizing downtown Baldwin.” said Karen Montalbano, President of the Civic Association.

Democratic officials held a press conference earlier in the week announcing the grant including NYS Senator Todd Kaminsky, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby. Vision Long Island has joined the Civic in Albany to lobby for revitalization funds for the community, and has been assisting in the planning of different upcoming projects. We are encouraged to see the progress and funding support from NYS. Special thanks to the NYS ESD and the Governor’s office for this Important grant award.

You can read more here.

Finding a New Approach in Baldwin

The following op-ed originally appeared in Long Island Business News here.

It’s long overdue to revitalize downtown Baldwin.

Grand Avenue, Baldwin is at the heart of this Hempstead Town hamlet, which I am proud to represent as a Hempstead Town councilwoman. When I first took office in 2015, I committed to the people of Baldwin that this area, which has been blighted by the sight of too many vacant storefronts, must change. There is no reason that this diverse community should not have a thriving downtown for residents to enjoy.

Recently Engel Burman Basser Kaufman, which was designated by the Town Board in 2017 to redevelop portions of Grand Avenue’s commercial district, withdrew their application, citing a difficult and shifting economic landscape. While I believe that all parties operated in good faith, it seems clear this is indicative of a need for a new approach.

For too long, the strategy has been to engage one entity to acquire and redevelop parcels into a plan that they design. I believe it is time to take a new direction, one that recognizes that the many regulations and zoning requirements have created a prohibitive environment for developers. The process of seeking variances from the existing zoning is often prohibitive.

That is why I am proposing that the town board create a Grand Avenue Overlay Zone in this main commercial area of Baldwin. Overlay zones run across existing zoning, and are designed to achieve specific aims and guide development. This overlay zone would finally break this redevelopment gridlock that has seen too many companies run into the same financial challenges and finally transform this downtown business district.

Rather than having to produce a plan that would require firms to seek a variety of variances from existing zoning, the overlay zone would, if created, save developers considerable time, as much as two years, in the process of seeking approvals for construction. In a world where time is money, developers could potentially save millions of dollars in the process.

It is encouraging that this approach enjoys the support of highly respected downtown leaders like Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island, who has been a leader in fighting for sustainable downtowns.

When you look at the examples of successful downtowns, in such communities as Rockville Centre, Patchogue, Farmingdale, Huntington, and so many others, both in New York and beyond, what one consistently sees is mixed-use, sustainable, walkable neighborhoods, access to public transportation, and a focus on retaining young people. During a recent tour of downtown Farmingdale with Mayor Ekstrand and Eric Alexander, I was struck by the vitality and dynamism of this community.

I am a huge proponent of mom-and-pop, locally owned small businesses. Indeed, one that I visit often is right in Baldwin, Sweet & Savory Café. This trendy cafe at the corner of Merrick Road and Grand Avenue features great coffee and fare and thinks outside the box. Small businesses like this can thrive if government acts as a partner to create the business-friendly conditions where young people will live, work, and raise their families.

We can do this in Baldwin, but we must first recognize that the traditional approach to zoning in suburban communities needs to change if we are to address the ever-increasing exodus of young people off Long Island. Young people want affordable housing, to be near to public transit, and are increasingly using bicycles and decreasing their dependence on cars.

I believe that an overlay zone will allow various developers to come to Grand Avenue in an organic way that will let them pursue creative options to redevelop this area and retain our young people, in ways that work for them both in terms of dollars and cents, and in coordination with local zoning regulations.

Let’s unleash the potential of our business community but it requires a new approach, new vision and a renewed commitment to strengthening a community’s future.

Erin King Sweeney is the majority leader of the Hempstead town board.

Open House for Lynbrook Revitalization Project

More than 100 residents attended a recent Lynbrook Open House where the topic of discussion concerned a recently proposed set of apartments in the downtown.

The mood in the room seemed mixed as the some residents approved while others protested the proposed 200 unit complex.  The complex is being proposed by local developer Terwilliger & Bartone and would be located in the heart of Lynbrook’s downtown cultural arts district.  The project would replace a municipal lot mostly used by employees for local employees, but the developers have pledged to fund a 400-space parking lot nearby in order to replace the lost parking.

Anthony Bartone was present at the Open House, and had numerous discussions with residents who expressed a variety of opinions.  He described the mood as overwhelmingly positive, but there were also residents present who began a petition to stop the project.

Questions included potential traffic and local school system impact.  Those in favor mostly talked about the boost to local business and how it would be a shot in the arm to revitalization efforts in the downtown.  The project has the full backing of the local Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to expand the village tax base,” said Lynbrook resident Harold Reese, president of the Harrontine Realty Corp.  “I think it’s a no-brainer when a corporation comes into the town and says they’re going to put up a parking garage for $10 million. How can you say no?”

You can read more here.

Lynbrook Store Owners Report Spike in Business after Theater Opening

The newly opened theater in downtown Lynbrook is drawing in new business according to owners in the surrounding area.

The Long Island Herald’s Lynbrook edition recently spoke with local merchants who reported a boost in sales and new faces from out of town ever since the opening in June.  The opening had been subject to delays as construction took longer than originally planned, but a majority of owners had been looking forward to an increase in foot traffic once everything was said and done.

Most owners who reported an increase in business noted certain times of day when they would get a light rush.  Sunday morning at the bagel shop are busy as are evenings at the toy shop when early movie patrons are killing time before their films.  Though not everyone has seen a significant boost, most do expect things to pick up even more once the theater becomes established in the area and the summer season ends.

The increase in foot traffic has also come with a limiting of parking in the local area, though most residents and owners are not reporting it as a serious concern.  However, Mayor Alan Beach and the board of trustees is working with try and come up with solutions to increase availability in the area.  This includes the possibility of a new parking garage that would go hand in hand with a proposed mixed-use development by Bartone & Terwilliger.  A hearing for that proposal has been set for October 1st.

Vision conducted a parking analysis for the Village in 2017, which looked at downtown movie theaters and their effect on parking.  The analysis found that even at peak times, theatergoers were able to find adequate parking in municipal lots around the downtown and increased traffic to downtown restaurants before or after the movie.  In Lynbrook, many of the municipal lots in the downtown are used by commuters, so there is additional capacity in the evening for those visiting the theater.

You can read more here.

New 200-Unit TOD and Parking Garage Proposed in Lynbrook

Farmingdale-based developer Terwilliger & Bartone Properties is proposing to build a transit-oriented apartment complex in Lynbrook as part of a $75 million project. 

The proposed site is nearly 2 acres located on the southwest corner of Earle Avenue and St. James Place just blocks away from the Lynbrook rail station. Currently, it is home to a small office building and an underutilized parking lot.  The transformation will result in 200 rental apartments, as well as a new parking garage and park to be donated to the village as part of the community benefits. The proposed Cornerstone at Lynbrook will consist of  market-rate rental mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments with 10 percent of the units dedicated to workforce housing. With a covered parking on the ground level for residents, onsite management, leasing, and maintenance, Cornerstone at  Lynbrook includes such amenities as a fitness center, a club room with fireplace, pool table and television, a courtyard and a rooftop patio.

The Smart Growth Award winner also included in their proposal a new parking garage for 400 vehicles and a new 9,000-square-foot park that will be built on a nearly 1-acre parcel owned by the village nearby. The garage will be used for commuter parking  to offset the loss of the parking on the project site, accommodate the new need for spaces by the proposed additional housing, overflow to visitors to help elevate parking congestion by the rail. 

“Our entire team is extremely excited to have the opportunity to make this proposal in the Village of Lynbrook,” said Vision Long Island Board Member and developer Anthony Bartone. “We believe this project will provide an immeasurable boost to downtown businesses, while at the same time provide much-needed additional parking for Lynbrook residents” also noting that  a downtown revitalization study performed by the village identified the proposed Cornerstone site as a good candidate for a multifamily development.

Vision’s Director, Eric Alexander, explained that the proposal should be a good fit for the village’s downtown saying, “It’s the right type of project for Lynbrook to get its oar in the water on transit-oriented development…  The public benefits also compliment the village’s thoughtful planning around parking and public space.”

A public hearing on the proposal is expected to be scheduled for next month.

For more on this story, visit LIBN.

Apartment Complex Proposed for Former Sears Site in Riverhead

East Main Street in Riverhead may soon see a new apartment complex as a proposal for a 170-unit mixed-use structure has been proposed for the village.

Known officials as 203-213 East Main Street, the project is being proposed Metro Group Properties and is immediately adjacent to Riverview Lofts, another mixed-use development currently under development.  The Lofts have raised concerns about construction, however, as it was reported that pile driving used to stabilize the ground caused damage to multiple historic buildings in the area.  The stabilization is required sue to the project being built in a flood zone.

Though it’s not clear if the Metro Group will use the same type of pile drive on the property, Riverhead’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has already forwarded recommendations on the issue to the town. 

“Specifically identify the type of pile driving that will be used and the number and depth of piles to be driven, along with any measures that will be taken to minimize damage to nearby historic structures,” wrote commisision chairman Richard Wines.

In response to the proposal, the town has scheduled a scoping session to give the public a chance to suggest issues they’d like to be a part of the environmental impact study for the project.  The session will take place on October 2nd at 2 pm and October 16th at 6 pm.  The applicant has already submitted a draft scoping document to the town, which will have until November 3rd to address the issues raised in it.

The department has already received suggestions concerning the cumalitive impact of having two large complexes so close to each other.  Issues include the usual parking concerns as well as staging sites for construction while it is in progress.  The proposal has called for an underground parking area with 88 spaces even though parking is not required due to the project being in the town’s public parking district.

You can read more here.

Two Story Mixed-Use Building Proposed in Riverhead

A vacant parcel on the corner of Pulaski and Osborn Ave is the site of a proposal for a two story mixed-use building in Riverhead.

The proposal includes a 9.200 square foot building, and were recently presented at a Planning Board meeting last week.  The ground floor will include space for three retail shops and six residential apartments on the second floor.  The apartments will include five one-bedrooms and a studio unit.  The parcel of land is mostly empty except for a “Welcome to Polish Town USA” sign that the new owners are looking to relocate, possibly to an unused corner of the site. 

The planning board made comments on the entrance and parking, as well as the aesthetics of the building.  They also noted that the sidewalks should be replaced on the property as well.  The applicants have indicated that they are willing to change at least some of the plan to comply.

The project has been deemed an “unlisted” SEQR action, pending additional information and comments from other entities.  Due to being so close to a major road, the town has also said that it will consult with the Riverhead Central School District for additional safety measures, such as crossing guards.

You can read more here.

Downtown Riverhead Selected as Opportunity Zone

New York State has nominated downtown Riverhead and the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL) as “Opportunity Zones.”

Opportunity Zones are a new federal designation aimed at allowing low-income census tracts to boost private investment in urban and rural communities that are under-served.  Riverhead and EPCAL are listed among the 514 low-income census tracts that New York nominated to the U.S. treasury this past week.  Each state was allowed to nominate 25% of qualifying census tracts which were also required to have at least 21% of its population below the federal poverty rate. 

This designation will allow the two tracts to receive funding from what’s referred to as “Opportunity Funds.”  These special funds will open the door for a wide array of investors to pool resources and rebuild distressed neighborhoods. 

“In New York State, we’ve focused on revitalizing our downtowns and investing in the communities that need it most,” said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “The Opportunity Zone Program will be a complementary initiative that helps to attract additional private investment to the hundreds of communities that Governor Cuomo has recommended for this designation.”

Other nominated Suffolk County census tracts include Wyandanch, North Bellport, and two Center Islip tracts.  There is currently no clarity on when the U.S. Treasury will make selections and how many tracts will be selected once it does.

You can read more here.

East Farmingdale Vision Project Ending

The Town of Babylon has announced that the East Farmingdale Vision project will be officially brought to a close, bringing to a close several years of planning for the development.

Vision Long Island has received a number of inquiries on this turn of events, but we have not reviewed the final document and will comment more formally when we do.  In the meantime, here is what we know.

Vision staff attended a couple of the informational sessions that had sparse turnout and were aware of the process. It was good to see the East Farmingdale Civic and some of the property owners plugged into the meetings and the feedback on the initial proposal of six-story buildings and 2700 units of housing was understandably negative.  It is our understanding that a revised proposal of four-story buildings and less units were proposed as an alternate, but at that point opposition had already set in.

This episode is another reason why it is critical to work closely with local community, business and municipal leadership well before plans become a scale that is unacceptable to the area. We hope some projects that could complement the potential opening of an East Farmingdale train station move forward and those can be planned on a site by site basis within the jurisdiction of the Town of Babylon.

You can read more about the end of the East Farmingdale project here.

Farmingdale Receives Award for Downtown Revitalization

Farmingdale Village received the 2018 Award of Excellence from the National Association for County Community and Economic Development this past week in recognition of their downtown revitalization efforts.

Farmingdale has been experiencing revitalization thanks to efforts by local officials to bring in new residents and spur new business to create a unified aesthetic enjoyable to both residents and visitors.  The downtown has always had its fair share of destinations, but is beginning to create a sense of place that is attracting a newer and younger set to not just visit but also live in the downtown.

The Community Development Block Grant program was  instrumental  in the very beginning of the renaissance of the Village of Farmingdale and is the bedrock that has spurred millions of dollars in private investment in the downtown business district.  It showed that the village was reemerging through new downtown sidewalks and new signage, lighting and awnings on numerous businesses.

That investment was coupled with over 150 million dollars in private sector investment for new apartment housing that includes a 10% workforce housing component. The leverage of the CDBG investment has paid great dividends and has charted a very positive course for the Village. Business district vacancies are at an all-time low and foot traffic is at an all-time high.

Partnering in this endeavor, advising the Village and assisting in hosting community planning charrettes was Vision Long Island resulting in a new Downtown Mixed Use zoning district which is where the bulk of the investment has taken place.  Vision Long Island continues their role as consultants to the village in the CDBG program.

The Shipyard Holds Ribbon Cutting in Port Jefferson

On Thursday, Vision Long Island board and staff were out at the ribbon cutting of the Shipyard at Port Jeff Harbor. The new development by Tritec Real Estate replaced the previously rundown motel that occupied this waterfront site.

Through collaboration with the Village, community leaders, Suffolk IDA, and others; this project has given a fresh new look to the area and was recently named one of this year’s Smart Growth Award honorees.

The Shipyard at Port Jeff Harbor is a modern, maritime-inspired community with a mix of one- and two-bedroom waterfront apartment homes, located directly along the north shore in the Village of Port Jefferson. Amenities include a roof top patio, on-site fitness center, a dog washing station, and more. The property is adjacent to the main business district as well as access to community space.

“We created The Shipyard at Port Jefferson knowing that Port Jefferson is an incredible community and we could fill a need for what residents and the village are seeking,” said Robert Kent, a vice president of development for Tritec.

Additionally, increased measures were taken by the developer and their design team to ensure resiliency against the flooding that has affected the area, while also remaining conscious to protect the local environment and maintain the maritime aesthetics of the buildings.

This last week also saw elected officials and business leaders break ground for another downtown revitalization project in Port Jefferson. 

Great job by Tritec, all of their partners, and the Village of Port Jefferson.

Port Jefferson Village continues its Uptown Revitalization

The Village of Port Jefferson held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of a new parking lot to allow for 74 additional parking spaces in Port Jefferson.

The project will take place in three phases. Phase one of the Port Jefferson project will cost $85,000, which will be funded by grants from Suffolk County’s Jumpstart program as well as other financial options.  Port Jeff received $250,000 total from Jumpstart and has also applied for a grant for $500,000 from the Empire State Development Corporation.  The first phase will include the parking lot where the groundbreaking was held as well as sidewalk improvements leading from the train station to the recently opened The Hills apartment complex, which is a past Smart Growth Awards winner.

Phase two will renovate the parking lots located north, east, and south of the train station as well as provide for improvements to the pavement, lighting, and plaza entryway.  Phase three is the most ambitious of the project and will create “Station Street.”  This new, one-way road will provide access to the new renovated lots and should reduce congestion on Main Street while allowing easier access to train station lots.  It is hoped that these improvements will draw students from nearby Stony Brook University as well as other commuters to the area.  The increased traffic will also help to incentivize local businesses to invest in the area and reverse some of the decline on Main Street.

“The village is thrilled to partner with the county, Empire State Development and the Long Island Rail Road on improvements in upper Port to enhance pedestrian connectivity and safety, revitalize blighted commercial properties, and promote safe living and economic growth,” Mayor Margot Garant said.

You can read more here.

Westbury Continues Progress on DRI Funded Projects

Two years ago the Village of Westbury became the first community on Long Island to receive a $10 million downtown redevelopment grant from NYS.  In that time they have worked to identify 7 needed projects and continue to make progress.

Part of the came to fruition recently when the Village closed on a new building to serve as the permanent home for the Westbury Arts Council, which was one of the items on the list.  The Council is currently preparing to move into their new home, and is making plans on how to redesign the building for their purposes.  The Village is also working to create a new pedestrian plaza connected to the LIRR station and a rezoning plan that will allow for more transit-oriented-development in the downtown.

Officials are pleased with the progress, which included multiple community meetings to gather suggestions for which downtown needs to target.  The selected projects include a mix of residential, business, and cultural improvements for residents while also upgrading local infrastructure. 

“I think it is a tremendous opportunity for us to make huge steps that we hoped we could make, but we didn’t have the resources to make,” said Westbury Village Mayor Cavallaro.  Cavallaro went on to state the Village was responsible for keeping momentum going on the projects even during periods where they were waiting for state approval. 

Recent progress includes closing on the aforementioned building for the Arts Council, retaining the services of a firm to conduct an environmental study to determine the effects of rezoning.  Other identified projects include streetscape improvements along Post Avenue, a grant fund for retail capital improvements, purchasing and developing open space near the LIRR station, and upgrading the Westbury Recreation and Community Center complex.

Vision is working with the Village on the rezoning of the train station area, so stay tuned for further updates as the process unfolds.

You can read more here.

Westbury Purchases Building for Westbury Arts, Tours Village with Executive Curran

The Village of Westbury has purchase a building in order to use it as the home of the nonprofit group Westbury Arts.

The building, located at 255 Schneck Ave, was purchased for $640,000 with funds from the $10 million DRI grant received in 2016. It will be renovated to turn the building into a permanent HQ for Westbury Arts with a performance and meeting space, a gallery, and a workspace for art classes. Renovations are estimated to be completed by May 2019.

“This is a tremendous step forward in our long-stated goal of making Westbury one of Long Island’s most arts-centric communities,” Cavallaro said in a statement. “Westbury Arts has grown tremendously in just its first five years of existence, and we see the future of that organization, and the arts in general, as important for Westbury’s future growth and sustainability. We would like to thank the state and Governor Cuomo for enabling us to make art and culture a centerpiece of our community.”

Westbury was the first village on Long Island to receive one of the DRI grants from the state. Hicksville and most recently Central Islip have both been awarded the $10 million grant for community revitalization since 2016. As part of that process, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran recently toured downtown Westbury along with Mayor Cavallaro and Trustees Jefferson, Corte, and Wise.

The purpose of the tour was for Executive Curran to get a better understanding of what is planned with the upcoming DRI projects as well as other possible funding sources. The group had also previously met with County Legislators Laura Schaefer and Siela Bynoe to discuss similar issues.

The meetings also took place to help plan the DRI projects that will require County participation and assistance. Such efforts would come from the Nassau County Department of Public Works and / or the Planning Commission. Executive Curran along with the Legislators Schaefer and Bynoe have all pledged to assist with the DRI projects as much as they are able.

Planned improvements include a reconfiguration of the intersection at Post & Union to improve both pedestrian and vehicular experience and safety; streetscape improvements along Post Ave; rezoning to create a transit-oriented development atmosphere in the downtown.

It is great to see the progress and attention paid to redevelopment and placemaking opportunities. Vision worked on the earlier market study that was a basis for the DRI, and is following through on their new TOD zoning code.

You can read more here.

Lindenhurst Approves Zoning Change for 260 Rental Units Across from LIRR

Vision was out this week in support of Tritec Development’s proposed project in Lindenhurst, which will bring 260 units of rental housing just across from the LIRR station. Over 50 residents, Civics and business owners were in attendance as the Board voted unanimously 4-0 to let the development that will sit next to an existing senior housing development move ahead.

Several in attendance asked for a public referendum for zoning change to the floating zone known as the Downtown Redevelopment Zone. Concerns included worries about an influx of children in the school district, a lack of parking, increased traffic, and strains on public safety, ground water quality concerns, and low income housing being allowed at the property.  Most if not all of these concerns were addressed in a FAQ page on the Village’s website posted last month. 

Village Deputy Mayor Maryann Weckerle answered questions regarding tax abatements and PILOTS for the project. The Village will receive the taxes that are currently being paid on the properties for five years. Thereafter, taxes will increase in 20% increments over five years, where on year 10, full assessment for the new development will be paid to the village.

Many residents and business owners expressed a will for the development to be granted the zoning change, hoping for revitalization in their downtown similar to what has been seen in Farmingdale, Patchogue and other areas that have worked on transit-oriented development projects. Conor Hartnett, who owns Mary Carroll’s pubs in Babylon Village and Huntington and is about to open a restaurant in downtown Lindenhurst, said the project will be a boon for the village’s lagging downtown. “I’m hearing from a lot of business people,” he told the board. “There’s a huge interest primarily because of Tritec.” Legislator Kevin McCaffrey, who was a Village Board member for 24 years and is a Lindenhurst resident himself, spoke in support of the zoning change, saying that “this will change the Village forever and I hope that it does.”

Trustees acknowledged that it was a difficult decision, all mentioned their passion and excitement for the project as a starting ground. Trustee RJ Renna read a letter from Mayor Michael Lavorata, who was absent from the meeting, in strong support of the zoning approval. The statement closed with “I believe the time has come to think outside the box that has suffocated meaningful change and chart a new course for our Downtown. Let the message be loud and clear. Lindenhurst is open for business. I urge you to vote yes.”

Two prior hearings had hundreds of residents with a folks in favor outweighing opponents by more than 2-1.

You can read more about the vote to move ahead with the development here.

Lindenhurst Reveals First Transit Oriented Development

Vision was out this week along with community partners in downtown Lindenhurst in support of the first Transit Oriented Development in the Village of Lindenhurst.

Approximately 300 community residents were in attendance with business owners, who were out along with the Village Board.  The $100 million development includes 260 units and ranges between 3 and 4 stories. The development will be walkable to the train station and will provide new residents to give a boost the downtown retailers, restaurants and bars.

The meeting sported a full house with over 35 local speakers.  21 residents or business owners spoke in favor while 8 had concerns, questions, or were seeking changes, and 6 were outright opposed.  10 regional organization’s from outside the community spoke and many local speakers were understandably not happy with folks from outside the community weighing in.

The project is estimated to create over 600 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs. The rental units are currently slated at 100% market rate, but if an IDA pilot is granted 20% will be mandated as affordable.  Parking will be provided at a rate of 1.47 spaces per unit.  Due to the unit mix of 1 and 2 bedroom units, the school district impact is tax positive.

Tritec is the developer of the project and has had success with the approval and building of projects in Port Jefferson, Patchogue and Ronkonkoma.  The design and professional team includes BHC Architects, VHB Engineers, and Certilman Balin as attorneys.  Tritec has met with the Village, Fire Department, Chamber of Commerce, Historical Society and many local residents over the last three years and has worked with the on the architectural look and feel of the project. 

The Village approved a zoning code earlier in 2017 with the support of the local community at that public hearing.  This is the first project to fit under this new codes, and there are no variances needed. The Village has the ability to impose covenants and restrictions based on community input.

Vision Long Island looks forward to seeing this proposal and others move forward with community support in order to bring revitalization to Lindenhurst.

Central Islip Holds Meeting to Discuss Future of DRI Funds

Vision Long Island recently spoke at a Central Islip community meeting focused on the recent $10 million grant awarded for the NYS Downtown Revitalization initiative.

The Coalition of Good Neighbors, the umbrella group for residents of the Central Islip area, hosted the meeting.  Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter spoke of her many years advocating for Central Islip through this grant process and the crowd was happy that their community was the first Suffolk County designee amid stiff competition. The Supervisor fielded a slew of questions about the DRI funding process, code violations, and park improvement issues.

Vision’s Director and Assistant Director Tawaun Weber spoke on the DRI process in Westbury and Hicksville and the importance of the local municipality remaining firmly in control of the plan for the grant award.

“Community leaders and residents have already proven how they can rally together to get a project done that will better their neighborhood,” said Ms. Weber. “With the new resources being directed to the Central Islip, they will have partners in their elected officals to move their vision forward to a reality.”

Congratulations to Coalition president Debbie Cavanaugh along with her board and supportive organizations like the Central Islip Civic Council for a collaborative and united effort around revitalization.

Central Islip residents, property and business owners should stay informed by attending upcoming meetings that will be focused on planning the use of the State’s funding investment.

Town of Islip Holds First Community Meeting on the NYS DRI in Central Islip

Vision Long Island was out in support of the first Central Islip community meeting to gather public feedback on the recently awarded $10 million DRI grant.

The meeting was attended by almost 200 residents and business leaders as well as by town council members, Suffolk County legislators, state officials, and Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter. Hopes for the development’s future as well as concerns on issues that could be raised were discussed in depth by the attendees.

The grant was awarded to Central Islip to help enhance the downtown and revitalize a community that has been seeing improvements in all its neighbors but not itself. The process will be spearheaded by a 17-person committee selected specifically for the task. Projects that will be eligible for funding include public improvements, new development, rehabilitation of existing structures and public amenities that may include but will not be limited to retail, dining, arts and culture, and traffic safety measures.

The funding includes a structured timetable for when projects need to be proposed to the state, and will become part of a Strategic Development Plan being constructed. The Plan will need to be completed and submitted in March, but suggestions can be submitted to DRI@islipny.gov through January 17th. The next public meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 9th, from 6 to 8 pm at the Central Islip High School Cafeteria.

You can read more about the DRI grant here.

Great Neck Plaza Mixed-Use Project “Galleria” Ribbon Cutting

Vision joined local government officials and business leaders this week for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $12.2 million mixed-use project about a block away from the Great Neck LIRR station in the Village of Great Neck Plaza. 

The mixed-use development, which earned a Long Island Smart Growth Award for developer Nemat Homes & Development and the Village of Great Neck Plaza in 2017. Spanning four floors, with businesses on the bottom level and 30 apartments each on the second, third, and fourth floors the Galleria has been a catalyst for the village. Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said this development is the first mixed-use development to be completed in Great Neck Plaza and fits into the larger goal of creating a transit-oriented village. “We’ve enjoyed working closely with Hooshang Nematzedeh, who we’ve had other buildings built by, but this is the first of our transit-oriented development projects,” Celender said.

The site was home to three vacant stores, a vacant parking lot and law office when Grace Plaza was being mulled in 2014, according to project filings and applications for financial assistance. The project was first presented to trustees in August 2012. Completion of the project marks the next step in transit oriented development for the village.

Kudos to Village Mayor Jean Celender and Nemat Homes for advancing this Smart Growth award winning project. You can read more about Great Neck Plaza’s first TOD project’s completion here.

Great Neck Plaza Considers Mixed-Use Project

Great Neck Plaza is considering a project that will transform a mostly-empty building at the corner of Maple Drive and Middle Neck Road into a mixed-use building.

The new building will feature below-ground parking and three stories with retail on the bottom and a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.  The project is in line with the Village’s transit-oriented development zoning, which won a Smart Growth Award and was adopted in 2011 as part of an effort to increase mixed-use projects and increase financial diversity in the downtown. 

The plan is being proposed by Mojo Stumer Associates of Greenvale and the pitch was delivered by architect Mark Stumer.  Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender stated that the project will need to go through an environmental review process, but expects approval.

“It’s exactly the type of mixed-use project we envisioned and the design is so elegant and upscale, it will transform that corner and gateway to the village,” said Mayor Celender.  “Mojo Stumer has designed a really terrific looking building with great materials, interest and sleek, modern lines. It has a SoHo-boutique look that’s very elegant.”

You can read more here.

Northport Hotel Project Makes Progress

A proposed 24-room boutique hotel and restaurant proposed for downtown Northport on Main Street has been approved for a package of economic incentives by the Suffolk County IDA.

The $11 million project is part of efforts to revitalize the building at 255 Main Street, which has hosted restaurants and office space in the past.  The developers of the project are also the owners of the Engeman Theatre, which is located across the street from the proposed site of the hotel. The theatre is credited with bringing more than 110,000 people to the community each year and employs more than 200 people.

The company has pledged to bring 40 jobs to the area after completion in exchange for the economic package from the IDA.

“The proposed renovation will fill a void in an area absent of hotels and, in turn, stimulate the local economy,” said SCIDA executive director Tony Catapano. “The IDA is pleased to play a role in this project that will generate significant tax revenue for the Northport community.”

You can read more here.

Northport Historical Review Board OKs Downtown Hotel

The Northport Village Architectural and Historical Review Board has given the go-ahead to a brand new downtown hotel.

The site is located at the northeast corner of Woodside Ave and Main Street, which is currently occupied by a three-story office building that is mostly empty.  The site is located in the heart of Main Street, across from the Post Office and Town Hall as well as the Northport American Legion.  The site is owned jointly by Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, who also own the Engeman Theater, located next door to the Post Office.

The hotel has been in the works for a while, but always with the idea that any new design would fit in with the existing aesthetic of Northport.  The owners say that they’ve made strives and are pleased with the design as well of the feedback it has received.  There were also efforts made to conform to the town codes while still incorporating design elements of the original Queen Anne home.

The design also makes an effort to reduce stormwater runoff in an effort to minimize flooding on Main Street.  This will be done with a mixture of improved infrastructure and a system designed to capture water on-site instead of dumping it into the street.  There will also be an on-site pulper used in the restaurant portion of the hotel to reduce physical waste leaving the site as well. This is all part of a concerted effort to make the building more environmentally sound.

“We have the opportunity to construct a new building, so why not construct it in the most envionmentally conscious way that is not only efficient for our operation but also for the sewage treatment plant and for the runoff onto Main Street,” said Mr. O’Neill. “We are taking that all into account.”

There were three conditions on the approval by the review board:  That the material on façade, the fencing surrounding the parking, and design itself must all remain as close as possible to the recent presentation.  The site plan is still under review by the Village Planning Board, which will schedule public meetings before making a final decision on the design.

Amityville Mulls Transit Zone to Encourage Development

The Village of Amityville is currently looking at the possibility of creating a transit-oriented zone to help spur development.

The Village is considering making the change in response to a proposal for a set of luxury apartments looking to create 115 multifamily rental units on 2.4 acres in downtown Amityville.  However, current zoning does not allow for the proposed number of units per acre in the Village. 

The newly proposed zone would apply to 48 acres of property surrounding the LIRR station.  To apply, the property would need to be within the zoned area, be zoned for industrial use, and exceed 1.5 acres.  Buildings could not exceed 38 feet high and have a maximum density of 35 units per acre.  However, developers could exchange incentives for density, such as creating parking space or making improvements to local infrastructure.  The district would also require developers to adhere to state law and allocate 10% of units as affordable workforce housing.

Amityville Mayor Dennis Siry has spoken positively about the possibility of the apartments, calling it a “boost in the arm” for the Village.  The project is also another step in Amityville’s revitalization and, it is hoped, will drive new business and residents to the area.

You can read more here.

Village Walk Opens in Downtown Patchogue

Vision Long Island board and staff were out today for the grand opening of the Village Walk in downtown Patchogue. This amazing senior complex includes a main street bistro, wellness center, theater, luxury apartments, and more. Vision was proud to be a part of the evenings events with over 100 attendees including Leg. Rob Calarco, Supervisor Romaine, Mayor Pontieri, members of the Patchogue Chamber and community.

The city-like structure of the development reaches up to five stories and includes an observation deck with views of Fire Island and the Great South Bay.  The complex has 128 apartments, with 46 of those being set aside for residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases.  This is in addition to 24 hour nursing care, which is not a typical amenity for apartments.  The development will also bring 70 full and part time jobs to downtown Patchogue.

You can view the website for the Village Walk here.

St. James Conducting Sewer Study to Expand Capacity

This past month the Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously to pay $24,000 to H2M Architects + Engineers to conduct a study on the feasibility of installing a dry sewer line.  That study may be finished in the next couple of weeks according the H2M.

The study is examining how much wastewater is produced in the commercial district and the cost of installing dry sewer mains at the same time as the water mains.  Smithtown has budgeted out about $2.4 million for water main installation as part of its 2018 capital budget, but is still looking for funds for the dry sewer lines.  Supervisor Wehrheim said that he has had a sit-down meeting with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to look into possible funding sources.  The planned dry sewer lines that are being studied will be gravity fed lines using the natural slope of the area.  There will also be a pump station for the sewers which will require a 30 x 30 square foot area in an undetermined area. 

The project is scheduled to begin in May, but Supervisor Wehrheim has asked residents to agree to a delay of the project for a year in order to do the construction all at once.  This method, according to the Supervisor, would be more economically viable and better for local businesses that would be affected by the installation.  Wehrheim also mentioned that the town was looking to make the installation as seamless and nonintrusive as possible for local business, possibly including night contruction.

“We’re looking at the percentage cost for doing the paving at night,” said Supervisor Wehrheim.  “I think that’s something that very much will be feasible.  The other thing that we’re looking at instead of having this be spread out among contractors, is to see if we can come up with enough funding by putting this out as one request for proposal and have a larger contractor come in who can subcontract the work so that would speed up a project like this.”

You can read more here.

North Hempstead to Receive $150,000 in Federal Funding for Environmental Study

US Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have announced the approval of $150,000 in federal funds for an environmental study on cleaning up and revitalizing New Cassel brownfield properties.

The fund were approved through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Program, and will conduct an investigation of sites in the surrounding area.  The move is the first step in a plan to clean up and encourage redevelopment of these sites.

“These federal funds will help North Hempstead to clean up brownfield properties in New Cassel, which has the double benefit of eliminating pollution and putting these parcels of land back into use for economic development. This is a wise investment in the redevelopment of our communities that will help spur job creation and economic growth for years to come,” said Senator Schumer. “I am proud to announce this vital funding and will continue to fight for communities, like New Cassel, adversely affected by pollution.”

Brownfields are defined as properties that may contain havardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.  North Hempstead has been working to properly clean up and redevelop these sites surrounding New Cassel for over a decade.  Gillibrand was part of that effort, writing to the EPA in support of the Town’s request for funding earlier this year.

“With this funding, the Town of North Hempstead will be able to assess the environmental contamination at Brownfield sites in New Cassel and clean them up,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “These sites have great potential to benefit the community, and rather than turning our backs on them, this project will help revitalize them into new and vibrant spaces. I was proud to fight for this funding and I will continue to support funding for environmental and redevelopment projects that will benefit New Yorkers for generations to come.”

It is good to see federal investment in our local communities in the form of this Brownfields grant. There has been significant effort made their over the last two decades by Town of Hempstead officials, community members and some new businesses emerging. 

You can read more here.

Middle Island Mixed Use Creates New Opportunities

A complex of affordable housing units, referred to as Renaissance Village, is generating buzz about the future of the Middle Island community. The $52 million, 123-unit affordable and supportive housing development is at the center of a string of redevelopment projects and increasing commercial interest in a town that has strong suburban roots.

Some of the key development projects that will shape path of Middle Island have been identified by the town’s Civic Association President Gail Lynch-Bailey. The Longwood Public Library finished renovations in 2015, which include a children’s garden, will be an important public resource for residents. The town’s $39.1 million Capital Improvement Program will bring important revocations across multiple sites in the area. Renaissance Village developer Concern for Independent Living, the Middle Island Civic Association, and the Longwood Public Library recieved a Smart Growth Award in 2017 for these projects.

There are a number of projects and opportunities that are farther off in time but hint at exciting prospects for the Middle Island community. A new 24,472 sq. foot firehouse is being built for the Middle Island Fire Department, and parcels are being identified for mixed use development. Lynch-Bailey has specifically pointed to a former K-Mart property across from Artist Lake. With a new storage facility coming to the area, as well as a bar and grill at Wellington Inn on Middle Country Road, a more personable economy is being conceptualized for Middle Island.

With typical Middle Island home prices hovering between $300,000 and $500,000, questions about the town’s economic accessibility would be prudent to ask. But Renaissance Village, ideas for economic development, and a desire for future mixed use projects could bring new consumers and residents to Middle Island. All of these projects are coming from the enormous efforts put forth by the community throughout their visioning process with Vision Long Island and in subsequent years. 

You can read more here.

Babylon Launches Downtown Copiague Façade Improvement Program

The Town of Babylon recently launched the Downtown Copiague Façade Improvement Program with the goal of helping revitalize the hamlet into a thriving area built around transit-oriented and Smart Growth principles. 

The program aims to assist property owners to reduce “visual clutter” by following common standards for materials, lighting, windows and other areas of design. A total of six properties on Great Neck Road were approved for grant funding late last year, with each of the awardees receiving 75 percent of the cost of the improvements, up to $25,000.

“These initial facade improvement projects are really important in the revitalization of downtown Copiague,” said Amy Pfeiffer, Director of Babylon’s Office of Downtown Revitalization, in a statement to Newsday. “I believe residents of Copiague and the Town of Babylon at large are going to enjoy the changes that result from these investments.”

“I’m willing to go into my pocket to participate in that because I think it’s going to be able to help everybody ultimately by being able to get more rent and better quality tenants,” said Scott Arenella, who is among the first grant winners. “I’m putting my money in it and counting on [Copiague] looking like Farmingdale,” Arenella added.  He will spend about $90,000 improving his mixed-use building on Great Neck Road and expects up to an additional $25,000 from the town for the project.

This is just one of the efforts put forth by the Town of Babylon administration in an attempt to create destinations and revitalize communities within the township.  Earlier this spring, the town proposed a change in code to more easily allow for mixed use development.

You can read more about Babylon Town’s collaborative effort with developers and businesses here.

Smithtown Approves Mixed-Use Building with 62 Downtown Apartments

The Town Board of Smithtown has unanimously approved 62 apartments for their downtown in a mixed-use development.

The development, currently known as The Lofts at Maple & Main, will be developed by East Hampton-based VEA 181st Realty Corp. and will be located at the former site of Nassau Suffolk Lumber & Supply Company.  A mixed-use, three-story building will front Main Street, providing 12 one-bedroom and 14 two-bedroom units on the top two floors with 9,400 square feet of retail on the first. 

Set back behind the building Main Street building will be three additional three-story apartment buildings with 12 primarily 2-bedroom units in each.  There will also be 6 affordable workforce housing units in the development.  Smithtown is confident that these new residents will help to drive the revitalization of the local downtown.

“This will be the first opportunity for a young person, a young professional coming out of college that cannot afford to buy a single-family home on a half-acre of property, to have an avenue to live in the business district,” said Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. “It puts them in walkable distance to restaurants, a railroad station and everything they really require.”

The developer did make some concessions to the Town for approval, such as reducing the building heights from four stories to three, but the Town Board did note that it was pleased with the approval process.  The developer will still need to get approval from the Suffolk County Board of Health for on-site sewage treatment, which is expected to happen in a few weeks’ time.  Construction is expected to begin immediately after.

Vision Long Island honored the project in the Town of Smithtown back in 2014 with a Long Island Smart Growth Award. It is encouraging to see this project move forward, especially at the former lumber site that had been marked for mixed-use development since the former building was razed.

You can read more here.

Kings Park Community wants Growth on Main Street

Newsday recently talked with some residents of Kings Park as well as the local Chamber of Commerce to ask them what they want to see in their downtown.

Adam Wood, the president of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the engagement of residents and how that drove the process.  “The community came up with a revitalization plan for the downtown, and it’s starting to be implemented now,” said Mr. Wood.  “We hope we will see mixed-use properties up and down Main Street and downtown.”

To add such projects, the hamlet will need to increase its sewer capacity, which would lead to new development in the area that would include both business and residential.  There is also a strong desire by the community to see an increase in walkability and beautification of the downtown. 

There is already a new rental complex in the works to offer apartments near the downtown, and it is hoped that these will help to attract new and younger residents.  The area also boasts local state parks and beaches, access to the sound, and a variety of housing options and prices, all of which local residents feel makes the area a desirable location for a downtown looking to revitalize.

Vision Long Island has been working with both the Kings Park Chamber and Civic Association to move revitalization forward and we are happy to see local residents supporting the proposed upgrades to the downtown.

You can read more here.

Hempstead IDA moves to Assist Island Park Project

The Town of Hempstead has given preliminary approval for a package of economic incentives for a 172-unit apartment complex in Island Park.

The proposal came from AvalonBay and will look to redevelop 11.6 acres of property formerly used as an oil storage and distribution center.  The project had been originally planned by Psoillico all the way back in 2008 until the housing market collapse caused them to hold onto and then eventually partnering with AvalonBay in 2012.

However, the plan had originally called for condos and Hempstead would deny what was now a mostly rental property.  The developers would take the case to court and win the right to move forward with the project.  AvalonBay would then buy out Posillico as sole owner and switch the proposal to all rentals.

AvalonBay will now need to remediate the site to a standard that satisfies local and state laws for brownfield cleanup.  Cost for that process is estimated to be in the $10 million range.  AvalonBay has expressed a desire for the cleanup to being later this year once the company receives site approval.

“We’re looking forward to working further with the DEC and town to make this one of the premier waterfront developments on Long Island,” said AvalonBay Vice President Christopher Capece. “The Avalon Great Neck parcel, the old Commander Oil terminal, had a lot of the same site characteristics as Island Park. Both old fuel oil terminals that had multiple above-ground storage tanks with millions of gallons of petroleum storage capacity, both contaminated waterfront sites, and both with tremendous potential.”

 You can read more here.

Mastic Beach Beginning to see Signs of Revitalization

Recent trends in Mastic Beach seem to indicate that a long-awaited revitalization might be underway in the 8 months since the hamlet returned control to the Town of Brookhaven.  Efforts have been underway by Brookhaven and local residents to breathe life back into the area by pushing back on blight in the area and drawing in visitors from other parts of the island. 

Things seem to be working as home prices have begun to creep upward with around 260 homes sold from August 2017 to this past August. Commercial development has also been on the rise in the main east-west thoroughfare of the downtown with there being a growing interest in constructing retail store, apartments, and possibly a bank.  This all comes just as a new $9.5 million headquarters for the Mastic Beach Ambulance Company was recently opened.

“Mastic Beach is doing a lot better than it was doing this time last year, so there is progress,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said. “There’s a long road back. 2019 is going to be a critical year for Mastic Beach where all the pieces start to fall into place.”

Part of the efforts to help with that has been working to demolish abandoned and blighted homes that violate town codes.  Nine have been torn down with 11 more on the schedule and a public hearing set to decide the fate of another 8.  There has also been a concerted effort to clean up Mastic’s image, with a full page ad in Newsday earlier this year to hail the hamlet as a centrally-located diamond-in-the-rough.

The future is a little up in the air, though, with a $191.3 million referendum on the Town’s ballot for this fall that would authorize allow the County to build a new sewage treatment plant at the local airport and create w new sewer district.  The sewer district is seen as the main way to create a thriving nightlife in downtown Mastic.  Local developers who have expressed interest in the downtown have cited uncertainty surrounding the sewer district as a reason for caution.

The new sewer district would also be the first step in increasing capacity to allow for housing in the downtown in order to attract new residents.  Such a move would also help to push up retail prices in the surrounding area and begin to draw new interest and revitalization to the area.

“When you’re a young family, you want to live in a place that’s attractive, and where your family will be safe,” said Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico. “Mastic Beach has a lot to offer, you’re near a lot of water. I think people see the value.”

Vision helped to work on the Mastic Beach master plan, and has been pushing for sewers for the area with local officials that have resulted in County, State and Federal funding commitments.  Kudos to Councilman Panico for his leadership and the Mastic Beach Property Owners for picking back up where the Village left off.

You can read more here.

Mineola Store Owners Happy with Façade Improvement Program

For two years Mineola has been working to improve the look of their downtown, and local store owners have been taking notice.

The program was created in order to create a more uniform and pleasing look by helping local store owners to update their storefronts.  The new look will then encourage more clientele and and an active and bustling downtown.  Help comes in the form of a grant program, which was initially injected with $405,000 worth of funding that came from the Nassau County Community Block Grant.

The program grants a store owner 75% of the necessary funding to update their facades while the owner covers the remaining amount.  Designs are limited to ensure that storefront doesn’t drift too far from the vision for the downtown.  The program will also encourage local businesses to invest back into their own stores and create a more vibrant downtown.

Village officials anticipate funding for 75 facades under the program, with 13 recently completed, 4 currently underway, and a further 14 finalizing contracts with Mineola.  The Village has also received inquiries from about a dozen other owners.

Vision recognizes the importance of these programs, which are critical to advancing downtowns looking to grow and attract foot traffic. Vision has been a part of a similar Farmingdale program, which has been underway for several years now and is also showing positive results.

You can read more here.

Floral Park Seeks Growth with LIRR Adjacent Apartments

The Village of Floral Park is looking to add new housing option with a bevy of new apartments planned for the area surrounding the LIRR station.

37 rental units are set to begin construction very soon on a LIRR-adjacent site according to Mayor Dominick Longobardi.  Five of the new apartments will be located above a restaurant being built to replace the recently closed Koenig’s restaurant, while the others will be built in a new building across the street.

There is also a deal currently in the works to sell and redevelop Centennial Hall, a former Masonic Temple located a block away from the station.  That project is expected to deliver a further 16 to 18 apartments in the downtown that considers itself “a town within a town.”

“We’re hoping it gives opportunities to bring younger families in who can’t afford to buy a house yet,” said Mayor Longobardi, “and also for some of our seniors who don’t want to keep their homes but don’t want to leave.”

You can read more here.

North Bellport Residents Eye Revitalization with New Development

North Bellport residents have been waiting years for revitalization to come to their corner of Long Island and a new project signals that the first steps might be underway.

D&F Development Group has proposed a 70-unit apartment complex on 7 acres of property just a short distance away from the Bellport LIRR station. The plan, which would bring jobs and affordable housing to region, is culmination of years of effort that include zone changes and cleaning up abandoned and decaying houses. Code enforcement has been increased in recent years as well and local businesses have been taking steps to improve their facades.

The developer, D&F, has experience with affordable housing in the region and is hoping to bring that formula to the area. Monthly rents are estimated to be in the $900 to $1,700 range depending on number of bedrooms and size of the unit.

“I think Long Island lags way behind our cousins to the north — Westchester, Connecticut, New Jersey — in terms of the percentage of rental housing and certainly affordable housing,” said D&F principal and Vision Long Island board member Peter Florey. “I think this is going to spur additional investment. Everywhere we’ve built development, and this includes places like Hempstead, we’ve found after we have built, there has been investment in the surrounding community.”

The project has the support of a community that is hoping to jump-start a long overdue revitalization to the area. Visioning projects aimed at drawing a consensus from the community have been going on since 2006, and residents have been encouraged by Mr. Florey’s efforts to reach out to residents as D&F planned the project.

“There’s a lot of vested people in this community who deserve this type of project,” said Vision Long Island Assistant Director Tawaun Weber. “They’re literally building the community’s dream.”

Vision Long Island was out in support of the project at the Town of Brookhaven along with local residents and business owners who all testified in favor.

You can read more here.

RXR Secures Village Square Project Funding for Downtown Glen Cove

RXR Realty has secured $53.9 million in funds for construction of the Village Square project in Glen Cove.

The mixed-use redevelopment of the site will install 146 rental units and 17,500 square feet of retail to the area.  The project is already in the beginning stages at the 2.8 parcel of land formerly occupied by heavy industry and junkyards.  It is located within walking distance of Garvies Point, another one of RXR’s major development projects in the area.

The funding is being provided by M&T Bank in the form of a construction-to-permanent mortgage loan.

“We expect Village Square to generate significant market demand as these units will include many similar high-end finishes found within RXR’s Garvies Point project on Glen Cove’s waterfront, while also offering downtown walkability,” said M&T Bank’s Long Island market president Jason Lipiec.

Vision Long Island is happy to see this project move forward and had previously honored it with a Smart Growth Award for creating a sense of place when it was originally being developed by Jobco Realty and Construction.  Named Glen Cove Piazza at the time, the development would eventually be sold to current owner RXR Realty.

You can read more here.

Long Island Complete Streets Coalition Hosts the 6th Annual Summit

The LI Complete Streets Coalition held its 6th annual Complete Streets Summit this month at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in East Farmingdale, with over 100 local civics, engineers, small businesses and government officials in attendance.

Complete streets advocate Jivanna Bennaeim from Families for Safe Streets welcomed the group, sharing her story of a lost loved one on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck Plaza. Since the tragedy about a year and a half ago, Jivanna has been pushing hard to find ways to improve road safety and get people to slow down through the Great Neck peninsula to try preventing another tragedy. Since the time that her husband was killed by a driver who has still not been found, at least four other people have been seriously injured trying to cross Middle Neck Road at various points.  Unfortunately, Jivanna’s story is one that is heard too often in our region, with families losing loved ones to unsafe roads.

“Hearing my story sometimes helps people to see that this is a human tragedy, it’s not just about politics,” said Ms. Bennaeim.

Denise Carter from GPI spoke next about how some of the concepts of Complete Streets are “simple, but not easy”, especially when working with multiple layers of government.  To make a simple change of adding a flashing beacon to Grand Ave in Baldwin in order to slow traffic near Baldwin High School.  The process enjoyed local support and was generally seen as the right thing to do, but required a collaboration between interested parties and Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King-Sweeney and the County Executive to get a project done that should have been completed a while ago.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran was the featured speaker and welcomed the event with supportive remarks drawing on her leadership on Baldwin’s Grand Avenue project and looking to improve other roadways in Nassau.  Part of this includes looking at design and function on how best to improve local roadways.  This dovetails with goals of how communities should look as well as local visions of municipalities who wish to shape their own communities.  She noted that it is important for streets to be safe for all users, and that Complete Streets plays a key role in growing the local tax base as well as quality of life.

“With the amount of land dedicated to these public rights-of-way,” said County Executive Curran, “it is critically important that public officials, community members, first responders, and other stakeholders collaborate to ensure that the design and function of these public spaces are not only safe for all users of our streets – cars, of course, along with pedestrians, buses, bicycle riders – but that they mesh with our local communities’ revitalization efforts.”

Elissa Kyle of Vision Long Island then reviewed a list compiled by the Coalition on what can be considered the top 30 most dangerous roadways for walking and biking with information generated from recent crash data provided by Tri-State Transportation Campaign via the New York State Department of Transportation. The areas focused on our downtowns, near train stations, and commercial corridors undergoing revitalization – places that naturally draw foot traffic and places where people should be expected and encouraged to walk and bike. The roads spotlighted have had nearly 600 pedestrian and bicycle crashes in recent years and represent prime areas for traffic calming and design improvements.

While last year’s summit highlighted five hotspots across Long Island, this year we wanted to broaden the scope to address dangerous areas in downtowns across the island.  Vision identified clusters of crash locations and looked at where these locations overlapped with downtown shopping districts, areas adjacent to train stations, and commercial areas of communities undergoing revitalization.  These are areas where high numbers of people on foot and on bicycles should be expected and encouraged in order to create healthy communities and support local businesses that depend on foot traffic.

The program included a panel on Fixing Long Island’s Dangerous Roadways featuring: Glenn Murrell, NYS DOT; Sylvia Silberger, Car-Less Long Island; Bernard Macias, AARP NY; Jennifer Heymach, Greenman-Pedersen, Greg Del Rio, NV5 ; and Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro.

Mr. Murrell began the discussion by talking about the various efforts the DOT has taken to reach out to local stakeholders and gather information on what can be done for improvement as well as opportunities for future efforts.  His speech covered projects currently in the works and what the future for the DOT on Long Island will look like.  Projects and upgrades that the DOT is targeting include those identified by the Pedestrian Safety Action plan, with Phase 1 currently in progress.  This phase includes implementation of audible countdown timers, upgrades crosswalks, and sidewalk improvements among other upgrades on 552 state owned roads in the region.  There were an additional 360 locations that will also be upgraded thanks to local municipalities who identified and requested the funding.  DOT is also administrating a Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP, that is providing funding for on and off road bike and pedestrian projects, with a solicitation for projects coming this summer.  Hicksville is also a project that the DOT is focused on, with others including New York State Route 24, which saw a significant drop in crashes after improvement, a 110 Corridor Safety Improvement Project, which will target the entire length of 110.  New York State Route 25 will also see improvements, with some work already being implemented.

The next speaker was Sylvia Silberger, who talked about Car-Less Long Island and efforts to promote transportation by biking on Long Island as well as revitalization within municipalities to promote Complete Streets.  She also covered a variety of transportation alternatives and how difficult it can be for those who don’t use automobiles to get around.  Walking for transportation carries a set of unique challenges for both transportation and safety purposes, even for those who want to do it.  She considers this a social justice issue for that very reason.

Dan Losquadro was the next speaker and talked about how his perspective serving on all three levels of government have helped him in his position.  He spoke on efforts by Brookhaven to improve safety for both cyclists and pedestrians.  He also brought up funding as one of the biggest challenges for local municipalities.  Once a project is begun everything it is in proximity to must be brought up to current standards, which can raise the price of business and slows or stops projects.  Jennifer Haymach was the next speaker for the panel, talking about how to create safer pedestrian crossings.  She made a presentation about the various solutions that have been proposed in the past 15 years to better improve safety.  Part of this included the identification of what it is that make such crossings safe and how best to slow automobile traffic and create specified lanes for various forms of transportation as well as new tools to help implement these changes. 

Greg Del Rio was the next speaker, who talked about how to fix dangerous roadways through the design process.  He used examples from across Long Island to demonstrate how design implements create unsafe condition and encourage bad habits in drivers.  Poor sight lines, inadequate pedestrian safety measures, uneven grading, and lack of medians and roundabouts have all contributed to fatal accidents in the region according to Mr. Del Rio’s presentation.  The final speaker for this panel was Bernard Macias from AARP NY, who talked about Complete Streets as part of neighborhoods where people can “age in place.”  Seniors are particularly vulnerable to unsafe streets and may become discouraged from living in neighborhoods they’ve been in their entire lives because they are not in “liveable” communities.  AARP has been working to combat this through an army of volunteers to bring the message to local leaders.

The second panel covered the economic and placemaking benefits of Complete Streets designs in our downtown areas titled “Creating Walk Appeal” which featured Elissa Kyle, Vision Long Island; Sean Sallie, Nassau County DPW, Marwa Emam Fawaz, VHB ; and Paul Winkeller from the New York Bicycling Coalition.

Elissa Kyle spoke first on the opportunities inherent in our streets and what we can do to promote safety and longevity for our communities through transportation options.  She talked about examples of streets that encourage people to come and enjoy local businesses through walk appeal.  She covered the idea of a walkability scale that can help to identify streets that encourage local residents to frequent their local downtowns and businesses by creating public spaces.  Paul Winkeller was the next speaker, who talked on the importance of promoting alternative transportation, health, sport, recreation, environmental preservation, energy conservation, tourism, and economic development.  His organization does this by encouraging cycling and walking, which leads people to think about and appreciate those tenets more.  He covered the varied ways that NYCB looks to accomplish this through advocacy, education, technical assistance, and tourism.

The next speaker for the panel was Sean Sallie, who spoke on what Nassau County is doing to create walk appeal.  He talked about identifying targets for improvement and how the process is carried out by Nassau and how best to enhance safety in local communities.  As part of this he gave a presentation that covered spots and improvements that have been identified for future projects.  Challenges included how best to increase access to areas of the county for all modes of transportation as well as pedestrians.  He also covered communities that require improvement, which included Grand Ave in Baldwin, Post Ave in Westbury, Merrick Ave in Merrick, Atlantic Beach, and Downtown Hicksville.  Mr. Sallie also talked about the steps for taking for each of these areas and how funding was coming together to help implement the changes.

The final speaker of the day was Marwa Fawaz, who talked about VHB’s efforts to create Complete Streets and walkability in its projects.  She laid out the various concepts that streets should meet to be considered “complete.”  This included a benefit to all users, sense of community, promotion of local businesses, and adding to economic growth and vitality.  She then talked about how exactly to fold these concepts into design and what her company has done to bring these changes to the projects they have worked on.

Special thanks to our event sponsors, AARP New York, GPI / Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., VHB, NV5.inc, Nassau Inter-County Express / NICE Bus, Ennis-Flint and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Vision and AARP Conduct Walk Audits in Nassau Downtowns

Vision was out this month with AARP Long Island volunteers to conduct Walk Audits in four Nassau County downtowns. The Walk Audits took place in the downtowns of Lynbrook, Rockville Centre, Hicksville and Freeport around and adjacent to their LIRR stations.

Some of these areas have seen a high amount of pedestrian and bicycle crashes over the past several years, and are among some of the most dangerous roads in downtowns for pedestrians and cyclists on Long Island .   These areas were chosen from our study results and were presented at the Complete Streets Summit in April.

Many communities in the United States were designed exclusively or almost exclusively for automobile travel, with very little consideration given to the needs of pedestrians. A scarcity of sidewalks, multi-lane roadways that are unsafe to cross, and a lack of street maintenance are some of the factors that discourage or outright prevent people from walking. One of AARP’s goals has been to embrace Complete Streets policies for not only their members who are over the age of 50, but for people of all ages through Age-Friendly Communities. By promoting Age-Friendly Communities, those who commit benefit from diverse citizen engagement by encouraging signatories to engage residents in a process to identify the community’s needs, and develop and implement an action plan to address those needs. Currently, there are 263 Age-Friendly Communities in the U.S., including the Village of Great Neck Plaza, City of Glen Cove, Towns of Brookhaven and North Hempstead, and the County of Suffolk on Long Island.

“Participating in a walking audit helps you see a place from a different perspective,” said Vision Long Island’s Placemaking Director Elissa Kyle. “Most of the time we drive along a busy road and never really understand how difficult or even dangerous it can be for others. The walking audit helps you experience what it’s like to walk in a place and how it can be improved.”

Those participating in the Walk Audits were able to give their individual perspective on their downtown’s strengths and opportunities in terms or walkability and safety, and provided suggestions for improvements. Among things observed were crossing and traffic signal availability and timing, turning lanes, curb cuts, sidewalk availability and repair, crosswalk and vehicle stop lines, signage, vehicle speeds, bus shelter availability, visibility of vehicles and pedestrians, ADA compliance issues, and availability of shade along the walks. Some of those participating used canes, walkers, wheelchairs, strollers and crutches to walk in the shoes of and provide suggestions for improvements for those with functional needs.

Information gathered from the Walk Audits will be compiled and analyzed in the near future, and findings and suggestions will be provided to the respective government agencies for suggested action. The results from the study and continued study in other areas will be forthcoming, so stay tuned for more information. 

You can learn more about AARP’s efforts through their Livable Communities initiatives here. You can also read about Long Island’s most dangerous roads here.

Preliminary Report on Road Fatalities Released

New statistics released this week show that 2017 saw a decrease in fatalities on the road, a positive development as we try to move towards safer streets.  However, it is important to note that these dips in individual years have happened before and that the persistent dangerous conditions remain. t

When you take a step back and look at the numbers we see an unacceptable amount of deaths, injuries and crashes largely due to speed inducing roadway designs prevalent in our commercial corridors.  It is imperative that transportation agencies work to design roadways that are safer for both pedestrians and motorists. 

“Maybe you’re safer if you’re driving a car now,” said Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander.  “But if you’re biking and walking, you’re still taking your life into your own hands and that has to change.”

The one year dip comes at a time when there has been an increase in more traffic calming projects, increased enforcement, enhanced EMS training and better early-warning technology in modern cars.   Law enforcement professionals say that they still struggle with texting and driving and we know high speed driving on roads designed for high speeds continues.  A comprehensive solution is to invest in physical roadway improvements that increase pedestrian and bike safety.

We will be addressing this very topic at the LI Complete Streets Summit on April 5th, which you can register for here.

You can read more here.

Study Shows an Increase in Pedestrians Deaths Nationwide

A recently released study by the Governors Highway Safety Association has shown a nationwide increase in pedestrian fatalities over the past decade.  While fatalities for those inside vehicles have decreased, fatalities for those outside of vehicles has gone up 27% since 2007.  The total number has fluctuated from year to year, however, the percentage relative to total traffic deaths has steadily increased from 11% to 16%.  Another recent study released by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research showed a decrease in deaths from crashes overall, it doesn’t focus on what percentage of those fatalities were pedestrians.

While New York State’s number of pedestrian fatalities decreased 14.2% from the first half of 2016 to the first half of 2017, it is still ranked fourth highest overall in the nation.  New York also had the highest percentage of those fatalities occurring at intersections, 33% instead of the national average of 20%, as well as a higher number of fatalities for those over 70 years old. 

The study included suggestions for making roads safer for pedestrians including evidence based strategies including: refuge islands, hybrid beacons for midblock crossings, improved lighting since the majority of crashes occur at night, road diets, roundabouts and other traffic calming methods.  It also recommends education and public information campaigns to remind drivers to yield to pedestrians, provide information about road improvements and a reminder that “everyone is a pedestrian.”  Though stand-alone education campaigns are not very effective at reducing crashes on their own, they are part of a comprehensive approach that also includes engineering and enforcement.

You can read the complete study here.

Town of Hempstead Approves Speed Limit Reduction on Austin Blvd

The Hempstead Town Board has unanimously approved a speed reduction from 40 mph to 30 mph along Austin Blvd in Island Park.

The change comes as concerns for pedestrians and students crossing the street is on the rise with the local communities.  Various community members as well as Island Park Superintendent Dr. Rosemarie Bovino and School Board President Jack Vobis expressed appreciation at the change aimed at safety. 

“It’s a horrible situation for the victims,” Bovino said. “But it’s also a very horrible situation for the children who we have to bring in from the fields to have these individuals airlifted.”

Other community members called the vote insufficient, stating that while the road is dangerous the problem stems from a lack of enforcement for safety laws.  Reckless drivers and texting were most often cited as reasons for accidents with a call for an increased police presence along the road.  Opponents also noted that the County is in the midst of planning for changes to the road that may help with traffic calming.

While construction is slated to begin later this year, the speed reduction was mostly met with praise, with Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito stating that safety is a top priority for the Town and the move will literally save lives.

You can read more here.

U.S. Looks to End Traffic Deaths by 2050

Traffic deaths in the U.S. reached a 33 year high last year, highlighting an ongoing and serious problems on our nation’s roadways.

In response to this ongoing issue, the National Safety Council (NSC) has released the ambitious “Road to Zero” strategy aimed at eliminating traffic deaths nationwide by 2050.  The NSC worked closely with the Department of Transportation and over 600 industry groups to help formulate the plan.  This comes at a time when numerous local communities and cities have set their own goals and created Vision Zero initiatives.  This will be the first nationwide strategy, however.

The report talked about the troubling fact that after decades of decline, the last five years have seen a sharp rise in fatalities on the read.  However, cities with Vision Zero initiatives, such as New York and San Francisco, have been able to reverse those trends through plans that focus on reduced speed limits and improved street design.  Recommendations incorporate those strategies, focusing on physical changes that can are known to save lives.  Particularly effective recommendations include narrowing crossing distances through curb extensions or reprogramming walk signals to give pedestrians a head start at intersections.

The report calls for a “safe systems” approach that will incorporate improvements consistently across the board and in every local roadway, counteracting unforgiving design that make minor errors deadly.  It also looks to automakers and tech companies to continue innovations and improvements that have helped to make transportation safer in the public square.  As part of this initiative the Federal Highway Administration is awarding grants that work to reduce speeds, reduce streets, and drive innovative technologies.

The report acknowledges that a big challenge for the system will be pushback from local drivers who do not wish to see changes on their streets.  Local government members will also side with the drivers, an example being a councilmember in Los Angeles seeking to ban road diets, which is one of the safety tools recommended by the federal government as particularly effective in reducing fatalities.  Due to this lack of political will, the U.S. actually lags behind a number of countries across the world in transportation safety.

You can read more here.

Elmont Residents call for Road Safety after Crash

A recent accident that injured four teenage bystanders on an Elmont role has residents talking about street safety in the small hamlet.

This past Halloween saw the intersection of Dutch Broadway and Elmont Road play host to a four-car accident where one of the vehicles went off the road and struck four teenagers just as they were leaving school.  While the investigation into why is still ongoing, residents have stated that they are not interested in the why of this particular incident as they are in why these accidents keep happening on the same stretch of road.  Police have noted that the stretch has a higher-than-usual volume of injuries and accidents.

The issue has been an ongoing source of frustration for local officials and residents since at least 2015 when Nassau Legislator Carrie Solages took high-ranking officials on a tour of the local road.  Residents claim that a big problem is motorists increasing to a high speed once the road goes from one lane to two.  Some claim to have seen cars traveling upwards of 60 mph on the small road after that.

“Clearly, speeding is a deadly problem at this intersection, and traffic-calming measures are needed as soon as possible,” said NYS Senator Kaminsky, who is working with the local civic on this issue.  “An immediate traffic study is warranted, and I have already spoken to county officials, who are optimistic that one can begin promptly.”

The new Curran administration is looking to move forward on a traffic study for the area and has sent out RFP’s for additional traffic controls, but in the meantime local activists are talking about other possible solutions.  There is a petition to increase the rate of work in the area.  This sense of urgency comes from concern that the new Belmont arena will bring increased traffic to the area.  Some have also called for the road to be designated a school zone with a 20 mph speed limit due to its proximity to Elmont Memorial High School.

You can read more here.

NYS Provides Funding for Pedestrian Safety on Long Island

Vision was encouraged to see New York State provide dedicated funds for pedestrian safety in this first grant round, which will start to address some of LI’s dangerous roadways.

A total of $12.78 million has been allotted for pedestrian safety projects on Long Island, including:

• $2.78 million for locations in the towns of Huntington, Islip, Brookhaven, Smithtown and Babylon, for pedestrian signals.
• $4.13 million for locations in the towns of Huntington, Islip, Brookhaven, Smithtown, Riverhead and Southampton, for Phase 2 of Suffolk County’s Pedestrian Signal Safety Improvement project
• $330,000 to Nassau County for a project in the village of Great Neck Plaza in the town of North Hempstead for curb extensions at the intersection of South Middle Neck Road and Barstow Road
• $4.22 million for locations in the towns of Hempstead, Oyster Bay and North Hempstead, the village of Freeport in the town of Hempstead, and the city of Glen Cove, for safety improvements at crosswalks
• $1.32 million to the Town of Brookhaven
Special thanks to Governor and legislature for approving the funds in the budget and for the advocates from the LI Complete Streets Coalition and LI Lobby Coalition who pressed for the many improvements.

You can view the full document containing approved funding for projects across the state here.

Car Free Day Comes to Long Island

Vision Long Island was out in support for Car Free Day with a press conference aimed at bringing awareness to Long Island residents of the important initiative.

The event took place this past Monday at Farmingdale State College and featured a slew of local transit advocates and stakeholders from the area.  Rosemary Mascali, co-chair of Car Free Day, spoke first on how the movement is an international event spreading across the world and is an effort to bring people to the idea that cars are not the only form of transportation that can be used to get around. Car Free Day itself is a movement aimed at encouraging people to drop or limit car use for at least one day in order to raise awareness for the issue.

She also talked about how Car Free Day has morphed slightly so as to also include Mobility Week, which took place this week, which is an informative effort to spread the news about sustainable transportation.  Dr. John Nadar from Farmingdale State College, Joe Brown, NYS DOT Regional Director for LI, Phil Eng, LIRR President, Jack Khzouz, NICE Bus CEO, Darnell Tyson, Suffolk County Department of Public Works, Chad Lupinacci, Huntington Town Supervisor, Terrence McSweeny, Babylon Town Councliman, Mike Lavorata, Lindenhurst Village Mayor, Paul Spreer 511NY Rideshare, and Jane Fasullo, the Sierra Club, were all also in attendance and spoke.

Vision’s Placemaking Director Elissa Kyle was also spoke at the event, stating that “Downtowns thrive on people feeling safe, comfortable and enjoying walking around.  Providing viable alternatives to driving downtown benefits everybody from shopkeepers and shoppers to residents both in and around downtown.”

Greenman Pedersen, Inc would also get in the spirit and enourage their employees to bike, walk, or take public transit to work this morning. Several employees did, helping to make this initiative even more of a success.

You can check out Car Free Long Island’s webpage here.

Lindenhurst Conducts Main Street Walking Audit

Vision was out in downtown Lindenhurst this past weekend for their downtown walking audit, farmers market and touring new businesses.The event was sponsored by the Village, Chamber of Commerce and transportation consultants GPI.

We were heartened to see some of the new businesses opening, including Long Island’s first local Meade bar run by Roger Wanner and Joe Abruzzo and which features variations on honey mead.

It was also great to see Suffolk Legislator Kevin McCaffrey, Village of Lindenhurst Deputy Mayor RJ Renna, former NYS Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, Transit Solutions Rosemary Mascali, and GPI’s Frank Wefering, who led the walking tour.

Recently approved code changes for transit oriented development have brought new investment and galvanized the community. Vision is looking forward to seeing the results of this process, so stay tuned for more updates on Lindenhurst’s journey towards revitalization.

You can see a 3D visualization of design improvements from GPI here.

Village of Lindenhurst and GPI Seek to Engage Residents on Walkability

The following is a request from Greenman-Pedersen, Inc who has been hired by the Village of Lindenhurst and is seeking critical feedback from residents on the best way to create walkability in the village. If you are able to, please engage with them on what can be done to create a thriving downtown for Lindenhurst residents.

The Village of Lindenhurst selected Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. (GPI) to develop and conduct a Downtown Walkability Improvement Study. With the call for a walkability study, the Village is pursuing a path that was, until very recently, virtually unthinkable on the car-focused and largely car-dependent Long Island. However, improving walkability is the strategy of municipalities that stand out for their high quality of life. For Lindenhurst, improving walkability is a crucial means of revitalizing its downtown.

The walkability study is expected to be finalized in the Spring of 2019. It is analyzing existing conditions in the Village and investigating best practices from around the country as well as internationally. The study is also suggesting concrete walkability improvements for the downtown area and laying out an implementation plan linked to the Village’s walkability objectives: connectivity; accessibility; safety; multimodality; economic development; public health; aesthetics and attractiveness.  

GPI places high emphasis on not just informing, but thoroughly engaging citizens and stakeholders in the study process. The company conducted five LindenWalks for different community groups between July and October 2018. Furthermore, GPI developed a study website – www.lindywalks.net – that provides information on the study progress and offers community members and stakeholders an opportunity to provide input to the study via an online public engagement tool.  

It is important for decision makers, citizens and other stakeholders to understand what is being planned and to allow them to bring in their input, concerns and suggestions in a meaningful way. Yet, technical plans and design concepts are often difficult to grasp for people outside the planning and engineering profession. Fully understanding that “seeing is believing”, GPI employs state-of-the-art visualization technology to overcome this major hurdle in planning and engineering projects. GPI’s animation specialists are using a combination of state of the art software and tools to create innovative visualizations. The study website allows the public to view animation videos of GPI’s preliminary design suggestions to improve walkability in Downtown Lindenhurst.

Hempstead Officials Unveil LIRR Bike Commuter Improvements

In an effort to encourage healthier commuting, the Town of Hempstead has unveiled bike lockers at the local LIRR station for local residents.

The lockers were previously owned by the NYS Department of Transportation, with ownership transferred to the town just recently with the help of NYS Senator Todd Kaminsky.  The new lockers will help to give residents a sense of security when they leave their bikes for the day as they head off to work.  This in turn will encourage more commuters to ride to the station and go a small way towards alleviating cars on the road.

“These bike lockers are an incredibly great asset for our community,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Lauraa Gillen. “Because they serve our environment, because they give our residents an alternative way to come down to the station.”

Residents can sign up for placement on a lottery to win a locker.  If selected, they will pay a $40 key deposit and must own the locker for at least a year.  At the end of the year they may turn in their ticket and receive the deposit back if everything is in order.  The Town only currently has 36 lockers available for all of its LIRR stations, but is hoping to expand the program in the future.

You can read more here.

Commuters Outline Needed Pedestrian Improvements at Hicksville LIRR Station

Commuters recently weighed in on issues plaguing the area surrounding Hicksville’s LIRR station and what can be done to improve conditions.

A major example that a lot of commuters brought up was a four-lane crosswalk near the station that almost no one uses due to the inconvenience.  Instead, they cross at a more convenient but unmarked location several dozen feet away to reach a local parking lot.  These are the sorts of safety concern that the Town of Oyster Bay and LIRR are looking at as plans for improving the downtown progress in Hicksville.

Thanks to an increased interest in developing the area surrounding the train station, there has been a new urgency inaddressing such issues.  Officials are hoping to turn the area into a walkable downtown with proposals ranging from adding 200 residential units next door to the station, new stores, open spaces, and a new entry into a network or parking lots, stores, and offices.  These proposals and more were first mentioned in a report in March that was created by a local planning committee consisting of residents, civic leaders, and elected officials.

However, what gets commuters talking the most is the idea of pedestrian improvements.  Commuters spoke of the “dingy” look to the street and how the proposed improvements could improve the aesthetic as well as the safety appeal.  Others noted that they would appreciate not having to dodge vehicles while parking upwards of 20 minutes away from the station.  A big hit among these commuters was the idea of a proposed parking garage with 1,100 new spaces.

It is encouraging to see so many commuters looking forward to the proposed changes.  Vision has been working with both civic and elected leaders to help with the community-driven revitalization process for over a decade now.  We look forward to seeing local residents’ dreams become reality as the revitalization process continues.

You can read more here.

Huntington Hopes to Ease Parking Woes with Qwik Ride

The free app-based shuttle service Qwik Ride is looking to expand in to Huntington Village, and local business owners are mulling new employee requirements.

Huntington Village has become notorious for difficult to find parking, especially on prime restaurant nights when the local Paramount Theater is hosting a show.  Qwik Ride is looking to help out with that by using shuttles that will transfer people from outlying parking lots to the heart of the Village.  It is hoped that local businesses will ask their employees to use the new service and help free up some of the prime parking that gets locked up for hours by workers during their shift.

“At peak times there’s just not enough spaces for people to park. That’s when you see people circling around and around. It hurts business,” said Huntington Village BID President Jack Palladino.

Qwik Ride originally launched on Long Island at Patchogue Village on Cinco de Mayo in order to move patrons from waterfront restaurants that suffer from a dearth of parking to more accessible village lots.  In about 6 weeks, the ride sharing service has given out nearly 600 free rides for around 1,000 people.  The small, neon shuttles seat 6 and rely on advertising dollars to keep rides free.  Local businesses will also have the option for cross marketing with “I Don’t Take Up Space” signs and buttons.

Business owners are mulling over employee requirements, but a model in Patchogue requiring businesses that are open in prime times to limit employees taking up space has shown the plan can work.

You can read more here.

Qwik Ride Service Expands into Port Jefferson

In yet another expansion, local shuttle service Qwik Ride will begin to operate in Port Jefferson’s business district in an effort to relieve parking concerns.

The shuttle service will officially partner with the local BID, and will offer free rides in its 100% electric fleet to both employees and shoppers who don’t want to circle for a spot in the busy downtown.  Those who wish to use the ride can do so by either summoning it through the app if they live in 11777 area or parking at the CVS on Main Street and requesting a ride.  The service will operate Thursdays to Fridays from 5 pm to midnight, and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to midnight as well as special events.

“We have tried a lot of different things,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “I think it’s fun, it’s mobile, it’s free — it solves all of our issues. It can help an employee park out of the village and open up a spot. It can bring a resident downtown and keep that spot open for somebody else. And I think they’re innovative and they’re flexible, and I think when you have a dynamic problem you need a dynamic solution.”

This marks the fourth village that Qwik Ride will operate in, already having agreements in place with Patchogue, Huntington, and Northport.

You can read more here.

NICE Bus to Launch App-Based Service to Schedule Pickups and Drop-offs

Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) Bus has announced that it will roll out an on-demand shared-ride service known as Link.

The new app will use a designated test area in Meadow, Merrick, and Bellmore, all three of which lost regular bus service due to recent budget cuts.  “NICE Link represents a lighter-weight, less expensive way to keep, or in this case reintroduce, service in areas where demand is light and disbursed and therefore may not justify fixed route bus service on a fixed schedule,” said NICE CEO Michael Setzer.

The service is being described as “Uber-like” and will be the first of its kind in the area.  Customers can log in to NICE’s GoMobile App and request a ride and choose a location for pickup.  An itinerary will then be suggested to the customer and, if accepted, will charge the user $4.50.  Officials stated that they felt that this price point, $4.50, is fair because it’s more than bus fare but cheaper than a taxi.

The service will utilize a smaller style of bus known as a cutaway.  The cutaway seats 14 passengers and has room for three wheelchairs.  NICE officials are hoping that the accessibility will dovetail with the Able-Ride service and allow customers, who would normally have to reserve that ride a day in advance, a little more freedom.

The new service will have operational hours from Monday to Friday between 6:30 to 9:30 am and 2:30 to 7:00 pm.  Success will dictate whether to expand the program in the future, but for the time being the area of operation will only include Meadowbrook Parkway to the west, Wantagh Parkway to the east, Hempstead Turnpike to the north, Merrick Road to the south, and trips to and from the Freeport LIRR station.

You can read more here.

Disabled Riders Give Poor Marks to New Suffolk Transit Buses

Newly purchased buses for the Suffolk Transit are causing a stir with disabled riders, who are saying that they do not accommodate their needs.

Disabled riders noted that the buses are difficult to board and turn around in while in a wheelchair.  They are also somewhat narrow, causing riders to constantly bump into or have to work around an individual who needs more space.  Complaints also include steep and unstable ramps, poor lighting, and no ramp accessibility at the rear of the bus.  The buses are smaller than previous buses and are being put into service in local neighborhoods with less ridership.

“Although right-sizing buses is crucial for the system,” said Vision Long Island Program Coordinator Jon Siebert, “ensuring that vehicles are able to be used by all users is as important. More costly paratransit should not be the only option for those with disabilities, and their needs have to be taken into consideration before future buses are purchased.”

Suffolk County has responded by stating that the buses meet federal requirements stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  They also noted that, while unfortunate, they had expected there would be a bit of a “learning curve” as residents became familiar with the new buses.

You can read more on this story here.

Bill Proposed to Direct Ridesharing Fees to Long Island Buses

Vision Long Island was out this past Thursday to view a press conference in support of legislation that would direct existing fees from ridesharing services towards local bus service as opposed to the NYS general fund. 

This bi-partisan proposal was originally generated from former NYS Senator Jack M. Martins and is now being carried on in a slightly different form by Senator Jon Brooks and Assemblymembers Christine Pelligrino and Charles D, Lavine. This bill or any agreement to bring more funding to local bus service is part of the LY Lobby Coalition’s annual LI Lobby Day next Tuesday in Albany.

We will provide updates on the progress of legislation next week.

Smithtown Purchases Vacant Kings Park Lots for Municipal Parking

The Town of Smithtown has approved the $280,000 purchase of two lots in downtown Kings Park that will be used for municipal parking.

The effort to purchase the land began with a petition by Park Bake Shop owners Lucy and Gabe Shtanko, who garnered more than 600 signatures from local residents.  The Town has been making efforts since 2014 to purchase the empty land from the owner, who wasn’t interested in selling.  Smithtown had brought up the possibility of seizure through eminent domain but was able to reach an agreement this past week.

“It demonstrates a fundamental shift in the way the Town of Smithtown has treated municipal parking,” said Kings Park Chamber of Commerce president Tony Tanzi.  “Every little bit we add makes it so another pocket of downtown can become successful.  It’s going to have a compound effect.”

The purchase will go a long way in shoring up off street parking for the hamlet, which is in the midst of a revitalization effort spearheaded by the local Chamber of Commerce and Civic Association.  It is hoped that the new lots will free up on-street parking for more short-term customers and boost foot traffic to local businesses.  The effort has also included securing of funds to increase sewage capacity in the downtown through a state grant.

Vision has been involved in the revitalization process for Kings Park and is happy to see this initiative by the local community move forward.

You can read more here and here.

Qwik Ride Expands to Northport Village

The Village of Northport is welcoming the shuttle service Qwik Ride in hopes that it can help alleviate parking issues in the popular downtown.

The expansion comes after the Hauppauge-based shuttle service previously started operating in Huntington Village.  The company offers free rides to and from the downtown in electric golf carts that have been modified to sit six.  The service is mostly aimed at employees of local businesses so that their vehicles won’t take up valuable parking for multiple hours.

Northport Village officials reached out to the company as part of their efforts to reduce traffic in the increasingly popular downtown.  Officials have also cited proposed development in the downtown and possible future projects as a reason to be proactive about parking issues.

“It’s a good fit because we have a parking problem,” said Deputy Mayor Tom Kehoe. “We’re going to have to do something in Northport to change what we do with our cars.”

Qwik Ride gave a presentation to the Northport Chamber of Commerce this past September on the new services.  The company is beginning with just two vehicles with a limited range due the hilly nature of Northport coupled with electric vehicles.  Services can be requested via Qwik Ride’s app.

You can read more here.

Town of Huntington Takes Next Step in Parking Garage Study

Town of Huntington officials have approved $16,000 in funding to study the feasibility of placing a parking garage in downtown Huntington Village.  The funding will be used for preliminary construction steps was well as taking soil borings, surveying the area, and preparing mark-outs for utilities.

“We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something,” said Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said. “We don’t want to lose any grant money that may be available to us.”

The money was approved by a 4-1 vote of Huntington’s Local Development Corporation  Opposition to the plan is based on the idea that there are already solutions underway and that they should be given time to work.  Huntington has made progress in the form of public transportation with shuttle services and the newly installed Qwik Ride system, but parking continues to be an issue for the thriving downtown.

Local business reaction to the idea of a parking garage is mixed, with some welcoming the idea of additional parking.  More than a few owners are concerned that customers will cite parking as a reason they do not visit the village during the weekend.  Others would prefer a different solution but tend to agree that more available spaces would be a boon.

You can read more here.

New Shuttle Service Opens for Port Washington Commuters

A new shuttle service at Long Island’s Port Washington LIRR station is looking to alleviate some issues with riders vying for coveted spots.

Port Washington-based Jiffy shuttles will launch this summer with a singular goal of reducing the congestion caused by competing commuters.  The idea was originally proposed by the community in a late 2016 parking and traffic survey conducted for a Town committee. Port Washington received the most votes as the part of town most in need of a shuttle service.  Once the survey was shared publicly, a partnership between the village of Port Washington North, Jiffy Shuttle, and local Port Washington nonprofit Residents Forward was created to move the idea forward.

“Parking has been a problem in our community for so long and it’s only getting worse,” said Mindy Germain, executive director of Residents Forward. “People are looking for alternatives because there are really not enough parking spots.”

The shuttle service will require a $169 a month membership or a $49 ten ride pass. The membership will allow for unlimited rides during peak hours with 6 spots designated for pickup nearby.  Riders can recommend additional routes that will be reviewed for possible addition later. A soft opening date of August 20th has been announced with limited membership with an official launch coming in the fall. Preregistrations are ongoing.

“If it’s raining or if it’s snowing or cold, how do you get the prime spot?” said Village Mayor Bob Weitzner said. “I think one of the beautiful things about the shuttle, aside from weather, is to be able to time your train more to when you need to be at work as compared to when you need to get a spot.”

Port Washington joins Huntington village and Patchogue as the third community to introduce a shuttle service to help alleviate parking issues and boost transportation during peak hours.

You can read more here.  You can also check out the company and look in to preregistration here.

LI Lobby Coalition Presents 10th Annual Agenda

The Long Island Lobby Coalition, of which Vision is a founding member, was pleased to see that this year’s NYS Legislative Session ended with many positive developments from the 100 member LI Lobby Coalition agenda.

The diverse group was founded in 2009 with a goal of unifying the numerous community, environment, small business, labor and human services groups into a single force for change. Since then, the Coalition has been able to get ten bills passed, numerous budgetary and regulatory proposals enacted, and several key Long Island infrastructure projects funded through our collective efforts.

In early March of 2018 they would return to Albany for its 10th annual Lobby Day so as to push for many of Long Island’s priorities and needs. The agenda for the trip is based off suggestions drawn from the groups and individuals who make up the coalition. They would meet with members of the NYS Assembly, the NYS Senate, and staff from the Governor’s office, who were all receptive to the message brought by the group.

The results from this year’s lobbying efforts include:

Under economic development, small business and jobs:
– The Internet Sales Tax was not advanced in the budget or by legislation, but the US Supreme Court paved the way for future legislation on this critical issue while support was rallied by local chambers of commerce and Counties around the State.
– The Small Business Savings Accounts passed the Senate again but was not voted on in the Assembly.
– The NYS Downtown Revitalization Initiative was funded for a third round and NYS AIM funding stayed stable.

For Transportation:
– Bus funding for NICE and Suffolk County Transit stayed stable. 
– NYS Pedestrian Safety Action Plan funding was released to local municipalities with LI receiving $12 million in the first round for local traffic calming improvements.
– The Commuter Benefit Ordinance received slight changes that will make the program more usable for businesses.

For Environment, water and energy issues:
– Manufacturer Funded Safe Disposal Program was passed.
– Off Shore Wind continued to be a priority for NYS

On Housing & Human Services:
– Funding from DHCR for housing and human service saw an increase.
– There was a small increase in Child Care funding with past cuts also restored.
– The Secure Choice Savings Program was in the budget.

Critical Infrastructure Projects:
– Sunrise Highway Traffic Calming is slated to move forward in specific locations.
– Hicksville Train Station & Traffic Calming after funding from the NYS DRI and the County traffic study improvements and repaving are advancing.
– Kings Park sewers and land transfer – $20 million for the sewers was passed in last years budget but the land transfer was approved by the Senate, but held up in the Assembly
– Huntington Station land transfer – This bill was passed.
– Route 347 Greenway – local community and businesses are in support but money has not been advanced yet.

All told, progress was made in a number of areas this session but work still needs to be done. The exciting news is that diverse coalitions of supporters have emerged around each of the key items on this agenda, which will help ensure future passage.

Long Island Smart Growth Working Group Meeting Features LIRR President Phil Eng

The Long Island Smart Growth Working Group meets throughout the year to plan and aid in the implementation of state and local policies that impact downtown revitalization and infrastructure investment on Long Island. The group is comprised of local civic, chambers, municipalities, environmentalists, labor, infrastructure and design professionals and organized by Vision Long Island. 

Since 2007 the Working Group has tackled major infrastructure projects like Route 347, sewer investments, economic development financing, traffic calming, transit oriented development and a host of state, federal legislation and local community projects.

On Tuesday, the Smart Growth Working Group hosted over 100 local business, community, government and development leaders at the East Farmingdale Fire Department with featured speaker Long Island Railroad President Phil Eng who led a discussion about recent and upcoming infrastructure investments, updates on Double Track, Third Track, upgrades at Penn Station, and plans to improve the railroad’s performance, reliability and communication.

LIRR President Phil Eng, in his opening remarks, began by saying that he was pleased to be able to attend, especially because a derailment over the weekend in Penn Station could have sidelined his participation, with thanks given to those who worked around the clock to ensure that service was restored quickly and with as little disruptions as possible. Eng discussed his previous work with NYS DOT on upgrades to Rote 347, working with local community organizations, Tri-State Transportation and Vision Long Island. He mentioned that the LIRR “is an economic engine that makes Long Island thrive”, and without it, he finds it hard to see how Long Island survives.

Mr. Eng talked about how he feels that it’s important to get out there and get feedback from commuters, and feels that “it’s important for people to be able to know that the LIRR is listening, that the LIRR does care about what is going on.”  Recently, the first round of “Meet Your Manager” sessions took place, with commuters having the opportunity to discuss concerns and questions regarding their LIRR experience with their branch manager, with more meetings of the sort upcoming.

Double and third track progress was touched on, with the importance of those projects, as well as Penn Station and East Side Access mentioned as well. Speaking of the need to be proactive when dealing with issues, Eng reported that here were 205 switch failures in 2017, with 10 switches causing 44% of the failures, causing delays. Two have replaced and repaired to date, with the others being done this season, even though it was not in the current capital plan. Also in 2017, there were 417 trains delayed due to vehicles-on-tracks, with 65 grade crossings having roadways parallel to the tracks, with GPS or poor visibility causing drivers to turn onto the tracks by mistake. In order to help remedy the issue, high visibility safety delineators were installed at these locations by Memorial Day of this year on an accelerated schedule, and installation at all of the crossings will be complete this year. Additionally, the LIRR is partnering with Waze to prevent accidental turns onto grade crossing tracks, with 30 of the crossings already having those protections via the app.

Other infrastructure improvements outlined to reduce some of the 2600 trains that were delayed due to weather related events were working on readiness for hurricane season and winter storms, the clearing of 180 miles of overgrown vegetation, 60 snow switch covers installed (2 years ahead of schedule), the installation of 14 additional third rail heaters, insulation of critical components within Atlantic Tunnel manholes to mitigate water and salt intrusion, accelerating replacement of 80 utility poles, replacement of M7 door components to reduce door failures during the winter, and more.

The new President was incredibly open to working with local neighbors, commuters and other stakeholders, saying that “at the end of the day, we go through communities. It doesn’t matter if you ride the railroad or live near the railroad, or you don’t even ride the railroad, the railroad is important to everybody, and I need to make sure that we talk to everybody. It’s the only way we can deliver a project.”

Ensuring that customers have real-time information, such as delays and accurate duration of the delays, countdown clocks have been installed at all stations, and installation of GPS on the trains to ensure accuracy.  Previously, the practice was to clean the train cars at the end of the route. Now, at key locations, teams will be able to clean cars at stations while the route is still active. Frequency of station cleaning at all 124 stations has also increased by 30%.  “The idea is that we want to create a much more comfortable environment for our riders,” said Eng.  Two new programs for riders were also announced including Summer Saturdays which allows LIRR monthly ticket holders to use their ticket .

Several in attendance also provided updates regarding their area’s progress. Trustee RJ Renna from the Village of Lindenhurst discussed the 260-unit transit-oriented development that was recently approved across from their LIRR station, a walkability study being conducted by GPI for their downtown, a CFA application to construct a master plan for the village, and a new brewery opening up in a 100-year old historic building. Mayor Dennis Siry form the Village of Amityville announced the approval of a TOD district, 115 units of housing next to their LIRR station, Tritec as their master developer, and a $288,000 grant for a bike path and more walkability around their train station. Deputy Mayor Jorge Martinez from the Village of Freeport, New York State’s second largest village, discussed walkability improvements around their train station on Main Street that will help many who use the LIRR station and ravel on NICE bus. Mayor Ralph Ekstrand from the Village of Farmingdale encouraged those in attendance to visit the Village on the 2nd and 4th Thursday nights of July and August for their Main Street Festivals, and talked about a public hearing coming up in September for a 54-unit complex on Main Street by their firehouse, with plans for the first floor of the development to have a 225 seat performing arts center and gallery.

Trustee Sarah Oral from the Village of Roslyn talked about Phase 2 of Roslyn Landing which will bring more townhomes to the downtown, and the village’s wok towards infill development. She mentioned that “people are starting to become more accepting to housing in the downtown.” Suffolk County Legislator Steve Flotteron highlighted some of the highpoints of Bay Shore’s downtown revitalization, mentioning that there was a 50% vacancy rate 20 years ago. The popular waterfront is doing well, and will be more accessible with a NY State grant aimed at linking the downtown, ferry and LIRR station with bicycle paths. He also noted that Northwell Health’s Southside Hospital has been acquiring derelict buildings adjacent to the property for office and medical use. Evlyn Tsimis, Nassau’s Deputy County Executive for Economic Development, mentioned the various projects in different stages in Nassau County, including new ideas to better utilize the Nassau HUB. She said that the count is “changing he tenor of economic development from a steamroll to collaboration”.

Irene Guarasci from the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee talked about the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative’s progress, including recently announced projects, and expressed hope that it will be the beginning of a beautiful walkable downtown. Karen Moltalbano from the Baldwin Civic Association discussed recent hurdles in the revitalization of Grand Avenue and Merrick Road, with the developer pulling out of the opportunity, but was encouraged by the concept of an overlay district being floated for the area. Julie Marchesella from the Elmont Chamber of Commerce reminded those attending the importance of shopping locally, with Tammie Williams of the Elmont Community Coalition shared the community’s concerns about inadequate transportation for her area, and expressed hope that the LIRR’s role in development at Belmont Park would be transparent. Thomas Grech of the Queens Chamber of Commerce talked about the need to closely work with neighbors in Nassau County, and expressed that transit options should be increased. Gina Coletti of the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers gave an overview of a recent press conference held in Plainview urging state legislation for New York State to have the ability to collect appropriate sales taxes on out-of-state online purchases.

Updates were also given by Mike Deering of LIPA, who said that $90 million was spent on energy efficiency and renewables programs, that there are two programs for downtown economic development, and a possible program upcoming for low-to-moderate income discounts and time-use rates.  Kathy Wisnewski of National Grid gave an overview of programs that they have to help with economic development, including those areas with vacant storefronts, and efficiency programs. Mike Setzer of NICE Bus announced the launch of LINK in parts of East Meadow, Merrick and Bellmore where routes were cut over the past few ears. The service allows riders to order a ride with NICE’s smaller 14 passenger buses, choose a pickup location and time, and view the proposed itinerary Michelle Schimel from SONYMA spoke on how owning a home, condo or coop is a starting ground and opportunity to acquire wealth, and that meditation has been an activity she has enjoyed when there are minor train delays.

You can read more about the meeting here.

Lynbrook LIRR Station to Undergo $17.9 Million Upgrade

The LIRR has announced that it will invest almost $18 million in its Lynbrook station for upgrades aimed at hardening local infrastructure and improvements to customer service.

The announcement cited recommendations from the local community through LIRR’s Customer Conversations events as part of the review process in deciding necessary upgrades.  This was done to ensure that any changes made would consider the needs of residents and customers as well as operational ones. 

“Since joining the LIRR in April, I’ve taken a hard look at our system, operations and capital projects with a focus on making decisions to prioritize necessary initiatives and get them finished sooner rather than later,” LIRR President Phillip Eng said. “Lynbrook Station is in need of these repairs and I look forward to giving customers who use this location an upgraded station that they deserve while hardening our infrastructure for decades to come.”

The current scope of the project will include rehabilitating the Lynbrook Viaduct, originally built in 1936, which consists of a concrete viaduct with two island platforms; Improving the existing drainage system; Replacing both platform canopies; Installing two new glass platform waiting rooms; Repairing the two station platforms; Rehabilitating the platform structure; Placing new signage throughout the platforms; Installation of LED lighting, cameras and free customer Wi-Fi.  Work is expected to begin in 2019 and be completed by the end of 2020

These improvements will comprise the first phase of the project, with additional funding being sought for the 2nd phase to begin in 2020.  That phase will focus more on renovating the station building, commuter amenities, and aesthetic upgrades.

You can read more here.

LIRR Cuts Ribbon on Wyandanch Station

Vision board and staff were out last week for a ribbon cutting for the new LIRR Wyandanch station, adjacent to Wyandanch Rising. The event also marked the completion of the $500 million double track project, an 18-mile stretch that will aim to improve on service disruptions and increase capacity between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma.

As part of the Double Track project, the LIRR built two new 12-car-long platforms at the Wyandanch Station that include a snow melt system, a pedestrian overpass with elevators, new stairs, new canopies and new platform shelters. A new station building replaces a previous station building, which was built in 1986, with new amenities such as digital signs, MTA Help Points, Wi-Fi and USB charging stations and bike racks.

In recent years, LIRR has partnered with the Town of Babylon and Suffolk County in the site location and design of the new Wyandanch Station Building, as the LIRR station forms the heart of the Wyandanch revitalization effort known as Wyandanch Rising. For the 4,200 daily customers at Wyandanch Station, improved platforms will allow for a more comfortable customer experience.

The completion of the Double Track project, which began in 2014, marks the first time in the LIRR’s 184-year history that trains are running on two tracks between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, which is used by 48,000 customers daily. The 18 miles of new track provides the LIRR with extra capacity to run trains, including for “reverse commuters” traveling to and from jobs in Suffolk County. It also supports efforts to bolster Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma and surrounding development. And it allows the railroad to more easily work around any disruptions that occur in Suffolk.

LIRR President Phil Eng announced that Double Track project was completed 15 months ahead of schedule and under budget, with time cut by utilizing new track-laying technology, and by implementing a design-build strategy. “More tracks, whether it’s here along the Ronkonkoma Branch corridor but also along the Main Line in Nassau County, mean more capacity and flexibility for the LIRR,” said Eng.”That means fewer train delays from congestion or from an incident. And it’s all one integrated system, so fewer delays on the Ronkonkoma Branch translates to fewer delays on other branches result from held connections or congestion at terminals.”

These projects are part of a larger ongoing effort to modernize the LIRR. Last summer, Governor Cuomo announced a $5.6 billion transformation of the railroad that includes 100 projects to expand the system’s capacity, eliminate dangerous grade crossings, and rebuild and upgrade tracks, switches, yards, signaling and power substations — all efforts that will help increase the railroad capacity by more than 80 percent. These 100 projects address areas and issues that had been left untouched for as long as 70 years before this initiative made them a priority. Spanning the entire railroad system, these projects, some recently completed and many others already started, will benefit railroad passengers by improving the reliability, frequency, and comfort of their trips and by improving customer communications.

Elected officials on hand included Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, NYS Senators Phil Boyle and John Brooks, NYS Assemblymembers Kimberly Jean-Pierre and Chuck Levine, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, and Babylon Supervisor and Deputy Supervisor Rich Schaffer and Tony Martinez. Attending also was Anne Stewart, who along with her late husband Delano Stewart, provided the inspiration and vision for the revitalization that is occurring in Wyandanch today.

LIRR Opens Upgraded Stations at Farmingdale and Wantagh

The MTA and LIRR have jointly announced the opening of two freshly renovated station in Farmingdale and Wantagh.

Farmingdale’s station, which server 3,800 daily passengers and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now features a new waiting room as well as an accessible new bathroom.  The aesthetics were also improved as well as electric, plumbing and HVAC.  New signage as well as charging stations and technology upgrades were made as well, including new information display screens.  There were also new CCTV security cameras installed as well as the rehabilitation of a pedestrian underpass.

Wantagh, an elevated station which sees 6,000 customers on the weekdays, received a new heated waiting room for the colder months, as well as a new ADA accessibility elevator.  An existing escalator was replaced and a new central set of stairs installed.  Energy efficient lighting along with an upgrade to the look of the station and signage were also added to go with the newly replaced tracks at the station.

You can read the press release here.

LIRR Double Track Project to be Completed by End of Summer

After three years of work, the LIRR’s double-track project is on the cusp of completion, promising improved service between the Ronkonkoma and Farmingdale lines.

The $500 million project represents the commuter line’s largest capacity expansion in decades.  Once the final tracks are laid the LIRR’s Main Line will run on at least two tracks all the way from Manhattan to Ronkonkoma.  This will allow for easier routing around stalled trains and other disruptions and also create the possibility for more frequent reverse-peak service for commuters coming into Suffolk.

“Double Track will make adjacent communities more desirable,” said Kyle Strober, executive director for the Association for a Better Long Island, “serve as a catalyst for the revitalizations underway at the Ronkonkoma Hub and Wyandanch Rising, aid in the reinvention of property around Republic Airport and assist in unlocking MacArthur Airport’s true potential as a regional airport.”

However, the project has not come without some headaches, as required service outages were implemented to work on the line including the elimination of overnight train service between Hicksville and Ronkonkoma on weekdays.  The outages were necessary for the final push that is currently underway and has the LIRR confident in its timeline for completion. 

Officials have stated that the full potential of the Double Track will be opened once other regional infrastructure projects are complete.  These include the third track project in Floral Park and Hicksville and well as the East Side Access link to Grand Central Terminal.  Those project are expected to be complete in 2023, significantly boosting ridership for North America’s busiest commuter rail.

You can read more here.

Governor Cuomo Breaks Ground on Third Track Project

Vision board and staff were at groundbreaking ceremony for the LIRR Third Track project at the “Yes We Can” Community Center in New Cassel.

Governor Cuomo highlighted the numerous infrastructure projects underway on Long Island and around New York State before he and numerous local leaders, including County Executives Steve Bellone and Laura Curran, put shovels in the ground for the beginning of the Urban Avenue track underpass. It is one of the seven underpasses to be constructed to eliminate congested grade level crossings.  This underpass is scheduled to be completed by autumn of next year and the entire third track project is scheduled to be completed by 2022.

“This was very much a collective. Nothing like this happens without bringing a lot of people together to make it happen,” Cuomo said at the event.

While previous attempts at moving forward with the third track project, originally proposed in 1949, have failed, this time the railroad worked with numerous municipalities and communities along the 9.8 mile stretch to address their concerns.  Many of the towns and villages along the Main Line needed more parking to allow for enough downtown capacity when commuter hours were at their peak, and several new parking garages at stations will be built as a result.  Additionally, seven grade level crossings will be eliminated to minimize congestion when trains pass through, and sound barriers will be constructed to reduce noise. 

The project would not have moved forward without the support of the Village mayors and the NYS Senate who negotiated significant public benefits for the local communities.

At the ceremony, Cuomo also touted infrastructure projects both already underway and in the works.  He spoke about the ongoing re-construction of LaGuardia Airport, the proposed air-train line to connect it to Willets Point LIRR station, the new LIRR concourse at Penn Station, and the Moynihan-Farley Complex.  The double track project from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma is scheduled to be complete by the end of this month and 38 stations are undergoing renovation. 

There are also many less visible projects to improve system performance including power substations, a Mid Suffolk Rail Yard, new signal systems and new parking facilities.  The new infrastructure improvements should help to ease delays and provide for additional parking to accommodate local commuters.

You can read more here.

Floral Park LIRR Station Improvements Unveiled

In a special meeting last Wednesday 3rd Track Constructors (3TC), the firm hired to undertake the third track project, revealed improvements for the LIRR station in a sneak peek for local residents.

The improvements include three elevators, with two placed at either side of the station and one in the center.  The elevators will made of glass as a safety feature in order to ensure that nobody is assaulted.  Existing escalators will remain in place in addition to the new elevators.  While the functionality of the elevators was welcomed by the crowd, some questioned the aesthetic of the design and the possibility of debris collecting on the elevator floor that would then be visible from the outside.

Improvements will also include a sound-retaining wall.  Plans for the wall have not been finalized with 3TC in talks with the Village on color and texture, but it was revealed that the wall will be 4 feet higher than current track height.

Michael Guter, a design coordinator for 3TC, presented the plan to the group of about 60 residents and board members for the Village.  The audience also had the opportunity to ask questions and provide comments for Floral Park’s architectural review board. “In general I think it’s a very good addition to the Floral Park station,” said architectural review board chairman, Frank Gunther. “It’s sound and pragmatic to me and it’s done in an aesthetically pleasing way.”

You can read more about this here and here.

Hearing for Additional LIRR Crossing in Mastic Held

Vision was out this week at Brookhaven Town Hall in support of an additional at grade LIRR crossing for the Mastics-Shirley area.

The Mastic Beach, Mastic, and Shirley area, known by many as the Tri-Hamlet community, has only 3 LIRR grade crossings for the peninsula.  While crossing renewal work was in progress last summer, motorists were only able to use the other two area crossings at Smith Road and Mastic Road. The Long Island Railroad has rejected the at-grade crossing proposal for years, citing safety concerns for vehicles that may be struck by trains, and policies coming from recommendations from the federal government to try to reduce some of the 200,000 at-grade crossings nationally.  It was noted that the three existing crossings have had no incidents of trains hitting cars in the past 5 years, and only two fatalities at two of the crossings since the 1980’s.

The hearing was conducted by the NYS DOT and heard by an Administrative Law Judge, after decades of requests for the additional crossing being denied by the LIRR. The additional crossing will provide economic developments benefits, reduce congestion on existing crossing routes, support resilience during emergencies and assist in reduction of transport times for patients to area hospitals. The need for an additional crossing has been featured most recently in the 2004 Montauk Highway Corridor Study & Land Use Plan for Mastic & Shirley, NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program for Shirley and the Mastics, and Mastic Beach Comprehensive Plan, as well as numerous other studies dating back to the 1980’s.

Chief Charles Voelger of the Mastic Beach Ambulance Company gave testimony regarding the need for the crossing to better serve residents, and some of the issues that are being faced.  “In terms of population growth and emergency response we have seen that the Mastic Beach Ambulance Company is handling about 60% more alarms than it did in 2005, yet we have the same transportation bottle neck that existed then,” said Voelger. “This discussion of adding a railroad crossing is not about servicing a new need to this community, it is about making up for a need that has gone unserved for far too many years already. In my opinion, the fact that we have been underserved for this many years should mitigate some of the discussion about the adding of new crossings. We aren’t asking for a crossing to add to an already adequately served area, we are asking for a crossing to bring the area closer to being adequately served.”

Also in attendance and in support of the added crossing were Chiefs of the Mastic Beach and Mastic Ambulance Companies, the Commissioner of the Mastic Beach Fire Department, The William Floyd Community Summit, Mastic-Shirley Chamber of Commerce, Pattersquask Creek Civic Association, Office of Congressman Lee Zeldin, NYS Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico, Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Tribe,  and former Mastic Beach Village Mayors Bill Biondi and Maura Spery.  Support by Assemblyman Dean Murray and Suffolk Legislator Rudy Sunderman were also read into the record.   Vision Long Island is in support of the grade crossing proposal which came out from the Montauk Highway project visioning and resulting plans.

A majority of those who spoke were in favor of an additional at-grade crossing, with a petition of 1149 people in favor of the crossing being submitted to the judge. Those who were opposed to the at grade crossing were residents on either Hawthorne or Madison, with concerns of decreased property values, increased traffic on their streets, and in the case of the Hawthorne resident, acquisition of her property.

The Administrative Law judge will render her decision whether or not to have the LIRR allow an at-grade crossing for the community within 90 days.

Brookhaven Announces Intention to Sue after LIRR Refuses Rail Crossing

Brookhaven Town officials have announced an intention to sue the Long Island Rail Road after a refusal to address decades old requests for grade crossings in Shirley.

An increasing number of traffic jams and snarls led to a public meeting held last year wherein residents called for new rail crossings.  Possible sites of the new crossing include Madison, Hawthorne or Roberts Street.  According to Town officials, that meeting should legally compel the LIRR to respond, but they have yet to do so.

“We get tired of asking,” said Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico. “We are essentially going to sue the railroad. Think of how absurd this has become.”

The Long Island Rail Road responded to the announcement by stating that they would not add crossings due to “safety challenges,” though it did not elaborate on those.  However, Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman noted that traffic jams can also create safety issues due to emergency vehicles being stuck due to an abundance of vehicles that could be on the other side.  As part of its response, LIRR cited traffic backups and noise disturbances as reasons for refusing new crossings.

This issue was a key component of the Montauk Highway project in 2002 and remains unfinished while road, zoning and sewer investments moved forward. Report after report recommended this action including a formal emergency evacuation study done many years ago.  Vision Long Island finds the tone deaf response from an important transportation bureaucracy to be disconcerting despite a unanimous need presented at hearing after hearing.  Vision is rarely, if ever, in support of legal remedies to resolve what should be common sense, but we are hopeful this approach will be successful.

You can read more here.

FEMA to Provide $5 Million to Pay for Sewage Treatment Facility

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to provide $5 million to help pay for costs associated with a project to send partially treated sewage from Bay Park to the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh.

The partially treated effluent is currently being discharged into Reynolds Channel where, according to officials, it’s harming the local environment.  The goal now is to send excess wastewater to the Cedar Creek Plant before discharging it 3 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.  The project will refurbish a 100-year old aqueduct, currently sitting unused below Sunrise Highway, following an environmental review.

Preventing nitrogen rich discharge into Reynolds channel has long been a goal of local environmental groups.  The wastewater currently being discharged provides resources for rapid growth of local seaweeds that then grow much longer than normal.  The increased marine plants then leach oxygen out of the water as they grow, causing depleted “dead zones” to form that can lead to fish kills.  By diverting some of the effluent it is hoped to reduce these zones and help to bring life back to the channel, which used to be a popular spot for fishing and clamming.

The total project will cost around $354 million with Nassau County contributing $157 million.  New York State will put in an additional $78 million, which will go along with the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation’s $41 million loan.  FEMA’s additional $5 million in funding came as a result of a grant.  A majority of the project is expected to be finished by 2020.

You can read more here.

Northport Village Completes Sewer Upgrade

This past week saw the completion of a years-long process to upgrade the Village of Northport’s aging sewer infrastructure.

The final step in the process was the removal of two deteriorating 8-inch cast iron sewer lines and replacing them with a single 12-inch high-density polyethylene line.  The upgrade was necessitated by the ongoing breakdown of the pipes, which presented a danger due to being located under one of the busier roads into and out of the village.  Were the pipes to have continued on in their state, a possible collapse of the road may have occurred and spread pollution in addition to being a traffic hazard.

“The old system is 85 years old, and it was collapsing. The pipes were actually turning into graphite like a pencil, and we needed to replace it before that happened,” said Northport trustee Damon McMullen, the village’s commissioner of wastewater treatment system. “This literally was done in the nick of time.”

The upgrade project was begun in 2013 in accordance with a 2003 agreement between New York, Connecticut, and the EPA to improve water quality in the region.  As part of that agreement, Northport was required to reduce nitrogen output to a maximum of 10 pounds per day.  The project had previously upgraded the Scudder Beach treatment plan and relined sewer main while rehabilitating manholes to prevent outside water from entering the sewer system.

Upgrades to Northport’s sewer plant were part of the LI Lobby Coalition platform in Albany and are past Smart Growth Award recipients.

You can read more here.

Cedar Creek Sewage Plant Unveils Plans for Water Recycling System

Suez North America, who operates Nassau County’s sewage system, has announced that they will construct the first water recycling system in the County at the Cedar Creek Sewage Plant.

The plan will be to filter and treat wastewater, which will then be used around the plant for tasks that include cooling down generators, washing equipment, tanks, etc.  The new system will use previously treated effluent by treating it a second time to remove bacteria and other microbes and fully dissolve solids. 

“We are making this investment because we believe the protection of the water supply offers a better future for the residents of Nassau County,” Eric Gernath, chief executive of Suez North America, recently said.

The program will be funded directly by Suez and is expected to save up to one million gallons of fresh water each day.  Cost of the project is estimated at $1.1 million and should be completed by next January, with savings estimates around $350,000 annually.

A similar project is also currently being planned for the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway sometime in the next few years.  Suez has experience operating such systems at a plant it owns in Los Angeles, which has used water recycling for that past 20 years.  The company also operates Nassau’s three major wastewater treatment plants since January of 2015, and currently holds a 20 year contract to continue doing so through 2035.

“We are saving water; we are saving the environment and we are saving taxpayer dollars,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

You can read more here.

Nassau County Seeks RFPs for Aqueduct Connecting Bay Park to Cedar Creek

Nassau’s plan to use a century old aqueduct to pump effluent from Bay Park to the Cedar Creek wastewater management plant took a big step forward this past week.

After a recent public meeting to present updates to the community, the County has put out a call for engineers to find the best way to complete the Ocean Outfall Diversity Plan.  The goal is to reroute treated effluent award from Bay Park in order to dilute dumping and lower nitrogen concentrations.  The Plan will look to use the 112 year old Sunrise aqueduct, which had previously been used in the early 1900s to pump water from Long Island to NYC. 

The project is estimated to cost $350 million, but bonds and grants will cover most of the cost.  New funding will need to be found to complete the project, but the County is confident it can do so.  Alternative proposals deemed as too expensive included a new outfall pipe from Bay Park to the ocean, tunneling an underground pipe below Long Beach, building a denitrification plant, and an energy-intensive solution to reduce the concentration of nitrogen being dumped into the Western Bays from 17 parts per million to two parts per million

Bay Park Treatment Plant currently dumps 52 million gallons of nitrogen laden effluent into the Western Bays, which is having adverse effects on local marine life marshes, which erodes natural barriers to coastal flooding.  Cedar Creek, on the other hand, has the capacity for 240 million gallons of effluent per day with only 57 million gallons currently being processed.  The ocean outfall pipe for Cedar Creek also stretches 3 miles out into the ocean as opposed to local Bays.

The process for repurposing the pipe will involve inserting a new, smaller polyethylene pipe within the existing 72-inch steel pipe below Sunrise Highway.  The new pipe will eliminate leaks, which was a concern for some residents.  Engineers looking to submit proposals will also need to find the best way to construct a pair of two-mile pipes to connect the aqueduct to Bay Park and Cedar Creek.

You can read more here.

US Senator Gillibrand Introduces Water Infrastructure Legislation

US Senator Kristen Gillibrand has announced legislation aimed at creating a grant program that will provide funding for water infrastructure projects. 

The bill, labeled the Promoting Infrastructure and Protecting the Economy (or PIPE) Act, would authorize $5 billion over a 10 year period and provide discretionary grants to local municipalities, tribal governments, and public water utilities.  Funding could then be used for projects related to drinking water and waste water infrastructure.  This legislation could provide much needed financial relief for New York, which is facing a bill of tens of billions of dollars in needed water infrastructure investments in the coming decades.

“Too many communities in New York that pipes that are old and leaking, lack sewer systems, and have outdated technology that isn’t doing a good enough job of keeping wastewater from polluting the environment,” said Senator Gillibrand.  “No New Yorker should ever have to worry about whether their water is safe to drink.  My new bill, the PIPE Act, would create a new discretionary grant program to fund drinking water and sewer projects so that communities can have the resource they need to fix their broken water infrastructure.”

The legislation would also allow for projects to be bundled together for a single grant application.  This move would help small and rural projects to compete for funds against larger projects.  It will also work to ensure grants are spent on a mix of rural, suburban, and urban projects.  This will be accomplished by capping the maximum amount of the total funding any single state can receive at 20%.

Public Hearing Held for Forge River Watershed Sewer Project

Vision was out this week in support of the construction of a nearly $200 million dollar sewage treatment facility for the Mastic-Shirley area at the Mastic Firehouse, dubbed the Forge River Watershed Sewer Project. Besides a vocal minority, the overwhelming consensus from about 50 in attendance was that this transformative project should move ahead, which will reduce nitrogen dumping in the Forge River.

More than 200 Mastic community members turned out to learn about the latest developments on the Forge River Watershed Sewer Project last week.  Two public information sessions at the Mastic Road firehouse on May 16 included more than a dozen experts from New York State, Suffolk County and Gannett Fleming, the sewer system’s engineering and design team.  Residents learned about system design, costs and estimated timeline and asked dozens of questions about this vital project.  Much of the discussion focused on the need for the community to support formation of a new sewer district in Mastic which will make it possible for more than $167 million in approved Federal funds to be used for construction. 

The impact of untreated waste has spurred harmful algal blooms that have reduced our protective wetlands by one third and sea grass by 90%, which form Long Island’s second line of defense against potential storms and natural disasters. With Superstorm Sandy, Suffolk County experienced devastation to life and property that could have been mitigated with the robust wetlands that once surrounded us. By installing more sewers and advanced wastewater treatment systems, Suffolk County seeks to restore this natural shield.

Comments on this DEIS may also be submitted by emailing NYSCDBG_DR_ER@nyshcr.org, by phone by calling by calling (212) 480-6265 ,or by mail, at Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery: 25 Beaver Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004 Comments will be accepted through 5 p.m. June 1, 2018. Public viewing of the DEIS is available online at http://www.stormrecovery.ny.gov/environmental-docs.

You can learn more about this project here.

Projected Annual Maintenance Cost of Forge River Sewering Reduced Again

As the result of advocating for more funding, the projected annual cost per household for Phases 1 & 2 of the proposed Forge River Watershed Sewer Project of the Mastic-Shirley area has been reduced, yet again, bringing the project even closer to reality.

“This is a historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the entire Tri-Hamlet community,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman about the proposed project.  “Sewers will help to enhance our area and provide both economic and environmental benefits.  This project will encourage economic development in the business corridor and improve the water quality of both the Forge River and the Bay.”

The impact of untreated waste has spurred harmful algal blooms that have reduced our protective wetlands by one third and sea grass by 90%, which form Long Island’s second line of defense against potential storms and natural disasters. With Superstorm Sandy, Suffolk County experienced devastation to life and property that could have been mitigated with the robust wetlands that once surrounded us. By installing more sewers and advanced wastewater treatment systems, Suffolk County seeks to restore this natural shield. Previous information sessions and public hearings have focused on the need for the community to support formation of a new sewer district in Mastic which will make it possible for more than $167 million in approved Federal funds to be used for construction. 

Installation, hookup, abandonment of cesspool and maintenance of the new system will now be 100% funded for those in the first two phases of the project, which means that connection costs will not be passed through to homeowners. The annual cost per homeowner is now estimated at $468 per year, which has dropped significantly since the plan was originally scoped, making passing of an upcoming referendum for the project more likely. 

Another round of informational meetings with updates will take place on September 20th from 11AM to 1PM and 7PM to 9PM at the Mastic Firehouse to answer questions and concerns that residents may have.
 
In addition, questions and concerns raised at the last round of public hearings and information sessions have been answered here.

H2M Conducts Study Showing $7 to $10 Million in Cost for St. James Sewers

Smithtown officials are now reviewing a report from Melville-based H2M Architects + Engineers that says it will cost between $7 and $10 million for the Town to install modern sewers in St. James.

The firm reviewed the projected costs of installing dry sewer mains and pump stations needed to build a sewer district for the Lake Ave area of St. James.  The report estimated nearly $2 million would be necessary for the Lake Ave and Route 25A intersection, including funds for curb-to-curb restoration.

There were also two plans considered for sewering the 18 properties that run along North Country Road/Route 25A from the LIRR tracks to Clinton Ave.  The first suggestion was a $3.8 million plan to install gravity sewers, a force main, and a pump station to force the sewage to the treatment plant, but that plan did not include full road restoration.  The second plan, which did include the restoration, would cost approximately $6.2 million.

Smithtown officials will now forward the cost to NYS Senator John Flanagan’s office, which will begin to look into securing grant funding to help cover the costs.  A likely source of funding will be New York’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act, signed into law just last year, which provides money for drinking water infrastructure and groundwater protection.

The estimated cost is also informed by the premise that Gyrodyne, LLC will create a sewage treatment plant with enough capacity to accommodate the Lake Ave businesses.  Gyrodyne has been in discussions since this spring about the possibility of a plant, and announced the intention to pursue the possibility to shareholders in a meeting in late June.

You can read more here.

Long Island Affordable Housing gets $25.6M boost from New York State

NYS’s housing agency has awarded $25.6 million in funding for four affordable housing developments on Long Island.

The money is part of New York’s Homes and Community Renewal’s 2017 Unified Funding Application, which provides tax credits and low-interest loans for affordable housing developers.  The funds targeted for Long Island will go towards 239 affordable housing units located in four separate towns.

A Bay Shore development will receive $4.8 million to help create 75 senior apartments.  Port Jefferson Station will see a boost of $8.1 million for a 77 unit apartment complex, of which 45 will be used for homeless people.  $7 million will go towards a 37 unit affordable housing complex in East Hampton.  Finally, $5.7 million is earmarked for a 50 unit affordable apartment project in Greenport.

“This investment is a significant milestone in New York’s $20 billion housing and homelessness plan and a giant step forward in our efforts to increase access to homes for families, seniors and our most vulnerable men and women across the state,” Gov. Cuomo said in the statement. “These resources will help the region build affordable, stronger, better neighborhoods for our residents for generations to come.”

You can read more here.

10 Opportunity Zones get Approval on Long Island

The federal government has given its blessing to 10 “opportunity zones” across Long Island in an effort to boost local prosperity.

Opportunity Zones is the name used to refer to economically distressed census tracts that are being offered the opportunity to increase investment.  Part of that is the reduction or elimination of capital gains taxes incurred at the end of 10 years.  The program examines poverty levels and offers the designation to zones that meet those requirements as well as adjacent zones that may benefit the first.  Enterprise Park in Calverton is the only Long Island designated zone that does not meet poverty requirements.

The 10 approved zones include census tracts located in Hempstead, which had 2 such zones, Long Beach, Glen Cove, Huntington Station, Wyandanch, Central Islip, East Patchogue, Riverhead, and Enterprise Park in Calverton.

The designation is part of the recently approved federal tax law, which states that 20% of the residents must be below the federal poverty level.  This will free up tax incentives for local developers to spur new construction and create jobs.  Governor Cuomo chose 500 tracts to submit to the federal government out of 2,000 qualifying applicants.  The final round of approvals came earlier this week.

Oceanside Project Receives County Support  

Vision Long Island supported elected officials and developers in Oceanside this past week as they lauded a project that will bring back to life a project that was demolished by Superstorm Sandy.

The project will feature a 260,000-square-foot transit oriented development with 230 units within walking distance of the local LIRR station.  The apartments will be market-rate rentals, with 23 to be designated as workforce housing and reduced pricing for individuals making below 80% of the area median income.

The property, owned by the Manhattan-based Feil Organization since 1979, was previously the 150-unit Woodcrest complex before being destroyed in Superstorm Sandy.  Feil would receive approximately $2.3 million in incentives from the Nassau IDA to rebuild.  The Town of Hempstead would also grant a zoning change to allow for increased density at the 5.29 acre site.

Vision was happy to see Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and the Nassau County IDA get behind the proposal and we look forward to the pending redevelopment in the community.

You can read more here.

Three Riverhead Projects Awarded Downtown Revitalization Grants

This past week saw three Riverhead projects receive grants from the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization program.

The Town Public Parking District was awarded $74,925 to help with the removal of existing concrete islands and to restripe the parking lot that helps to service Main Street.  This project will create an additional 67 parking spots in the current lot. 

The grant will also be supplemented by a $167,000 donation from local developer Robert Muchnick, who is seeking to develop a 170-unit apartment complex on Main Street.

The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association was given $30,000 to help upgrade an existing biking and pedestrian entry into Riverhead’s Grangabel Park.  This upgrade will include permeable pavers, benches, lighting, and bike racks.

The Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association also received a $56,300 grant to go towards the redesign and rebuild of the Raymond Dean Municipal Parking Lot.  This plan will allow for an additional 30 parking spots.

“Our downtowns are essential to keeping our region competitive and attracting the high skill, high knowledge workers we need to grow our local economy,” said County Executive Steve Bellone.

You can read more here.

HUD Announces almost $250K in Funding for Veteran Housing

Vision Long Island staff was out in support of Concern for Independent Living as they accepted almost$250,000 in funding from HUD to help build housing for veterans.

The money comes at a time when homelessness among veterans has become a growing concern for the country, an issue that Concern has been working to address for years now.  The numbers for homeless vets on Long Island has been falling in recent years thanks to organizations like Concern.  The new funding will help to further combat veteran homelessness.

The funds are part of a voucher program known as Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, or VASH, and is administered by the Northport VA Hospital.  The money awarded to Concern will allow them to expand existing programs they have in place for veteran housing as well as build new units. 

“Long Island’s done a really good job of reducing veterans’ homelessness,” said Ralph Fasano, executive director of Concern for Independent Living. “We’re at a point now where when veterans are homeless, they don’t stay homeless for long.”

Concern for Independent Living is a Medford-based not-for-profit with experience in veteran and senior housing, already having opened developments for both in Amityville and Ronkonkoma.  They are also a past Smart Growth Awards winner for their efforts to provide housing for those who need it most.

Vision was happy to join them in support of this important initiative and looks forward to their future work on Long Island.

You can read more here.

County Executive Laura Curran Calls for New Nassau HUB Committee

The incoming Nassau County leadership is now focusing on the Nassau HUB and Coliseum redevelopment once again. This will be the fourth administration in the last 25 years that has made efforts at planning the 77 acre property.

Progress has been made over the previous three administrations.  The Tom Gulotta administration secured Federal grants to do an MIS study for future transportation opportunities, the Tom Suozzi administration created excitement around the privately planned proposed and then defeated Lighthouse project, and the Ed Mangano administration secured a $70 million dollar economic development grant to construct parking on the site.  Mangano’s efforts also locked in Sloane Kettering for a newly built facility and had the Ratner organization renovate the Coliseum at no cost to the taxpayers.

In spite of these successes, all three administrations also experienced a set of failures through the years as well. The early efforts lacked public input and, until the last administration, lots of press conferences occurred but no grant funding was applied or secured for the site.  More recent plans have lacked the innovation of creating a true destination at the site.

There has been consensus along the way, though, with the former Lighthouse project holding two public hearings with over 1,000 supporters at each.  Two separate Hofstra-News 12 polls at the time showed 2-1 support for the project.  200 public meetings with local community and business leaders laid the groundwork for this type of support.

The Town of Hempstead, however, received no infrastructure investment from the County for the project and was forced to cut the Lighthouse project in half, effectively killing the project. They did approve an overlay district code for the HUB as part of the process, which allowed 500 units of housing, but was designed in a very not walkable fashion.  There are now opportunities to take a second look at that code to make substantive changes with community input.

Now the Laura Curran administration has been vocal at considering housing at the site and has charged a newly formed Nassau HUB committee. Vision’s Placemaking Director Elissa Kyle was named to the HUB committee along with local and regional business and labor leaders.

Vision’s Director weighed in with CBS on the importance of reuniting around an updated plan for the HUB that is driven by the local community and not simply one developer’s vision.  You can view that report for CBS New York here.

Nassau County Explores Options for Nassau HUB

Vision was out this week at the Nassau Legislature in support of a new RFP for the Coliseum property at the Nassau HUB. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran wants to see what their options are on the site and groups calling for a new RFP along with Vision included the LIBI, the LIA and others. The LI Federation of Labor showed no position on the current development proposal but expressed that the County Executive should be given time to put her stamp on the plans considering the past two administrations had two terms to move forward.

Strangely the Hempstead Supervisor showed up with a golden shovel to oppose a new RFP and call for moving forward with the sports themed retail-tainment development that is proposed based on the old plans for the site.

Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney issued a statement saying she supports Curran’s efforts to bring “transformative and smart growth redevelopment” to the Coliseum property.

“The discussion needs to continue and evolve, including keeping all options on the table in order to come to the common goal of building a vibrant local economy,” Sweeney said in the statement.

While the decision to move forward on a new RFP rests with the County it is worth checking to see where other Hempstead Board members land on development alternatives for the HUB.

What added an exclamation point to barreling through with the sports & entertainment proposal was testimony from a Uniondale resident. He reminded the Nassau Legislature that they haven’t been a part of any plans in recent years and they along with other surrounding communities are the most impacted by these decisions. Impacted communities surrounding the HUB including East Meadow, Hempstead, Garden City and Salisbury have also not been involved in planning this proposal.

After 25 years of planning and some positive public investment that has been made from the State ($85 million for a parking garage) and Federal government (major upgrade of Cedar Creek Treatment Plant) there should be a project that brings jobs, housing and is a real destination for the area.

What the Town of Hempstead can do to assist the process is not rush an existing proposal without viewing alternatives but instead fixing some of the structural problems in the antiquated zoning code they put forward many years ago after the proposed Lighthouse project.

“A lot has changed and we want to make sure we’re getting the best proposal,” said Vision Long Island’s Placemaking Director Elissa Kyle. “While BDG has improved its proposal from what we originally saw, the county should be able to choose from a range of options for the site.”

Check out the article in LI Business News.

Fresh Start for Nassau HUB

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has canceled previous agreements on the Nassau Coliseum property to allow a new RFP and more comprehensive vision to move forward. 

Curran said she hoped to bring mass transit, a major employer, housing, entertainment and retail to the Hub and has said she believes the county will be able to proceed with development of the site “without any litigation standing in the way of progress.” Nassau Legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said he supported Curran’s decision to seek out other developers.  Town of Hempstead Majority Leader Erin King Sweeney has also stated her support for additional proposals at the site.

“The decision made today by the county executive proves she is focused on leading the way and bringing transformative development to the Hub,” Curran spokesman Mike Martino said to Newsday.

Vision, LIBI and many other local elected officials and community leaders were in support of this direction.

“Kudos to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran for charting a new course on the Nassau HUB and allowing an RFP to move forward for a range of proposals for the site that reflect the current market. Looking forward to the next steps towards a real destination on this long delayed project.”  Eric Alexander, Director, Vision Long Island.

You can read more here and here, and two editorials on the possible future of the Hub here and here.

Nassau HUB Developers Unveil New Plans for Project

Nassau HUB Developers BSE Global and RXR Realty have announced new plans for the project.

The first phase of the project is expected to begin by the end of 2019 and will build out 72 acres surrounding the coliseum to create a residential and commercial district.  This will include 500 housing units, 600,000 square feet of office and biotech research space, and 200,000 square feet of retail.  The developers have also laid out a time line for the project that includes outreach for the local community, legislative approval, and state funding.  Plans have also been revealed for two new hotels on the site located on the Uniondale property. 

The Nassau Legislature will hold a public meeting on November 27th to discuss an amended lease agreement that will allow the project to move forward.  A vote could be held as early as December and, if approved, would lead to the construction of two parking garages, new medical or research buildings, and some entertainment options. BSE and RXR are taking lessons from the past and have pledged to work from the ground up to build community support for the project.  Part of that will include holding meetings with local officials, civic and religious groups, school districts, and business leaders.

“This process is designed to succeed,” said RXR CEO and Chairman Scott Rechler. “We are accepting the [Town of Hempstead’s] low-density zoning and are flexible with the community. This is not a ‘take it or leave it’ strategy.”

However, future plans will rely on the County securing state funding for portions of the project.  Some monies have already been secured for parking and to bring modern medical research facilities to the area.  Though some of the plans changed, the funding is still there including $20 million that Nassau plans to use to help lure an anchor life sciences firm.  An additional $20 million is being sought for three new pedestrian bridges to the site as well as a further $10 to $20 million to create a bus rapid transit system. 

The BRT would connect the HUB with Mineola and Hempstead LIRR stations.  NICE bus will be involved in the transportation planning at the beginning of this process so the coordination needed for public transportation will not be an afterthought.

Vision is encouraged to see the HUB development lift off again with upcoming meetings planned in local communities. We have been longstanding supporters of redevelopment at the Nassau HUB but have been clear that the Town of Hempstead’s existing zoning district is designed to create an auto-oriented strip as opposed to a true walkable destination. Variances will be needed to change setbacks and street widths to create a true place that is worthy of many years of planning

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has been working to move this stalled project forward and she was able to brief our Board of Directors last month on site progress. Vision served on the HUB Advisory Committee, which recommended a RFEI process that generated over 15 substantive responses for the area.

You can read more here.

Nassau HUB Redevelopment Underway

Although the Nassau HUB redevelopment project enjoys an eagerness on the part of the developers to move forward after two decades of project delays, the to-do-list prior to shovel meeting ground has grown.

Last month, project developers Brett Yormark, chief executive of Brooklyn-based BSE Global, and Scott Rechler, chairman and CEO of Uniondale-based RXR Realty, presented a preliminary vision of the $1.5 billion plan to remake the Uniondale site, along with a time frame to secure legislative approval, state funding and community backing for development of the Hub. The development team claimed it could begin construction within a year. This revelation was met with pushback from Hempstead town officials.

Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney has stated, “All of this speculation that this is a done deal is entirely premature,” noting any plan for the Coliseum property must come back to the town for an extensive review. Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, whose district includes Uniondale and surrounding communities, has called for approvals to be done properly with full review by experts.

Town officials also point out that the town’s current zoning, enacted in 2011, contains specific restrictions that might run counter to portions of BSE’s and RXR’s proposal, including variances, new zoning, or approval of a master plan that incorporates code change. These will encompass a new state-mandated environmental review, a litany of town department reviews and public hearings.

Even before the development can move forward, the Nassau Legislature must approve amendments to the existing lease agreement to clear the way for BSE to partner with RXR on the redevelopment. As such, a public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, November 27th in Mineola.

Regarding the project, Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, notes, “It’s heartening to see progress at the Nassau Hub,” but he also agrees there is the need for adapting the town’s zoning for the site.

“Changes need to be made to the Town of Hempstead’s code for the area and a process has to move forward in order to create a true destination for the site,” Alexander states.  “Vision is very glad to see a proposal move forward.”

You can read more here.

Nassau HUB Amendments Receive Unanimous Approval

Vision Long Island testified in support of amendments to the lease agreement for the Nassau HUB at the Nassau Legislature.

The project is being spearheaded by BSE Global and RXR Realty, who are working to create 500 units of housing and a 600,000 square feet of research and office spave on the site. There will also be two hotels as well as 200,000 square feet of entertainment and retail as part of the current plan.

The amendments, which were passed in a 19-0 unanimous vote, include a requirement for the developers to enter into a project labor agreement with local building trades council as well as quarterly progress reports. This also includes regular public meetings to keep residents informed of issues and benefits the project can provide. The agreement will also allow for the legislature to confirm project-related agreements as well as the establishment of an advisory committee. A compliance monitor will be recommended by the CBA Advisory Committee.

“Today’s unanimous vote on the HUB Development signifies Nassau County is ready for the land around the Nassau Coliseum to become a destination,” said Nassau County Executive Laura. “The Legislature and I can celebrate this historic vote as we work together to make live-work-play development a reality in this County.”

“This is a win, win, win for the county and we are looking for a successful conclusion in this process,” said Presiding Officer Nicolello.

“For [the communities] that I represent, this is something that truly, if done right and properly, will help transform those areas and integrate them into what’s going on at the HUB,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams.

“Congratulations to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and team for advancing this project forward. Kudos to Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams for negotiating the framework for a community benefits agreement and advisory committee comprised of people from the Nassau County Administration and Legislature, Town of Hempstead, and the developer.Special acknowledgement for the leadership of Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello in organizing a unanimous vote in a bipartisan fashion and working with local impacted communities. Finally, support for local labor, apprenticeship programs, and potential for jobs for community residents is a big win for local residents.” said Eric Alexander, Director, Vision Long Island

Work will continue in the coming months such as financial analysis, and what the project labor agreements and community benefits will look like and coordination with the Town of Hempstead. It is also critical to pull in local chambers and civics from surrounding communities in the planning which will intensify in the New Year.

Stay tuned for further updates….

Hundreds Gather for Long-Awaited Groundbreaking at Ronkonkoma Hub

Vision was recently out in support of the $650 million redevelopment at the Ronkonkoma Hub. The official groundbreaking of this long awaited and planned transit-oriented development featured Town and County officials as well as community leaders from the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce the Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Organization, and the Ronkonkoma Civic Association.

Town officials on hand included Town of Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, Councilman Neil Foley and Councilman Kevin LaValle; Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt; and Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. Suffolk County Officials included Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone; Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory; Legislator Kate Browning, Legislator Kara Hahn, Legislator Kevin McCaffrey, Legislator Tom Muratore and Legislator Tom Cilmi. NYS Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan was also on hand, as well at Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri.

“The Ronkonkoma Hub builds on our transformational investments in the LIRR and furthers our efforts to develop a new New York and a sustainable Long Island,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “This redevelopment at a major commuter crossroads will create a new commercial and residential complex, boosting the economic livelihood of Brookhaven and its surrounding communities for generations to come.”

The development of the Hub will begin with Phase 1, which will build 489 residential units in six buildings, with 1,000 construction jobs created. The second phase is expected to support 11,000 jobs, and  will include 1,450 apartments and over a half million square feet of retail space on the 53-acre site, with the build-out expected to be complete in about 10 years. In total, the project is expected to create 2,700 permanent full-time jobs upon completion and an impact of over $2 billion, with that figure not taking into account providing housing, jobs, and amenities that are highly sought after by Millennials.  “This is what we must do as a region to make our region attractive and competitive once again for the very people that we need to reach our economic potential, that are those young high-skilled, high-knowledge workers that we’ve lost too many of,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

A point that most of the speakers at the groundbreaking brought up is that projects like these cannot be moved ahead without achieving community consensus and buy in from the early stages. “You’ve got to listen to everybody who represents these communities,” said State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “This is a reflection of how when people actually work together, that good things can get done.”

With shovels in the ground, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine looked towards the future for not only Ronkonkoma Hub, but also for his township. “This will be a first for Brookhaven, but not for Suffolk,” said Romaine, speaking about the relocation about the Yaphank railroad station closer to Brookhaven National Lab in East Yaphank with the electrification of the rail, the existing Yaphank Meadows complex, and more transit-oriented development to come. “I believe it’s a new day for Suffolk, and a new definition for suburbia” Romaine

Congratulations to the Tritec Real Estate Company principals and their team for this investment in the community and the promise of needed jobs and housing for the station area.

Panel Explores Potential Ronkonkoma Development

A panel of Long Island developers, civic leaders, and elected officials all met this week to discuss the way forward for development at the Ronkonkoma HUB.

The panel was moderated by Long Island Business News Editor and Associate Publisher Joe Dowd and included John Cameron of Cameron Engineering and a member of the arena / convention center development team, Suffolk County Legislators Tom Cilmi and Rob Trotta, past Ronkonkoma Civic Association President and chairman of the Ronkonkoma Visioning Implementation Committee Bruce Edwards, and Mitch Pally, who is CEO of Long Island Builders Institute and a member of the MTA board.

A consensus from the meeting was that the proposed $1 billion arena and convention center for the site could be a catalyst for economic growth in the surrounding region.  The area has gone through years of neglect, and the area surrounding the LIRR station has been under discussion for development in much of that time.  A $650 million mixed-use project is currently underway on 50 acres of the site, but the proposed arena plan would expand upon that.  That plan includes 360,000 square feet of office space, a 500 room hotel, and 90,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.  The plan is still in the early stages.

“In the next six to eight months, we will vet the viability of the overall plan, not just economic viability, but also the sizing, and then come back to Suffolk County with a firm proposal,” said Mr. Cameron.

The panel agreed that the proposal that the biggest obstacle facing development in the area is transportation infrastructure.  Pally said that he expects a bulk of the transportation issue to center around the local train station, which is the largest in Suffolk County and the third largest in the LIRR.  Projects currently being worked on for the LIRR system will provide for more capacity heading East into Ronkonkoma.  Legislator Trotta noted that such a trend will allow for outside dollars to come into the region and help ease the tax burden on local residents.

The panel was hopeful for the idea that Suffolk County could grow as its own destination and stop relying on proximity to NYS.  “There are a dozen arenas and stadiums within 35 miles in and around New York City,” Cameron said. “Why not Suffolk County? We need to stop being a stepchild to New York City. We need to think about growing our own economy.”

You can read more here.

Garvies Point Continues to Make Progress

The progress at Garvies Point has continued unabated throughout the summer.

The Beacon, Garvies’ 167-unit condominium is in the process of being built and is currently in the vertical construction phase.  Construction is expected to continue through the rest of the summer and is slated to be completed in 2019 along with Harbor Landing, the rental portion of Garvies Point.  The Beacon has already sold more the 30% of available condo units.

Garvies Point will also feature 28 acres of open space and a one-mile waterfront esplanade with outdoor seating, miles of trails and bike paths, playgrounds, kayak and boat launches, a dog park, beach, and amphitheater.  Vegetation is currently being cultivated at the edges of the development as well.

Garvies Point has also been active in the local community, recently attending the opening of Glen Cove’s new Heritage Garden.  The opening was part of a week-long celebration of Glen Cove’s 350th anniversary and is a reminder of the pride residents have in their local community.  Glen Cove residents, businesses, and community organizations were given the opportunity to sponsor pavers with special messages for future generations. 

Joseph Graziose and Michael Leone of RXR, Garvies’ parent company, sponsored the newly opened garden.

You can check out Garvies Point’s website here.

Long Island Business Leaders and Lawmakers call for Internet Sales Tax

Vision Long Island board members and staff attended a press conference in downtown Lindenhurst this week in order to promote a proposal to bring internet sales tax revenues to Long Island.

The event was also attended by members of the LI Lobby Coalition, Suffolk and Nassau County Chamber Organizations, LI Business Council, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in downtown Lindenhurst.  Vision was happy to see unity from the small business leaders as well as the County Executives working towards leveling the playing field for brick and mortar stores that assist our local economy.

Under current law online marketplaces are only required to pay sales tax if the seller is located within the state.  This loophole allows major online providers like eBay or Amazon to operate tax-free for sellers outside of New York.  This has allowed online sellers to consistently undercut local mom and pop stores on pricing, giving them an unfair and ongoing advantage.

“This government sanctioned preference for out-of-state vendors exacerbates the already significant challenges posed by normal marketplace considerations,” wrote members of the Lobby Day Coalition in a letter supporting the bill. “It is time to fix the flaw and eliminate preferential treatment for out-of-state vendors who add nothing to our state and local economies.”

This issue is a top item for the 100 organization LI Lobby Coalition in Albany this year and it is hoped that the legislature will include it in the NYS budget or as a standalone legislative item soon after.  The move would be necessary to bring needed revenue back to our region and to help stabilize our local economy and municipal services.  A fiscal analyses in 2017 from the Government Accountability Board estimated that New York is missing out on anywhere between $500 million and $900 million annually due to internet sales.

Special thanks to Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers, Gina Coletti, LIBC’s Bob Fonti, Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, current President Francesca Carlow, past President Julie Marchesella​​, and Michael Harrison for their work on this issue.  We would also like to thank Lindenhurst trustee and business owner Maryann Wekerle for hosting the event.

You can read more here and here.

Supreme Court Decision Opens Door for States to Collect Online Sales Tax

The Supreme Court has ruled that states can now force internet based businesses without an in-state presence to collect sales tax.

The 5-4 ruling in favor came from a lawsuit filed by South Dakota to compel online giants like Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair, and electronics retailer Newegg to collect sales tax.  South Dakota and other states who have made similar attempts say that they’re missing out on billions in revenue while local business owners have said it creates an atmosphere of unfairness.  The decision overturned a previous ruling from 1992 that stated that states can’t collect on businesses without a physical presence.  Customers were supposed to report and pay that sales tax themselves, but there was no mode of enforcement to compel them to do so.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the court’s majority opinion, stating that “Each year the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States. These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause.”

South Dakota’s law was designed to challenge the previous interpretation.  It requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 worth of business in the state or more than 200 transactions in a year to collect taxes and turn them over to the state.  South Dakota has no income tax and estimated that it was losing out on over $50 million in revenue each year due to the law.

This decision is a big win for downtown brick and mortar businesses, with the allowance of internet sales tax going a long way to level the playing field. The Nassau and Suffolk Chambers, LI Business Council, Vision Long Island, the LI Lobby Coalition and both County Executives are on the record in support of an internet sales tax so today’s action by the court helps move the issue forward.

You can read more here.

Small Businesses Call for Fair Internet Tax Laws on Amazon Prime Day

The Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers, Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, Long Island Business Council, Long Island Lobby Coalition, Vision Long Island, P.C. Richard & Son and other businesses stood up on behalf of Long Island’s bedrock Main Street businesses on Amazon Prime Day.

“We’re not declaring war on Amazon, Wayfair and Overstock, or any other e-commerce platform,” said Long Island Business Council co-chair Bob Fonti. “We’re not enemies, we’re competitors. Some of us, at times, are even customers. We are talking, from business person to business person, and saying: It’s the right time to do the right thing.”

Despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of state laws mandating the collection and remittance of sales taxes on most online purchases, the lack of existing state legislation will severely hamper New York State’s ability to collect appropriate sales taxes on out-of-state online purchases. This means the continued inability for the State and localities to recoup lost sales tax revenues, and perpetuating the government sanction preference for out-of-state businesses over Long Island and New York State businesses with respect to sales tax collection and remittance.

“Long Island’s cost of living is high and when dollars are spent shopping online with out-of-state vendors, there is a big negative impact on our local economy,” said Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce President Francesca Carlow. “We all think it’s way past time for e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Wayfair and Overstock to comply with the Supreme Court decision. They should immediately begin collecting and remitting sales taxes on all transactions.”

Vision reiterated our call for the needed State legislation, and called on prominent e-tailers such as Amazon, Wayfair and Overstock.com to voluntarily and immediately act to comply with the spirit of the Court’s decision and conform with existing State sales tax structures and standards in advance of the inevitable passage of State legislation.

“When the local toy store, hardware store, sporting goods store or jewelry store stays in business, it uses the local accountant, insurance agent, maybe even lawyer, and more,” said Gina Coletti, co-chair of the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers.

“The lack of existing state legislation will severely hamper New York State’s ability to collect appropriate sales taxes on out-of-state online purchases,” said Vision Director Eric Alexander.  “This means the continued inability for the state and localities to recoup lost sales tax revenues, and perpetuating the government sanction preference for out-of-state businesses over Long Island and New York State businesses with respect to sales tax collection and remittance.”

Businesses in attendance included PC Richard & Son, Brands Cycle & Fitness, Fun Stuff Toys, Lighting Gallery, TRIO Hardware, Costello’s ACE, Queen of Hearts, Gennaro Jewelers, World Gym, Mid Island Y, Evan’s Army Navy Store, Ken Jacobsen LPL Financial, Susan M. Martin CPA, PC, AG Electrical Supply Company, CFS- Mainstreet Financial, Andrew M. Lamkin Esq., MRG Marketing, Don Ingram CPA, Nassau Financial Credit Union, ShopRite, Bayview Florist, and Axcelsior LLC.

Chambers and organizations in attendance included Levittown Chamber of Commerce, Plainview- Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce, Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce, Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Massapequa Chamber of Commerce, Merrick Chamber of Commerce, Seaford Chamber of Commerce, Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, Bellmore Chamber of Commerce, Great Neck Chamber of Commerce, and the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce.

Recent collective efforts have included pressing this issue at this year’s State of the State in January, LI Lobby Day in March, a press conference with both County Executives in Lindenhurst in May, and this call to action.  Future lobby efforts and rallies are being planned and, most importantly, everyone continues their efforts to SHOP LOCAL.

You can read or watch coverage of this event herehere, and here.

Long Island Business Council Tackles Downtown Energy Programs, Taxes

The Long Island Business Council held a meeting this past week with both Nassau and Suffolk County Presiding Officers in attendance to give updates on what the Counties are doing to promote small business on Long Island.

The meeting opened with a welcome and the pledge of allegiance before Nassau County Executive Laura Curran gave opening remarks reflecting on her first 100 days in office.  The County Executive stated that she’s enjoying the challenge of the new position and is looking into how best to create wealth and opportunity in the County.  Curran touted the newly authorized bipartisan tax assessment bill, the newly reconstituted board for Nassau County’s IDA, and also gave an update on the first meeting of the Nassau HUB advisory task force.

“We have a newly constituted (IDA) board,” said Executive Curran, “with protocols, procedures, and policies to lend to more accountability and transparency so that when we have our communities investing in our businesses, in our development, that the community is going to get something out of it.”

The Presiding Officers were next with Nassau County’s Richard Nicolello speaking first.  Legislator Nicolello’s address also included a mention of the recently approved tax assessment as well.  He also acknowledged legislation currently being proposed to create an internet sales tax for NY.  However, Nicollelo indicated that while he understands the loss of revenue from not having such a tax, he won’t support the bill since Republicans in the NYS Senate are opposed.  He also laid some of the blame for Nassau’s fiscal situation on Medicaid costs, which the state requires partial payments on from local municipalities.

“We share the same ideas and concepts in terms of economic development,” said Presiding Officer Nicolello, “in terms of smart growth, transit oriented development, affordable housing where it can fit into a development plan.  We’re proud of the idea that the IDA is moving forward as well.”

Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory was up next and also spoke on the internet sales tax.  He stated that around $11 million in online sales tax isn’t being collected and should be considered lost revenue.  He also touched on the strength of business in Suffolk County and how numerous programs are being implemented to increase communication between government and business owners.  Part of this includes his series of forums, Charting the Course, that are designed to bring new ideas from business directly to local leaders.

“A few years ago I thought that as a legislature we’re not doing enough to do outreach to small business community,” said Legislator Gregory.  “We wanted to hold forums that encourage them to do business with the County.  But as legislators we play an integral part with our local economy.  It is important that we have a big development plan and a strategy to do outreach and provide those services.”

The issue of internet sales tax is one that the Long Island Lobby Coalition has been working to correct in Albany for several years now.  The Coalition supports the leveling of the playing field in order to make sure that both local and online businesses are playing by the same rules and are not given an unfair advantage.

John Keating from PSEG Long Island was the final featured speaker, talking about the numerous programs that PSEG Long Island has implemented to help small business.  A major part of that is the Vacant Space Revival program, which aims to help out small businesses that are just getting started.  The program provides discounts that decrease as a business goes through its first year of operation.  He also talked about the Main Street Revival program, which provides grants to new businesses that are looking to open in downtown areas on Long Island.  This is in addition to standard energy efficiency programs that PSEG LI has been implementing for years.

“Small businesses are a major driver of the Long Island economy,” Keating said. “We’re trying to get the word out about the programs that can help them.”

The meeting provided updates from John Cameron from the Long Island Regional Planning Council, previewing a report on taxation for the region; Michael Harrison on his white paper on the internet sales tax;  Francesca Carlow from the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce’s spoke of efforts to shop local.  Finally, Gina Coletti, co-chair of the Suffolk Alliance of Chambers, gave a brief update on her organization’s recent efforts and the next quarterly meeting.

You can read more in LI Business News here.

Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers Holds Quarterly Meeting

Vision Long Island Board Members and staff were out this week assisting the Suffolk Alliance of Chambers with their quarterly meeting in Patchogue.

Over 75 members attended the meeting to hear from Peter Butaglia, CPA from the Huntington Chamber, cover the new tax law, Michael Ogus from BNB Bank tackling small business financing and Josh Bienstock from NYIT speaking on Chamber retention.  Suffolk County Economic Development staff also expressed that they were able to assist local businesses.

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy also spoke, giving a thorough economic message on sales tax and hotel motel tax enforcement, technological improvements in the Comptrollers office and Suffolk County and other revenue savings.  Updates were also made on lobbying efforts in Albany, with the LI Lobby Coalition bringing internet sales tax and the small business savings accounts issues forward along with funding for Suffolk County Bus and the NYS DRI.

We were encouraged to see nearly 25 local chambers join the meeting including: Bayport Blue Point Chamber, Copiague Chamber, East Quogue Chamber, Farmingville Hills Chamber, Huntington Chamber, Kings Park Chamber, Lake Grove Chamber, Lindenhurst Chamber, MacArthur Business Association, Middle Country Road Chamber, Nesconset Chamber, Northport Chamber, Patchogue Chamber, Port Jefferson Chamber, Riverhead Chamber, Ronkonkoma Chamber, Smithtown Chamber, Southampton Business Alliance, West Babylon Chamber, Westhampton Beach Chamber, Greater Brookhaven Chamber, LI Hispanic Chamber, Salvadorian American Chamber and the East End Tourism Alliance.

Regional supporters and attendees included People’s United Bank, NYIT, BNB Bank, SBA, Suffolk County, Vision Long Island, Suffolk Legislator Leslie Kennedy and representatives from the Office of NYS Senator Tom Croci.

Congratulations to Suffolk Chamber Co-Chairs Gina Coletti and Bob Fonti for organizing a great meeting and to David Kennedy from the Patchogue Chamber and the Patchogue Theatre for hosting.

Berkeley College Hosts 9th Annual Youth Summit

Vision Board and staff were out last week supporting New York Youth Summit with over 200 High School Students from over a dozen schools across Long Island, Westchester, and New York City participating in the event hosted by Berkeley College. Now in it’s 9th year, this is the first time that the Youth Summit went on the road from Long Island to New York City.

“The goal of the Summit is to engage students as early as possible in creative thinking about issues that impact Long Island,” said Dr. Nathalia Rogers, co-chair of the NY Youth Summit “We’re looking to develop a generation of future leaders who will stay here and help our communities to thrive.“

The New York Youth Summit is a year-round educational program for high school students. It is a partnership between high schools, Northwell Health, Berkeley College, and a number of other public and private organizations, including Vision Long Island. The first Youth Summit took place on Long Island in 2009. Today close to 500 students submit projects for the program and about 250 students are selected to participate in the Summit’s annual conference. In 2017, the program was renamed the New York Youth Summit to reflect the participation of high school students from New York City, Long Island and Westchester.

The program is designed to give high school students the opportunity to do research and art projects that deal with important issues impacting communities in the New York City Metropolitan area and in the United States. Students who have submitted the best projects go on to participate in the Summit’s annual conference, where they work with top experts to develop solutions to a host of socio-medical, environmental, and social issues.

The purpose of the Summit is to engage young people as early as possible in thinking about and solving the problems related to local and regional social, economic and environmental issues. The Summit aims at developing research, creative, and social skills of high school students by allowing them to work collaboratively with leaders in business, government, and non-profit sectors. The Summit also aims to bring together talented students of diverse backgrounds from different schools giving these students an opportunity to interact and propose solutions together.

The Summit featured workshops on bullying and social networks, teen substance abuse and mental health, community health, climate change, renewable energy, sustainable fashion, diversity and equality, gentrification and community development, LGBT youth, access to education, teens and criminal justice, and teens as future leaders. The 11 timely workshops were presented by professional experts such as John Keating, Manager of Economic Development and Account Services for PSEG Long Island; Eric Alexander, Director of Vision Long Island; Laura Carlo, Northwell Health; Christoper Kleva, Stony Brook University hospital; Robert Maguire, Berkeley College; Tawaun Weber, Assistant Director of Vision Long Island, among many others.

After a video welcome from Berkeley College President Michael J. Smith, the keynote address delivered by Lenox Hill Hospital’s Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Yves Duroseau inspired the students in attendance. Dr. Duroseau spoke of his journey to his current position with Northwell Health, saying that he didn’t fully understand how he was successful until he read a book called “Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth. Dr. Duroseau expressed to the students that “it’s OK to talk about not just your successes, but really assess your failures, because they can make you better, they should make you better”.

“The first thing you should learn is the concept of showing up,” said Dr. Duroseau. “Your potential is one thing, but what you do with that potential is quite another.  Very often we get caught up in the whole mythology of talent, that people who accomplish things must be so smart.  Sometimes, the problem is that we do not get to where we want to because we feel that we are not talented enough.  Talent counts, but effort counts twice.”

The event featured an Award ceremony, with Zachary Marcone of Columbia University, and Jerinna Solagas presenting, and a Joint Final Session where students received awards for projects that they submitted to the Youth Summit that included art work, videos, essays and research papers, and also shared lessons learned from their research and in the workshops.

Sponsors included Northwell Health, National Grid, PSEG Long Island, East Coast Energy Solutions, Vision Long Island, and Berkeley College.

Huntington Township Housing Coalition Report Calls for More Affordable Housing

The Huntington Township Housing Coalition has updated a 2016 report that calls for more affordable housing in the Town.

The report initially concluded in 2016 that Huntington would need 2,798 units of affordable housing by 2020 in order to protect the Township’s most vulnerable residents.  The 2018 update shows that only 729 units are completed or currently being planned.  The update was recently presented to the Town Board along with recommendations for improvement.  Those recommendations included cutting the loopholes in the affordable housing law, applying the 20% affordable housing to a wider array of developments, and loosening code restraints to make it easier for legal two-family homes.

“We’ve heard from a lot of young professionals that they want to own a home, but they can’t afford to own a home,” according to Huntington Township Housing Coalition president Roger Weaving Jr. “What they’re looking for is easier routes to accessory apartments or two-family homes where they can buy a home and rent out half a home or buy a home and rent out an apartment.”

Weaving noted that the demand for affordable housing was demonstrated by the 20 to 1 oversubscription that the town Community Development Agency receives when availability for affordable housing units are announced.  Most of the interested parties include youg people with jobs who are spending anywhere between 30 to 50 percent of their income on housing.

You can read more here. You can also read the report updates here.

Huntington Township Housing Coalition Hosts Housing Summit

Vision Board and staff recently co-sponsored the Huntington Township Housing Coalition Community Conversations Housing Summit.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci provided the welcome and there was great dialogue on the topics of accessory apartments, housing financing, intergenerational housing options and the impacts of rental housing. Sponsors included People’s United Bank, Realty Connect among others.

The Housing Summit provided a chance for the Town of Huntington officials to gather ideas on how to address its affordable housing issues. This comes at a time when Huntington is asking for feedback on proposed housing legislation. Supervisor Lupinacci noted at the time that the issue has become increasingly obvious. In spite of regulations passed in 2016 to increase affordable units, the Town is over 2,000 units short of an estimated 2,798 that will be needed by 2020.

The conversation also included accessory apartments and the impact of new housing. There was also talk about what could be done to improve project implementation, and how a lot of issues could have been avoided with community input.

“When the projects are planned with the local community, and there’s real local support, projects get approved, things get built, and people are generally happy with them,” said Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander, who was a panelist.

Vision’s Placemaking Director Elissa Kyle and Co-Chair Trudy Fitzimmons spoke on the Intergenerational Housing panel outlining successful models of housing for all ages. Congratulations to Roger Weaving and his team at the Housing Coalition for putting together a thoughtful and meaningful discussion.

You can read more here.

Long Island Lobby Coalition Heads to Albany for 10th Annual Trip

This past Tuesday, March 6th, the Long Island Lobby Coalition traveled to Albany to lobby state lawmakers on a shared agenda for our region.

The diverse group was founded in 2009 with a goal of unifying the numerous community, environment, small business, labor and human services groups into a single force for change. Since then, the Coalition has been able to get ten bills passed, numerous budgetary and regulatory proposals enacted, and several key Long Island infrastructure projects funded through our collective efforts.

“This diverse coalition brings critical social, environmental, labor and business issues to our Albany representatives. Long Island is one island and we need to speak with one voice to make our island sustainable and livable,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Co-Chair LI Lobby Coalition

This year’s platform was assembled with direct input from over 40 groups and with the backing of nearly 100 supporting organizations. The agenda included support for tax-deferred IRA accounts for small businesses, implementation of an internet sales tax, NYS AIM funding, funding for the NYS downtown revitalization initiative, bus funding for NICE and Suffolk County Transit, fair share for bike and pedestrian safety, a commuter benefit ordinance, passage of a comprehensive pharmaceutical manufacturer-funded safe disposal program, statewide food recovery & recycling act, testing for PRC’s, support for off-shore wind and solar energy programs, passage of the affordable & homeless housing initiative, child care funding, passage of the secure choice savings program local immigration reform. Infrastructure asks include traffic calming for Sunrise Highway and Hicksville, Hempstead parking solutions, Huntington Station sewering and land transfer, and the continuing of the Route 347 Greenway project.

The day began with a press conference before moving to meeting with Long Island Assembly members. 

The members present were generally supportive with several of them already sponsoring or moving to support agenda items presented to them. Of particular interest was the Small Business tax-deferred IRA program. Members of the coalition noted that this piece of legislation had passed the Senate multiple times and it was time for the Assembly to step up and get make this a reality. Ride sharing legislation that would bring funds collected on Long Island back for local infrastructure as opposed to being dropped in the state’s general fund was also discussed.

Special thanks to Assembly members Fred Thiele, Christine Pellegrino, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Andrew Raia, and Michael Fitzpatrick for attending. In spite of commitments from 15 Assembly members, only 5 showed up in person for this important meeting while the others either sent staff or simply did not show.

The next meeting was with the State Senate Majority delegation with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Senators Thomas Croci, Phil Boyle, Carl Marcellino, Kemp Hannon, and Elaine Phillips all in attendance. The group of Senators were engaged, listening with patience and clarified important questions. Support for certain bills such as the small business IRA, which has previously passed the senate, was reiterated. A recognition that the growth of new industries such as solar, wind energy, and ride sharing would require action as they grew in popularity. The coalition also talked with the Senators about bus funding, during which Senator Croci noted that Suffolk and Nassau receive less funding for buses than the smallest upstate urban region surrounding Syracuse. He stated that he would work to bring that up to parity should the ride sharing legislation to divert funds back to Long Island fail. Coalition members noted that this was the most productive meeting of the day and recognized the time commitment from the full delegation on one of the busiest days in Albany.

The next meeting of the day was with Long Island Minority Senate delegation with Senators John Brooks and Todd Kaminsky. The issues of bus funding, ride sharing, and immigration were of particular interest. During the course of the meeting Senators Kaminsky and Brooks offered general support for the agenda. Ride sharing legislation was once again a topic of discussion as the group tried to hash out how best to get those funds back to Long Island.

The final meeting of the day was with Governor Cuomo’s staff and included representative from the departments of energy, transportation, economic development, not for profit funding, and special projects. The group of six representatives listened as the coalition laid out its agenda, taking notes in order to bring them back to Governor Cuomo. At the end they spoke on the needs for transportation in the region and how the State had been investing, though they seemed to emphasize transportation in and out of New York City as opposed to getting around Long Island. They also talked about funding and gave out information to the groups to help them apply for grants and consider health care for not for profits.

The Lobby Coalition would like to give thanks for the legislation that was passed through its support. In particular we were sure to point out how zombie home legislation that we pushed for 2 years ago has made a big difference in local communities. We also took the time to thank for lawmakers for appropriating $2.5 billion in funds for local water infrastructure.

“Bringing together civic’s, chambers and other local organizations helps bring our fair share of resources back from Albany to Long Island for critical projects and services”  Eric Alexander, Director, Vision Long Island, Co-Chair LI Lobby Coalition

Vision Long Island and the LI Lobby Coalition would also like to thank all the members of our State government who took the time to hear the message from local communities and provide feedback.

Special thanks to our participants, who included AARP, AT&T, the Baldwin Civic Association, Car-less Long Island, Child Care Council of Suffolk, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Concerned Citizens of Plainview / Old Bethpage, Deepwater Wind, the Elmont Chamber of Commerce, the Freeport Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Long Island, Friends of Freeport, Friends of the Bay, the Hempstead Chamber of Commerce, the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, Island Harvest, Jobs with Justice, the Kings Park Civic Association, the Long Island Bus Riders Union, the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Local the Long Island Business Council, the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, the Long Island Federation of Labor, the Merrick Chamber of Commerce, the Nassau Council of Chambers, Nassau Suffolk Law Services, Nassau County Legislature, the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce, New York Bicycling Coalition, the Oceanside Civic Association, the Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, the Plainview / Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce, Prevent Child Abuse NY, Renaissance Downtowns, Sepa Mujar, Source the Station, Suburban Millennial Institute, Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers, SunPower by EmPower Solar, Transit Solutions, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and Vision Long Island.

You can check out coverage from LI Business News, Newsday, and Fios1 News. Also, be sure and check out social media coverage from CCE, Nassau and Suffolk Chambers and many other groups who took part in the day.

NYS Releases $500,000 Grant for Rockville Centre Playground

Rockville Centre is one step closer to creating an all-inclusive playground on the east side of Hickey Field, a project long known as “Mr. B’s Playground.”

The Village was granted $500,000 through the State and Municipal Grant Program.  The playground will focus on creating a fun place for children of all abilities and will cost around $1.2 million to build.  The new facility will be named in honor of longtime Recreation Superintendent Anthony Brunetta, known as Mr. B, who passed away in 2016.  The proposed playground will occupy the northwest corner of the field and replace the basketball and handball courts currently located there.

The playground as currently planned will include a suspension bridge; musical equipment, such as bells, drums and step-on chimes; swings; a climbing cargo net; a toddler play area; a seating plaza; restrooms; a storage area; and an amphitheater with a stage and seating.

The grant will be added to the $330,000 currently collected for the park and allow for the first phase of the project to get underway.  The additional funds were raised by the Village of Rockville Centre with help from the Tommy Brull Foundation and the Rockville Centre Lions Club.  The Tommy Brull Foundation, a foundation started to help raise money for people with physical, mental and emotional challenges, has donated more than $60,000 to the project.

According to Village spokeswoman Julie Scully, the Village Board will need to vote to accept the grant before any construction begin.

You can read more here.

39 Long Island Projects Recommended for Funding

The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council has recommended 39 priority projects for funding from New York State and, of those, several downtown projects will receive some much-appreciated attention.

Some of the more notable projects on the list that received funding included Lynbrook’s downtown revitalization, the Wyandanch Community Resource Center, Estella Housing Infrastructure (a mixed-use infrastructure endeavor by Concern for Independent Living), a new parking garage in Patchogue, expansion of the East End Children’s Museum into Riverhead, Parking expansion in Northport Village for Engeman Theater, connecting sewers in downtown Central Islip, Southampton Arts Center outdoor enhancement, and more.

The total cost of the 39 recommended projects was a little more than $129 million.  Albany will now consider which projects among these and recommendations from the other Regional Economic Development Council will receive the funding.  Governor Cuomo will announce the winners in December.

You can read further details on these and all 39 recommended LI projects here.

Cross Sound Bridge Plan Scrapped After Coalition Forms to Fight Project

Governor Cuomo’s administration announced on Thursday that they had abandoned a proposal to build a bridge or tunnel across the Long Island Sound.

NYS had previously conducted a $5 million study on the subject and found that a cross sound connection would only be viable from the Town of Oyster Bay to Westchester or from Kings Park to Connecticut.  The study would also go on to state that a cost of $31.5 billion to $55.4 billion would be incurred and that the connection would create economic growth in the area.  This study has been disputed by local officials, who are concerned with the environmental and quality of life impact such a project would have had on local communities.

The announcement comes just as a new coalition with plans to stop Governor Cuomo’s proposal for a cross sound connection had been formed with a collection of private and public officials.

The Coalition Against An UnSound Crossing held their first press conference just this last week at the Syosset-Woodbury Community Park.  Coalition President Heather Johnson and Executive Director Peter Janow stood with more than a dozen lawmakers from the area in and around Oyster Bay.  The coalition cited the environmental impact of the project and how it could adversely affect water quality.  Elected officials present and in support included Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, State Assemblymen Michael Montesano, Edward Ra, and Charles Levine.

“For almost a century, state leaders have looked to build a crossing, and for almost a century, environmental activists and concerned local residents have come out in force to block these plans,” said Peter Janow. “Our mission is to provide the same detailed facts on environmental impacts, traffic studies and economic concerns that have resulted in the end of these proposals for so many decades.”

Vision Long Island’s board had not taken a position on the proposal for a cross sound connection.  While transportation upgrades do often increase opportunities, there are numerous local infrastructure and transportation projects that require attention before such a large undertaking.  It is also important that any such project has input from local communities that are most affected by them.

You can read more the coalition herehere and here, and the scrapping of the plans here.

West Hempstead Community Support Association Leader Rosalie Norton Retires

After nearly 25 years as head of the West Hempstead Community Support Association (WHCSA), Rosalie Norton will retire from her post.

Ms. Norton, 83, has been a stalwart advocate for improvements in her community for many years now.  She previously served on the West Hempstead Board of Education from 1977 to 1990 and was board president for a time.  She announced her retirement to the community at a recent meeting of the WHCSA this past June

“This has been a big part of my life,” Ms. Norton said about her advocacy. “I just wish that somehow, somewhere deep inside each one of you, you realize that when you’re doing something where you don’t get paid, you do get a reward. That reward is feeling a sense of friendship, and the satisfaction that you’ve done something that makes somebody else’s life better.”

The group quickly confirmed at the meeting that it would continue and begin to search for a new civic leader.  The WHCSA traditionally coordinates several events throughout the year including the Memorial Day Parade, a 9/11 memorial ceremony, and community cleanups.  Volunteers also coordinate through the WHCSA to help with beautification through gardening and holiday decorations.

Ms. Norton has indicated that she will endeavor to remain a resource for the community even though she is retiring, but also looks forward to not having to be responsible for planning everything.  Voices from the surrounding community and across the region spoke of gratitude for her years of service and wishes for her continued well-being.

“Rosalie has been an influential voice in her community for years,” said Vision Long Island’s Director Eric Alexander.  “She was on the forefront in bringing Mill Creek’s Metro 303 to the area, which won a Smart Growth Award, and tearing down the Courtesy Hotel eyesore.  She was also a deserving winner of a smart growth award herself, and an early example of civic organizations engaging and helping with redevelopment in their community.  We wish her well in her well-earned retirement.”

You can read more here.

New Elmont Civic Group forms in Opposition to Mall at Belmont Arena Site

The proposed Belmont Park site ran into more community headwinds this last week as a new group was formed in opposition to the proposed mall at the site.

Elmont Against the MegaMall, headed by local resident Tony Bhatti, is comprised of residents from both Elmont and Valley Stream who are concerned that there is already enough retail in the area.  The proposed site is already within 10 minutes of Green Acres Mall and 20 minutes of Roosevelt Field.  There is also concern with the fact that the increase in traffic won’t benefit the retail already in the area, essentially trapping customers on site once they’ve paid for parking.

Sterling Project Development Group, the lead developer on the project, pushed back against those concerns, noting that the improvements to Belmont’s LIRR station will draw in customers from the city and surrounding area, improving foot traffic in the area.  However, the MTA is still in the process of studying proposed improvements and does not currently have timetables or a budget for improvements at the station.

This is all in addition to the ongoing concerns about traffic once the arena is completed.  Local residents are concerned that an influx of patrons will swamp their neighborhood once the arena is built.  Elmont Against the MegaMall and the Belmont Park Community Coalition are working to raise awareness about the project in order to stop development and use the site for something else.

You can read more here.

Kings Park Civic Association Holds Meeting to Update Downtown Progress

Vision was out last night at the Kings Park Civic Association providing a general update on varied downtown revitalization efforts including follow up to the Vision plan, the upcoming rezoning for Main Street, and the status of funding for sewers. 

The featured speaker was Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. He spoke on the planning work undertaken by Smithtown in Kings Park and other areas of the Town including a Comprehensive Plan. He also talked about the need for more vigorous work to secure grant funding in comparison to years past. Mr. Wehrheim endorsed the concepts of Transit Oriented Development but wanted to ensure that any plans are guided and supported by the local community.  The Supervisor also praised the Kings Park civic and chamber of commerce as well as Vision for moving the consensus in Kings Park. He also stated that he would like to see the same sort of process play out in other areas of Town concerning land use issues. 

Supervisor Wehrheim also covered the much more transparent nature of government operations, with the hiring of a public information officer that puts Town activities from all department heads online. Questions were raised concerning the importance of not just redevelopment in Kings Park, but walkability and pedestrian safety. The Supervisor was clear that those recommendations, contained in the Vision report, would stay in the final zoning plans.

Vision spoke at the event about some grant programs from NYS that could help defray the costs of those improvements. Other questions included the use of Town funds to partner in open space purchases wirh Mr, Wehrheim stating that about $2 million dollars has been put aside for this purpose. New Councilman Tom Lohmann also addressed the group and welcomed continued dialogue with residents in addressing ongoing concerns.

We’d like to recognize Civic President Linda Henninger and the civic board for running a productive and efficient meeting. 

Vision will be working with the civic, chamber, and Smithtown and their planning team to follow up on the zoning and will provide updates as they come.

Hicksville Holds Downtown Revitalization Meetings

Vision Long Island attended two meetings last week in Hicksville in order to help local residents review the downtown revitalization process and to help plan for future development.

The first meeting was a presentation to the Hicksville Rotary Club to keep local business informed on some of the changes tied to the upcoming zoning plans for the downtown area.  The group had excellent questions, but did express concerns about the proposed Sears redevelopment.

The second meeting was the final meeting of the NYS DRI planning for the expenditure of $10 million in grant funds.  The state planners also presented some of their design concepts that complement the downtown zoning plan.  Unfortunately, the State continues to push a concept with 5 story buildings that has met with significant resistance from local residents and officials through several meetings.  

Legislator Rose Walker questioned the shift in the State’s presentation from four to five story buildings.   However, that concept is a suggestion with the Town in control the local zoning.  Oyster Bay has made it clear that four story buildings will be the maximum height.

The next step will be to complete the downtown rezoning process at the right scale.  Keep an eye on future newsletters for updates on this important project.

NYS Funding to Brentwood for Youth and Community Services to Combat Gang Violence

Vision staff joined local elected officials, Brentwood community leaders, and other neighborhood stakeholders this past Monday for the special announcement of a $20 million investment to combat the MS-13 violence in Suffolk County.

On the heels of Governor Cuomo’s announcement in Brentwood last April, allocating $18.5 million to combat MS-13 recruitment and providing youth programs to prevent gang involvement on Long Island, Governor Cuomo returned to Brentwood on Monday, October 29th, with further initiatives and funding to enhance the State and County’s offensive to eradicate violent gangs like MS-13 from our communities.

“MS-13 is a scourge that has taken too many young lives and affected too many innocents,” Governor Cuomo said. “Public safety is job one, and every child, every parent, has to know that we are protecting their life, and their liberty.”

Brentwood has been one of the communities most heavily impacted by MS-13-related violence in recent years. New York State is investing an additional $20 million to combat MS-13 gang activity in this community. Specifically, $15 million in capital funding will support the creation of a new community hub in Brentwood to provide a one-stop shop for social services, as well as recreational and educational opportunities for the community, including the over 19,000 students in the Brentwood School District.

Moreover, $2.5 million will be dedicated to improving park safety through installation of new lighting and surveillance cameras, and $1 million will be used for new surveillance cameras and other law enforcement technology to assist the Suffolk County Police Department. Finally, $1 million will be spent to support apprenticeship programs that teach at-risk youth both job and life skills, as well as $500,000 to strengthen mental health and social services programs across Long Island.

“Governor Cuomo’s investment will lay the foundation to further empower our educators and leaders to intervene early and help at-risk youth avoid a path to joining a gang,” stated Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

New York State concludes, by taking this holistic approach, the State is not only helping to curb gang violence in the short-term, but is also addressing many of the underlying factors that lead to its spread. All levels of government, working alongside community, are necessary to win the fight to end violence and protect the lives of our children and families. Vision Long Island applauds New York State’s continued investment in this fight.

You can read coverage of this event and initiative herehere, and here.

Oyster Bay Receives $500K Grant for Business District

The Town of Oyster Bay has received a $500,000 grant from New York State to improve the downtown business district.

Dubbed the Oyster Bay Downtown Improvement Project, the goal will be to extend the streetscape and crosswalks along Audrey Ave to connect Oyster Bay’s main street with Fireman’s Field, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, and the Western Waterfront.  This will include new decorative paver crosswalks to both increase safety for pedestrians and improve the look of the current crosswalks.

“This infrastructure at Firemen’s Field and Theodore Roosevelt Park will develop a common-theme connection between those areas and Audrey Avenue,” said Oyster Bay Civic Association president Rich LaMarca.  He viewed the project as “a start to public investment in the Town of Oyster Bay. We’ve already seen new investment in businesses, and several new restaurants, and I expect we’ll see more investment on the part of all levels of government.”

The ultimate goal of the project is to attract foot traffic to the business district through the improvement of this main walking route.  The connection should help to increase business for local business while also creating an aesthetically pleasing common area for residents.

Construction is expected to begin in the Spring of 2020.

You can read more here.

Forge River Watershed Sewer Project Holds Public Meeting

Vision staff supported an open house session for the proposed Forge River Watershed Sewer project. The construction of the plant will be funded 100% through federal grants, and is scalable, allowing adjacent properties to connect to the facility in time.

The idea of creating a new sewer district has gained steam due to a number of ongoing concerns surrounding nitrogen pollution and aging infrastructure. The creation of the new district will try and mitigate failures of conventional septic systems in the area that have been brought on by heavy rain and tidal flooding in the region. Sewering of the area not only promotes resilience, but will help break down barriers towards proper economic development of the Mastics-Shirley area.

Residents at the meeting were able to learn more about estimated annual cost reductions as well as having questions answered regarding the project. Frequently asked community questions include the basics such as why a sewer system is needed and what sort of benefit will the proved to the local business community. There’s also financial and property related concerns for individual taxpayers as well as where initial funding will come from. Sewers for the Forge River have been advocated by the communities of Mastic and Shirley and Vision for many years as part of the Montauk Highway Project and more recently the Tri-Community Hamlet Plan.

There will be an additional open house session on January 8th at the Mastic Fire Department prior for those in the proposed district voting on the referendum on January 22nd.

More information on the project can be found here.

Hicksville Committee Meets to Discuss Progress, Opposition to Sears Development

This week the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee met to discuss the many projects currently underway in the Hicksville area. 

Discussion moved along a wide variety of subjects, including the status of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative awards that were announced last month and the rezoning process that the town is undergoing.  The zoning is being drafted and should be ready for review in a few months.  While the zoning is being developed, Nassau County’s traffic and parking study will begin to study the current traffic situation downtown and how development under the proposed zoning will affect it.

Currently the old American Dental building, a four story office building constructed in the 1920s which has been vacant for a number of years, is being renovated into 18 luxury apartments with retail at ground level.  Other projects have also been proposed for downtown, but they are currently on hold as the zoning is developed.  The third track project, station renovations and the second track are also underway.

There was also talk of the recent Hicksville Street Fair and feedback received from the public about ongoing revitalization efforts.  There seemed to be confusion among many attendees between the revitalization of downtown and the Seritage proposal for the Sears property.  Once the confusion was cleared up, the majority were supportive of mixed use redevelopment in the downtown area near the train station, but opposed to the development further north on the Sears property.

This led into a group discussion on the proposed Seritage project, which seems to have been recently modified to reduce the number of units by 5% down to 566.  The environmental review process for this project is underway, however there is little if any community support for the project which is outside of the downtown area and designed to compete with rather than complement the existing shops and movie theater nearby.

The proposed project is part of a trend across the country where former Sears properties are being acquired and used for local development.  Seritage in particular has been highly visible as a company purchasing former properties in high-income areas and developing them for profit.  However, in Hicksville, the community has pushed back for concerns that such a project will detract from the revitalization efforts going on in the heart of the downtown.

“Seritage is trying to say, ‘Our development is the center of everything,’” said Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander. “But the community has not bought into that.”

You can read more on how former Sears sites are being developed here.

Baldwin Civic Visits Downtown Farmingdale

Vision was out this past weekend on a walking tour of downtown Farmingdale with a delegation of leaders from the Baldwin Civic Association, staff from Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s office.

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand​​, developer Anthony Bartone and local business owners participated in the tour which also coincided with the Columbus Day weekend Street Fair adding a festive environment to Main Street.

Special thanks to Baldwin Civic President Karen Montalbano​​ and her team for participating as they seek out solutions to their Grand Ave Business District in the coming months.

Great to also see NYS Senator Kemp Hannon and other friends like Craig Rizzo in the downtown today.

Vision Speaks at Hicksville Community Council Meeting

Vision recently attended and spoke at a meeting with the Hicksville Community Council, where we gave updates on downtown revitalization along with the Hicksville Chamber and the Town of Oyster Bay.

The Hicksville Community Council is a leadership group comprised of representatives from all of the community organizations and municipal services that cover Hicksville.  The meeting facilitated a great exchange and feedback from the group, and Vision is looking forward to continued progress on revitalization of the train station area.

Special thanks to Council President Harry Single for the invite and all of the organizations that participated in the discussion.

16th Annual Long Island Smart Growth AwardsCelebrates Progress, Leadership

Over 900 community, business and government leaders gather to celebrate Smart Growth individuals and projects from 2016 – 17

The 16th Annual Long Island Smart Growth Awards took place last Friday, June 9th, at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.  Attended by over 900 people, the event was a celebration of individuals and organizations that have worked to advance Smart Growth principles, initiatives, and projects across our region.  Attendees included sponsors in addition to nearly 60 elected officials, 40 chambers, 30 resident groups representing over 50 main streets on LI.

This year’s event highlighted the efforts of leaders in government, private sector, and the community that exemplify Smart Growth principles in such areas as transit oriented development, mix of land uses, housing options, transportation, community revitalization, clean energy and planning. Project winners are from Mineola, Riverhead, Wyandanch, Rockville Centre, Great Neck Plaza, Baldwin, Glen Cove, Middle Island and Bay Shore.

This year 48 nominations were received and reviewed with the following 12 individual and project leadership awards selected:

The Regional Leadership Award went to John Cameron for his longstanding support and advocacy for infrastructure with the LI Regional Planning Council. His excellent remarks were focused on the many fiscal challenges ahead for our municipalities.

“While today’s event is a celebration of the accomplishments in smart land use planning here on Long Island, it is still a strong reminder that we have much work left to do if we are to achieve true sustainability… The financial challenges that governments are currently facing will not be held as valid excuses for our continuing failure to address the pernicious problems of failing infrastructure and underperforming assets,”  said John Cameron, Chairman of the LI Regional Planning Council.

The Community Leadership Award went to Wyandanch activist and publisher Delano Stewart posthumously. His family led by his wife Anne Stewart was there to accept the honor respecting his legacy laying the groundwork for the current Wyandanch redevelopment.

The Next Generation Leadership Award, created in the honor of our friend Scott Martella, went to Ryan William Stanton from the LI Federation of Labor for his early work at job creation.

The Project and Organizational honorees include: The Town of Riverhead and Conifer Realty for Housing Choices with Peconic Crossing in downtown Riverhead; David Kilmnick, LGBT Network, and D&F Development for Housing Choices with LGBT Housing in Bay ShoreLivingston Development Group for Revitalizing Communities with The Villa at Glen CoveNassau County and the Town of Hempstead for Revitalizing Communities with the Baldwin Revitalization project; Longwood Public LibraryConcern Middle Island, and Gail Lynch-Bailey for Mix of Uses in Middle Island RevitalizationMill Creek Residential and the Village of Mineola for Transit-Oriented Development for the Modera, Hudson House, and Searing Avenue project; CLIMB for Transportation ChoicesLong Island Power Authority and Deepwater Wind, with the South Fork Offshore Wind Farm for Clean Energy Village of Great Neck Plaza and Nemat Development for Certainty with TOD zoning.

The event closed with a brief word from Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano, who thanked the many honorees for their accomplishments. We also heard from Mill Creek Residential Trust Regional Manager Russell Tepper as our featured speaker as he accepted the award on behalf of Mill Creek Residential for Transit-Oriented Development.

“Mill Creek is unwaveringly committed to the long-term betterment of Long Island, especially its burgeoning Mineola village.”, said Russell Tepper, senior managing director. “Our goal is to continue to collaborate with The Village and Nassau County stakeholders in order to deliver best-in-class residential communities that highlight the proximity to the LIRR, accentuate neighborhood amenities and further establish Long Island as a transit-oriented destination for current and future residents alike,”said Russell Teppler, Mill Creek Residential.

This movement of small businesses, residents and local municipalities continues to defy expectations and create meaningful projects for our downtowns and our region.

Read about the full day’s event here.

More than 1,250 Long Islanders join together
to plan downtown revitalization and infrastructure!

Vision Long Island was proud to host the 17th Annual Smart Growth Summit, attended by over 1,250 business, community, and government leaders.  The theme of Long Islanders coming together on a local level without the distractions of national and large scale divisions dominated the day. The day featured a morning plenary session, 19 excellent workshops on a wide variety of subjects, engaging speakers and experts, and great networking. 

Over 135 speakers focused on topics related to downtown revitalization and infrastructure investment. Over 60 different Main Street redevelopment and water, sewer, energy and transportation projects were covered throughout the program. The event was also able to present a strong set of ideals for the future of downtowns, housing, environmental issues, transportation infrastructure, and jobs on Long Island.

Opening Remarks

This year’s Summit kicked off with one of the most highly attended breakfast sessions ever as the room was filled to capacity to hear the opening remarks and State of the Town and Villages panel.  The session would open with the Pledge of Allegiance being led by Newsday’s Joye Brown.

Eric Alexander, Director of Vision Long Island kicked off the day with a review of recent successful downtown and transit oriented development projects driven by community based planning.  He also presented the themes of the day which were placemaking – essentially the need to not just focus on housing investments but jobs, public space, safe streets, new retail, arts, culture and other amenities.  The second theme was local leadership which included the 40 civic and community based organizations in the room along with the 20+ chambers of commerce representing the downtown revitalization efforts across Long Island. 

Amy Kramer from AT&T New York provided opening remarks demonstrating their company’s commitment to bringing technology to our downtown business districts.  For the 4th year now they have sponsored the morning’s State of the Town’s and Villages panel and look forward to continued dialogue with local officials. 

State of the Towns and Villages

The 2018 State of the Towns and Villages panel featured Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Town of Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, and Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand.

The State of the Town and Villages panel opened with moderator Joye Brown of Newsday, now on her 11th year guiding this conversation, asking if it was easier for governments to get things done in recent years, or if it was the same.  She followed that by asking if things were the same, drawing a tepid response from the officials, most of whom did not indicate one way or another.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim spoke first on that, noting that change has been going on in Smithtown since he took office, running through a number of ongoing projects.  He would speak on the efforts for improved sewer infrastructure in local business districts, citing St. James, Smithtown proper, and Kings Park.  He went a little more in-depth on Kings Park, noting that a pump station is shovel-ready and simply waiting for approval from the state.  Zone changes have also been put into place that will allow for taller buildings in the Hauppauge Industrial Zone. He ended by pointing to 1.1 million square feet of commercial space in a form of development or approval, 800,000 square feet of which is currently underway.

Supervisor Joe Saladino spoke next on improvements in Oyster Bay, talking about how they have approved changes that have sped up the permit process for both residents and businesses.  The Town has also become the top Long Island Town for solar applications and has been able to lower taxes to make it easier for new residents.  Mr. Saladino would then talk about the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization process, and how they are trying to move forward with a TOD-focused plan surrounding the LIRR station.

Ms. Brown would use the subject of the ongoing revitalization to ask the panel if anyone was experiencing blowback from projects.  Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith of Riverhead spoke at that point, talking about finding the balance for her Town’s rural roots and new development.  She mentioned changes to Route 58, a regional shopping center, as well as revitalization efforts and new workforce housing in the downtown.  The recent approval of 5-story residential buildings has seen some pushback, however, causing Riverhead to look into how best to spread out new housing to fit into the character of the area.

The conversation turned next to Nassau, with Supervisor Laura Gillen from Hempstead talked about both the Nassau HUB and Belmont projects, which are among the largest currently going on.  Though they are still in the conceptual phase, the Town is trying to reach out to the community to make them part of the process before there is development.  She noted the importance of millennial housing at the HUB, and how necessary it is for Long Island to have a place for young people to live if we’re going to get them to stay in the region.  This makes it imperative to work with developers to create an environment to foster such housing to help keep not just younger people on the island, but their parents as well. 

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci spoke next on the Town of Huntington spoke on the parking situation at the Cold Spring Harbor train station and how to improve it without adding a parking garage that the public was against.  He talked about a grant received from NYS, of which $7 million would go to Cold Spring Harbor for station improvements.  The plan will be to use the money for the solution, including possibly a minor parking structure or purchasing land surrounding the station.  He also indicated that Huntington is in talks with the local civic on solutions.

North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth talked next about progress at New Cassel, including the groundbreaking on a 77-unit affordable housing senior unit.  This came as a result of a new zoning change that allowed the acreage to be reduced from 5 to 2 and lowered the cut-off age for seniors to 55.  Supervisor Bosworth touched on the revitalization efforts centered on the Yes, We Can Community center.  She also spoke on issues surrounding parking and how difficult it can be when there’s no public will for a garage or asphalting over acres of property.  One solution is to change commuting habits, such as shuttles and other alternate ways to get people to the train station.

Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter expressed appreciation at finally receiving the $10 million DRI grant for the Central Islip area after three years of trying.  She talked about investment in the surrounding area creating a sense that it was the right time for Islip to receive funds to help revitalize as well.  She noted the numerous projects underway in the Town that are bringing revitalization, but that this particular area had been neglected for far too long.  The process is still in the beginning phase, but they have already begun to reach out to the community and working through the process.  She ended by talking about downtown Bay Shore and how the Town has been making strides in creating a destination in the community.

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand spoke next on his thriving downtown and the newly formed Merchant’s Association.  He also announced to the room that they are in the beginning stages of creating Long Island’s first Business Improvement District in years as an effort to sustain the success.  Farmingdale is also looking for opportunities to make the 109 corridor into an area that is 100% affordable housing ranging from 50% to 80% of median income.  Such a move would help to keep young people local, and draw them to the Village area.  Mayor Ekstrand also talked about possibly using the LIRR station for parking solutions with the idea of using shuttles from the lot during evenings and weekends being floated.  The idea of 100% affordable housing in the 109 corridor led to a brief aside on the need for such housing in the area and how it might help to lead to some young people moving out of their parents’ homes.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine was up next, giving updates on new housing at the Yaphank Meadows as well as the Ronkonkoma HUB, which should see its first section completed in the spring.  The completed HUB section will bring 500 new units to the community when completed.  Hundreds of units are also in the works across several projects spearheaded by Concern for Independent Living as well as D&F Development.  Those projects both promise to be 100% affordable housing for Brookhaven residents.  Supervisor Romaine also noted that housing is not the whole story but tie into interconnected issues including transportation, government, tax burden, and climate change.  He also called for modernization of transportation systems, specifically electrification of the LIRR.  Mr. Romaine also talked about the need for solid waste solutions as we begin to face increasing challenges in dealing with that issue.  He called for Long Island to work as a region to come up with equitable answers and to implement them as a whole area and not disparate municipalities.

In light of changes to recycling programs across the region, the discussion turned towards solutions.  Supervisor Carpenter spoke on how proud she was of her Town’s recycling program, which resisted switching to single stream.  She then pivoted to the idea of how tax revenue is spent, consolidation, and how Towns are going to need to make some tough decisions, especially within school districts.

Moderator Brown then moved on to multi-family housing and how there seems to be a demand for it in spite of opposition.  The general consensus is that while multi-family housing is rising in demand it isn’t slowing the market for single-family homes.  Supervisors and Mayors all gave updates on projects underway that will increase housing stock while stating that single-family homes are still very popular with residents.

Some of the issues brought up that fed into that were how intertwined parking and housing is and that a successful downtown will need to find a way to incorporate both of them.  There was also the challenge of striking the right balance where housing can be developed in downtowns without losing the charm and aesthetic that residents have grown accustomed to in their villages.  Aging in place was also discussed and how it was important to provide services for seniors as well as millennials wishing to stay on Long Island.

For the next part of the discussion, Alejandra Micardo-Suarez from Amityville High School was able to ask what the local government can do for environmental issues including water pollution and flooding and what’s being done to focus on these.  She brought up the plastic bag fee and asked when Nassau would follow suit as well as what can be done beyond that.  Initiatives discussed included Hempstead’s re-opening of a water lab as well as seeding local waters with filter-feeding shellfish to increase both water quality and industry.  The Nassau County Villages are also exploring possible bans to waste plastics, including straws, utensils, bags, etc.

Amityville student Tyrone Taylor asked the next question of the day, noting that he’s going to college and will probably need a student loan, which will make his return to the region much more difficult.  He asked what is being done to help that situation.  Solutions discussed included redefining what affordable means since a narrow definition doesn’t quite fit the housing spectrum that can change depending on a person’s expenses and living arrangements, such as a roommate.   Also, there was a discussion on getting local corporations and businesses to invest in housing and help attract new employees.

Finally, Ms. Brown brought up the recent elimination of the SALT and the effects it has on local budgets.  Supervisor Romaine answered, noting that the area will be impacted negatively by the issue and that it is essentially a penalty for having a government that invests in local infrastructure.  Supervisor Bosworth also noted that residents are having a much tougher time selling their homes due to the elimination.

Vision Long Island would like to thank all of the Elected Officials who participated on the panel as well as Dr. Nathalia Rogers of Berkeley College for bringing a number of students and young people to participate in the event. bringing a youthful perspective to the panel.

View the Morning Plenary Session here.

Read about and View the full day’s event here.

Vision Long Island Celebrates
20 Years of Smart Growth

Vision Long Island was honored and humbled to see the turnout for Vision Long Island’s 20th Anniversary on Thursday, February 15th. The warmth and fellowship from the over 500 supporters, colleagues, friends and family from all eras of our two decades was literally overflowing.

We started the evening with a cocktail hour that featured a brief program, including a 12 minute video that contained 30 diverse community, business, environment and labor leaders from our history. We then headed to the ballroom that had a “Taste of Long Island’s Downtowns” with a range of cuisines that kept folks happy. The house band, “The Electric Dudes,” couldn’t have been better rocking out mellow and danceable hits that kept the crowd energized.

Over 30 elected officials joined us and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Suffolk Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, NYS Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, Lisa Santeramo from Governor Cuomo’s Office and John Cameron from the LI Regional Planning Council Board joined us onstage. NYS Comptroller, Smart Growth Award winner and longtime friend Tom DiNapoli had a conflict but shared a video message to the crowd as well.

Vision’s Director Eric Alexander sang a couple of brief songs with one being a tribute to the founding group of the Vision Huntington where they joined the stage for a special presentation.

Great raffle prizes, including international Southwest Airlines tickets, were also a highlight. An 80 page journal documenting the myriad number of accomplishments on complete streets, downtown revitalization, TOD redevelopment, infrastructure investment, coalition building and community planning was available for attendees.

Special thanks to all of our sponsors, board members, dedicated staff, vendors, downtown businesses, community partners, attendees and all of the folks who have supported us through the first leg of our journey. There is still much to accomplish, but we are happy to take a moment to acknowledge the substantive work that has been done. Thank You to everyone who has made these past 20 years possible!







Read about and See more pictures from the day’s event here.

Downtown revitalization – progress and lessons learned

With the elections over we now have a temporary reprieve from divisive national politics and have the opportunity to focus on the state of our local communities.

Over the last year we have seen an increase of support for community driven, downtown redevelopment. Main street and transit oriented development projects have been approved or recently opened in Lindenhurst, Amityville, Valley Stream, Oceanside, Hicksville, Patchogue, Riverhead, Port Jefferson, Huntington Station, Hicksville, Middle Island and Bay Shore, among others. In addition, new plans are underway in Baldwin, Westbury and Central Islip. All told there are 40 downtowns with active master plans, vision plans or new codes approving projects.

Even large scale projects, the most difficult to do because of their regional nature, are lifting off. After years of planning, Glen Cove’s waterfront is under construction along with the north side of the Ronkonkoma HUB. The Nassau HUB is undergoing a new chapter and Heartland Town Square is seeking sign off from Suffolk County in order to move forward from its Town of Islip phase one approval.

Infrastructure projects that support our downtowns are underway as well. Suffolk County has an upcoming referendum to expand sewer projects. LIRR Double Track is completed and Third Track is now underway. Municipalities are moving traffic safety projects we hadn’t seen in the past. Renewable energy use is rising in solar, efficiency and offshore wind projects as well.

These developments and others contributed to a positive mood at the Long Island Smart Growth Summit which is an annual convocation of the local leaders working on revitalizing downtown areas and planning our regions infrastructure. Over 1,000 participated for the 10th straight year, showing the continued commitment towards creating great places on Long Island.

Despite the many achievements there are challenges ahead. New financing for the MTA is looming as Long Islanders, still agitated from the MTA payroll tax see fare hikes and congestion pricing to fund LIRR improvements and modernization. Continued support for bus funding is needed in order to restore routes and meet the needs of working people. Creating and preserving affordable housing is a critical and persistent unmet need despite recent projects underway. Major projects that may have merit but are not rooted in community planning, like Elmont’s planned arena and East Farmingdale’s TOD, continue to face tremendous hurdles.

Getting our fair share of resources from New York State and the federal government is debilitating, although new leadership is in place to tackle the challenges.

Public trust in most large institutions is at an all-time low which feeds many voices of division. Refocusing on local consensus and trust building requires a massive effort largely due to misinformation spread on social media and conflict driven news.

So with all the advancements and challenges we have learned lessons to help us rebuild public trust in the process of change:

  1. Build transparency in all dealings throughout the course of any project or plan.
  2. Take time to communicate and educate the public on impacts for any new development including parking, school districts, property values, traffic, water, sewer, emergency services
  3. Downtown projects and plans cannot simply contain housing but other interwoven public benefits like retail, public space, arts, food and safe streets.
  4. Folks seeking to redevelop should act like a neighbor and enlist the community as a partner in the project and ultimately the success.
  5. Limit or minimize regional thinking. We understand the intellectual importance of planning big but no downtown project ever got approved based on regional interests. Approach the work in a hyper local fashion so communities who make decisions see the benefits to them.

Collectively thousands of Long Islanders are working to better their communities for a host of reasons but what unites us all is the experience of transformation which we can see on any given day. We hope Long Islanders continue to support and promote our downtowns this holiday season and throughout the year.

Destination Unknown: Real Estate

The following op-ed was written by Vision Long Island Assistant Director Tawaun Weber and appeared in LIBN as part of the Destination Unknown Real Estateseries, which you can view here.

2018 will bring continued downtown growth and investment in our Island’s infrastructure, but not without challenges.

To address the increasing demand for affordable housing, we need, not only guided subsidies for multi-family projects to make the numbers work, but a series of smaller scale options known as “missing middle” housing that can help fill the gap between larger multifamily and subsidized projects.

Retail trends moving away from malls and larger scale shopping centers create opportunities for mixed-use development in the right locations.

New leadership in places like Hempstead, Smithtown, Oyster Bay, and Riverhead allow for a second look at approaches to planning and more importantly, downtown management for many unincorporated hamlets. With Nassau’s new administration, continued support for downtown and TOD redevelopment while also focusing on various dangerous roadways through traffic calming initiatives is vital.

Continuing to remove our attention and funding from disconnected regional distractions to more community driven projects will help renew community trust in government and support for growth.

With over 15,000 units of TOD housing planned locally moving through the process for approval now and billions of dollars of infrastructure projects, change isn’t just coming – it’s here.

Why are Fire Officials Hung Up on Street Widths?

The following op-ed originally appears at the CNU Public Square webpage.

Last week the Baltimore City Council voted to repeal the “20-foot-clear” requirement for fire access on city streets—replacing that standard with more flexible rules recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

The change, which the mayor is considering signing, would allow for narrower automobile travel ways that accommodate bike lanes on certain streets—and some officials say this will encourage neighborhood revitalization.

The change was opposed by fire officials, who said it would compromise public safety. Members of the fire department feel so strongly about this that firefighters have been accused of assaulting and bullying bicycle lane proponents. New urbanists have long argued that the 20-foot-clear requirements—and 26-foot-clear, which Baltimore imposes on some streets—instead compromise public safety, health, and quality of life. As I report in this article, new urbanists have strong, long-term evidence that fire officials are wrong.

The Baltimore proposal is notable because fire officials have long gotten their way in this debate. At first glance, the issue seems straightforward: Fire trucks need a certain amount of space—generally 10 feet—and they need to maneuver around other emergency response equipment at the scene.

This is a question of dimensions and geography. We can all imagine a situation where, because of the street width, a truck can’t properly maneuver at a fire scene. That’s not good if access to a building is restricted or blocked.

The problem is data shows that narrow streets have the opposite impact on public safety from what one would expect by simply considering that one dimension. An investigation by The Boston Globe in 2005 showed that fire response is much faster on the skinny streets of Boston1, many of which don’t meet the 20-foot-clear requirements, than in the wide-open thoroughfares of the suburbs. In dense cities like Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge, firefighters reached fires within six minutes 97 to 99 percent of the time. In the suburbs, the figure was 58 percent—and it had dropped from 75 percent over the previous two decades.

A study in Longmont, Colorado, looked at both fire and automobile injury accidents over an eight-year period. The narrower the street, the safest it proved to be overall. It turns out that the narrow streets, which don’t meet 20-foot-clear requirements, have few injury accidents—regardless of all other conditions on the street, including volume of traffic. Fire injuries were very rare during this time period—much less common and automobile injuries—and there was no correlation with street width. The very safest streets were 24-foot-wide streets, often with on-street parking.

Given the dimensions of skinny streets, how is this possible? And if it is true, why do fire officials, whose profession is centered on public safety, oppose narrow streets?

The problem is not fire officials’ focus on dimensions and geography. The problem is that they focus on only one aspect of dimensions and geography. According to the research, the broader view allows for a better assessment of risk.

Take the City of Baltimore, which is built on a grid. Most of the central part of the city, including downtown and neighborhoods extending all around downtown for several miles, have blocks sizes that average 2 acres. These blocks are very narrow, often less than 200 feet wide. They are generally from 300 to 500 feet long. These dimensions allow properties to be accessed from a number of different directions. If a street is blocked, you can go around and get there very quickly, especially when you consider that hoses are 200 feet long.

The street grid, with its small blocks and narrow streets, enables far greater density than the conventional suburban pattern. That means that fire companies have shorter distance to travel to the fire. In a dense city, more fire houses are located within a given distance of every property than is possible in spread-out suburbs. Gridded street networks offer many more possible routes to get to a site if there is congestion. Those factors related to the geography of blocks and neighborhoods in cities are the reasons why response times are faster in cities, as shown in The Boston Globe report.

The geography related to blocks in cities like Baltimore is remarkably stable. These blocks and streets provided good access 150 years ago, and they provide good access today. They will probably provide good access 150 years from now.

Moreover, the small blocks and skinny streets slow down traffic and simultaneously benefit mobility in four ways.
1) They enable walkability, bikability, and choice in how to get around. 
2) The density in this pattern allows for more frequent transit service, which which adds to transportation choice and takes more drivers off the road.
3) All users of streets have orders of magnitude more choices in terms of routes to get to places, which disperses traffic and allows people to avoid congestion.
4) The density and mixed-use of this pattern allow people to travel shorter distances.

But it is the slower speeds that reduces the severity of accidents, and therefore the injuries and deaths. A study of California cities showed that the pre-1950 pattern of small blocks and skinny streets correlates with one-third the automobile accident deaths. Because there are 10 times as many deaths from cars as from fires, overall public safety is greatly enhanced by fewer automobile deaths. Furthermore, there is no empirical evidence that fire safety is compromised by skinny streets, when combined with a connected network of small blocks.

There are more factors to consider as well. The enormous numbers of vacant properties in Baltimore are the biggest fire risk. If safer streets, with slower moving traffic, encourage neighborhood revitalization, fire safety will be enhanced.

So how do we answer the questions in boldface above? First, the impacts of the street width is overridden by the street networks and small blocks. Second, fire officials are focused only on the dimensions and geography of street width, and they ignore or fail to understand the factors related to street networks and small blocks.

As officials deal with policies on public safety, the view needs to be broad enough to see the overall public safety picture. Overall dimensions of the city and neighborhood matter more than street widths in isolation. Baltimore City Council’s action is encouraging, and let’s hope the mayor follows through and that fire officials begin to understand the full impact of skinny streets within a fine-grained urban network.

The dimensions of streets and blocks have wide impacts on people’s lives every day—not just on the rare occasions when a fire occurs. Fire officials need a broad understanding of the range of dimensions that affect public safety and livability—and learn to work with dimensions that deliver the most benefits to the most people. Fire officials’ interests should be taken into account, but not above those of the broader community.

It’s crucial that smart growth begins with communities

Lead with the public.

Savvy folks on Long Island know that 81 of 94 downtown and Transit Oriented Development projects have received more support than opposition at public hearings over the last six years. This is a testament to the folks who have been planning, approving and building Smart Growth projects over the last two decades now with our many local communities.

This year’s Smart Growth Awards continues to be the showcase where we learn from the best projects driven by local business, civic and municipal leadership.

In Hicksville, the seven year commitment of the Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Committee creating a robust public process helped make local downtown growth a pending reality. In Kings Park the partnership between their civic and chamber drove a consensus plan and successfully lobbied for sewer investment from New York State.

Municipal leadership is on display this year as well. In the Village of Rockville Centre, the Mayor and board have approved TOD housing, new infrastructure and now have over 100 restaurants operating. In the Village of Patchogue, D&F Development brings an Assisted Living facility to Main Street to help seniors and their adjacent families stay in the community.

In the Village of Port Jefferson, Tritec transforms an abandoned property into waterfront housing that helps fuel the economics of their downtown business district. In the Town of Riverhead, Georgica Green redevelops a block into affordable housing and retail that is under construction now.

Private sector leadership is shown to us each day from small businesses comprising our Nassau and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce and the developers building these TOD projects. In addition, the private and public partnership from NICE Bus kept local service moving, providing free rides for working residents and leading the fight to lobby for growth in the bus system.

Critical and innovative infrastructure projects are also planned with the public. The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery used a robust public process to shape the scores of projects and millions in infrastructure dollars now coming to our shoreline communities. American Organic Energy delivered the region’s first anaerobic digester to solve our solid waste challenges by coming to consensus with the project’s neighbors and local environmentalists.

Not all leadership is purely local – there are some regional leaders who know how to collaborate, innovate and create change:

Denise Carter from GPI helped transform a sometimes resistant transportation and roadway industry towards complete streets and sustainable modes of travel.

Sadly we lost John Kominicki who was always challenging the status quo for our region’s benefit. He was one of the first leaders who would question everyone in this room and beyond why we can’t move faster to build affordable housing, redevelop our business districts and keep young talent here. We will miss him.

Despite the incredible accomplishments exhibited here the forces of polarization and division will continue. They feed on our negativity like rubbernecking at an accident. The bulk of conflict arises from about 25 regional projects where the vast majority are not in downtowns, new town centers and many have no discernible public benefits so they may need to be questioned. This problem becomes moot when we work with the public from the bottom up. That way there is no extreme polarization because we shape what we
do with all of the communities’ key decision makers.

The values behind the goals of these honorees, the process for which they use to engage the community and the clear public purpose of what was achieved should be celebrated. Not just this year but over the 17 years where we have been honoring a truly different type of leadership that is slowly reshaping our downtowns due to local engagement.

Creating ‘walk appeal’ needs to be priority

Since World War II, we have been building our roads to move cars as quickly as possible first, with all other users and uses of roads a distant second. As a result, many or our roads promote speeding and marginalize those on foot or on a bicycle leading to very dangerous conditions.

Many of these roads pass right through our downtown areas and past parks, schools and other community uses. Last year, at our Complete Streets Summit, we focused on five roads that saw a high number of fatalities in areas where people should feel safe walking or biking. This year we are widening our scope to look at roads across the island that are not as safe as they should be given where they are located and what is adjacent to them.

Crash data shows that there are over 30 sections of roads that pass through our existing downtowns, near train stations, or through commercial districts in communities trying to revitalize, that have seen concentrations of motor vehicle crashes with both people on foot and on bicycles. These are areas where people should be walking and bicycling and roads should be safe for them to do so.

Since 2010 Vision Long Island and other local communities and advocates have been working to promote the concept of Complete Streets across Long Island and New York State. Thirteen municipalities have adopted Complete Streets policies that require them to consider all users of a roadway when they are rebuilding it, whether they are in a car, a bus, on foot or on a bicycle. This has led to more sidewalks, more cross walks and even some bike lanes being built in certain locations. However it’s time we raise the bar on the quality of our streets and roads. In places where we want to encourage people to walk, bike or take transit, it’s not enough to just provide adequate accommodations, we need to provide an inviting environment that people enjoy being in.

“Walk Appeal” is a concept coined several years ago that seeks to measure how enjoyable an environment is to walk in, in order to create more places where people would choose to walk rather than drive. While many may say that Long Islanders love their cars and don’t like to walk anywhere, it’s not because there is something in our genes or culture, it’s because we don’t have many places where anybody would like to walk.

Some aspects of a place’s walk appeal may be difficult to quantify, such as lovable things along the way, a sense of security, or the magic of a place. Others are more tangible such as street enclosure, changes in view and terminated vistas, or the transparency of facades facing the sidewalk. These qualities that can be measured and planned for make a space comfortable, interesting, and enjoyable for those walking.

There are many tangible as well as intangible benefits to creating spacing with a high level of walk appeal. Businesses in local downtowns can attract more patrons without having to provide additional parking, property values increase and transit systems can become more viable. In addition there are improvements to people’s physical and mental health as well as an increased sense of community in a place. All of these can lead to both a higher standard of living as well as a better quality of life.

In places where walking should be not only feasible but encouraged, we need to think about our streets and our public rights-of-way not just as thoroughfares to get you from place to place, but places in themselves. If we want to reap the economic, social, health, and environmental benefits of walkable places, they cannot be merely walk-able, but must have walk appeal.

Collaboration is Central for Nassau HUB’s Success

The following op-ed by Vision Long Island’s Director Eric Alexander original appeared in Long Island Business News here

The deadline for the Nassau HUB’s “request for expressions of interest” (RFEI) passed and thankfully the county received over 15 serious proposals to help chart a new course in the development of the Coliseum’s 70 acres of asphalt.

We can get caught up in the history of well-intentioned failures from the privatization committee of the late 90s, the publicly supported but infrastructure-starved Lighthouse project, the wildly opposed casino and the public financing to keep the Islanders that was fought by competing developers among other special interests.

Recent delays that have taken years to sort out have pitted one development interest against the other and we still could see future lawsuits of that sort.

Either “build now”, “build the way I say it” or one interest demanding that they are “in charge” like in a banana republic, combined with senseless finger pointing has been a common theme in all of the shortcomings for this project.

Despite these setbacks, the progress that has been minimally reported over the last eight years includes: NYS economic development funding for structured parking; an upgrade to the Cedar Creek sewage treatment plant; enhanced bus service; the building of a Sloane Kettering medical facility and a remade Nassau Coliseum that again has high quality performances. These improvements were not even contemplated let alone applied for in prior years.

Kudos are due to County Executive Laura Curran for continuing to build on this progress and listening to a range of stakeholders – people seeking a HUB proposal that wasn’t simply a revised collection of retail and entertainment uses. Curran also put together a top-notch advisory committee to sort through what has worked and what hasn’t in the long history of the HUB so as not to repeat past mistakes.

While much attention has been made to the county’s action in recent months, the true opportunity resides in the Town of Hempstead. In 2011, a makeshift HUB zoning code was passed, heavily leaning on commercial development and plagued with fatal design flaws.

The Town of Hempstead should consider zoning amendments to allow development that fits the current market and allow for a modest amount of additional residential development, while lowering the amount of commercial building in the mix.

A number of design issues concerning inappropriate front, rear and side yard setbacks need to be reconfigured to create a true sense of place and not an extension of the auto oriented racetrack that elements of the area currently contain. To create a walkable mixed-use place where people can live, work and play, elements need to be close together and connected by a network of interconnected streets built at a human scale.

It needs to be designed for someone walking at 3 or 4 mph, not someone driving by at 35 mph. None of these changes would increase the density, traffic, parking or other infrastructure needs of the area.

In the coming months there will be government, private sector and stakeholder interests that will make pronouncements and demand that it is their way or the highway. It is precisely that attitude that has littered the floor with past HUB proposals.

Patterned after the successful formula of downtown developments across Long Island, collaboration is the key ingredient. The executive, the legislature, a chosen master developer, surrounding universities, community groups and property owners along with the full Hempstead Town Board have a true opportunity to work together.

We are hopeful that folks have learned from past mistakes and the Nassau HUB redevelopment can finally see the much-needed investment it deserves.

How 812 projects infused $12 billion into LI economy

The following op-ed was written by Bill Mannix, the executive director of the Town of Islip IDA in conjunction with the heads of Long Island’s seven other IDAs.  It originally appeared in Long Island Business News here.

The New York State Comptroller’s Office recently released its annual performance report on the State’s 109 Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs). The report details, among other things, the number of projects, tax abatements and job creation performance for all IDA projects active during 2016.

On behalf of, and in conjunction with, the heads of Long Island’s seven other IDAs, I’m pleased to say the comptroller’s report concluded that Long Island’s IDAs performed extremely well.

There were 812 projects being supported by Long Island IDAs in 2016. Combined, those 812 projects received net tax incentives totaling $124.7 million. While this may seem like a lot to some, it represents less than .001 percent of the property taxes collected on Long Island.

Still, IDAs are Public Benefit Corporations, so what does the public get in return for these incentives? Here is what the comptroller’s report says.

The 812 projects collectively made private capital investments of more than $12 billion in our local economy. That $12 billion spent to purchase, construct, renovate and equip buildings equates to thousands of construction jobs and increased revenue and staffing at thousands of vendors and suppliers across the Island.

The 812 projects also created more than 51,000 new jobs, leading all IDA regions throughout the state. That’s more than New York City, the Mid-Hudson Valley or the Capital District. It’s also 13,000 (35 percent) more than were promised when the companies entered into contracts with the IDAs.

In addition to the 51,000 new jobs, the companies retained more than 50,000 employees. Combined, that is 100,000 Long Islanders making a total annual payroll of between $4-6 billion because of IDA incentives.

Not included in the report are the thousands of units of downtown, transit-oriented or affordable rental apartments that would not have been built without IDA assistance. Increasing the amount of rental units on Long Island is an economic development imperative. Not only are they responsible for the revitalization of communities such as Patchogue, Mineola, Farmingdale, Bay Shore and Riverhead, but they also provide the critical housing options needed to attract and retain the next generation of workers our employers so desperately need.

As the economic development professionals heading Long Island’s IDAs, we are cognizant to the fact that some in the public philosophically disagree with what we do or that some projects can be controversial. There’s always room for productive discussion and improvement.

However, the fact remains that Long Island’s IDAs have performed extremely well in what is a very difficult business environment. Every day, Long Island companies are being offered incentive packages to relocate to lower cost states. Our quality of life, superb schools and top-notch workforce are major reasons why they stay, but bottom lines dictate business decisions and it is often IDA incentives that make the difference.

We are proud of the role our agencies have played in fostering economic growth and job creation on behalf of Long Island. $125 million in short-term incentives has leveraged $12 billion in private capital investment and the creation or retention of over 100,000 full-time jobs. We think that’s a return on investment the public can be proud of, too.

The costs involved in drawing Amazon to the region

The following op-ed was written by Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro and originally appeared in Long Island Business News here.

There’s been almost unanimous lamentation for decades about the brain drain in New York and the losing of corporate jobs etc. Now, when one of the most dynamic and prosperous companies of this era wants to bring upwards of 25,000 new high-paying jobs to New York, and possibly reverse the trend of companies leaving, both right and left find a reason to be critical.

To be sure, it would be better to attract these kinds of companies and jobs by cutting taxes and regulations. But, the fact is that New York is (and will remain) a high-cost, high-tax state. The reason that the incentives from New York were higher than Virginia and elsewhere is because they had to be. This was a highly competitive “contest” and to be competitive, New York had to give substantial incentives. Otherwise, Amazon could have just gone to one of the other hundreds of communities that wanted them.

Only in New York would you have such grousing over such a hugely economically impactful development. The impact of those 25,000 jobs, over time, will be many, many billions of dollars of accretive value to the New York economy, not to say anything of the people who will fill those jobs, some of whom will be New York natives. As someone who, at a very low level, thinks about and is worried about the sustainability of one community, this is a home run.

In the final analysis, the cost of drawing them here was very substantial. But the cost of not drawing them here was bigger. New York has to start being competitive in terms of drawing these kinds of jobs and companies. More important than housing, job creation is the number one need. Bring the jobs and the housing and young professionals etc. will follow.

To me, the reaction just shows that every issue or development here is politicized. It just so happens that each side (right and left) in this case has their own reasons for opposing this. That rarely happens, but the reasons that they oppose are political, not substantive and, also, a philosophical ivory tower. The reality is that we should embrace, even at the high cost, this development. It will be a net positive, despite the issues that it creates. But, in New York, nothing that is self-evident is ever self-evident.

In my limited experience in government, at the lowest level, it is apparent to me that you need to deal in realities and not in theoretical exercises, and the reality is that New York will always be a high tax/cost state, so if you want to compete for these kinds of opportunities, if you consider it that, you need to play the game. If you don’t want to compete in this kind of environment, then the reality is that New York will continue to lose jobs and the only people left here will be the poor and those who can’t afford to go elsewhere.

It is a double-edged sword, but to do nothing and just knee-jerk say ‘no’ to this sort of thing, hoping for the paradigm to shift is to see New York doomed for ultimate failure. I guess in my old age I have become less tolerant of the ivory tower, philosophical boxes we put ourselves in, that, I believe, make people take sides and politicize everything just for the sake of ideological purity. That’s OK for college classes and debate teams, but I’d rather get things done.

Reflections on 20 years of smart growth planning

For a group that has spent a fair amount of its days planning, the evolution of the Smart Growth movement was not planned.

When Vision Long Island started as a community organization in Huntington in the mid-‘90s we were routinely laughed at by a long list of accomplished, elite folks who told us “no one will EVER support apartments on LI,” and “no one wants to live over a store,” and “who walks?” and “who cares about buses?” and “why are you getting involved in any of these issues?”

Over time many of the critics have faded into the background and we stayed focused on the communities that desired change.

We have learned so much on this journey through 40 communities, 25 visioning sessions, six regional plans driven by local input, over 100 projects and nearly 2,500 public presentations.  Here are a few takeaways:
1) The power of real people in communities that are local decision makers and care for their neighborhood.
2) The dedication of small businesses and necessity of developer investment for our main streets.
3) Local municipal officials who are working to get problems solved creatively are an invaluable ally.
4) Larger governments, by their very structure are difficult to access but, when engaged properly can assist with resources.
5) Planning techniques and design plans are the easy part. Trust from the public is the currency that you have to work on each and every day.

Despite tremendous pressure to operate through a top-down regional lens we have stayed hyperlocal. We have avoided the polarization special interests – old guard developers, extremists on the left and right, the purists, the social media gadfly’s etc. We have challenged prominent elected officials on key issues, questioned elitist planning efforts and tried to lift up the most emotionally healthy local leadership to help move issues forward.

We stayed independent and community driven and have pretty much worked with almost anyone locally regardless of their political persuasion, cultural, ethnic, racial, gender or economic background.

Probably what’s most rewarding outcome is that on the community level, where we spend the bulk of our time, the divisions and polarization that exists on the national and regional level breaks down. In our downtown communities folks who may be divided otherwise are neighbors, shoppers, workers or maybe investors all with a common set of problems to solve.

We feel like it’s been one long tour with stops at civic meetings, business breakfasts, kitchen table conversations, coffee shops and, yes, some smoke filled rooms. There were press conferences, lobby trips, public hearings, disaster recovery, volunteer work, design team meetings and more paperwork than we ever cared to imagine.

The accomplishments have been substantial and lasting. A record number of downtowns have been revitalizing with lower vacancy rates, 13,000 transit oriented development units approved and future projects on the way. Billions of dollars of public investment for transportation, sewer and renewable energy infrastructure and funding for affordable housing have been secured. Through the passage of the Smart Growth Infrastructure Act State funding has been prioritized to downtowns where in the past they fought for crumbs. Pedestrian safety and walkability are now commonplace with 40 traffic calming projects funded and not a punchline.

Of course what is most rewarding is walking through a downtown that has seen changes, talking to business owners, new residents in apartments or just random people on the street and hearing their support or new ideas to make their community better.

A lot has been achieved these last 20 years but we are sober to the fact that there are massive economic, environmental and social challenges ahead facing real people and businesses in our neighborhoods.  The next leg of this tour will follow the principles of what got us here along with the lessons we have learned.

So after 20 years a genuine and heartfelt thank you to the business, community, environment, labor and government leaders who are part of this now much larger Smart Growth movement. We look forward to working with downtown communities on how to best tackle the issues that lie ahead.

We remember those we lost in 2018…

Charles Wang, 74

Charles Wang will be remembered a variety of different ways throughout the country and world.  People will remember him for his presence in both the business and sports world and as the owner of the Islanders and various other local sports teams.  Of course, there is also Wang’s philanthropic work through the Charles B. Wang Foundation which has supported causes from rescuing missing and exploited children to public education.

But Vision remembers Wang as a man who wanted to improve the area where he grew up.  Settling in Queens after leaving his native Shanghai, China at the age of 8, Wang saw the Nassau Coliseum as part of his neighborhood.  He would work to create a local hub that could support both a major sports franchise as well as a destination for the surrounding area. 

He worked with groups across Nassau County including Vision by holding over 200 public meetings generating local support for the proposed Lighthouse project that was visionary for its time.  That project was set back due to bureaucratic malaise and a lack of infrastructure funding.  A subsequent referendum on public financing for the Coliseum was rejected by voters and more recently he worked to bring the Islanders back with current proposals for Belmont Park.   We commend his efforts for seeking to improve Nassau County and his vision, charity and dedication to local community initiatives should be acknowledged. 

Here are just some of the many articles celebrating Mr. Wang’s life, at the New York TimesForbes, ESPNNewsday, and LI Business News.

Hon. Joan Boes, Westbury Deputy Mayor and Village Trustee

The following letter was released by Westbury Mayor announcing the sad news of Dep. Mayor Joan Boes. Vision adds our sentiments to her family as they deal with this loss, and will remember her fondly as someone who helped create a community in her downtown.

It is with great sadness that I must relate to our community the passing of Deputy Mayor and Village Trustee Joan Boes.  Joan had been in the hospital for the past several months, following a sudden illness.  While we and her family had hoped that she would recover and come home and resume her activities, it was not God’s will.  She now is at rest.  Our prayers and condolences are with Larry and their children and grandchildren.
 
We were blessed to have Joan serve our Village and its residents as Village Trustee for 17 years, and she served as Deputy Mayor for all of my tenure as Mayor. She served me and our residents with great dedication, passion, deep commitment and wisdom.  As Deputy Mayor, she filled in for me when I was unavailable.  She was a voice of reason on our board, as well as in the community at large.    She served as a board member of Westbury Arts, and was instrumental in the re-establishment of an arts council in our community after many years without one.  She was also a member of the original Westbury Arts Council.  Joan was involved in many activities and organizations during her many years of service to the community.  She was particularly interested in our children and in our schools.  She served as the Mayor’s Liaison to the Westbury School District, and as the Village’s Commissioner of Recreation.  For many years Joan worked at the Westbury Memorial Public Library and assisted countless members of our community there.
 
Her unexpected loss will leave a mark on us all.  But, her work on behalf of her neighbors and the community over many years will leave a greater mark and powerful legacy.  Today, Westbury has lost a great lady. 
 
Flags at all Village facilities will be flown at half-mast for the next week.  Funeral details have not yet been completed but will be shared when they are available.

Peter I. Cavallaro
Mayor

Timothy Heyward Smith

Timothy Heyward Smith, a longtime Hofstra University professor of education known for serving as a moral compass and mentor with his kindness and deep curiosity about the world, died Saturday – the day after his 84th birthday.

Smith was born in 1934 to Wilson Heyward Smith and Laura Bretz Smith in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He grew up in Ronks, Pennsylvania, and graduated from St. Andrew’s School, a Delaware boarding school, in 1953. He received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1957.

Smith served in the Army for two years before receiving his master’s and doctoral degrees at Rutgers University in 1961 and 1968, respectively. He was married to Dania Smith from 1959 to 1982 before divorcing and had three children, raising them in Wantagh, the family said. He served on the Levittown school board for six years, Longmire said.

Smith had a distinguished career at Hofstra, where he taught for 45 years, a school official said. He began as an instructor in the Foundations of Education Program in 1963 and was promoted until becoming a full professor in 1994. He also served as chairman of the Department of Foundations of Education and directed its master’s program. 

Smith will be honored with a small gathering on the Hofstra Labyrinth at 6 p.m. Monday. A larger memorial will be held in the fall, with details to be determined. He will be cremated.

In addition to his wife, Smith is survived by his children, Cynthia Kidd Healey, of Danbury, Connecticut; Tamia Heyward Cobb, of Southampton; and Steven Smith, of San Francisco; his sister, Barbara Peck of Audubon, Pennsylvania; and four grandchildren, including Tim Healey, a Newsday reporter covering the Mets. He is predeceased by his brothers, Thomas Smith and Tucker Smith, and a grandson, Patrick Healey.

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Vision Long Island advances more livable, economically sustainable, and environmentally responsible growth on Long Island through Smart Growth. Smart Growth focuses on infill, re-development, and open space preservation. It supports mixed-use, mixed-income communities that are convenient, attractive, pedestrian-friendly, and that make affordable housing and public transportation desirable and realistic.

Over the past 20 years Vision has counseled downtown Villages and Towns, and has been a resource for the County, State, and Federal governments, as well as the business and civic community on downtown revitalization, planning and infrastructure. Vision has made over 2,400 presentations, performed over 20 community visionings and advanced over 100 projects, including 13,000 units of transit oriented development towards implementing the goals of Smart Growth on Long Island.

Vision Long Island
24 Woodbine Ave., Suite Two 
Northport, NY 11768 
Phone: 631-261-0242. Fax: 631-754-4452.
Email: info@visionlongisland.org
Website: www.visionlongisland.org

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