Smart Talk February 9th – 22nd, 2019

Check out this week’s Smart Talk where we look in on Valley Stream’s revitalization task force’s latest meeting, join the NY Mayors Conference’s call for restoration of AIM funding, review Amazon’s decision to cancel plans for their NYC HQ, and more…

Smart Talk header

February 9th – 22nd, 2019


Certilman, Balin, Adler & Hyman LLP

Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP strives to provide clients with excellent, responsive legal counsel. They deliver that service in a manner free of excessive legal actions and its related expense. The law firm works hard to fully protect their clients’ interests without incurring unwarranted costs. To accomplish this goal, their attorneys take a disciplined approach to each matter, carefully measuring client costs against associated risks and rewards.

“An entire generation will look back at these last few months and ask us why. I hope those that opposed this Amazon deal have the answers to what we lost today. Queens is one of the best places for a tech firm — for any forward-looking business — to expand into, with our diverse talent pool, entrepreneurial spirit, thriving arts scene and boundless energy. It is a shame to lose the opportunity, investment and jobs that Amazon offered but there are many more ways for businesses in Queens to thrive, and we will be welcoming them with open arms.” – Thomas J. Grech, President & CEO, Queens Chamber of Commerce

icon Like us on Facebook

icon Follow us on Twitter

icon Watch us on YouTube

Join us on LinkedIn icon

View us on Instagram 

Visit our website icon

Valley Stream Downtown Revitalization Taskforce hears from Local Mayors

In their ongoing efforts to revitalize Valley Stream’s downtown, the local Revitalization Task Force gathered at the village courthouse to hear from the Mayors of three growing downtowns.

Mayor Jean Celender of Great Neck Plaza, Scott Strauss of Mineola, and Ralph Eckstrand of Farmingdale all spoke to the group about benefits and pitfalls that they have seen during their revitalization efforts.  The process they described included grant-seeking, negotiating with developers, and architectural reviews that were aimed at bringing in more businesses to help make their downtowns into destinations.

The officials also spoke on challenges that included pushback from local residents, school district complaints, and economic issues that small businesses have to overcome to be successful.  Even in the face of those challenges, the three Mayors encouraged the taskforce to keep on working on their revitalization and good things would eventually come.

“Change is going to happen in Valley Stream,” said Mayor Strauss, “and if you don’t manage the change, it’s coming anyway, so you need to manage the change and adapt… to the surroundings.”

They also brought up how increased density and transit-oriented development has helped to speed up the process.  Not only do such projects increase foot traffic, they are also attractive for younger residents who are looking to live in up-and-coming downtowns.  The Villages also worked to create architectural standards that would allow them to hold onto their signature looks.  Mayor Eckstrand cited Farmingdale’s successful signage program that incentivizes local owners to update signs with the help of community block grants.

Of course, there were some cautions as well.  Mayor Strauss warned about certain businesses, such as offices and medical buildings that can draw in foot traffic on the weekday but sit empty on weekends.  He also talked about how it became necessary to institute a moratorium on new development when the local community pushed back with worries about congestion.  Mayor Eckstrand noted that Farmingdale had also imposed a moratorium after 8 years of continuous growth in order to reassess.

Valley Stream has received multiple Smart Growth Awards from Vision Long Island for past projects and efforts to revitalize its community. We look forward to the downtown developments that are on the way and the Village’s continued success.

You can read more here.

Riverhead Debates the Future of Five-Story Buildings in the Downtown

A public forum recently held to discuss the future of five-story buildings in downtown Riverhead generated mixed reactions from local residents.

The roughly 2 1/2 hour meeting featured about 20 people speaking that ranged from a desire to preserve a more rural look for the village to the need for more foot traffic in the village generated by a higher density.  Another point of view was that the Town was nearing its goal of 500 additional apartments for the downtown and that the proposal would only affect a single apartment, so it wasn’t really a big deal anyways.

The forum was focused on a proposed 170-unit apartment planned at the former Sears site in the downtown. The proposed zoning change to lower heights would affect that development since it has yet to be approved. The change was previously recommended through a prior downtown study, but was never carried out according to Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.

There had been a proposal on the table to reduce maximum height to two stories and allow developers to build higher if they were to purchase farmland development rights, but that proposal has bene shelved due to lack of support.  The new one would simply limit the cap at 4 stories.  A recent parking study that was commissioned by the Town will also play into the final decision, but the results are still being reviewed and have yet to be released.

The developer of the apartment at the Sears site, Robert Muchnick, stated that the forum is really about his development since after that there will be no more room under the Town’s 500-unit max cap.  116 units have been completed and are now operating, with the Riverview Lofts, currently under construction, getting ready to bring the total to 232.  Beyond that there are a number of proposals, including 28 apartments added to be added to the back of the Suffolk Theater along with 70 other units in various stages across the downtown.  If all of the projects are realized at their current proposed totals, the number of apartments created in the downtown would come to 509.

The forum included a lot of viewpoints from citizens, some in support and some against the proposed apartments.  While not everyone will get what they want in the end, it is important for local government to engage with their citizenry to find a path forward that will satisfy residents while creating an economically sustainable future for businesses as well.

The Town of Riverhead has received Smart Growth Awards for their Master Plan that set the downtown redevelopment in motion over a dozen years ago along with four of the mixed use, residential and hotel projects on Main Street resulting from that planning effort.  We encourage any new code to balance the wishes of residents for less imposing building heights with the economic needs of small businesses that have been slowly coming back to Main Street.   As mapped out in the Town’s Master Plan the goal was to drive growth towards the downtown area and less on open space and farmland.  It took many years but we are happy to see progress.

You can read more here.

Hempstead IDA to Provide Assistance for Island Park Apartments

The Town of Hempstead’s IDA has approved a series of economic incentives for the 172-unit apartment complex planned for Island Park.

The complex was proposed by Virginia-based AvalonBay Communities and will encompass an 11.6 acre site formerly used as an oil storage and distribution facility.  The site has been the focus of proposals for residential housing since 1999, when it was purchased by Farmingdale-based Posillico in a bankruptcy auction.

Originally the site was planned to feature 172 condos, which had received approval from Hempstead, before the housing crisis that occurred in 2008 scuttled that plan.  Posillico would go on to partner with AvalonBay in 2012 to create rental units alongside a reduced number of condos.  Hempstead attempted to deny the switch from condos to rentals but the State Supreme Court ruled it to be valid.

AvalonBay would go on to buy out Posillico in 2018 and will focus solely on rentals, removing the condo aspect from the project.  Before construction can begin Posillico will clean up the contaminated site, which should begin later this year.

Vision Long Island has been in support of this project at multiple public hearings and looks forward to cleanup of the site’s contamination and a successful redevelopment.

You can read more here.

Supervisor Saladino Delivers Oyster Bay State of Town

Supervisor Joe Saladino of Oyster Bay recently delivered his State of the Town address to the recently reinstated Glenwood Glen Head Civic Association.  The speech covered a wide variety of topics that included improvements that Town has been implementing, recent developments with New York American Water, and upgrades for local roads and recreational facilities. 

After opening with a powerpoint presentation, the Supervisor moved on to talk about changes that the town is in the process of implementing.  He touted the more than $1.3 million in property taxes cut but the town, the $750 million reduction in capital debt, and a reduced workforce payroll.  The theme of fiscal responsibility was prevalent in the opening of the address where he also talked about the reduction in spending and future plans to reduce debt.

Another point Mr. Saladino brought up was the upcoming phase two of its road maintenance program that will work to refill potholes and level roads in Glen Head and Glenwood Landing.  Improvements will also be made at local parks and recreational facilities this year.  Local ballparks will see new fencing as well as reseeding of fences.  There is also the possibility of the adding new turf fields at the site.  The parks department will also look into upgrading local septic systems at Tappen Beach as well as adding sun protection.

The Supervisor also talked about the rate increases approved by NYS for New York American Water, which local residents have been upset about for a while.  Now in the third of four years of increases, the Supervisor noted that NYS should invest in buying out the company to help stabilize rates to better help residents.

There has been progress on downtown revitalization in Hicksville and other hamlets in recent years that have been absent from prior discussions in the Town of Oyster Bay as well.

You can read more here.

Hicksville Sears Site Developer Holds Informational Meeting

Vision Board and staff were out in Hicksville last week with over 200 local residents to listen again to a presentation for the proposed Sears site.  The meeting drew together a number of people who actually live in the area thanks to the efforts of the Hicksville Community Council, other Civic groups, and Nassau Legislator Rose Walker, who spread the word of the meeting to actual stakeholders.

However, the proposal was never a formal part of Hicksville’s community-driven revitalization efforts centered on the LIRR station. 

The developers pitched the project as moving the center of Hicksville’s community to the un-walkable retail area surrounding the Broadway Mall, and stated that they would seek to draw Main Street style restaurants, bars, and amenities to the site.  The plans also included 500 luxury apartments that would not have an affordable element and indicated they would likely seek a PILOT even with the limited benefits for local residents.

The crowd had questions that included traffic, housing mix, management, developer experience, building heights, parking, emergency services, natural gas availability and overall development impact.  The general consensus is that while folks want to see some form of development on the site, the proposal shown continues to draw negative feedback.

The developers also did not answer questions regarding public benefits to date . Under SEQRA, community benefits should be derived from the tripling of development square footage from the existing development on site.  There were also dubious claims that the project is transit-oriented development and that it draws parallels to true downtown revitalization efforts across Long Island.  Both claims were refuted at the meeting.

There is a SEQRA process underway with more public meetings and hearings so Hicksville residents and business owners should stay engaged.

Over 540 Mayors join in Albany to ask for Restoration of AIM funding

Over 540 Mayors from across NYS headed to Albany this week in response to the proposal to remove Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding from the state budget.

Joined by Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy, who is also the Vice President of the New York Conference of Mayors, the group of officials called for the restoration of the nearly $60 million in funds to the budget.  The Village of Freeport alone stands to lose approximately $900,000 in funding if the changes go through, which would result in a $1 million deficit in the 2019-20 budget.  This, in turn, could result in a 3% increase in village taxes to help cover the loss.

A report from the Governor’s office cited a reduction in taxes across the state as partial justification from the cut.  However, Long Island officials noted that Long Island still has some of the highest tax burdens in the state, which makes any increase a heavy lift for most residents.

Mayor Kennedy talked about how necessary those funds are for a Village such as his, which is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  AIM funding has allowed the municipality to replace defective water mains and sewer lines while also maintaining 350 zombie homes.  He also noted that the Village has gone six years without an increase to property taxes while staying below the 2% cap.  The elimination of AIM funding would be akin to punishment after that stretch.

“AIM funding is desperately needed,” Kennedy said. Eliminating it “would require to cut back or eliminate services which protect and better the quality of life for our residents.”

Continuance of AIM funding was a priority for the LI Lobby Coalition in last year’s platform and we continue to support this important source of funding for local municipalities. We urge our readers to contact their local legislators on this important issue to ensure that Towns and Villages can get this revenue for muich-needed projects.

You can read more here.

Amazon Cancels Plans for NYC Headquarters

Amazon has announced that it would cancel plans to build a second Headquarters in Long Island City after receiving backlash from local politicians and various organizations.

The response to move was both swift and somewhat mixed as some cheered the exodus and others lamented the loss of potential revenue and jobs. A big part of the controversy stemmed from the $3 billion package of tax incentives that were offered to Amazon as a sweetener, though there were other concerns with the deal as well. In return, Amazon had pledged to deliver 25,000 high paying jobs to Queens over the course of the next 10 years and would have spent approximately $2.5 billion to construct new offices.

The pullout has left some companies scrambling as Amazon had already agreed to lease space for interim offices and develop plots of land owned by local companies. The market for real estate in the area had already begun to adjust as well, flipping from a seller’s to a buyer’s market almost overnight. 

However, though the loss of jobs and investment is regrettable, the backlash was not a surprise in the absence of proactive engagement in land use planning. By shutting out the public during the negotiation process, officials left themselves open to such a response. It is also a shame that once the deal was put into place there appears to have been little to no room to negotiate further and create something that all sides could agree was a win for the region.

The loss produced a variety of responses from local leaders and stakeholders:

“An entire generation will look back at these last few months and ask us why. I hope those that opposed this Amazon deal have the answers to what we lost today,” said Thomas J. Grech, President & CEO, Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Queens is one of the best places for a tech firm — for any forward-looking business — to expand into, with our diverse talent pool, entrepreneurial spirit, thriving arts scene and boundless energy. It is a shame to lose the opportunity, investment and jobs that Amazon offered but there are many more ways for businesses in Queens to thrive, and we will be welcoming them with open arms.”

“You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity. We have the best talent in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.” – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

“New York is big and diverse. That’s why Amazon wanted to join companies like Google, Facebook and Disney who are growing here. HQ2 in Queens would have been transformational. But make no mistake. We are still New York and we have more to offer than anyone. But it is critical that in the future, more voices are heard and we prioritize finding real solutions, rather than throwing stones that scare off jobs for New Yorkers.” – Association for a Better New York Chairman Steven Rubenstein

“New Yorkers made it clear that Amazon wasn’t welcome in our city if it would not respect our workers and our communities. Apparently, the company decided that was too much to ask. We are committed to fighting for the rights of workers throughout the Amazon supply chain and supporting their demand for a voice on the job.” – President of Teamsters Joiny Council George Miranda

“This could very well go down in the history books as the greatest economic loss and missed opportunity ever for Queens and the entire City. The economic impact Amazon would have had for our future generations cannot be easily replaced. On the other hand, Amazon should have certainly done better homework on the need for community and City Council outreach and involvement with a project of this scope. Now we are left to pick up the pieces.” – District 19 City Council Member Paul A. Vallone

“It’s a disappointment, but I see why it happened… the city and the state really didn’t have a role for the local community in planning how it was going to happen. Instead of being involved in the discussion about how to do it, the community was isolated and not engaged in the planning process. The risk of doing it that way is that it almost always leads to opposition from the local community. Process does matter.” – Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander

Amazon has announced that they will not reopen the process of looking for their second headquarters but will instead expand on sites in Virginia and Tennessee.

You can read more at Long Island Business News here here and here, at the Real Deal here. at Crane’s Business News here, and Amazon’s statement here.

Vision joins NCVOA for Meeting on Main Street Business

Vision Board and staff were out last week at a meeting of the Nassau Village Officials Association focusing on bringing resources to Main Street business districts.

Despite the poor weather, the event offered a great opportunity to speak with 50 Village officials on grant and funding opportunities as well as strategies to grow their economic base. Vision Long Island made a presentation and, in addition to Vision’s presentation, John Keating from PSEG LI and Lyle Sclair from National Grid spoke about their economic development and energy efficiency grant programs.

We would like to offer special thanks to NCVOA President and Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Eckstrand and former Great Neck Mayor and NCVOA Director Ralph Kreitzman for the invitation to the event.

Survey finds Smart Growth part of Mayors’ Preparation for Aging Population

In a survey that AARP recently released the results for, it was found that Mayors across the country are drawing from Smart Growth principles to prepare for an aging population.

The survey was conducted by the AARP and the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) a while ago and asked Mayors from across the country to answer 25 questions.  The released results showed that officials are looking at a variety of ways to encourage livability in their jurisdictions for older populations, which tended to dovetail with a lot of what the Smart Growth movement has been encouraging for years.

“In the end, it turns out, what is best for the quality of life is much the same for our oldest citizens as it is for our youngest and everyone in between,” said USCM CEO Tom Cochran. “Making cities more livable for our older citizens, ultimately, makes cities more livable for all of us.”

Housing options were a big concern with 3 out of 4 mayors saying that housing options were a big concern for them.  These options included an active adult community or accessory dwellings as well as assisted living.  Part of this includes affordable housing options in downtowns where elderly citizens can get around easily without needing to leave the downtown.  Even so, 86% of mayors consider transportation services to also be a high priority, especially for aging adults with disabilities. 

After that, seniors were looking for a mix of activities that would allow them to remain fit and active in their local areas.  There was also the need for community and social activities that include a younger population or their peers.  Finally, aging adults were concerned with being able to work for as long as they wanted to, with mayors working to create programs to help with just that.

You can read more here.

Nassau County to Hold Jobs & Housing Conference on March 1st

Nassau County will be holding a conference titled Jobs and Housing: Nassau’s Critical Connection on Friday, March 1st, from 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM.  It will be held at the Hofstra University Club located at 225 Hofstra University in Hempstead.

The event will feature a presentation on the NYC Department of City Planning Report “The Geography of Jobs” with reactions from a panel of regional leaders.  Speakers and panelists will include Stuart Rabinowitz, President of Hofstra University, Laura Curran, Nassau County Executive, Marisa Lago, Planning Commissioner NYC Dept. of City Planning, Carolyn Grossman, Director of Regional Planning, Lawrence Levy of Hofstra, and Lionel Chitty from the Hicksville Chamber of Conference representing Vision Long Island.

The event is being co-sponsored by Vision Long Island, the Long Island Regional Planning Council, and the Long Island Association.

There is no charge to attend but you must register.  You can find information on how to do that here.

LICH to hold Annual Vigil for the Homeless on April 2nd

Long Island Coalition for the Homeless will hold its annual vigil for the homeless on the April 2nd, 2019, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Farmingdale State College’s Roosevelt Hall, located at 2350 Broadhollow Road in Farmingdale.

Join the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, invited guests, members of the community, and others as they raise awareness about homelessness and poverty on Long Island.  This annual event combines an Information Fair about essential programs and services available on Long Island, free health screenings and health management information; free haircuts; activities for the kids: face painting, magicians, story time; and the distribution of essential items to those in need.

There will be a brief candle lighting ceremony in remembrance of those who have been lost due to homelessness and poverty, hear stories of challenge and triumph, and combat the stigma of poverty.

The event is free. All funds raised through this event go to support the Vigil and the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless’ important work for homeless and at risk Long Islanders.

Arthur Kunz Memorial Scholarship Applications Being Accepted

The Long Island Section of American Planning Association’s NY Metro Chapter is pleased to announce that they will be awarding up to three Arthur Kunz Memorial Scholarships for attendance at the APA National Conference in April 2019.   
The scholarships will provide $1,500 to awardees for attendance at the APA National Planning Conference that is being held in San Francisco, California, April 13 thru April 16, 2019.    
Arthur H. Kunz was a Long Island planner who was committed to preserving and enhancing Suffolk County by balancing its growth and development with environmental protection and played an integral part in Suffolk County’s development for almost 30 years.  He worked for the Nassau County Planning Commission from 1958 to 1969.  In 1969, he became Assistant Planning Director for the Suffolk County Department of Planning and Director in 1989.  Arthur Kunz was a straightforward and highly regarded man whose planning knowledge, commitment to public service, and professionalism improved the quality of life in Suffolk County.  Since 1994, the Long Island Section has been awarding planning scholarships in his memory. 
Eligible applicants include Long Island based entry-level planners (five or less years out of college or five years or less in a professional planning position) and students from Long Island enrolled in a planning-related program (undergraduate or graduate studies).   
The $1,500 scholarship will cover the majority of expenses related to the conference registration, APA membership for one year for non-members (and non-students, as APA student membership is free), and some additional expenses.  Mr. Kunz spent most APA conferences attending as many mobile workshops as possible and believed in the value of seeing planning in action in other parts of the country.  Therefore, a portion of the scholarship is to be used to pay for participation in least one mobile workshop.  
If you are a new planner working on Long Island or a student of planning (or in a related field) and are from Long Island and wish to apply for a scholarship to attend the 2019 APA National Conference, please send a letter of interest and a copy of your resume (pdf format preferred) to LI Section Treasurer Kathy Eiseman at with a copy to Sean Sallie, Section Director, at  The letter of interest should include your interest in the planning field, goals for a career in planning on Long Island and what you hope to gain from attendance at the National Conference and participation in a mobile workshop.

The Shed in Huntington Helps Diners Pay for Parking

In a novel approach to helping their customers keep their seat during their meal, The Shed in Huntington has started leaving a pile of quarters out for diners to pay their parking with.  Customers are welcome to help themselves to as many as they need in order to pay parking fees so that they need not worry about running out halfway through their meal.

It’s great to see local businesses like the Shed helping out their diners so they can enjoy all that their downtowns have to offer!

You can read more here.

Smart Talk

Eric Alexander, Director

Christopher Kyle, Communications Director; Tawaun Weber, Assistant Director; 
Elissa Kyle, Placemaking Director; Jon Siebert, Administrative Director

We strive to provide continued quality publications like this every week. If you have any news or events that you would like to add to our newsletter, submit them to for consideration.

If you are interested in becoming a newsletter or news blast sponsor, please call the office at 631-261-0242 for rates and opportunities.

Vision Long Island
24 Woodbine Ave., Suite Two 
Northport, NY 11768 
Phone: 631-261-0242. Fax: 631-754-4452.

Home | Contact Us | Donate | About Us