Year End 2014


Vision Long Island Smart Growth News

 

 

Smart Growth On Long Island: 2014 A Year In Review

A Message from Vision……

Vision Long Island wants to thank you for being a support to the Smart Growth movement over the last year. Please consider donating to Vision in your end of year giving!

Reflecting on this year’s Smart Growth Summit, the one thing folks keep telling us over and over was the positive and optimistic nature and can-do attitude of all the varying attendees. We had about 1,050 folks coming and going all day – 500 in the morning, a sold out lunch of 800 along with 20 workshops featuring 120 speakers, a well-attended youth summit and a new elected officials orientation along with nearly 60 elected officials joining us. All attended with the goal to strengthen Long Island’s downtowns and our infrastructure.

The spirit of the Smart Growth movement – people helping people, businesses helping other businesses and municipal governments working collaboratively advancing new ideas to redesign and strengthen our  downtown communities and infrastructure remains strong. The incredible response post-Sandy from local folks over the last year combined with renewed economic investment in our downtowns reminds me  every day how meaningful the work and the people shaping this movement really are in improving our communities.

As you know our Board, staff and community partners have acted as a catalyst and provided support for Smart Growth projects and policies for many years.

This year had many bright spots highlights, some of which include:

1) Progress on Transit-Oriented Developments:

Approval of 650 more transit-oriented development units to bring a total of more than 7,600 units over the last seven years. Notable successes include projects in Farmingdale, Hicksville and Valley Stream.

2) Changing regulations and road designs to make our streets safer for all users:   

Progress on this issue included the passage of Complete Streets legislation in Nassau County and the City of Long Beach.  Vision is pushing for New York State to change high-accident roadways like Sunrise Highway in Nassau County towards safer roadway designs. 

3) Investments in infrastructure pre- and post-Sandy: 

Vision has been a leader in expanding public and private support for wastewater, transportation and energy infrastructure for our region. Most notable is the unprecedented Federal investment of $455 million in the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant that services 540,000 Nassau residents which is the largest funding for a wastewater infrastructure project in Long Island’s history. In Suffolk County, unprecedented County funding has gone to upgrade downtown sewer systems in Northport, Babylon and Riverhead.

4) New constituencies and expanded public support for Smart Growth:

Vision has been successful in expanding the movement to include our regions youth, seniors and small business in support for Smart Growth solutions. Local polls show an increase in support for Smart Growth projects thanks to all of our efforts.

5) Continued presence in Albany:

Vision is a founder and joint leader of the LI Lobby Coalition which brings over 50 organizations to Albany each year to ensure a Long Island voice for a joint small business, civic, environmental and transportation, human service and smart growth agenda. Once again we impacted the state budget and were also able to the Sandy Relief Act and solar legislation passed – our fifth and sixth major bills passed in less than four years. Due one of those laws, the NYS Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Act, public funding has been directed towards Smart Growth and infrastructure projects in many of our downtowns like the most recent round of Economic Development Council awards. 

6) Premier leadership and events: 

The LI Smart Growth Summit and Smart Growth Awards continue to be LI’s premier planning events that bring our leaders together. This year was another one of record turnouts, excellent honorees, speakers and the development of new ideas and projects for our region. For more on this important event please read the full write up here!

For 2015 we have much more work to do –

1) Priority Infrastructure investments:

Federal and State resources that will come to LI for infrastructure and rebuilding need to reach the communities they are intended with an emphasis on redesigning our neighborhoods to be more resilient.

2) Many of the downtown projects that can grow our economy are still awaiting approval:

Despite many victories in recent years, over 15,000 units of housing are being considered in over 20 pending Smart Growth projects across Long Island. Work will be needed to achieve local consensus toward approval and implementation. 

3) Coordinated bottom up planning:

Local officials, small business leaders and community organizations need to continue to shape the decisions of our neighborhoods while planning collaboratively with the numerous regional authorities and plans forming.  Vision has to continue to work in this area and bridge the gap between our communities and these varying regional plans. 

And as most folks know we have to end this message with a standard pitch for your continued support:

Vision operates very lean with hardly any overhead – no highly paid consultants, nice offices, or layers and layers of bureaucracy. Support for Vision has and will always go directly to our mission which advances the Smart Growth movement each day to better our downtowns and grow our regions infrastructure.

The folks who have supported us throughout the years know our work and collective accomplishments. For friends that are new to us – and have questions on our goals and activities please call us directly at 631-804-9128 and we would be glad to bring you up to date.

So in short, in order to grow the Smart Growth movement, we need both your guidance and financial support as we wrap up this year and plan our next steps into 2014.

We are privileged and humbled to serve the Smart Growth movement during these challenging times for Long Island. Thanks to all of our friends and colleagues and we hope you have a wonderful holiday season at home and in your community.

Best,

Eric Alexander

Vision Long Island

Please donate today online, by email or by mailing in the donation form below.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Vision Long Island at 631-261-0242 or info@visionlongisland.org.

Sincerely,

The Board and staff of Vision Long Island

Thank you for supporting Smart Growth this holiday season!

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January

Jan 5th

A Look Back At The Billions Spent On 2013 Transportation Projects

More than $259 million in federal funding was officially locked in for Long Island transportation projects in 2013.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) released their 2013 “Annual Listing of Obligated Projects” last week. The report unveiled thousands of maintenance projects and improvements across Long Island, New York City and the lower Hudson Valley.

“It’s a good listing for anybody who wants to see what transportation projects were federally funded this past year,” spokeswoman Lisa Daglian said.

NYMTC is a federally-designated council of governments that handles transportation planning for the region. They identify long-term needs and possible solutions, which in turn creates the five-year Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs). Once the council approves a TIP, the projects within are eligible for federal funding. After that, the appropriate federal agency will formally fund each project – obligation of funds.

Planning Director Gerry Bogacz said applicants – municipalities, local transportation departments and the like – actually front the money and request up to 80 percent federal reimbursement.

Of the hundreds of Long Island projects in the obligation report, the top 10 most expensive projects collected more than $259 million. That includes six LIRR projects, two Superstorm Sandy recovery projects and two projects for improvements on Route 347. Bogacz said $52 million went towards Sandy projects on Long Island.

The report also identifies if funds were advanced from future years for 2013, and also if 2013 funds were pulled in 2012. Last year’s tenth most expensive project – widening the intersection of Pinelawn Road and Ruland Road – advanced $15.15 million. While $106 million in current funds was tapped in the past, $108 million in future funds were used for last year’s projects.

“It’s a bit of a wash,” Bogacz said.

The 2014-2018 TIP was approved in September and includes $31.7 billion for 1,338 projects, including 430 projects on Long Island requiring $5.5 billion. Of the $31.7 billion, 63 percent is slated for transit and 37 percent is going towards highway projects.

Several hundred projects have been slated for Long Island, including numerous road renovations, countless eco-friendly vehicle purchases and a multitude of drainage-improving jobs. The list also includes Intermodal construction at Pilgrim State Hospital in 2017, major bridge replacement of Route 110 over Sunrise Highway and efforts to reduce vehicular travel through vanpools and a bicycle-leasing program at LIRR stations.

Some projects only appear for a single year, Bogacz said, while others can be obligated for years until the work is complete.

For more information about the 2013 Listing of Obligated Projects, visit NYMTC online.

Better! Cities & Towns: Why Walkable Places Are Preferred

This article was originally published in Better! Cities & Towns.

Just over half of Americans (52 percent), say they want a detached house with a large yard — compared to a house with a small yard or no yard at all, according to the latest poll of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), released in October.

Does that mean that Americans want more of what the housing industry has been providing for the better part of three generations—spread-out subdivisions with drive-to shopping centers and office parks? The desire for the house with the big yard has fueled suburban growth since the end of World War II and was a major force behind the American suburban dream of the last half of the 20th Century.

But the statistic could be compared to your favorite ice cream. Question: Would you like a single scoop or a two-gallon tub of your favorite ice cream? A yard is appealing. A big yard is more appealing. Put that way, I’ll take the big yard and the two-gallon tub.

But that’s not how people navigate the difficult choice of where to live. The decision involves trade-offs on many factors, many of them conflicting. Americans overwhelmingly want a short commute (or no commute at all). They want easy access to the things they need (60 percent favor a neighborhood with a mix of houses and stores and other businesses within walking distance, NAR says). Fifty-nine percent want public transportation within an easy walk of their home, the survey reports.

They want choice in how to get around (driving, walking, biking, public transportation), and they want easy access to culture and parks, preferably within walking distance. Sometimes home buyers simply fall in love with the charm of a community (the vast majority of respondents, 78 percent, say that the neighborhood is more important than the house in choosing where to live, NAR reports).

When Americans today are given a choice involving these trade-offs, the option of a walkable, compact, mixed-use community comes out consistently ahead of conventional, drive-only places, the NAR survey shows (by a margin of 60/35 to 50/45, depending on how the question is phrased).

The concept of drive-to-where-you-live suburbia was rational and appealing to the majority of households, policymakers, and industry when it was new in the middle of the last century. Commutes were short, open space was plentiful, and the demand for mass-produced subdivisions was huge. We subsidized this new growth and enacted policies — single-use zoning, setback and parking requirements, street standards, finance controls — that made building traditional neighborhoods illegal. Predictably, over seven decades, we have overbuilt the drive-only suburban option. Researchers such as Arthur Nelson and Christopher Leinberger – whose work is featured in this issue – have confirmed this oversupply.

As traffic congestion, longer commutes, more expensive driving, and loss of open space has eroded the advantages of conventional suburban communities, the virtues of your grandparents’ communities are once again widely recognized. For the public and private sectors, walkable places create a ton of value. It’s not just the higher density, but the way that density is arranged in cities and towns that generates economic and social value not available in drive-only suburbs.

Smart Growth allows for creation of quality public space, proximity to culture and civic amenities, and the connection to nature that is accessible on foot. It allows for transportation choice and the ability to reduce household automobile costs. It’s simply a more efficient way to build. Combine these qualities with current undersupply and a strong ongoing demand for walkable places, reflected in research reported throughout this issue, is inevitable.

Jan 12

Friends Of Long Island Join Forces To Rebuild Home Amid Snow, Cold

A special delivery left Gina Bonner in tears arrived with a house full of guests.

Volunteers from Friends of Long Island were in the midst of restoring the Babylon house damaged more than a year ago by Superstorm Sandy on Saturday when an envelope from New York Rising arrived. It wasn’t the jackpot Bonner and her boyfriend Bob Coffey were hoping for, but it did hold a check for the few reimbursements they filed.

“I can beat up the insurance company. I can do what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said, her eyes red and body in the arms of Neighbors Supporting Neighbors President Theresa DiPietto.

But it was the two dozen volunteers carrying pink fiberglass into the house and screwing white boards of sheetrock into place who created the badly-needed progress. Coffey, who had been slowly working on the house while they lived in it, said they saved him a year of work.

“This will allow us to put Sandy behind us,” he added.

The historic storm flooded the home with three feet of water in October 2012; Bonner, Coffey and their nephew were living in the house. Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Executive Director Kim Skillen met Bonner a few days later, providing some immediate aid. They’ve continued to provide support, even though Neighbors Supporting Neighbors does not do construction.

Meanwhile, life continued to throw hurdles in front of the beleaguered homeowners. Bonner’s stepfather died on Easter Sunday and her father was diagnosed with cancer. Abandoned to hospice care in Florida, he came up to New York where doctors were able to send the cancer into remission. He moved back south, where Bonner’s mother was suffering from serious health issues. Forced to return north when the cancer returned, he learned about his wife’s death a few days later.

The couple had also been prepared to start a beauty and fragrance business just before the storm. Coffey said he was about to purchase inventory when Sandy hit.

Much of the house was gutted after the storm, but unable to move or hire a contractor, the family lived in two back rooms still damaged from Sandy while Coffey slowly began repairs. Construction became his fulltime job and surprises routinely popped up along the way.

“We’re doing the best we can,” he said.

At the same time, Bonner tended to the people living under their roof, which tripled in size. Her father permanently moved into the Babylon home as he battles cancer. Her son, his girlfriend and their child moved from California, joining Bonner’s daughter and a friend of the family. That too became her fulltime job.

Bonner and Coffey agreed to make repairs their priority, even if it meant sleeping on floors. But Skillen and DiPietto reached out to community activist Jon Siebert and Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander. Both men are founding members of Friends of Long Island – a loose-knit collection of post-Sandy volunteer groups. Neighbors have spent months gutting houses, raising money and planting flowers for others in their own community, but Saturday marked the first group effort with Friends of Freeport and East Rockaway-based The 11518 joining Neighbors Supporting Neighbors.

“We’re willing to go help wherever we can,” Friends of Freeport President Rich Cantwell said. “When each of our groups needs assistance, we’re here for them.”

Members of the family previously lived in Freeport, although Cantwell admitted he wasn’t going to turn down Skillen and Friends of Long Island just because of a zip code.

He led volunteers in finishing the demolition, adding insulation, working on the floors and putting up sheetrock. Minor tasks like tiling and painting would be left to Coffey, but most of the structural work was finally taken care of.

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer and new Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey were also on hand, helping carry out the family’s belongings so work could begin inside. Schaffer said he met Bronner after Sandy and wanted to thank the volunteers.

“The amazing thing about this is that none of these groups existed before Sandy,” McCaffrey said, noting it was his first public appearance as a legislator.

For more coverage of this event, check out CBSNews 12 (subscription required) and Newsday (subscription required).

Informative Public Comment hearing held for Ronkonkoma HUB

On Thursday, January 9th, Brookhaven Town Board met in order to hear public comments and information on the proposed $475 million Ronkonkoma HUB project spanning 53.75-acres including and adjacent to the Ronkonkoma train station.

Thursday’s meeting was born three years ago as an agreement between Towns of Islip and Brookhaven in September 2011. Then Supervisors Phil Nolan and Mark Lesko teamed up to fund a sewage treatment plant and other infrastructure they hoped would encourage private business and MacArthur Airport expansion. An earlier version of the plan garnered a Smart Growth Award from Vision Long Island in 2009 for then-developer VHB thanks to its ambition of providing a variety of transportation options in the area. The current plan has been allocated significant public transportation and sewer infreastructure.

Built around the Ronkonkoma LIRR station, the development would combine rental and permanent housing with office, retail and meeting space. The tallest buildings would neighbor the LIRR station as others shrink as the distance builds. Plans called for three- and four-story residential buildings, along with a three-story average for commercial buildings, 195,000 sq. ft. of retail, 360,000 sq. ft. of office space, 60,000 square feet of flex space including convention space, and 1,450 housing units set at market rate, in addition to senior and assisted living units.

The plan in its current incarnation is being proposed by the master developer, Setauket based Tritec Real Estate Company, who is also currently building the $100 million New Village at Patchogue. The company has stated that it hopes to break ground on what it hopes will be development opportunites that will bring high-end housing and live entertainment to the area. However, if approved, they will first need to purchase the property from the eight owners who control a majority of the 54 parcels in the area. Though they hope to enter into a “friendly agreement” with the owners, Tritec has not ruled out eminent domain as a “tool of last resort.”

Thursday’s meeting was held in order to consider five actions: a land use plan, an environmental impact statement, a Ronkonkoma Hub Urban Renewal Plan, the adoption of a town code amendement for the district, and a rezoning of the parcels to accomodate the development. No votes were taken but public comments were heard with support coming from local groups such as the Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Association, the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce, and the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce among other local residents and businesses. Several local regional interests also spoke such as the LI Housing Partnership, the Community Development Corp, the LI Builder’s Insititute, Plumbers Union, Carpetnters Union, LI Regional Planning Board, the Rauch Foundation, and Vision Long Island.

Most of the comments were in support of the project with a roughly three to one margin in favor of the proposal. Most of those in favor referenced economic development, cleaning up the blighted area by the train station, and a hope for increased property values. Most opposed raised concerns about traffic congestion and the abuse of eminent domain laws.

The expected cost of around $475 million will be covered by Tritec who will also combine funds with governmental agencies to pay for improvements to a local sewage treatment plant that can handle 1.1 million gallons per day, which is greatly in excess of what the project is estimated to need.

You can read Vision Long Island’s testimony from the meeting here. Written comments on the project can be submitted until February 10th.

You can check out News 12’s coverage of the meeting here.

Friends Of Long Island Join Forces To Rebuild Home Amid Snow, Cold

A special delivery left Gina Bonner in tears arrived with a house full of guests.

Volunteers from Friends of Long Island were in the midst of restoring the Babylon house damaged more than a year ago by Superstorm Sandy on Saturday when an envelope from New York Rising arrived. It wasn’t the jackpot Bonner and her boyfriend Bob Coffey were hoping for, but it did hold a check for the few reimbursements they filed.

“I can beat up the insurance company. I can do what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said, her eyes red and body in the arms of Neighbors Supporting Neighbors President Theresa DiPietto.

But it was the two dozen volunteers carrying pink fiberglass into the house and screwing white boards of sheetrock into place who created the badly-needed progress. Coffey, who had been slowly working on the house while they lived in it, said they saved him a year of work.

“This will allow us to put Sandy behind us,” he added.

The historic storm flooded the home with three feet of water in October 2012; Bonner, Coffey and their nephew were living in the house. Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Executive Director Kim Skillen met Bonner a few days later, providing some immediate aid. They’ve continued to provide support, even though Neighbors Supporting Neighbors does not do construction.

Meanwhile, life continued to throw hurdles in front of the beleaguered homeowners. Bonner’s stepfather died on Easter Sunday and her father was diagnosed with cancer. Abandoned to hospice care in Florida, he came up to New York where doctors were able to send the cancer into remission. He moved back south, where Bonner’s mother was suffering from serious health issues. Forced to return north when the cancer returned, he learned about his wife’s death a few days later.

The couple had also been prepared to start a beauty and fragrance business just before the storm. Coffey said he was about to purchase inventory when Sandy hit.

Much of the house was gutted after the storm, but unable to move or hire a contractor, the family lived in two back rooms still damaged from Sandy while Coffey slowly began repairs. Construction became his fulltime job and surprises routinely popped up along the way.

“We’re doing the best we can,” he said.

At the same time, Bonner tended to the people living under their roof, which tripled in size. Her father permanently moved into the Babylon home as he battles cancer. Her son, his girlfriend and their child moved from California, joining Bonner’s daughter and a friend of the family. That too became her fulltime job.

Bonner and Coffey agreed to make repairs their priority, even if it meant sleeping on floors. But Skillen and DiPietto reached out to community activist Jon Siebert and Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander. Both men are founding members of Friends of Long Island – a loose-knit collection of post-Sandy volunteer groups. Neighbors have spent months gutting houses, raising money and planting flowers for others in their own community, but Saturday marked the first group effort with Friends of Freeport and East Rockaway-based The 11518 joining Neighbors Supporting Neighbors.

“We’re willing to go help wherever we can,” Friends of Freeport President Rich Cantwell said. “When each of our groups needs assistance, we’re here for them.”

Members of the family previously lived in Freeport, although Cantwell admitted he wasn’t going to turn down Skillen and Friends of Long Island just because of a zip code.

He led volunteers in finishing the demolition, adding insulation, working on the floors and putting up sheetrock. Minor tasks like tiling and painting would be left to Coffey, but most of the structural work was finally taken care of.

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer and new Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey were also on hand, helping carry out the family’s belongings so work could begin inside. Schaffer said he met Bronner after Sandy and wanted to thank the volunteers.

“The amazing thing about this is that none of these groups existed before Sandy,” McCaffrey said, noting it was his first public appearance as a legislator.

For more coverage of this event, check out CBSNews 12 (subscription required) and Newsday (subscription required).

Informative Public Comment hearing held for Ronkonkoma HUB

On Thursday, January 9th, Brookhaven Town Board met in order to hear public comments and information on the proposed $475 million Ronkonkoma HUB project spanning 53.75-acres including and adjacent to the Ronkonkoma train station.

Thursday’s meeting was born three years ago as an agreement between Towns of Islip and Brookhaven in September 2011. Then Supervisors Phil Nolan and Mark Lesko teamed up to fund a sewage treatment plant and other infrastructure they hoped would encourage private business and MacArthur Airport expansion. An earlier version of the plan garnered a Smart Growth Award from Vision Long Island in 2009 for then-developer VHB thanks to its ambition of providing a variety of transportation options in the area. The current plan has been allocated significant public transportation and sewer infreastructure.

Built around the Ronkonkoma LIRR station, the development would combine rental and permanent housing with office, retail and meeting space. The tallest buildings would neighbor the LIRR station as others shrink as the distance builds. Plans called for three- and four-story residential buildings, along with a three-story average for commercial buildings, 195,000 sq. ft. of retail, 360,000 sq. ft. of office space, 60,000 square feet of flex space including convention space, and 1,450 housing units set at market rate, in addition to senior and assisted living units.

The plan in its current incarnation is being proposed by the master developer, Setauket based Tritec Real Estate Company, who is also currently building the $100 million New Village at Patchogue. The company has stated that it hopes to break ground on what it hopes will be development opportunites that will bring high-end housing and live entertainment to the area. However, if approved, they will first need to purchase the property from the eight owners who control a majority of the 54 parcels in the area. Though they hope to enter into a “friendly agreement” with the owners, Tritec has not ruled out eminent domain as a “tool of last resort.”

Thursday’s meeting was held in order to consider five actions: a land use plan, an environmental impact statement, a Ronkonkoma Hub Urban Renewal Plan, the adoption of a town code amendement for the district, and a rezoning of the parcels to accomodate the development. No votes were taken but public comments were heard with support coming from local groups such as the Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Association, the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce, and the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce among other local residents and businesses. Several local regional interests also spoke such as the LI Housing Partnership, the Community Development Corp, the LI Builder’s Insititute, Plumbers Union, Carpetnters Union, LI Regional Planning Board, the Rauch Foundation, and Vision Long Island.

Most of the comments were in support of the project with a roughly three to one margin in favor of the proposal. Most of those in favor referenced economic development, cleaning up the blighted area by the train station, and a hope for increased property values. Most opposed raised concerns about traffic congestion and the abuse of eminent domain laws.

The expected cost of around $475 million will be covered by Tritec who will also combine funds with governmental agencies to pay for improvements to a local sewage treatment plant that can handle 1.1 million gallons per day, which is greatly in excess of what the project is estimated to need.

You can read Vision Long Island’s testimony from the meeting here. Written comments on the project can be submitted until February 10th.

You can check out News 12’s coverage of the meeting here.

Economy, Schools, Weather Top Governor Cuomo’s State Of The State Address; Long Island Lobby Coalition Delegation visits lawmakers

Job growth, education and disaster recovery were three key parts of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address Wednesday. Speaking to thousands in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center up in Albany and thousands more online, Cuomo said 2014 would be a “banner year” his fourth annual speech.

The governor introduced a three-prong strategy to improve job growth in New York. The first step is to further reduce taxes; that includes spending $2 billion in state funds. He also proposed cutting the corporate tax rate from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent and making it the lowest since 1968. He also suggested a renter’s tax credit and circuit breaker tax credit – designed to cover a homeowner’s tax bills that exceed a certain percentage.

Property tax is a serious problem in New York, Cuomo said, and the highest in country. Last year, residents paid $41 billion in income tax compared to $51 billion in property tax, which goes to local municipalities and districts. All those government, fire, school and other local districts – 10,500 across the state – duplicate services and add more burden to taxpayers. “We have too many local governments and we’ve had them for too long,” the governor said.

Consolidating districts would reduce that financial burden. However, Cuomo said just two districts have consolidated since his time as attorney general. He recommended linking $715 million in financial assistance to consolidation.

The second piece of his job growth plan is to eliminate regulatory barriers that stop business from growing in New York. “We’ve talked about it for many years. The Senate had held hearings ,the Assembly has held hearings,” Cuomo said, adding it’s time to finally do something.

The third stage of the governor’s job growth plan is to rebuild the state’s infrastructure to twenty-first century standards. Cuomo said New York’s renewable energy superhighway needs improvements. He proposed offering expedited approval for smart projects, dropping the wait time from two years to 10 months. At the same time, Cuomo said LaGuardia and JFK Airports serve millions every day, despite the former being named the worst airport in the country. The governor said the state needs to assume management responsibility from the Port Authority to renovate both airports, referencing the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Cuomo also promoted his Start-Up New York program. Participating businesses can operate on eligible spaces and college campuses for 10 years with no taxes. “It makes New York the least expensive place in the US to locate a business,” he said, introducing the concept of a conference at the Javits Center to attract international companies.

The governor also suggested cutting corporate tax rates in upstate New York completely as part of his recovery plan for that part of the state. His plan also called for more tourism dollars, creating a one-stop shop Adventure License as part of driver’s licenses, supporting casino development and holding an agricultural summit to connect upstate growers with downstate customers.

But the entire state benefits from offering strong educations, Cuomo said. He urged residents to approve his Smart Schools Initiative. The bond would borrow $2 billion for schools to buy computers, tablets, wireless Internet upgrades and other technology. Schools embracing technology and the Internet have seen great results, although he said metal detectors at the front doors are the most sophisticated piece of equipment at other schools. “That is just wrong,” Cuomo said. “Our children deserve nothing less than the best.”

The governor also championed statewide universal full-day prekindergarten, full scholarships to high school graduates attending a SUNY or CUNY school for math or science, and paying teachers who exceed expectations a bonus. “Those who are ranked highly effective on their evaluations would be eligible to receive a $20,000 performance bonus,” he added.

Including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Lee and Tropical Storm Irene, New York State has weathered nine presidentially-declared disasters in the past three years. Cuomo called for new strategies and plans in dealing with extreme weather, taking a moment to praise Suffolk and Nassau County Executives Steve Bellone and Ed Mangano.

Part of his solution is to create the country’s most advanced weather detection system. That would connect 125 weather stations to provide real-time warnings. He also proposed establishing the country’s first college of emergency preparedness and homeland security, with former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly as an advisor, and training 100,000 residents for the first Citizen First Responder Corps.

State government exceeded their goal to women and minority business owners, Cuomo said, something they hope to continue into 2014. But he also pressed to support veterans in business, setting a goal to award disabled veterans 5 percent of state contracts.

The governor also proposed spending $100 million to build and preserve 3,000 units of affordable housing in multi-family developments. “In 1949, a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American. It still hasn’t become a reality,” Cuomo said.

The governor also recommended permitting medicinal marijuana to be prescribed in 20 hospitals across the state, passing the 10-point Women’s Equality Act, permanently removing driver’s licenses after the third DWI and suspending a teen’s license after a single texting and driving arrest. He urged continued ethics reform beyond the Moreland Commission in the form of new anti-bribery laws, public financing of elections, disclosure of outside clients with business before the state, independent enforcement and oversight at the Board of Elections.

Wrapping up the State of the State address, Cuomo referenced a possible anti-Semitic situation in an upstate high school. Students complained about swastikas drawn throughout the school and bullying from other students in 2011 while administrators refused to take action. A lawsuit was filed in 2012, but when the governor said he called the New York State Police, State Education Department and State Division of Human Rights, nobody knew about it. He also threatened school officials who fail to notify police about discrimination and harassment with their jobs.

A nearly twenty member delegation from the Long Island Lobby Coalition and friends visited Albany’s lawmakers and viewed the State of the State address.  Visits included NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, NYS Senator’s Jack Martins, Phil Boyle, NYS Assemblymembers, Bob Sweeney, Edward Hennessey, Charles Lavine, Steve Englebright, Harvey Weisenberg, Chad Luppinacci, David McDonough, Andrew Raia.  LI Lobby Coalition members included among others CCE’s Adrienne Esposito, LI Federation of Labor’s John Durso, LI Building Trade Council’s Pete Zarcone, Friends of LI’s Jon Siebert, Huntington Chamber’s, Pete Berpuglia, Empire State Future’s Peter B. Fleischer, Workforce Development Institute’s Michael Harrison, Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Nadine Lemmon, LI Business Council’s Bob Fonti, Local 338’s Joe Fontano, Suburban Millenial Institute’s Jeff Guilott, Office of Governor Cuomo’s Scott Martella, and Vision’s VP Trudy Fitzimmons and Eric Alexander.

Post-Sandy forum held with LI Storm Recovery Czar Jon Kaiman

On Thursday, January 9th, a community focused event sponsored by Friends of Long Island, including Neighbors Supporting Neighbors and Adopt a House, was held with recently appointed Long Island Storm Recovery Czar Jon Kaiman in order to address concerns about when resources will be received by those who need them.

In response to a sense of overwhelming frustration on the part of homeowners who have seen numerous delays and red tape when trying to rebuild. Mr. Kaiman promised the that money to pay for future work will be delivered “Hopefully, within a matter of weeks. The money is going to start flowing, and you will be getting money now directly for the reconstruction.”

Kaiman face a tense and occasionally contentious crowd of over 500 anxious people that demanded answers in response to when they would receive rebuilding funds. Many people have been living with what were supposed to be temporary solutions since the storm hit over a year ago and were hoping for a clean time table on when they could expect delivery of promised resources.

NY Rising, the state agency temporarily in charge of distributing the funds, has received approval from the federal government to begin the task of paying out the roughly 6,000 claims by homeowners for the work needed for recovery. The funds are expected to pay for approximately 50% of the total costs of repairs. Funds will also be allocated to help pay mortgage bills for displaced residents who are struggling to also rent out apartments while they wait to rebuild.

Vision Long Island, who attended and spoke at the event, would like to applaud Kim Skillen, Theresa Dipietto and the Adopt a House team for being able to pull together so many community members to host a productive and informative forum.

Groups urge Congress to restore commuter tax break

There is currently a big push from advocates of public transportation to get Congress to restore the Commuter Tax Benefit, which expired at the end of December, in order to prevent further fare hikes. If the tax break is not restored it could mean, on average, costs of up to $1,300 a year for Long Island Railroad passengers.

Over twenty transit groups, including Vision Long Island, from the tri-state area were signatories to a statement that was released on Wednesday, asking lawmakers to renew the Commuter Tax Benefit when Congress reconvenes this week. Through this tax break, riders are able to pay the cost of their fares with as much as $245 in pretax dollars each month through employer-administered programs such as WageWorks. After the benefit expired, the allowed amount of deductible income was went down to $130 per month. Motorists, however, who commute by car will still be allowed $250 to pay for parking costs.

“When riders no longer have the option to use pretax dollars for transit passes, transit systems may face decreased ridership, which often leads to fare hikes and service cuts,” the groups, including the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the LIRR Commuter Council, said in their statement. “Restoring and enacting permanent parity for transit riders, and making that parity retroactive to January 1, establishes a balanced and progressive fiscal policy.”

In a separate statement, LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein said giving bigger tax breaks to drivers “sends exactly the wrong message to people who have made the responsible decision to use public transportation to travel to work.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) led an effort in Washington, D.C., to extend and increase the full Commuter Tax Benefit as part of a package of tax breaks considered last month, but it was blocked by GOP lawmakers. Schumer said Wednesday he is working on bringing the issue up for a vote again in the Senate “as soon as humanly possible.”

“No one questions that this tax benefit is critical to New York and New York commuters,” Schumer said.

For further reading, please visit Newsday.

Jan 19

Protestors Call For Transit-Oriented Development In Baldwin

A Baldwin neighborhood deemed blighted has a reputation for questionable characters and vacant, run-down buildings. And neighbors aren’t happy with plans to revive the area.

Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Baldwin) and Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) joined about 100 residents, business owners and community leaders took to Grand Avenue on Saturday, protesting against Breslin Realty Development Corporation’s plans to build a drive-through CVS pharmacy on the 5-acre property.

“We’ve been trying to get it developed for at least 15 years,” Baldwin Civic Association President David Viana said.

Currently, the area near Grand Avenue and Merrick Road consists of ground-level retail with 52 second-story apartments. A fire destroyed two buildings, which remain boarded up. The Town of Hempstead gave the neighborhood a blight designation in 2006, which prompted landlords to stop maintaining buildings and chased away others.

“Things look bad. Businesses don’t want to move in because they think things are going to get knocked down,” Viana said.

The Town of Hempstead is negotiating with Breslin for the redevelopment project, which now features a drive-through CVS. Using just a single acre, the pharmacy would be the fifth branch in Baldwin alone.

“We’re hoping they’re listening to the community. What the community wants is a thriving downtown,” Curran said.

Also abandoned was a Smart Growth plan about six years ago that seemed to be moving forward. Developer Albanese Organization wanted to build a mix of retail and housing less than a mile from the Baldwin LIRR station. But the deal fell through, Viana said.

“It’s so frustrating it didn’t work out,” Curran said.

Demonstrators were hopeful for a new plan that would revitalize the neighborhood as Baldwin’s main business district, a mix of housing and eclectic small businesses.

“We want to learn from the communities [Rockville Centre and Freeport’s Nautical Mile] near us, but also Patchogue. We really want to get that Main Street feel back for Baldwin,” Viana said.

Vision’s Executive Director Eric Alexander was also on hand for Saturday’s protest.

“Customers want to be in downtowns. Young people and aging baby boomers, a whole range of people, want to shop in downtowns and people want to live in downtowns,” Alexander said.

For more coverage of this issue, check out Newsday (subscription required), CBS and FiOS 1. Newsday also published this editorial about the neighborhood.

Cuomo Drives $67 Million Towards NYS Transportation Projects

$30 million. That’s how much municipalities across New York anticipated would be available in state transportation funding when they applied last summer.

But on Wednesday, Cuomo surprised everyone by awarding $67 million from the Transportation Enhancement Program (TEP).

“We applaud Governor Cuomo for heeding the call of New Yorkers to increase funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure with a 50 percent increase in TEP funds.  This additional funding can be used by towns and municipalities to meet the soaring demand for safe, walkable, bikable, economically vibrant streets. It’s a significant step forward in the spirit of the state’s Complete Streets law,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool said.

The governor awarded $67 million for 63 projects across the state. Long Island took home $5.1 million – compared to $14.8 million for New York City and $3.3 million for the Southern Tier.

“With this funding, we are moving forward with 63 projects across the state that will make our transportation system safer and more modern,” Cuomo said. “From building new facilities for bicycles and pedestrians to supporting historic highway programs, these projects will provide new tourism and recreational opportunities for New Yorkers and visitors, boosting our ongoing tourism and economic development efforts and improving the quality of life in our communities.”

That includes $1.65 million for Sunrise Highway Streetscape Program in the Village of Freeport; $1.61 million for Bay Shore Corridor Project in Bay Shore; $1 million for downtown main street sidewalk and road improvements in Port Jefferson; and $838,000 for Shorewood Drive/Welwyn Road pedestrian and bicyclist enhancements in Great Neck Plaza.

“An increasing number of Long Islanders are walking in our downtowns and commercial corridors. Traffic-calming projects are needed to enhance pedestrian safety. We are pleased to see the state step forward and fund what will address an increasing need,” Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

Funding pedestrian and bicycle projects are not only beneficial for recreational and economic – pedestrians are more likely to stop in downtown stores, but TSTC Albany Legislative Advocate Nadine Lemmon said it improves appalling safety numbers. Half of all fatalities on a road in New York State within Long Island, New York City and the lower Hudson Valley are bicyclists and pedestrians. The 27 percent figure for across the entire state is the worst in the country.

At the same time, she added, there’s been a high demand and low supply of transportation funds. Not only have the TEP funds not been awarded on a regular basis, but this was the last round. Another version, the Transportation Alternatives Plan, is expected to assume a similar role. In addition, the federal government cut 30 percent of transportation expenses from their MAP-21 highway plan.

“New York State only spends a couple pennies on the dollar for these kinds of improvement, which is why we’ve been pushing for more money to go towards these projects,” Lemmon said. “There’s a huge backlog because this has been underfunded for years. There’s also a growing demand. More and more people are tired of sitting in their cars.”

Advocates are asking Cuomo to dedicate a line in every state budget for pedestrians and bicyclists, to the tune of $20 million.

Schumer Joins Campaign For Ocean Outflow Pipe At Bay Park Plant

Federal officials joined the fight in Nassau County to secure funding for an outflow pipe at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

Senator Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday that he was seeking $600 million in federal money for the wastewater plant that was battered and bruised by Superstorm Sandy. He also met with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate.

“We watched in horror while an environmental disaster unfolded in the wake of Sandy, with sewage from the crippled Bay Park plant flowing back into homes and local waterways,” Schumer said.  “This outflow pipe, which Nassau has been seeking for decades, would prevent another environmental disaster from unfolding, and is the perfect use of mitigation money that Congress secured in the Sandy Relief bill early last year.”

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant serves half a million Nassau County residents and processes about 50 million gallons of sewage daily. Sandy crippled the plant last year with nine feet of saltwater flooding, knocking it completely out of service for two days. Millions of untreated and partially-treated sewage flowed through the plant and into local waters before emergency repairs were made.

Temporary measures kept the plant up and running again for months after Sandy. Emergency generators power the plant at $1 million every month, generating noise and odor complaints from neighbors.

Mangano proposed a $722-million plan last summer to repair, rebuild and harden both Bay Park and Cedar Creek. The Legislature, however, voted only to authorize spending $262 million, which did not include replacing the corroded electrical system at Bay Park. The Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved a $463 million loan with no interest from the State Environmental Facilities Corporation in December to fulfill that plan.

Governor Andrew Cuomo allocated $455 million in Federal Community Development Block Grants towards Bay Park repairs and improvements in October.

However, none of these funds went towards an outflow pipe. Such a pipe would dump effluent – treated sewage – into the Atlantic Ocean instead of Reynolds Channel. Not only do officials say it would have prevented 2.2 billion gallons of partially-treated wastewater from being dumped into the channel, but environmentalists say high nitrogen levels in nearby waters have been caused by Bay Park over the years.

“This project may be the single most important thing we can do to protect homeowners and the environment,” Mangano said. “It is a prime candidate for the money Senator Schumer fought so hard for in the relief bill, and we deeply appreciate that he is leading the charge in getting the county funds we need so badly. We all remember the sewage crisis we had in the wake of Sandy and we need to avoid that again at all costs.”

For more coverage, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Storm Prep, Jobs Center Of LI Rendition Of Cuomo’s State Of State

Vision Long Island and Long Island Business Council hosted Ken Adams, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development Thursday at Dowling College, where he presented the Governor’s State of the State address.

Adams focused on the main points of this year’s speech, mostly on ways to drive economic development. Among the topics were improving and investing in education, public health and safety in local communities, emergency preparedness, continuing job growth strategies, reducing property taxes and fixing dysfunction in Albany to regain public trust.

Adams highlighted the most important and relevant aspects of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s speech to fit Long Island’s local and regional issues. The commissioner briefly discussed the launch of fourth round of the Regional Economic Development Council awards, which will specifically focus on creating jobs and attracting international investment, citing Long Island as the top performer in previous years. He also talked about the new tourism push, “Get Outta Town,” to get people to visit outside of the city. For the Long Island region, it would mean focusing on the successful food and wine industry which is continually growing. He also mentioned the governor’s Start Up NY program, which would create tax free zones and incentives for certain school programs, especially in math and science fields.

During a subsequent Q&A session, audience members questioned the commissioner about Long Island receiving it’s share of tax dollars, future storm preparation and rebuilding efforts, housing issues and infrastructure, mainly sewer upgrades and other water protection infrastructure. He said many of the issues surrounding further development in certain areas post-Sandy are due to the lack of water infrastructure.

“Since it’s a statewide challenge there is more focus on it…everyone just has to keep making noise,” Adams said.

He also thanked Vision Long Island for their lobbying efforts in Albany and Scott Martella for coordinating the presentation. “The governor laid out a bold vision for Economic Development in 2014….it is important to deliver the message at local levels, get feedback, and build support.”

The governor will present his budget next Tuesday, with a goal to have it enacted by March 31. For a full transcript of Cuomo’s speech, visit his website.

Infrastructure Funding Incorporated Into $1.1 Trillion Budget

Congress unveiled a proposed $1.1 trillion budget Tuesday on the auspices of compromise.

With the embarrassment of the government shutdown last fall still lingering and continued partisan opposition to programs like Obamacare and military spending, both Republican and Democrat legislators voiced tentative support.

“Not everyone will like everything in this bill, but in this divided government a critical bill such as this simply cannot reflect the wants of only one party,” lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We believe this is a good, workable measure.”

The negotiated deal keeps the USPS delivering six days, requires the NSA to turn over data about phone record collection, includes a temporary reprieve to homeowners and business facing higher flood insurance premiums, and does not block the president’s health care reform.

It also includes $600 million for a fourth round of TIGER grants. Known formally as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, the TIGER program pumps federal money into projects that have a significant impact on the country, region or metropolitan area. Thirty-seven states received $474 million last year, although Long Island has never received funding for any projects.

The proposed spending plan also contains increase in the New Starts program, the federal government’s primary financial resource for local transportation investments. That includes capital improvements on train lines and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. BRT has been discussed for both the Nassau Hub and Route 110.

The budget allows for the potential of wastewater treatment funds for Long Island and other regions. Congressional officials and many organizations will be working to bring these resources home.

The House of Representatives approved the deal on Wednesday, with the Senate following suite yesterday. President Barack Obama must sign the budget before midnight Saturday, when temporary funding expires.

For more coverage of the budget, check out Politico.

Jan. 27

No Verdict Yet On Westbury Hotel/Apartment Complex

An unusual mix of apartments and hotel rooms could still be in the cards for Westbury.

The Hempstead Town Board reserved judgment on the proposed Portofino project during a hearing Tuesday morning. Developer Beechwood Organization needs to secure a zoning change for the 195-unit apartment and hotel complex.

“There was no opposition to the proposal. The town is keeping the public comment period open for two more weeks,” Beechwood President Michael Dubb said. “I’m very hopeful.”

A town official confirmed both that a change from industrial to residential is required and that the board did not make a decision.

Once home to racehorses as the Roosevelt Raceway at Westbury, the 5.5 acres in question could become a six-floor hotel and apartment building. Plans call for 68 one- and two-bedroom suites along with 71 one-bedroom apartments and 56 two-bedroom apartments. Dubb said the apartments would measure 800-1,700 square feet while the hotel suites measure about 500 square feet.

“This is a piece of land that would have been used for warehouses, office complex or a store. There seems to be a shortage of rental housing on Long Island. Hopefully this helps,” he added.

Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander confirmed there is a market for hotels and rental housing on the island.

“We see hotels being built and rentals houses being financed. To combine the two is interesting. We haven’t seen that,” Alexander said.

Dubb said the concept is to provide apartment tenants with the same neighborhood amenities as hotel guests. That includes restaurants, movie theaters, banks and supermarkets nearby. The local bus station is a short 5-minute walk, prompting residents to use more public transportation.

“It will have hotel rooms and it will have apartments, many more apartments than hotel rooms,” he said.

Not only does the proposed development include a restaurant and fitness center on the property, but plans also call on Beechwood to donate 4 acres to the Town of Hempstead for parkland and a soccer field.

The president said the latter had been requested by the town, which he was happy to oblige with the shortage of soccer fields available to the community. The Hempstead spokesman said the Portofino proposal moves existing park space to a more suitable area nearby.

Meanwhile, he added that no action can happen until the Town Board issues a decision. There are no restrictions or time limits for that to happen. If they do support the project, the developer would then seek site plan approval and building permits.

For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Cuomo’s Budget Maintains Transportation, Adds To Business

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a $137.2 billion proposed budget Tuesday, a $1.8 billion, or 1.3 percent, increase over the current fiscal plan.

If approved, he claims New York would pocket a $500 million surplus in 2014-2015 and allow surpluses to grow to $2 billion in three years. Opponents have challenged this, claiming it will create budget gaps down the road.

“What we’re trying to do is provide the people of the state of New York a government that performs efficiently and effectively for them, forges community, and lowers taxes to provide relief and restore economic opportunity,” Cuomo said.

The budget, which covers the fiscal year beginning April 1, incorporates billions for transportation, economic development and environmental expenses.

Cuomo’s proposal funds the second year of the NYS Department of Transportation’s $3.4 billion capital improvement program for all modes of transportation infrastructure. That also includes $225 million for New York Works – a coalition of finance, labor, planning and transportation experts – to accelerate projects, provide engineering and improve transit facilities.

The MTA would receive $4.3 billion, an $85 million increase from the current budget. Of that bump, $40 million would come from “surplus” mass transit funds to pay off debt incurred by the state on behalf of the MTA. The minor increase is better than a cut, MTA Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee boss William Henderson said, but it also doesn’t change much.

“It’s pretty much a steady state. There’s a little bit more funding in there. It’s not things we didn’t already not know,” Henderson said, adding that 2015 could be more moving with the agency’s $12 billion capital plan ending this year.

If approved, the budget would preserve local capital aid for highway and bridge projects at current level with $438.1 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and $39.7 million for the Marchiselli program. These programs are key sources of funding for repaving and other smaller projects.

The budget, however, does not incorporate the annual $20 million spending for pedestrian and bicycle capital projects requested by Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

On the business side, the governor’s proposal would maintain the 10 regional economic development councils. More than $2.2 billion has been awarded since they were created in 2011, and the plan calls for $500 million more in a fourth round of competition.

It also allocates $110 million for another round of challenge grants from the NYSUNY 2020 plan, created to provide funds to universities that use technology that improves students’ education and job opportunities. NYSUNY 2020 would also link with the existing START-UP NY program that creates tax-free havens for new businesses on SUNY campuses.

If approved, Cuomo would spend $50 million from the New York Power Authority to continue enhanced marketing for doing business and investing in New York State. He also called for a second round of $5 million for regional tourism marketing campaigns.

The state Superfund program would be extended for a year in the proposed fiscal plan. It would also continue the Brownfields Cleanup Program for 10 years and limit remediation tax credits only to the actual cleanup, while redevelopment credits would be available only to sites that have been vacant for more than a decade, worth less than the cleanup credits or are priority economic development projects.

Environmental spending would include a $3 million, or 2.7 percent, bump to $122 million for the Department of Agriculture and Markets; $135 million for another round of New York Works funding to address a backlog of environmental capital needs and spur economic development; and $1.1 million to market the state’s food and beverage industry through the Taste NY program.

Cuomo’s plan also hacks 4.7 percent, $43 million, from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s budget. He referenced completion of projects from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the 1996 Bond Act, as well as transferal of IT staff to the Office of Information Technology Services.

According to environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy, the proposal does create a slight increase for the Environmental Protection Fund. That would bump Open Space Program lines $2.5 million to $85 million, Parks and Recreation Programs $100,000 to $58 million and Solid Waste Program expenses to $350,000 to $14 million. That includes $2 million for new Suffolk Water Quality expenses under the Water Quality Improvement Program.

For more coverage of the proposed budget, check out Newsday (subscription required) or the governor’s website.

Feb 3

Taubman Sells Cerro Wire Land, Smart Growth In Plans

Taubman Centers is no longer trying to build a luxury mall on the former site of an Oyster Bay factory against the wishes of the community.

The Michigan-based developer announced Friday they sold the 39-acre former Cerro Wire property to rival Simon Property Group. The site was part of a 19-year battle between the two developers to build a mall.

“Despite our best efforts and continuing enthusiasm for the opportunity, it became apparent that we were not going to be able to move forward anytime soon in Syosset with development of The Mall at Oyster Bay,” Chief Executive Robert Taubman said. “Given the excellent progress we are making with a number of other properties in our development pipeline, we are pleased to be able to redirect our resources at this time.”

Simon purchased the Oyster Bay land and its competitor’s interest in an Arizona mall for $60 million cash and 555,150 partnership units in Simon Property Limited Group Partnership. Taubman will also be relieved of its $84 million piece of a $167 million loan against the Arizona mall, the final piece of the $230 million transaction.

Taubman’s plans hit a major hitch last summer when Oyster Bay voters easily authorized the sale of town property to Simon for $32.5 million. The latter developer purchased the 53-acre parcel for mixed-use development, while the former had sought the former Department of Public Works property to connect with the neighboring Cerro Wire property for an 860,000 square foot mall housing 150 retailers.

Meanwhile, the Michigan developers sued, claiming negotiations were handled inappropriately. A court ruled against Taubman in October, and the company never appealed despite promises they would.

Along the way, the Cerro Wire Coalition – a group of 26 civic, business, educational and community groups – battled Taubman’s efforts to build a mall on the Cerro Wire property. When the developer forced this summer’s referendum in hopes of negating the sale of the 53 acres, the coalition continued to challenge them.

Chairman Todd Fabricant called the sale “a tremendous victory” that will become an asset to the community. He confirmed they support mixed-use development for both parcels.

“We look forward to partnering with them in Smart Growth for the community and to be great neighbors,” Fabricant said.

Cerro Wire once employed 600 employees at the site before abandoning the property in 1986. It’s lain dormant since.

For more coverage, check out Newsday(subscription required).

Caithness II Hearing Generates Large Turnout In Brookhaven

A proposed 750-megawatt power plant drew a full house to Brookhaven Town Hall Tuesday for an environmental study and special permit request.

Labor groups, residents and environmental advocates showed up at the meeting for the proposed Caithness II plant in Yaphank. If approved, owner Caithness said the plant could be running next to the 350-megawatt Caithness I by 2018.

Union representatives and others touted the merits of the plant, especially job creation. Caithness II would create 10-16 permanent jobs, as well as more than 500 temporary jobs during a 28-month construction period. Caithness would also pay more taxes to the Longwood School District, Yaphank Fire District and other local municipalities.

Neal Lewis, executive director of The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, spoke in favor of the project. He said it would lower carbon dioxide emissions by seven times more than all of LIPA’s current efficiency programs combined. Lewis also said Long Island needs extra power sources even though “there are no guarantees.”

Port Jefferson Village officials spoke against the plant, in fear it would preclude the existing Port Jeff plant from being repowered. The existing facility is known to be aging and very inefficient.

Mayor Margot Garant complained that a new Yaphank plant would be built on open space but a new power plant in her village could be built on the current site.

However, Caithness President Ross Ain said his proposed power plant would be the cleanest burning on Long Island.

Existing steam power-plants on the island operate at 33 percent, while Caithness officials claim Caithness II will operate at a more efficient 50 percent. They also said it will produce substantially less mono-nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic chemicals, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

Unlike older plants designed only to run at full capacity, Caithness II is designed to increase or decrease power output without any significant loss of efficiency. This means it can be paired with renewable energy sources like solar panels whose output varies with the weather.

“This one project has the potential to make a dramatic improvement to the efficiency of Long Island’s electricity production,” Vision Long Island Sustainablity Director Elissa Kyle said.

LIPA, now managed by PSEG LI, began searching for new energy sources a few years back. They chose the Caithness II project last year from 16 entries for 45 projects.

The town board will vote later on the draft environmental study and waivers for stack height, building height and buffers. However, LIPA will make the final decision whether to build Caithness II.

For more on the proposed power plant, check out Newsday (subscription required), Times Beacon Record and Vision’s fulltestimony.

Long Beach Residents Rally To Reopen Hospital

Motionless bodies lay strewn in front of the ambulance entrance at the defunct Long Beach Medical Center. No doctors, ambulances or wheelchairs rushed to their aid.

Thankfully, the scene on Saturday was just a die-in – a stunt designed to raise awareness about the hospital. The protest came on the heels of news that South Nassau Communities Hospital (SNCH) wants to reopen the facility with only emergency services.

The Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) closed after Superstorm Sandy inundated the 162-bed hospital and caused $56 million in damage last October. All necessary construction to reopen was reportedly finished last summer, but LBMC has not received permission from the state Department of Health to reopen. Commissioner Nirav Shah has said he won’t approve reopening the hospital, which annually lost $2 million since 2007, without a sustainable health care business model.

SNCH has been in negotiations to acquire the facility. They received a $6.6 million federal grant last fall to open the shuttered hospital as an urgent care facility. That included ambulatory triage, radiology and a dozen exam rooms. 911 calls, however, would have been routed to other hospitals like Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, St. John’s Episcopal in East Rockaway and SNCH.

But Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) said the latest discussions have centered around opening just an emergency room.

“As we understand it now, if South Nassau enters into the agreement, I think that is the direction. I think they need the Department of Health’s permission,” Ford said, adding that discussions are between two private entities. “There’s a lot of negotiations going on.”

Instead, Ford joined Island Park resident Sue Hecht and more than 40 others outside the LBMC Saturday morning to protest the delay. They remained motionless on the ground for three minutes beginning at 9:30 a.m.

“We’re hoping more people support us for the next die-in. Thankfully it was a die-in and people weren’t dying,” Ford said.

More than a year after Sandy closed the hospital, Hecht said it is absurd Long Beach and Island Park don’t have their own medical facility. Other hospitals like Nassau University Medical Center is at least 20 minutes away.

“How long is it going to take?” she said. “Surfing accidents are pretty serious. Does it make sense if you have a trauma center, why fly them to Mineola or East Meadow? We should have those services right here.”

Hecht, a social worker who lost her job after Sandy, also wants mental health services for the barrier island. Public details of the negotiations do not include such services for a reopened LBMC.

Neighbors are facing significant stress, she said, in the wake of Sandy. Substance abuse and suicide are very real issues for Long Beach and Island Park. Hecht added that she’s knows several who attempted suicide and expects to see “a lot of fatalities” if something doesn’t change.

The Island Park resident has already contacted Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano about creating a mental health clinic in Long Beach. He offered his support to the informal proposal and Hecht is now creating a formal business plan with help from the Farmingdale State College Business Center. She’s also investigating sources of funding..

For more coverage of this story, check out Herald Community Newspapers and News 12.

Bellone Initiates War On Nitrogen Pollution In LI’s Water

Water may be an ample resource on Long Island, but Suffolk County officials are raising the alarm about contamination.

Releasing the executive summary of Suffolk County’s Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, the first update since 1987, County Executive Steve Bellone declared a war on surging nitrogen levels last week.

“Water is at the heart of everything on Long Island,” Bellone said. “It is critical to our health and our quality of life and it underpins our multi-billion dollar tourism industry. Today, we release a report that shows we have been polluting this precious resource in a way that has devastated our surface waters – our bays and river corridors – caused negative trends in the quality of our drinking water and left us more vulnerable to future storms, like Sandy.”

The county executive was joined by other elected officials, scientists, environmentalists and representatives from the construction and water supply industries.

“The need to ensure our water quality is protected as well as the need to ensure that everyone has a good place to live are clearly compatible under the plan announced today by County Executive Bellone,” said Mitchell Pally, CEO of the Long Island Builders Institute.  “LIBI looks forward to working with all concerned to make sure that both goals can be met quickly and safely.”

Bellone followed last week’s presser with a tele-conference on Monday evening. Nearly 10,000, many members of the public, dialed in.

“He’s making a strong public commitment to take action on his promise to protect drinking and coastal water. He talked about upgrading septics, expanding some existing sewer infrastructure and adding staff to the department of health,” said Adrienne Esposito, director of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment Executive Director and participant in last week’s event.

Protecting and improving the island’s surface water, Northport Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said after the call, would support Long Island’s agriculture, a foundation of the area’s economy.

While Monday’s call began as a presentation, Espositio said it evolved into a conversation with residents asking “good questions” about pesticides, toxic chemicals and how they can repair the damage.

Nitrogen pollution was identified as public enemy No. 1. County officials said nitrogen has reached critically high levels, impacting both drinking water and surface water that serves as Long Island’s last line of defense against disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

According to the EPA, nitrogen is an essential nutrient for aquatic ecosystems. Excessive nitrogen feeds algae to grow faster than the ecosystems can handle, blocking sunlight that causes other plants to die and consume oxygen. Nitrogen pollution can also lead algal blooms that are toxic to humans.

Bellone referenced how the Great South Bay clam harvest dropped by 93 percent, devouring an industry that once provided 6,000 jobs.

Nearly 70 percent of Suffolk County lacks sewers, county officials said, which is a leading source of nitrogen. The county executive said he wants to identify which properties are doing the most damage to water quality. At last week’s press conference, officials said 209,000 homes that can be sewered or connected to upgraded treatment systems have been identified, with the list eventually cut to 100,000.

“I travel all over the world and there is nothing like coming back home to Long Island and knowing that I can drink the tap water, brush my teeth, shower without covering my nose and mouth. We need to ensure we will keep forever, what for most of the world is a luxury, but for us is still everyday life,” Tobin said.

A member of the Northport Harbor Water Quality Committee, he also urged Long Islanders not to dump prescription or over-the-counter drugs down the drain. Instead, Tobin said to find a drug drop-offs like the Northport Police Department or each Suffolk County Police precinct.

“They’ll be taken in by aquatic life where they can either be re-ingested when people eat fish or shellfish, they can stay in ground water and get into the water supply. Why should we take each other’s medicines? Some of them can also produce developmental or genetic changes in the sea life itself,” he said.

Another Yellow Signal For LIRR’s East Side Access Project

Don’t expect to ride from Long Island to Grand Central Terminal before another decade passes.

Both the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released updated projections for the MTA’s East Side Access project for the LIRR at an FTA meeting Tuesday.

The federal agency expects the plan to build a new 8-track LIRR terminal underneath Grand Central and 11 miles of new tunnel to finish in 2023 and cost $10.8 billion. MTA officials were slightly more optimistic, projecting $9.7 billion by the end of 2021.

When the East Side Access project began in 2001, MTA officials set a $4.3 billion budget and 2009 completion date. But those figures were quickly derailed, changed five times including the latest. The estimate in 2012 called for a 2019 completion date and $8.24 billion bill.

As of this week, seven miles of tunnel have been drilled and 1.5 million cubic yards of earth have been excavated from underneath Grand Central.

MTA hired outside consultant Rick Thorpe to help rein the project back on track. He’s since advocated to add more management by creating executive positions and a steering committee manned by top MTA, LIRR and Amtrak officials. MTA Chairman Chris Prendergast confirmed the group is being put together.

Once completed, the new terminal below Grand Central is expected to handle 162,000 passengers daily. The goal is to shorten commutes for many Long Island residents who ride into Penn Station and double-back to east side of Manhattan. Customers would save 40 minutes a day, according to MTA projections.

LIRR Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein remained disappointed with the constant delays.

“When it comes to the East Side Access project, the gap the MTA needs to worry about is the credibility gap,” Epstein said. “We should all watch that gap.”

All Aboard! LIRR Picks Up More Riders In 2013

News broke Monday that ridership was significantly up for the LIRR; then word came it won back the title of busiest commuter railroad in North America.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) confirmed Long Island trains had a banner year in 2013.

The LIRR carried 83,384,250 riders last year, 1.64 million, or 2 percent, more than in 2012. That marked the second consecutive year of increase after five down years. It’s also the highest since the railroad’s record 87.4 million passengers in 2008, and the seventh highest year in more than 60 years.

The Port Washington line saw the most improvement. It gained 351,000, about 3 percent, in ridership. LIRR officials speculated restoration of half-hour service in November played a major role. They also suggested that Long Beach, which saw the biggest drop, is still recovering from Superstorm Sandy. Thirty-five thousand fewer people, about 0.8 percent, rode the South Shore line last year.

The LIRR also gained an influx of commuters. The number of passengers going back and forth on weekdays increased 3 percent from their 2012 numbers.

“We, of course, welcome increased ridership. However, it must be met with increased track capacity and equipment to avoid aggravating the overcrowding issue riders already face on many lines,” LIRR Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein said.

Meanwhile, the MTA confirmed the LIRR beat out sister MTA railroad Metro-North for the most riders in 2013, winning the title of busiest commuter railroad in North America. The LIRR’s 83.4 million was just 5,745 more than the Westchester-Connecticut rail system. Long Island trains previously held the honor until Metro-North assumed the crown in 2011.

For more coverage, check out this Newsday story (subscription required).

President Obama Advocates Clean Energy, Small Businesses, Infrastructure At 2014 State Of The Union Address

The leader of the free world touched on a number of topics in his optimistic State of the Union address on Tuesday, including energy and economic development.

Homegrown energy, President Barack Obama said, is essential to creating more jobs in America. The country is closer to energy independence than ever in recent history, he claimed, crediting natural gas as a “bridge fuel” that lowers carbon pollution. He pledged to cut bureaucracy for factories using natural gas and called on Congress to authorize fueling stations for cars and trucks.

Obama also referenced alternative energy, citing that an American home or business installs solar panels every four minutes. The solar industry even added 23,000 jobs in 2013, he added, with nearly half working as installers earning $23 per hour. He recommended changing tax policy in the wake of giving fossil fuel companies $4 billion in tax subsidies on top of their $118 billion in profits back in 2012.

In addition to energy production, the president covered energy consumption. Boasting how the federal government has partnered with businesses, builders and local communities, he said the United States reduced its total carbon pollution more than any other country in the last eight years. In the future, he wants to set higher fuel efficiency standards for trucks to reduce carbon pollution by 270 metric tons and further limit carbon emissions from power plants, which already account for almost 40 percent of domestic carbon pollution.

“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact,” Obama said. “And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

The president was hopeful economic development indicators would produce more jobs in 2014. Instead of rewarding companies that send profits overseas and punish American investors with wasteful loopholes, he called on both Democrats and Republicans to close those loopholes and lower tax rates for American business that create jobs.

Rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, Obama said, is an opportunity to create jobs with money saved from those loopholes. That includes upgrading ports and rebuilding roads. He called on Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterway bills while he pledged to cut red tape to streamline the permit process for key projects.

He also emphasized the need to support small business owners and entrepreneurs, who create the most new jobs in the country. More loans were made to small business owners by Obama’s administration in the last five years than any other recipient. He added that 98 percent of American exporters are small businesses that benefit from new trade partnerships with Europe and Asia-pacific.

“We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.”  China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines.  Neither should we,” the president said.

For a full transcript of his prepared speech, check out CBS.

 

 

 

February

Feb 4

Long Island Has 7 of Downstate’s 10 Most Deadly Roadways

Jericho Turnpike has supplanted Hempstead Turnpike as the most dangerous thoroughfare in downstate New York.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) released their annual dangerous roads for pedestrians report, which revealed more pedestrians were killed on Route 25 in Suffolk County than Route 24 in Nassau County. According to their study, 16 died on Jericho from 2010-2012, half along an 11.5-mile stretch from Centereach to Ridge. Twelve were killed on Route 24.

The New York State DOT began improvements along six miles of Jericho Turnpike in Nassau County back in 2012. That included new turning lanes, improved turning radii at street corners, pavement markings, raised center medians, sidewalks, crosswalks and aesthetic landscaping.

“We applaud NYSDOT’s work on Jericho Turnpike in Nassau County, but we urge the state and we hope that the state to extend similar safety improvements into Suffolk County, where they are desperately needed,” TSTC Associate Director Ryan Lynch said.

Since Tri-State began their annual analysis in 2008, Jericho Turnpike has consistently sat among the most dangerous roads. But after being tied for second, it clinched the dubious title this go-around. US-130 in New Jersey jumped up to tie Hempstead Turnpike for second this year.

Route 110 in Suffolk County tied with three other thoroughfares for fourth most deadly with nine fatalities between 2010-2012. Sunrise Highway in Suffolk was one of the others, while Sunrise in Nassau is No. 8 with 8 pedestrian deaths. Merrick Road in Nassau County and Route 27A in Suffolk County each had seven fatalities to tie for No. 10.

In total, the report states 683 pedestrians were killed on roads on Long Island and New York City from 2010-2012. Two hundred twenty-nine died in 2012 alone, slightly more than the 226 in 2011 and 228 in 2010.

Arterial roadways are often the largest killer, according to TSTC. These multi-lane roads often have speed limits in excess of 40 MPH with little room for bicyclists and pedestrians. About 15 percent of miles in the Tri-State area are arterials, and nearly 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur here. In downstate New York, nearly half of pedestrian deaths happen on arterials.

“Pedestrian fatalities are tragic but they can be prevented,” Campaign Staff Analyst Renata Silberblatt said. “Passing completestreets policies, laws and plans is the first step to ensure that roads are designed and redesigned with all users of the road – pedestrian, transit riders, bicyclists and motorists of all ages and abilities – in mind.”

They emphasized the need to redesign transportation systems in the area. Protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks and pedestrian safety islands would make a difference they said, as would a program like New York City’s Vision Zero that ups traffic enforcement, lowers speed limits through residential neighborhoods and employs more cameras.

Specifically, Tri-State called for Long Island Safe Route to Transit program that would target stations and stops for pedestrian improvement; increase funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects in the governor’s budget and state’s capital program; allow local leaders to change speed limits as needed; adding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to the state’s Preservation First repair policy; standardizing the reporting of fatalities; and adopting Complete Streets policies.

Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, said the report is a reminder that Long Island’s roadways are dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians. The nonprofit has been a staunch advocate for Complete Streets.

“The recommendations contained herein will serve to reverse what has become a descending spiral of poor safety measures in the design of our regions streets,” Alexander said. “Vision Long Island and other organizations will be asking our public officials to address these findings at our second annual Complete Streets Summit on Thursday, April 3.”

Fact sheets and maps are available on Tri-State’s website. For media coverage of this report, check out Newsday (subscription required) and News 12 (subscription required). Information and signups for the Complete Street Summit are available here.

Nassau Unveils Update For Long-Term Sewage Plant Work

More than a billion dollars in capital improvements at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant are underway or expected to this year.

Nassau County late last month released the December 2013 update for their Wastewater Treatment Facilities Restoration Program. Dozens of ongoing and anticipated projects are included, most benefiting the East Rockaway plant.

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant serves half a million Nassau County residents and processes about 50 million gallons of sewage daily. Superstorm Sandy crippled the plant last year with nine feet of saltwater flooding, knocking it completely out of service for two days. Millions of untreated and partially-treated sewage flowed through the plant and into local waters before emergency repairs were made.

Temporary measures kept the plant up and running again for months after Sandy. Emergency generators power the plant at $1 million every month, generating noise and odor complaints from neighbors.

Mangano proposed a $722-million plan last summer to repair, rebuild and harden both Bay Park and Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant. The Legislature, however, voted only to authorize spending $262 million, not including a replacement for Bay Park’s corroded electrical system. Legislators unanimously approved a $463 million loan with no interest from the State Environmental Facilities Corporation in December to fulfill that plan. Governor Andrew Cuomo allocated $455 million in Federal Community Development Block Grants towards Bay Park repairs and improvements in October.

The status update for last month covers nearly $1 billion in renovations specifically related to Sandy, plus another $180 million in improvements.

Among the $603 million set aside for 18 Wastewater Storm Facilities Restoration projects, Nassau County is in the process of installing flood walls around critical infrastructure, installing a new fire protection pump station at a higher elevation and replacing electrical substations. Some of the projects have begun construction or entered the bid process, but many are not expected to finish planning and conceptual design until this summer.

The county also set aside $455 million for Superstorm Sandy Repair and Mitigation; five Bay Park projects command $350 million alone. That includes $202 million to replace electrical distribution substations, with construction expected to begin April 2014. Repairs to the sludge dewatering facility will run $65 million, with planning and conceptual design due by this month and construction to begin in March 2015.

A number of other projects are also included in the long-term program, including several projects addressing issues at Bay Park before Sandy bombarded the plant. Installation of new odor control biofilter systems at both Bay Park and Cedar Creek for $35.9 million could start this October, while installation of a storage and polymer feeding system for sludge thickening began in October. The $17.3 million project is a 24-month contract that was awarded in September.

Long Beach Hospital Deal Hinges On $100 Mil From FEMA

Long Beach and Island Park residents have been without a medical facility for months following Superstorm Sandy, and they could be out longer if federal officials can’t hash out a deal.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D) called on FEMA to transfer $100 million in Sandy aid from Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC). South Nassau Communities Hospital (SNCH) has been in negotiations to purchase the defunct hospital, but is currently not eligible to receive the aid.

“Up to 100 million dollars and the health of the Long Beach community is hanging in the balance here,” Schumer said.  “A positive ruling from FEMA will allow Sandy aid to flow to the medical center in the way congress intended, which can clear the way for new not-for-profit ownership that will re-establish sorely needed medical operations at the facility.”

The Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) closed after Superstorm Sandy inundated the 162-bed hospital and caused $56 million in damage last October. All necessary construction to reopen was reportedly finished last summer, but LBMC has not received permission from the state Department of Health to reopen. Commissioner Nirav Shah has said he won’t approve reopening the hospital, which annually lost $2 million since 2007, without a sustainable health care business model.

SNCH has been in negotiations to acquire the facility. They received a $6.6 million federal grant last fall to open the shuttered hospital as an urgent care facility. That included ambulatory triage, radiology and a dozen exam rooms. 911 calls, however, would have been routed to other hospitals like Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, St. John’s Episcopal in East Rockaway and SNCH.

Plans now call for a free-standing, around-the-clock emergency department as well as the urgent care clinic. That includes a freestanding emergency department, ambulatory surgery facility, urgent care, primary care, imaging center and other outpatient units.

But in a letter to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, Schumer said a positive Advisory Opinion from the emergency aid agency would legally allow SNCH to accept the $100 million and reopen the medical center.

“We are so close to bringing critical healthcare services back to thousands of people in Long Beach and South Nassau who have been without it since Hurricane Sandy,” Schumer said. “We need to make sure we are making the funds that LBMC is owed available to the next not-for-profit owner.”

No deal can go through, the senator added, until financial terms of a proposed merger are more clear.

FEMA officials have publicly said they will wait until a proposal to acquire LBMC is submitted, only then judging if the relief funds can be transferred.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

SCCC To County Exec Bellone: Give Us Land For Startups

A Governor Cuomo program to link businesses and schools could score well at Suffolk Community College.

School officials have reached out to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone about acquiring 63 acres adjacent to their 156-acre Selden campus to attract high-tech businesses.

“Suffolk Community College wants to participate, but we have no space. Colleges like Stony Brook has an incubator. We are filled to capacity,” spokesman Drew Biondo said. “In order for us to participate in the program, we really need to expand a bit, at least in Selden. We do have land in Brentwood and we do have land in Riverhead, but Riverhead is located in the Pine Barrens.”

About 26,000 students are enrolled in Suffolk Community College, the largest of the state’s 36 schools.

Biondo added that discussions were happening with county officials about transferring the 63 acres to the Selden campus. A Suffolk County spokeswoman confirmed conversations were underway.

“We are excited about the opportunity, but it it’s too early in the process to talk about the actual design and type of agreement that would be entered into,” Vanessa Bairdeeter said.

At the core of the matter is Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Start-Up New York” program, which provides 10 years of tax-free operation for startups located on SUNY and CUNY college campuses. Downstate schools can only invite high-tech businesses, although Biondo said that definition is loose.

School officials are eager to open their doors to startups both for direct and indirect benefits. Having companies on campus would create relationships between students, faculty and businesses, Biondo said, in addition to internships and jobs. Not only would it benefit students studying engineering, science and liberal arts, he added, but almost any program could relate.

“Any back office operation that would support their business might be a place where our students could work, intern or learn something about entrepreneurial opportunities,” the school spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the arrangement would bring new employees to the area, who would likely buy or rent homes nearby. This translates into spending money at local businesses and restaurants.

“It indirectly benefits the college, but it supports the surrounding community,” Biondo said.

Transferring the property would also serve another problem at the Selden campus. Parking is in high demand and short supply, the spokesman added, especially with public transportation limited to a few busses. Plans call for additional parking spaces in the 63 acres.

“Public transportation is not equivalent to what it would be if we were in a large city. The majority of our students are driving their cars here. There is bus service and students do come to school by bus, but the majority drive,” Biondo said.

School officials are completing their application to Start-Up New York as discussions with the county persist. Assuming everything goes smoothly, new businesses likely won’t open their doors on campus for at least two years, possibly more.

For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, LIBC: Jobs, Infrastructure, Affordable Housing Hot Topics

With the state budget process underway since last month, New York Senator Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) spoke to the Long Island Business Council (LIBC) and guests about money and jobs.

The GOP Majority Leader was the guest speaker for Thursday’s meeting at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale. He began his discussion with jobs, identifying job creation as the top priority over his career. All community-level problems, like crime, connect to jobs.

“You are the people who create jobs. It shouldn’t be government creating the jobs. We shouldn’t be getting in your way,” Skelos said. “Our job is to make sure New York State is competitive with other states.”

While the Long Island legislator does believe Albany is moving in the right direction, it still has a hard time shaking a bad reputation that includes so many late budgets and high taxes. He advocated carefully cutting taxes to support small businesses and keep spending under control.

Fortunately, Skelos added, the state government is now working together.

He referenced new Long Island unemployment figures. The rate dropped from 7.1 percent in December 2012 to 5.1 percent this past December. However, the senator also said those figures might be skewed by a large number of service jobs and not high-paying jobs.

Skelos called Long Island “car-dependent” and said state funding is critical for maintaining road infrastructure.

“These funds would be critical to improve our roads and transportation infrastructure,” he said.

The infrastructure conversation carried over to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, which was knocked out of commission by Superstorm Sandy. Plant officials, the legislator said, want to fortify Bay Park before the next hurricane strikes. He also backed calls for a $600 million ocean outflow pipe, which would dump effluent – treated sewage – into the Atlantic Ocean instead of Reynolds Channel.

“HUD is seriously considering that,” he said.

The senator also suggested that Long Island could use a shift in thinking. Reflecting on a situation nearly 20 years ago, Skelos and the MTA had $10 million to build a parking garage in Rockville Centre. The structure would have alleviated congestion and unique options were available, but the community shot it down.

“The bottom line is, for commuting in downtown areas, we have to do things that work,” he said.

When asked how to halt the brain drain on Long Island, Skelos’ response was affordable housing.

“We have to look at our downtown areas, not necessarily to elminate the suburban way of life we come here for but also facing reality that we need more afforable housing on Long Island. It can be rental housing. It can be done in such a way that it protects the community. But unless we do it, our young people would not be able to stay on Long Island,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dowling College Professor Nathalia Rogers said small business IRAs could keep local companies afloat in hard times. She continued to support the proposed investments, which would permit small businesses to deposit profits and withdraw them tax-free during an officially-designated recession. Rogers argued this would preserve Long Island jobs and protect capital funds.

Scott Martella, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Suffolk County representative also discussed the Regional Economic Development Councils. Created three years ago, the governor’s staff said they serve as a way to identify needs for individual communities, determine which projects are most important and how to provide funding. Long Island received $244 million in the first three years; a fourth year is included in Cuomo’s proposed budget.

Also at the LIBC meeting, State Assemblyman Joe Saladino credited Skelos as a hard-worker and said Cuomo was great to work with. The legislator also said he’s invested in the fight to keep young people from leaving Long Island, adding that they need people interested in helping others, not taking credit, to join the cause.

Assistant Comptroller Joe Galante, who reports to New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, was the final speaker Thursday. He encouraged everyone to check for unclaimed funds on the comptroller website. Bellante also said that DiNapoli will soon issue an official report on the state budget, although he said the budget is trending in the right direction.

Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Louis Vasquez addressed crowd looking to network Latino businesses throughout Long Island.

The next LIBC meeting is scheduled for May 15 at 8 a.m.

High ‘Scores’ For Communities Eschewing Cars

Not only do communities with walkable downtowns enjoy a great reputation, but they may be easier on residents’ budgets.

Nonprofit Walk Score released their 2014 best cities for public transit late last month. Comparing access to public transit, parks, stores and other metrics, New York City earned a top score among 300 cities with 81 of 100.

But Walk Score also calculates scores for countless zip codes, including Long Island towns and villages. And according toBetter! Cities & Towns, family transportation costs penalize those living in less walkable communities.

Homes in traditional suburban communities without a Main Street for small businesses and restaurants, public transportation and community resources like parks and libraries within walking distance typically do cost less than homes in cities or urban neighborhoods. But Better! Cities & Towns said the cost of buying a car, paying for maintenance, keeping it insured and fueling it up is about $10,000 per year of pre-tax income.

Walk Score heavily penalizes Long Island communities without downtowns. Melville scored a 21, Commack earned a 29 and Ridge picked up a 37. Scores from 0-24 mean that nearly all errands require a car, while 90-100 is classified as a “walker’s paradise.”

Ralph Ekstrand, mayor of the Village of Farmingdale, which earned a score of 77, said their success is equal parts access to LIRR station and specialty-type stores filling up Main Street.

The downtown push began in 2006, with Vision Long Island support. Elected April 2012 on a campaign of Smart Growth, Ekstrand said that included mixed-use zoning code, a redesigned master plan, a Downtown Revitalization Committee. Now the village’s first Smart Growth project – the $59-million Jefferson Plaza mixed-use development – is under construction.

Main Street is less than half-a-mile from the Farmingdale LIRR station, which the mayor said draws 4,400 daily riders and represents a major selling point.

“That shows you how much of a need there is for affordable housing by the station,” Ekstrand said.

Also in Nassau County, Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said a LIRR station lies in the middle of their village of 15,500 residents. The Westbury station cuts through Post Avenue.

The Village of Westbury, which received a 62 from Walk Score, also features some highly-rated restaurants, a park, new musical venue Space at Westbury and 700 units of multi-family housing.

“We have tried to implement the principals of developing around the train station and making that a draw,” Cavallaro said.

Smart Growth, the mayor added, is a long-term philosophy that’s made downtown more vibrant.

“We want to have a healthy business community so we can have a healthy residential community,” he said, referencing the relationship between both.

Across the border in Suffolk County, the Village of Patchogue received a Walk Score of 86. While many walkable neighborhoods are home to unique stores and open space, Patchogue has a plethora of arts, music and cultural resources.

Brick House Brewery opened in 1995, bringing live music and in-house beers. Blue Point Brewery, which was just sold to Anheuser Busch-Imbev for $24 million, opened in 1997. A fan of music and beer, Patchogue Arts Council President John Cino said Blue Point started to host events.

These days, the village is home to 45 live/work loft apartments in Artspace, the Plaza Cinema & Arts Center, local shows and larger venues like 89 North and the Emporium.

“It keeps people in town. They’re not looking to go somewhere else,” Cino said. “It brings people in from out of town.”

The village is also home to a $100 million mixed-use building with 291 apartments. The first tenants of New Village at Patchogue will be able to move in by this spring, with all construction expected to be over by the summer. It’ll also house 46,000 square feet of retail space and 18,000 square feet of office space.

Early in the new millennium, Cino said his mother-in-law was looking to move from Queens but wanted to remain independent. She ended up in Patchogue, living within walking distance of a library and church.

“It was perfect for her,” he said.

“At this point in time, it’s holding its breath as some of the building gets finished.”

 

2/10

‘Save Our Bay’ Rally Seeks $600 Mil For Bay Park Upgrades

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano was the keynote speaker, but he was joined politicians in both major parties, environmentalists, civic groups and residents Tuesday in calling for upgrades at Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

“We have an opportunity to build a wastewater treatment plant the right way,” Mangano said.

Nearly 100 gathered on the steps of the Nassau County Legislature, many holding signs or petitions, for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment’s rally. Executive Director Adrienne Esposito used the demonstration to show unified support for an ocean outfall pipe and additional nitrogen filtration.

“We are at the cusp of turning one of the worst sewage treatment plants in our state into a model plant for the region. By removing nitrogen and extending the outfall pipe into the ocean we will bring back our bays and protect our ocean,” Esposito said. “Now is the time for action.”

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant serves 550,000 Nassau County residents and processes about 50 million gallons of sewage daily. Superstorm Sandy crippled the plant last year with nine feet of saltwater flooding, knocking it completely out of service for two days. Millions of untreated and partially-treated sewage flowed through the plant and into local waters before emergency repairs were made.

Temporary measures kept the plant up and running again for months after Sandy. Emergency generators power the plant at $1 million every month, generating noise and odor complaints from neighbors. More than $700 million was allocated from county and state coffers to fund repairs by the end of 2013, although upgrades were needed at the plant for years long before.

Effluent – treated sewage – is currently released into Reynolds Channel, a bay that borders Long Beach, Island Park, Oceanside, Point Lookout and other southern Nassau communities. The problem Long Beach resident and Sludge Stoppers Task Force founder Scott Bochner said, is that Reynolds is too stagnant. Instead of using an outfall pipe to release the effluent in the Atlantic Ocean where it can be dispersed, Bochner said its part of the pollution crisis in the strait.

“It’s not a guess. It’s scientific studies that have been proven,” Bochner said.

Rob Weltner, president of Operation SPLASH, said the project had originally been discussed 36 years ago but was put on hold. Not only would the upgrades protect water for Nassau County, but he also said it would create temporary jobs for Long Island workers.

“We have to get this pipe built. No more delays,” he said.

Union officials agreed that building a pipe would cater to labor, environmental and economic development needs.

“Investments in our water treatment facilities are long overdue. If we’re able to leverage any dollars, we should make those investments,” said Roger Clapman, executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor.

Clean water and efficient sewage treatment facilities, Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander added, are essential for downtowns and small businesses.

State and federal officials have already pledged $810 million from Sandy relief money. The crowd on hand Tuesday, including Nassau Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), called on them to produce the remaining $600-$700 million to complete both parts of the upgrades.

“We must get it. And that’s the new message to send to Washington D.C. and Albany,” Denenberg said.

County Agrees To Sewer District In Mastic, Shirley

A new sewer system will be coming to Mastic/Shirley after all.

Led by Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), the Suffolk County Legislature voted Tuesday in favor of a wastewater treatment plant at Calabro Airport and $1 million to fund creation of a sewer district.

“For decades the Tri-Hamlet community has talked about the need for a sewer district to improve our economic corridors and protect our vulnerable environment,” Browning said. “This vote makes the realization of that dream closer than ever before. It is a historic moment for a community that desperately needs revitalization.”

The project calls for construction of a plant capable of handling sewage for Main Street districts and other recommended development. The proposed coverage area would run just west of the William Floyd Parkway to the Forge River along CR 80, and produce 300,000 gallons of waste daily.

The Town of Brookhaven has verbally committed 20 acres of Calabro Airport for the wastewater treatment plant, although an official vote has not yet taken place.

The $1 million brings the county’s contributions to the Mastic/Shirley sewer project to $1.9 million. Officials have also secured a $1.2 million state grant.

A 2013 feasibility study determined a sewer system would improve both economic development in Mastic/Shirley and the health of the Forge River.

Mastic and Shirley residents participated in a “visioning” for Montauk Highway with Vision Long Island in 2003. Community members wanted compact, walkable downtown areas with shops, restaurants and other community uses. This type of development is not possible without adequate wastewater infrastructure to protect ground and surface waters. Lower water uses such as retail need to be mixed with higher water uses like restaurants and residential to create a thriving neighborhood.

“The county funding and the partnership with the Town of Brookhaven for 20 acres of land at Calabro Airport is a critical linchpin in moving forward this multiphase project. The Mastic Shirley residents and businesses have been waiting for years for these types of partnerships and investments and glad to see everyone working together towards a common goal of protecting our water and growing the neighborhood economy,” Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

The Mastic peninsula is a densely populated area without the benefit of a sewer system. Old septic systems that don’t meet even the standards for less densely populated areas are letting excessive levels of nitrogen into the adjacent Forge River. Lack of sewer capacity has also limited commercial development needed for economic development.

The Forge River is compromised even without the additional development that the community is looking for. Water pollution has been a problem for years. The combination of antiquated cesspools, failing septic systems, polluting duck farms, population growth, and polluted stormwater runoff have taken their toll on the water. A sewer system is expected to go a long way towards cleaning it up and restoring it as a habitat for many local species.

The three-phase project will cover 3,899 properties over 1,400 acres. It’s expected to reduce nitrogen levels from 229 pounds per day to 69 pounds per day.

“The Mastic and Shirley communities need to be a top priority for critical sewer infrastructure. Protecting our south shore waters and restoring the Forge River will take state, county and town commitments and participation.  Designing the sewage treatment plant also allows the county to tap into other federal and state funds, “said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Vision Long Island held multiple visionings and plans in the Mastic/Shirley peninsula. The ongoing recommendation was the advancement of a sewer district. We are grateful the hard work of countless residents and business owners, and the leadership of Kate Browning and the Town of Brookhaven, has moved these visions towards reality.

Bicycle Comment Wheels Suffolk Leg. Barraga Into Hot Seat

A Suffolk County Legislator has not backed down from a controversial letter telling a constituent that Suffolk County is too dangerous for bicycling.

Legislator Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip) stood by his comments during a phone interview with Vision Long Island on Thursday, referencing anecdotal evidence about motorists colliding with others on the road.

“I’m not blaming the bicyclists. I’m not blaming joggers. I’m not blaming drivers. I’m just stating what’s happening out there,” said.

The legislator became the center of attention for a Jan. 19 letter he wrote to West Islip High School senior Matthew Cutrone. Cutrone wrote Barraga in the fall asking for help making roads safer for bicyclists as part of a school assignment. His mother, Sandy Cutrone, was struck by a car while riding her bike in Babylon Village earlier that fall. She suffered a concussion and broken shoulder blade. A senior loan officer at a Hauppauge bank, she’s still out of work and coping with vision problems.

On her Facebook page, Sandy said her son had four classmates struck by cars. Three were walking to school with two dying from their injuries. The fourth, she said, was intentionally hit on New Year’s Eve 2013.

The legislator told the teenager in his letter that while he wishes his mother a complete recovery, he believes nobody should ride a bicycle or motorcycle on any road in Suffolk County. He said he’s warned constituents who tell him about their new biking hobby, only to see 90 percent hit by an automobile.

Barraga also claimed dedicated bicycle lanes and additional signage would do little in his letter. He said Suffolk County is “a suburban automobile community”  and motorists only expect to see other motorists. With 135 signs between Montauk Highway and Sunrise Highway on Higbie Lane and Udall Road, the legislator added that many are ignored by drivers.

“Reality at time can be difficult for some to come to grips with but giving false hope would be inappropriate,” Barraga said.

Published by media sources early Thursday, the legislator drew ire from members of the public and nonprofits. Josh Wilson, executive director of the New York Bicycling Coalition, criticized Barraga for vilifying Sandy Cutrone.

“With Suffolk County having one of the worst bicycle safety records in the state – nearly 20 percent of bicyclists fatalities in 2011 and 2012 occurred in Suffolk County – certainly Mr. Cutrone and his family are not the only residents who are interested in seeing meaningful action to address this problem.  All people that legally use our transportation system – regardless of whether they are walking, biking, riding a motorcycle or driving – deserve a government that acts in the interest of keeping them safe, not one that blames the victims of reckless drivers,” Wilson said.

However, Barraga later said his intention was not to antagonize his constituents, but protect their safety. Again calling Suffolk an “automobile-centric county,” he said many drivers are too distracted to be cognizant of bikers and pedestrians until it’s too late.

“My primary purpose is to prevent people riding bicycles from getting hurt or maimed,” he said. “I’m not anti-bike. I wish we had the bike lanes. The reality is it isn’t.”

Changes to make roads in Suffolk County safer are unlikely to occur in the near future, Barraga added. Projects to increase awareness of others on the road, install signage and create bicycle lanes would cost too much for a municipality, he said, that cut 1,000 employees in the last two years to make ends meet. The legislator also said Smart Growth projects like the Ronkonkoma Hub and Heartland Town Center that would embrace shared road use in planning are nowhere close.

“Those projects in terms of completion and implementation will take another 5, 8, 10 years. As you’re trying to less-suburbanize Long Island, that is still 10-15 years down the road. In the interim, you have what we face every day,” Barraga said.

Vision Long Island invited Barraga to attend the upcoming Complete Streets Summit on April 3. Check out the letter here and more about the Summit here.

Meanwhile, these are some of the comments Vision Long Island received in the wake of the news.

Long Island Inc. President Michael Watt said he logs hundreds of miles on his bicycle and had trouble understanding how an elected official could write a letter like that.

Great Neck resident Lisanne Guzzetta said she was disappointed with Barraga’s tone.

“If he was coming at it a different way – like wow, it’s dangerous out there these crazy motorists need to slow down and there needs to be better road design – that would be one thing,” she said. “I would ask him does he think that given the dangerous nature of our streets that people shouldn’t cross the street – they should pick a side and stay there.”

Mastic resident Beth Wahl suggested tongue-in-cheek the legislator come up with a plan to buy every resident a car so nobody has to ride a bike.

“There are many people who do not have cars and rely on bikes to get them to work, stores and other places,” Wahl said.

Carle Place resident John Kingston and West Islip resident Christina Galante were among a group that had concerns about the accuracy of Barraga’s comments and challenged his 90 percent figure.

For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

owntown Huntington Part Of IDA’s Strong 2013

Suffolk County awarded more companies financial incentive to call the county home in 2013 than recent years.

The Suffolk Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is responsible for cutting red tape and providing financial assistance to keep businesses from moving and attract others to Long Island. Executive Director Anthony Manetta said they were very successful last year.

“It was a turnaround success story. We helped dozens of companies stay and grow on Long Island, created new initiatives and connected more than ever with the business community,” Manetta said.

In 2013, the IDA structured 24 projects that will retain 4,382 jobs and create 1,395 new jobs. They added $43 million in new payroll to the local economy and $232 in new local capital investment.

Before last year’s 24, the agency closed on 8 projects in 2012 and 5 combined in 2010 and 2011. That’s led to a 300 percent increase in revenue since 2011.

The IDA also authorized assistance to 29 new projects in 2013, which are expected to retain 3,180 jobs, create 1,621 more, add $70 million in new payroll and add $275 in local capital investment.

“We had a strong pattern of growth,” Manetta said.

Industries receiving aid were across the board, he added, although pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, high tech manufacturing and software had a particularly strong presence. They’ve also noticed significant growth in the first two industries for years.

Manetta continued to say these businesses are located across different parts of the county. Some are in traditional business parks and corridors, but others like LaunchPad Suffolk and a number of software companies call Huntington village home. The Suffolk County IDA has approved and is supporting a new high-tech business incubator in downtown Huntington. They expect it to become a hub of entrepreneurial activity and create dozens of jobs.

The IDA has a variety of tools at their disposal to promote economic development. They’re permitted to issue relief from property tax, sales tax and mortgage tax. They can issue bonds on behalf of companies. IDA officials can also connect businesses with other economic development partners and spearhead municipal issues.

Complete Streets Finds Support In New Design Guide

Victor Dover served as a speaker several times for Vision Long Island and its predecessor Vision Huntington around the turn of the millennium.

Now the Congress For New Urbanism (CNU) Board emeritus is unveiling a new guide to designing roads.

“Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns,” penned by Dover and CNU Board member John Massengale, hit shelves early in 2014.

The illustrated guide examines streets – both old and new – to demonstrate what works and what doesn’t. It features more than 150 streets with graphics and a discussion about why they are successful and how they were created. More than 500 photos and drawings (many never before published), reveal the details behind walkable places.

“Street Design” identifies crucial elements that many modern road designs lack, and includes step-by-step instructions for designing new streets and fixing existing ones-to make them more desirable, more valuable part of their respective village, town or metropolis. Also included are favorite streets and street-making stories from Lèon Krier, Gianni Longo, Gabriele Tagliaventi, John Norquist, and more than a dozen other leading design experts and new urbanists.

“’Street Design’ is a lucid, practical and altogether indispensable guide for envisioning and creating vibrant 21st century towns and cities. It should be required reading for every local political leader, planner, architect, real estate developer and engaged urban citizen in America,” Kurt Anderson, host of award-winning public radio show Studio 360, said.

The new guide also supports the Complete Streets transportation policy. Designed to create thoroughfares embracing pedestrians and bicyclists along with mass transit and cars, Complete Streets found support across Long Island last year, especially in Nassau County where legislation was passed in August.

The book is available for sale on Amazon.

Dover and Massengale will also be presenting about their book and the concepts of great street design at CNU 22: The Resilient Community in June. For more information about their report, check out the event website.

2/18

Friends Of LI Rebuilding Groups Host

New York State Sandy Recovery Chief Jon Kaiman

The boss of New York Rising told Long Island community leaders that cleaning up from Superstorm Sandy is the first such process in their lives.

Jon Kaiman, the governor’s adviser on Sandy relief and chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s Friends of Long Island (FoLI) meeting. With 70 people from various recovery groups in attendance at the Sustainability Institute of Molloy College in Farmingdale, he emphasized it was a living process.

“These are called 100-year storms for a reason,” he said.

FoLI is the umbrella organization for grassroots, volunteer groups across Nassau and Suffolk helping neighbors clean up after Sandy. Supported by Vision Long Island, members include Friends of Freeport, Lindy Manpower, Neighbors Supporting Neighbors, Adopt-A-House, The 11518 Together, SOS LI, Island Park, and Sandy Support, Massapequa Style.

Community leaders updated the NY Rising chief about progress in their communities. So far more than 400 homes have been ripped out and 175 have been rebuilt.

“Kaiman did a great job answering very detailed questions on NY Rising,” Vision Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

When Sandy slammed into the eastern seaboard back on Oct. 29, 2013, there was no avenue to connect residents with substantial financial assistance. New York Rising, the state’s federally-funded housing recovery program, was born six months later. And by then, Kaiman said, Long Islanders were already upset at them.

“They’re right to be frustrated, angry and concerned,” the adviser said.

The state, he admitted, is unsure exactly how many people are still out of their homes. New York Rising said LIPA has more than 1,000 people who still haven’t turned their power on, although that includes apartments and condos

“It’s not a perfect way to tell,” he said.

Congress signed off on $33 billion in financial relief to New York with strict controls to prevent mistakes and corruption. Those regulations delayed aid from reaching individuals, the adviser said, until last October when 3,000 New Yorkers received letters pledging $108 million in reimbursements.

Twelve thousand houses needed to be evaluated by New York Rising so checks could be cut to homeowners for repairs. Kaiman told FoLI the state spent the last three months of 2013 evaluating homes and investigating backgrounds to determine who is eligible for assistance, which is now getting to residents’ hands.

“Checks are being delivered as we speak,” he said, adding they reached out to 5,000 residents in the past two weeks.

In addition to cutting checks for homeowners to repair houses, New York Rising also funds reconstruction of homes. Kaiman admitted they underestimated just how many people lost their houses, although he said they estimate more than 600 will rebuild from scratch. Those applicants are eligible to receive $160 per square foot plus $25,000 upfront for site condition work.

Residents, he added, can accept New York Rising money and still appeal the amount. Original attempts to block that were headed towards delays and burdening applicants.

“Sometimes people are concerned if they take the money they are locked out from challenging the number,” Kaiman said.

The New York Rising head also explained the difference between the state’s two programs for residents to sell their homes. The buyout program has the state paying pre-Sandy value for the home and returning the property to nature. The acquisition program houses funds to buy homes for pre-Sandy values before selling them at discounted prices; these new owners are not eligible for financial assistance.

Kaiman added that the rules for elevating houses have changed. Homes initially were required to be within the 100-year floodplain and be severely damaged – more than 50 percent – to qualify for aid. Now applicants must meet just one condition, an adjustment he said that will protect more New Yorkers. He also assured FoLI members they would cover the cost of elevating through a $300,000 cap.

Responding to various questions from community leaders, the governor’s adviser fielded a few unusual questions. Residents of condos, co-ops and the like are urged to apply for assistance even if storm surges never reached their floor, Kaiman said, as it’s the only way they can secure funding to repair damaged common areas. He also said residents who are licensed contractors are permitted to oversee work on their own homes.

“We’re just going to treat you like someone else,” Kaiman said.

A Red Cross representative took repeated questions about how donations are being spent. Ninety-two percent, he said, have been allocated through their Unmet Needs Roundtables and Move-In Assistance Program. He also urged community members to call 516-747-3500 x212 to obtain Red Cross training for emergency response volunteers.

The next FoLI meeting is slated for May 21 at the same venue.

For more information about FoLI, check them out on Facebook. To financially support community-based rebuilding, please contact Jon Siebert.

Israel Drives Support For Safer Roads On Long Island

Suffolk County Legislator Tom Barraga and his bicycle comments were not the motivation behind proposed changes to transportation infrastructure, but the timing was not lost.

Speaking at Nassau County Police Department’s Second Precinct, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) advocated for the Safe Streets Act. But the federal representative said the county lawmaker emphasized the need to open America’s roads to bicyclists, pedestrians and other alternative uses.

“He actually helped educate people,” Israel said.

Meanwhile, the congressman petitioned for support in passing the Safe Streets Act of 2013. If approved, this would require states receiving federal funds for transportation projects to implement policies ensuring the safety and accessibility for everyone. The goal is to keep pedestrians safe.

West Islip resident Sandy Cutrone, the target of Barraga’s letter, was grateful to see progress. Struck by a van on Montauk Highway in Babylon Village last fall, Cutrone continues to battle neck pain, vision problems and post-concussion symptoms that have kept her from working.

Although she reluctantly thanked the Suffolk legislator for bringing the issue to light, the West Islip resident said she can never support an elected official who will pretend that motorists don’t need to be more aware of others.

“Kids are going to ride their bicycles to school. People are going to run,” Cutrone said. “We ride our bicycles on the most dangerous roads in the state.”

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign released their seventh annual Most Dangerous Roads Report earlier this month. Jericho Turnpike leapfrogged over Hempstead Turnpike for the top spot with 16 pedestrians dead from 2010-2012 compared to 12. Route 25 also surpassed the worst roads across New Jersey and Connecticut, according to the report.

Tri-State Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool said the Safe Streets Act would bring these fatalities down. The legislation embraces traffic-calming measures like narrowing lane widths, installing signs, adding crosswalks and creating pedestrian islands.

“Pedestrian fatalities are preventable. The passage of the Safe Streets Act by Congress would be one more step forward in reducing the hazards of Long Island’s roadways that put hundreds in peril every day,” Vanterpool said.

Many of those preventative measures don’t even require considerable spending, Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said, alluding to painting new lines.

Vision and Tri-State are known advocates for Complete Streets policies, which also plan infrastructure with pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation in mind. Ten Long Island municipalities have passed Complete Streets legislation, including Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Passing Safe Streets would add a federal ally to the cause.

However, Alexander also emphasized the human element behind their Complete Streets programs and Israel’s Safe Streets Act.

“These aren’t statistics; they’re lives,” he said.

Suffolk County police are aware where deadly accidents most frequently happen on roads like Route 110, Jericho Turnpike and Sunrise Highway, but they lack the resources to prevent them. Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon attended Tuesday’s event at the Nassau police precinct. Engineering and education, he said, are just as much the solution as enforcement.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Fallon said, noting that police resources not spent on accidents can go towards other law enforcement ventures.

For more coverage of this story, check out CBSFiOS1 and Newsday (subscription required).

Huntington, NAACP Reach Deal For Ruland Road Co-ops

A decade of hostilities, lawsuits and court appearances about a Melville housing development could finally be over.

Both the Town of Huntington and Huntington branch of the NAACP agreed to a settlement earlier this week for housing on Ruland Road. Instead of the owned units demanded by the former and the rentals requested by the latter, Ruland Knolls will consist of low-equity co-ops (LEC).

“This plan will provide affordable housing for young people entering the workforce and for families, while providing ownership with small cash outlays,” said Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone, who once lived in an LEC in New York City.

Both the rentals and D&F Development Group’s Ruland Knolls project have been supported by the Huntington Township Housing Coalition. President Richard Koubek released a letter expressing his support for the LEC project and gratitude to both the town board and his supporters.

“Thanks to all who helped us to press the Town Board for an equitable resolution of this long-legal battle and most important, for the creation of much-needed affordable housing in Huntington,” Koubek said.

Originally the project called for 117 one-bedroom units, while the NAACP asked for 117 rental units. The new agreement will create the same number of limited equity co-op units, in the same 72 one-bedroom, 39 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom unit breakdown of the rental proposal. Designed to be affordable for people earning 50-80 percent of the Nassau/Suffolk median income – $37,100-$59,300 for one; $52,950-$84,700 for a family of four – LECs require “shareholders” to pay two months of the maintenance fee as a down payment before charging a maintenance fee comparable to apartment rent.

Residents will not be permitted to increase the cost of their unit or otherwise charge a premium when they later sell. However, D&F principal Peter Florey confirmed shareholders would gain rights beyond traditional apartment renters during their stay and would earn a portion of the coop’s reserve when they leave.

“[It could become] a nice little chunk towards a down payment on a future home,” Florey said.

The battle first began in 2002 when Huntington NAACP members and Fair Housing in Huntington sued the Town of Huntington for discrimination about another Half Hollow Hills development. They added the 8.1-acre Ruland Road property in 2004, which had been zoned for one-bedroom use instead of rentals.

Huntington’s Planning Board approved the Sanctuary at Ruland Road in 2010. That same year, a judge dismissed part of the 2004 lawsuit and allowed the development to go through. Both the NAACP and Fair Housing sued again in 2011, although Fair Housing is no longer part of the case.

This past December, NAACP and Huntington officials tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement. Petrone and the town board considered D&F’s Ruland Knolls project as an alternative development offered in the lawsuit.

The board, however, opted to go with continued negotiations instead of accepting the settlement. Councilwoman Susan Berland has been the most vocal opponent on the board, advocating only for owned one-bedroom units.

Scheduled to go to trial on Wednesday, the date was extended to Thursday after Planning Board members agreed to expedite applications and paperwork for this project. The next step, Florey said, was to meet with the state at the end of this week. Depending how that meeting turns around, construction could begin either in 2014 or 2015.

“It’s been a long and very trying road. We’re thrilled there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” he added.

Vision Long Island testified in support of the Ruland Knolls project.

For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Bellone: Suffolk Shares The Road With Bikes, Pedestrians

Ever since Thomas Barraga succinctly placed foot into mouth with comments about bicyclists in Suffolk County, Complete Streets has become something of a buzz word.

The Suffolk Legislator responded to a West Islip teenager’s letter about safer roads after his mother was hit riding a bike in Babylon Village. Barraga (R-West Islip) wrote that nobody should ride a bicycle or motorcycle in Suffolk County; he added that dedicated bicycle lanes, additional signage and other improvements would do little.

But the legislator’s boss, County Executive Steve Bellone, publicly disagreed in a Joye Brown column for Newsday. Bicyclists, runners and motorcycles, he said last week, are essential for health, tourism and economic development.

“Tom is known for being direct and saying what is on his mind,” the Babylon Democrat said. “You can agree or disagree with him, but I would rather have a politician who talks straight than who does otherwise.”

After Barraga’s January letter made headlines last week, the legislator told Vision Long Island he was only concerned about safety.

“I’m not blaming the bicyclists. I’m not blaming joggers. I’m not blaming drivers. I’m just stating what’s happening out there,” said.

In a subsequent interview, Bellone acknowledged that Suffolk County and other suburbs face an uphill climb in making roads safer for alternative forms of transportation.

Enter the Complete Streets initiative. Designed to create policies that accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters and the like, both Suffolk and Nassau County join a group of other Long Island municipalities passing Complete Streets legislation.

Vision Executive Director Eric Alexander said there’s a shift in perspective about roads.

“There’s been a move away from the car as king, although there are still some planners who see it that way,” Alexander said.

In his interview with Vision, Barraga called Suffolk an “automobile-centric county” with drivers not cognizant of bikers and pedestrians until it’s too late.

Changes, he added, are too costly in terms of money and time. Projects to increase awareness on the road, install signs and create discrete lanes would be too expensive for Suffolk County, Barraga said, which cut 1,000 employees in the last two years to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the Ronkonkoma Hub, Heartland Town Center and other Smart Growth developments are still years away.

“My primary purpose is to prevent people riding bicycles from getting hurt or maimed,” he said. “I’m not anti-bike. I wish we had the bike lanes. The reality is it isn’t.”

But Brown wrote that county, state and federal funds are available for Complete Street projects.

“Some solutions, such as painting in bike lanes, are relatively easy and cheap; others, such as adding medians or circles, are more expensive,” Brown said. “And then there is education, for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and others on how to share the road — with penalties for those who endanger others.”

For more coverage of this story, check out CBS.

Vision Long Island is participating in the second annual Complete Streets Summit at Farmingdale State College on April 3. For more information and registration, download this application.

End Of The Road For Federal Highway Trust Fund?

What is the worst case scenario if transportation funding for Long Island dried up? That’s what Transportation for America wants to know from citizens across the country.

The pro-Smart Growth and -transportation policy organization is concerned federal funds will disappear without Congressional intervention.

Director James Corless said the city of Nashville led the nation in job growth in 2012 and was overcoming political and geographic divides to support future economic prosperity. Elected and civic leaders joined together to create a plan that invests in additional transportation options and creates better access from city to suburbs.

But the federal Highway Trust Fund is in dire straits, Corless said, and needs Congressional action in the next eight months. Otherwise, the fund – fed by fuel taxes – could be cut by more than 80 or completely by 2015.

Transportation for America is advocating a plan to raise $30 billion that will stabilize funding for the federal MAP-21 transportation plan and create revenue for local projects spurring economic growth and innovation. The list of repairs, according to the policy organization, includes 46,508 bridges, 16,000 aging buses and 5,000 aging rail cars.

Funding for the project, they said, could come from a 17-cent increase to the federal gas tax. They also proposed creating a sales tax on fuel purchases or increasing fees on oil barrels.

Meanwhile, Transportation for America wants input on specific projects at risk. Corless asked Americans to tell them what projects would be halted, what opportunities would be lost and how the community would be impacted by the cuts. Messages can be sent here.

2/24

Sewer Demands Spill Out At State Sandy Hearing

Sewers were part of the discussion at a hearing for $2.1 billion in federal funds earmarked for Superstorm Sandy funds on Thursday, and Mastic/Shirley supporters made some noise.

Suffolk County authorized spending $1 million to create Mastic/Shirley Sewer District earlier this month and support for a wastewater treatment plant at Calabro Airport. The district would account for 300,000 daily gallons of waste, although environmentalists expect the plan to significantly reduce pollution in the nearby Forge River.

Among the 75 people in the Suffolk County Legislative Building in Hauppauge, Suffolk Legislator Kate Browning, Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi, William Floyd Summit President Beth Wahl and Mastic Beach property owner Maura Sperry supported funding for a sewer district on the Mastic/Shirley peninsula.

A few attendees carried signs in support of the sewers, saying it would improve economic development.

But Thursday’s meeting also examined the entire plan for the $2.1 billion. New York Rising and the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery are holding a series of public hearings to discuss the second allotment of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development money.

HUD gave the state $1.71 billion last spring, and they unveiled plans for dividing the second round of funds – $2.097 billion – for housing, community reconstruction and infrastructure needs last week.

New York Rising’s Community Reconstruction Program, which leads communities to identify their greatest needs, is projected to get $441 million. The program started with $25 million and received $198 million in the first allotment. Meanwhile, the New York Rising housing program would see $435 million in addition to the $621 million from last spring. Their buyout plan would go from $100 million in the first round to $521 million in the second.

Vision Long Island provided testimony and support as the top infrastructure project of Suffolk County.

About two dozen spoke at the hearing. Several complained about delays in getting the financial aid to rebuild, and one property owner griped how he did not qualify for FEMA aid and was forced to evict his tenant from the damaged house.

The state pledged to review comments from Thursday’s meeting and revise their plan, which will eventually go to HUD for final approval.

A Nassau County hearing has been scheduled for March 5 at Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building.

For more coverage of this event, check out News 12 and Newsday (subscriptions required).

More Community Input Wanted For Sandy Recovery

As the clock ticks closer to the March 31 deadline, elected officials joined six neighborhoods hashing out recovery plans from Superstorm Sandy.

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer, Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) and special adviser to the governor Jon Kaiman joined more than 130 residents at Lindenhurst High School on Monday. The two-hour open house showcased the latest plans for New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program in Babylon, West Babylon, Amityville, Copiague, Lindenhurst and Captree.

Residents were able to review plans suggested for their community based on data gathered from the previous two community meetings. They also had the opportunity to speak with committee members representing each area, the planning team and various agencies providing additional support.

Locals were encouraged to take information back to friends and neighbors could not attend. Organizers also asked all residents and stakeholders in any of the Suffolk NY Rising Communities, to complete an online survey for their area. The Babylon/West BabylonWest Gilgo/CaptreeLindenhurst and Amityville/Copiague surveys began Feb. 25, while West Islip’s survey began Feb. 21, Mastic Beach/Shirley began on Feb. 13 and the survey for Oakdale/West Sayville began Feb. 12. Fire Island’s survey went live Feb. 26. The last day to participate in any of these virtual community surveys is March 9.

New York Rising officials also urged younger community members to share their thoughts about resiliency. The Next Generation Resiliency Survey is open to residents ages 10-23. It went live Feb. 17 and closes March 9.

Vision Long Island is providing outreach services for CRP meetings in Suffolk County where there has been good community participation to date. Outreach meetings are also held for Sandy recovery in Nassau County.

Brookhaven Remembers Cyclist Killed In 2012 Van Crash

This summer will mark two years since Felicia Ortiz-Ruperto was killed by a hit-and-run driver, but her neighbors haven’t forgotten her.

Town of Brookhaven officials and residents joined the Medford woman’s family at the corner of South Orchard Road and South Country Road in Eat Patchogue on Feb. 20 to unveil an honorary street sign in her honor.

“We remember Felicia as someone who made a difference in the community and I am proud to honor her memory in this special way,” Brookhaven Councilman Tim Mazzei said.

Ortiz-Ruperto, 52, was known as an active member for the community. She served as a Worship Leader at Church on the Sound in Stony Brook, as a counselor for Project Rachel, a photographic imaging student at Suffolk County Community College and the inspiration behind the Felicia Ortiz-Ruperto Outdoor Photo Gallery project that used artwork to beautify rides on the LIRR.

A freelance photographer and avid cyclist, the Brookhaven woman was killed on her bicycle. Both Ortiz-Ruperto and a 2003 Dodge Caravan being driven by a Queens man were traveling southbound on Station Road in Bellport back in August 2012, when the collision launched her onto a nearby lawn. She was pronounced dead on the scene.

“Felicia’s life ended tragically while she was doing one of the things she loved to do, ride her bike,” Councilwoman Connie Kepert said. “Her tragic death will inspire us to continue to fight for safer streets for all users.”

She is survived by her mother, Vivian Ortiz; husband, Daniel Ruperto; children Victoria and Matthew; and siblings, Diana Renne, Angelo Ortiz and Michael Ortiz.

“It was an honor to share such a special day with Felicia’s family. She gave so much to the community and lived her life to the fullest.  So, it is a fitting tribute to dedicate this street in her name,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said.

Nassau, Suffolk Presiding Officers Talk Sewers, Complete Streets, Downtown Redevelopment With Vision Long Island

Norma Gonsalves and DuWayne Gregory, the presiding officers of Nassau and Suffolk Legislatures, respectively, joined Vision Long Island’s Board of Directors with updates on several projects.

Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) offered an update for the repairs and upgrades at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. Eight projects are underway, with an $830 million budget to convert the Sandy-damaged plant into a state of the art facility.

The Nassau Legislator also advocated for the ocean outflow pipe. Designed to release treated waste into the Atlantic Ocean instead of Reynolds Channel, Gonsalves said the $600-$750 million price tag is worth protecting the entire county.

“There’s a lot of work to be done [at the plant],” she said. Vision’s board acknowledged Gonsalves’ leadership in securing funding for what is the largest infrastructure project in Long Island’s history.

Meanwhile, Gregory (D-Amityville) touched on sewers in Suffolk County. He said expanding the sewer system is critical for the county to grow, although the East End is resisting.

“That is an integral part of the future of Long Island,” the legislator said.

On the brain drain afflicting Long Island, he said a combination of affordable housing, public transportation and high-paying jobs could keep young professionals in Suffolk. He said Suffolk should emulate Nassau County’s “vibrant” bus system and create more housing projects like Wyandanch Rising, Ronkonkoma Hub and Heartland Town Square.

“From a business perspective, why would young people want to stay on Long Island? Why would they want to move here?” Gregory said, noting a recent study revealed family is the only reason many stay in Suffolk County.

Gonsalves reflected glumly on how affordable housing is not part of the HUB project, but she did push Complete Streets as a necessary infrastructure upgrade. These policies are designed to improve safety and efficiency for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and everyone on the roads. A Tri-State Transportation Campaign study again found Hempstead Turnpike is one of the most deadly roads in the region.

“Everything requires education. Sometimes people turn a deaf ear,” she said. “It gets very hard when people don’t want to listen, but you have to keep at it.”

Both presiding officers agreed to work regionally where appropriate to address issues of common concern. Vision Long Island will follow up with recommendations from their infrastructure committee to advance downtown redevelopment and the improvement of both transportation and sewer systems. Vision’s board was honored to have both deeply committed and bipartisan presiding officers share their insight and work product with the organization.

“We look forward to a productive working relationship with both counties,” Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

Alexander: Safer Roads Boost Economy

This editorial originally ran in Long Island Business News on Feb. 25.

Seven of New York State’s 10 most dangerous roads are on Long Island.

Among the worst are Suffolk’s Middle Country Road, Sunrise Highway, Route 110 and Wicks Road; in Nassau, danger lies on Jericho Turnpike, Hempstead Turnpike, Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road. The findings from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s annual “Dangerous Roads” report identify that our deadly roads are deadlier than Broadway in Manhattan, Queens Boulevard and Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue, among other scary thoroughfares.

A couple weeks after the campaign’s report, a Suffolk County legislator made national news with bizarre comments that no one in Suffolk should ever ride a bicycle or motorcycle or jog in their neighborhood.

We can agree that Suffolk roads are dangerous, but to suggest that people don’t run, walk or bike is unheard of, and ignores design solutions that can make our roads safer.

More people are walking and biking to work, or using the Nassau NICE and Suffolk Transit bus systems; more health-conscious folks are jogging and biking for recreation. We have an increasingly aging population and young people who statistically drive less, and with thousands of approved – and over 10,000 planned – units of transit-oriented housing poised to grow our local economy, the reliance on safe, walk-able areas only grows from here.

We should be making our roadways safer, not blaming victims.

The safest communities statistically allow multiple modes of transportation to function. The key is speed reduction in walk-able, bike-able areas. Unfortunately, some of the folks who’ve been planning Suffolk County over the last 60 years didn’t see the value of anything but the automobile, and built roadways accordingly.

The good news is there are many national examples of places doing it right. It’s actually a bit strange to have a regional conversation on Long Island about fairly standard safety enhancements like bike lanes, raised medians, crosswalks, street trees and other traffic-calming and life-saving improvements. And implementing design changes to make our roadways safer doesn’t cost a lot – paint and trees are hardly expensive amenities.

More good news: Lawmakers in 10 Long Island municipalities are looking to change course by adopting Complete Streets policies to help redesign safer roadways. These laws have passed in New York State, Nassau and Suffolk counties and municipalities including North Hempstead, Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven, Southampton, Long Beach, Valley Stream and Great Neck.

Even better news: Some communities have already approved and completed traffic-calming projects that have improved safety. Notable successes include efforts in Great Neck, Huntington, Westbury, Patchogue and Brookhaven; dedicated bike lanes have appeared on, or are planned for, Route 347 in Smithtown; Baldwin, Freeport, Long Beach and other communities are now looking to implement their own changes.

Funding exists for such efforts. New York State just set aside over $60 million for pedestrian and bike-safety projects, along with a smaller federal fund through NYMTC. This is a good start, but the federal transportation bill is up for reauthorization and safe streets need to remain a regional priority.

Congressman Steve Israel signed off on federal Complete Streets legislation, which should assist in bringing funding for these projects back to our region. The next step is working with police departments and local planners to identify pedestrian safety hotspots, and working with DPW engineers to develop projects that improve safety.

It’s common sense that if people are already walking and biking in a community, ideally you should slow the traffic in and around those areas, particularly in downtowns and commercial corridors. We’ll be tackling this issue head-on with our local transportation agencies at the upcoming Complete Streets Summit, with groups like AARP and local governments that have embraced these changes.

Most importantly, we need a transformation in our values, where people matter on our roads and in our public spaces. These accident reports aren’t simply statistics, they are lives. People are dying on our roads, while there are rational and inexpensive solutions. Outrage is an appropriate response, as it moves folks to action.

If the nearly 700 folks who died on our region’s roads over the last three years were preventable diseases or homicides, resources would be deployed in short order. Blaming the pedestrian and the cyclist should not be tolerated.

Support groups have formed around the individual victim’s families. Spend 10 minutes with someone who lost a family member on a road and it will radically transform your thinking on this issue. There should be a human element to planning, and for anyone who’s paying attention, there is.

For our region to grow, we need to be able to walk, bike, drive our cars, take a bus, board a ferry and ride a train. Let’s make sure all of these options are safely available.

 

 

 

March

3/7

Sewers, Economic Development Focus Of Bellone Speech

Public enemy no. 1 in Suffolk County, County Executive Steve Bellone said, is nitrogen.

Giving his second State of the County address Wednesday night, the county leader focused most his hour-long speech on deteriorating water quality.

“There is no greater challenge to our future than the water quality crisis that we must now begin to confront.  Nitrogen poisoning of our surface and ground waters is the greatest crisis this County has faced in a generation,” Bellone said.

In excessive quantities, nitrogen can decrease oxygen content in water, increase water temperatures and feed algal blooms. Nearly 70 percent of it comes from failing septic systems and cesspools on private properties, county officials said, an issue considering that just a quarter of Suffolk County is sewered.

During the address, Bellone announced his plan to sewer more homes. He said the county will study homes one at a time, 200,000 of the approximately 360,000 unsewered Suffolk homes. Based on their findings, the county will place them on a sewer or employ an advanced wastewater system for more isolated properties.

“The good news is that there are more than 17 systems that can cut your household’s nitrogen pollution by more than half over a traditional septic system.  The bad news is that there are no approved technologies for advanced single-home systems in Suffolk County,” Bellone said.

In addition to directing the county’s Department of Health to have manufacturers test their systems in Suffolk this year, he also said the Sewer Infrastructure Committee is finalizing criteria to support community-scale wastewater systems that reduce nitrogen and tackle other water concerns like pharmaceuticals.

But with just 25 percent of Suffolk sewered, Bellone admitted his project will cost billions. He did not discuss financial options, other than to say it will require a public and private partnership. He did reference public sewer facilities like those at the Hauppauge Industrial Park and proposed Ronkonkoma Hub, but failed to mention the future Mastic/Shirley District. The Suffolk Legislature authorized $1 million last month to help form the district, which will ultimately have its waste processed at a new plant in Brookhaven’s Calabro Airport.

Executive Director Eric Alexander of Smart Growth planning organization Vision Long Island hoped Mastic/Shirley would remain the top priority. “We’re pleased to see a comprehensive focus on a wastewater treatment for unsewered areas throughout Suffolk,” Alexander said.

The address also touched on economic development, namely the hemorrhaging of Long Island’s youth over the last 20 years.

Emphasizing the need to build affordable rental housing in downtowns near shopping, restaurants, entertainment and jobs, Bellone highlighted his Connect LI plan. While the LIRR is fine for east-west travel, cars remain the only vehicle for going north-south. He said the solution are mass transit systems like trolleys to LIRR stations or Bus Rapid Transit along Route 110.

“[It’s] impossible to easily move around this county without getting into an automobile,” Bellone admitted.

Meanwhile, the county executive said much-needed transit-oriented development and multifamily housing projects are moving along. Wyandanch Rising – 176 units of housing and 37,000 square feet of retail – broke ground last summer in what Bellone called “one of the most economically distressed communities on Long Island.” In Patchogue, 291 apartments in the New Village development will be occupied by July. The county executive also said projects like Heartland Town Center, comprehensive East End Transportation Plan and Rapid Trolley Systems on Nicolls Road need to continue.

“We were also happy to see the Connect Long Island planning initiative advance. We are hopeful a number of transit oriented developments move forward with county support in the coming year,” Alexander said.

The county’s Industrial Development Agency also contributed to economic development with a banner year in 2013, Bellone said. Compared to the prior two years when they closed on just five projects, the IDA closed on 24 projects last year alone. That translates to 4,300 retained jobs, 1,400 new jobs, $43 million of payroll and $232 million in new capital investment.

The Vision Long Island director also celebrated the IDA’s results, highlighting Launchpad Huntington for high tech entrepreneurs. However, he also said the speech neglected to adress a very serious issue in the entire address – Suffolk County’s dangerous roadways.

“Work can be done within Suffolk County DPW to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety for all residents,” Alexander said.

For more coverage of the 2014 State of the County Address, check out Newsday (subscription required). The full version of the address can be found in two parts on News 12’s website here and here.

Middle Country Road Land Use Plan Advances:

Wincoram Development Poised To Replace Blighted Theater

Demolition of a long-blighted Coram property is underway and its rebirth as a $55 million mixed-use development draws nearer.

A backhoe could be seen ripping apart the former UA movie theater along Middle Country Road and Route 112 Thursday. What eventually follows next is Wincoram Commons – a Conifer Realty project to create 176 units of workforce housing and 13,300 square feet of commercial space.

Demolition of the rundown, graffiti-laced theater should move quickly. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for April.

In the blighted structure’s place will rise apartment buildings and townhouses. About 7,300 square feet of commercial will be built into the first floor of three-story residential buildings, with another 6,000 square feet in a commercial building along Route 112. Plans also call for a clubhouse housing a leasing office, fitness center and community space across from the office building. All of these structures are intended to frame a pedestrian-friendly plaza.

Actually, safer streets have been a driving force all along. The project was influenced by the Town of Brookhaven’s Middle Country Road Land Use Plan. Passed in 2006, it calls for walkable communities with an internal main street, multifamily housing and retail, and public meeting places.

Housing in the Wincoram Commons will be available in one-, two- and three-bedroom varieties. Monthly rent at the smallest unit is set for $1,176, with the two-bedroom running $1,410 and the three-bedroom unit going for $1,625.

The development is expected to create 145 temporary construction jobs and 34 new permanent jobs. In addition, it also includes infrastructure expansion, like a connection to a nearby sewer treatment plant and a connector road from Route 112 to Middle Country Road to prevent congestion north of the site. A sidewalk between the development and nearby Avalon Bay at Charles Pond luxury apartment complex is also in the plans.

Final site plan approval and a wetlands permit were granted by the Town of Brookhaven in October. The state Department of Environmental Conservation also approved a Wetlands Mitigation Plan that is critical to the successful redevelopment of the site.

For more on this project, check out News 12 (subscription required).

Long Island Storms Albany For Sixth Annual Lobby Day

A contingent of 50 small business, union leaders, civics, environmentalists and post-Sandy rebuilding groups in Nassau and Suffolk made the trek to Albany on Tuesday to remind the state capitol what’s important to Long Island.

The sixth annual Long Island Lobby Day agenda covered many aspects of life on the island. Several members of the group want a tax deferred IRA for small businesses to protect against the next recession. Others pushed for Complete Streets infrastructure to make Long Island roads safer for everyone; more funding to improve public transit; home rule on speed limits for safer downtowns; and a Transit Village Infrastructure Program to aid local municipalities in redevelopment. Some fought for wastewater improvements at Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, Hempstead and Mastic/Shirley. Others rallied for environmental causes like safe disposal of medications, off-shore wind power, solar power and clean water. Concerns about the heroin epidemic, caregiver safety, the future of the Sagamore Children’s Psychiatric Center and consumer protection were championed by some. A number also sought better communication from insurance companies and New York Rising in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, as well as financial assistance for grassroots aid groups.

“Our lobby day represents a coming together of groups representing various interests from across Long Island’s diverse communities. These groups share a single purpose; to better the lives of all Long Islanders and to preserve, protect and enhance the quality of life of its citizens. This includes ensuring that Long Island continues to offer good jobs with good schools and affordable places to live, while also continuing to preserve our natural resources. Most importantly, we must ensure that Long Island remains a place that our children and grandchildren can afford and want to call home,” Long Island Federation of Labor President John Durso said.

The first leg of the trip was a meeting with members of the state assembly. Assemblymen Bob Sweeney, Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Ed Hennessey (D-Medford), Chuck Lavine (D-Glen Cove), Michelle Schimel, (D-Great Neck), Michael Fitzpatrick, (R-Smithtown) Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square), Al Graf (R-Holbrook), Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa), Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville), David McDonough (R-Merrick), Fred Theile Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) sat down with the Long Island contingent.

Lobby Day participants found these elected officials sympathetic to the Ling Island agenda. Not only has the Assembly supported a safe patient handling bill for caregivers, Sweeney said, but they’re trying to get the DEC to pick up prescription medication like they do in New York City.

“We’re already finding prescription drugs in wells. The Suffolk County Water Authority for examples has to close several of its wells because prescription drugs were found in the water. This is not something that could happen down the road; it’s happening right now,” he said.

Lavine called the small business IRA a no-brainer. He said legislators are working on a plan with Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola) to create plan where merchants can tap principal and investment without any tax penalty when they’re creating new fulltime jobs.

“We’re doing this in an environment in which it’s not easy for small business to access credit,” he said.

Vision Long Island Executive Director and lobbyist Eric Alexander said the program is an “opportunity this year to create a financing mechanism for Main Street businesses to provide jobs will benefit Long Island’s economic climate without burdening the taxpayer.”

The Long Island lobbyists then met with members of the Senate majority from Nassau and Suffolk. That included Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos, Senators Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), Kemp Hannon(R-Garden City), Jack Martins (R-Mineola), Carl Marcellino (R-Oyster Bay) and Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). During the discussion, Martins expressed concern about mass transit between Long Island and Manhattan. He referenced Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent State of the State address, where the governor proposed bringing four new Metro-North Railroad stations in the Bronx, saying that new traffic could force LIRR trains out.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Ryan Lynch said transportation is a growing demand of Long Island residents.

“It’s important for our elected officials in Albany to prioritize the state’s transportation dollars to projects that support safe walking and biking infrastructure and identify additional funds to ensure bus service on Long Island is reliable, frequent and affordable and supports the revitalization of our many downtowns and Main Streets,” he said.

Members of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s staff also met with the Long Island Lobby Day team. Deputy Director of the New York State Division of Budget Cathy Durand, Cuomo’s Senior Policy Advisor Mike Laskawy, Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights and Workforce Alphonso David, Executive Deputy Commissioner of DEC Marc Gerstman and Assistant Secretary for the Environment Anne Tarpinian ended the day.

Cuomo’s staff offered a supportive response, with David recommending Friends of Long Island designate an official liaison to improve communication. They did not react to requests to fund their grassroots repair efforts that helped hundreds of Long Islanders return to normal life.

“Thousands of residents continue, 16 months later, to recover from Sandy. We need insurance reform to ensure residents are covered properly in the future, enable the available funds to homeowners who are recovering in an expedited fashion and allow the community organizations to do what they do best – help those who are recovering from disaster and build resilient communities,” Friends of Long Island Project Consultant Jon Siebert said.

Gerstman confirmed the governor was working with Nassau County officials to improve the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant and push for an ocean outflow pipe to save Reynold’s Channel. The DEC official also said Cuomo is tuned into groundwater issues, like the situation in Mastic/Shirley.

“Adequately treating our sewage is a necessity, not a luxury item. That’s why the coalition strongly supports upgrading the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to include denitrification and an ocean outfall pipe,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said.

Long Island Lobby Day participants also celebrated a number of accomplishments during their first five years. Elected officials passed six bills championed by the group, including the the Complete Streets Act, the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Act in 2010 to prioritize infrastructure projects and other state resources towards downtown centers.  They also pushed the Superstorm Sandy Assessment Relief Act in 2013, which provides tax relief for residents and businesses affected by the storm. Past Lobby Day participants were also successful in obtaining state funds for local communities and projects through several budgetary successes.

“The Long Island Lobby Coalition has been a true “Main Street” lobbying effort. This shared agenda of local civics, small business and other varied public interests lifts up critical issues that sometimes get lost in the malaise of day-to-day dealings in Albany. The accomplishments of bills enacted including Complete Streets, Priority Infrastructure, energy programs and other public safety legislation proves that collaboration works,” Alexander said

Marcellino Named State Senate Infrastructure Chair

A Long Island state senator will oversee infrastructure matters in the legislative body.

Carl Marcellino (R-Oyster Bay) was named the new chairman of the Committee on Infrastructure last week as a few titles changed hands in the wake of State Senator Charles Fuschillo’s (R-Merrick) resignation. He left as Senate Transportation Committee chairman in December to join a nonprofit.

Last week, senate leadership announced that Senator Joe Robach (R-Rochester) will become the new Transportation chairman. The post had been empty since December.

Marcellino’s new Infrastructure chairman title replaces Robach, who oversaw the new committee since its creation in 2013. The role includes overseeing all downstate transit matters, including the MTA. He’s since said pot holes and roadwork will be a popular topic during upcoming meetings with state workers.

“There’ll be a lot of work,” he said.

The Long Island legislator will also serve as vice-chairman of the Transportation committee.

Meanwhile, Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) will take over as chairman of the Senate Committee on Social Services and vice-chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

For more coverage of the changes, check out the Democrat & Chronicle.

Feds Open Lane To $600 Million In Transportation Grants

Another $600 million in financial assistance is available to transportation projects across America.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced another round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants late last month. Applications are due by April 28.

Initially created by President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, TIGER grants pump federal money into projects that have a significant impact on the country, region or metropolitan area. Six rounds have provided $4.1 billion in aid. The last batch, $474 million, was distributed in September. Long Island submitted nearly $126 million in projects, although none received funding.

Transportation officials say TIGER 2014 will emphasize “projects that support reliable, safe and affordable transportation options that improve connections for both urban and rural communities, making it easier for their residents to reach work, school and other ladders of opportunity. While continuing to support projects of all types, DOT will prioritize applications for capital projects that better connect people to jobs, training and other opportunities, promote neighborhood redevelopment, and reconnect neighborhoods divided by physical barriers, such as highways and railroads.”

In addition to supporting capital grants, up to $35 million of TIGER funds can be used for planning grants, including planning of innovative transportation, regional transportation, freight and port, and programmatic mitigation approaches that increase efficiency and improve outcomes for communities and the environment.

For more information, check out the Department of Transportation’s website.

Skirting Around Overly-Excessive Restrictive Zoning

Armed with a $600,000 grant, Andes Duany is cutting through red tape for community investors and entrepreneurs.

The Miami architect and planner announced last month that his Lean Urbanism project is a way for young builders and entrepreneurs to navigate through complex and restrictive zoning codes.

“It’s been a long time gestating,’’ Duany said by phone in San Diego, where he was speaking at a small conference focused on Lean Urbanism. “To get a building built in a city is fantastically complicated. The codes are rigamarole. There is no way you can figure them out yourself. You have to hire lawyers and consultants. So the result is that everything is left to big corporations and big developers.’’

Funded by the Knight Foundation – an organization that promotes investors, journalism, arts and community involvement, the three-year grant is designed to develop strategies and tools to work around bureaucratic hurdles within limited capital.

Take a new baker, for example. Many municipalities require that individual acquire a license and have their equipment certified, or perhaps demands that new business owner spend to renovate existing infill. These situations would keep the entrepreneur from turning on the ovens while vacant buildings remain empty.

Millenials and immigrants are particularly hampered by regulations.

“They can’t get anything done,’’ he said. “A lot of young people today are becoming artists because art is one of the few things you can make and sell without a license.’’

Duany and his wife, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, run Duany Plater Zyberk & Company, which focuses on reviving pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use towns and urban neighborhoods. That approach has been banned across the country via zoning rules that separate residential and commercial uses.

The first year of the Knight grant program will be dedicated to researching and developing strategies, the second year will see the launch of pilot projects and the third year will rolling out the toolbook and publicizing the projects nationally.

Local governments, Duany said, need to relax rules within reasonable parameters to encourage redevelopment that big developers won’t touch but smaller entrepreneurs might. In Detroit, for example, young people are finding cheap, creative ways to revive some neighborhoods.

young urban homesteaders. “We don’t know exactly where the balance is, but we can provide the patches and workarounds so that people can get to work.”

For more information, check out the Miami Herald.

3/17

Suffolk Seeks $10 Million More Bus Funding From State

It’s time to stop giving Suffolk County substantially less state aid for busses than Nassau County, County Executive Steve Bellone told Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Bellone appealed to Cuomo via letter last week to add $10 million towards the Suffolk County Transit (ST) agency.

ST carries 22,000 passengers each weekday on more than two dozen routes. Eight lines were opened on Sunday back in December. Rather than operate in-house, the agency contracts its routes to three private companies.

Operating the bus system costs Suffolk County $57 million every year. Of that bill, the county pays for $29 million. New York State kicks in $22 million.

On the other hand, Nassau Inter County Express (NICE) bus system spends $113 million every year. Nassau County covers just $2.6 million, while the state pays $57 million annually.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Ryan Lynch said the governor should add balance between the counties by allocating the extra $10 million.

“The system isn’t as robust as it could be and that’s because the state hasn’t given enough money,” he said.

Lynch joined Long Island Federation of Labor, Vision Long Island, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island), SILO, Long Island Business Council, NYPIRG and other advocates at a rally outside state offices in Hauppauge on Tuesday to push the message home.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a nonprofit advocacy group working to reduce the region’s dependency on cars and promote public transportation. Creating a light rail or subway north-south can’t be justified given the low density of middle and eastern Suffolk, Lynch said, but the bus system fits the bill.

The county has been searching for funds to improve bus service, Schneiderman said, after studies and residents’ demands proved the need.  And in these tough economic times, the legislator said many of his constituents rely on public transportation.

“They’re dependent on the bus system,” he said.

Kepert agreed that busses are a necessity for many Suffolk residents to get to work.

Cuomo added $2 million to the state’s contribution last year, which opened the door to expanding Sunday service to those 10 routes. But overall ridership has been on the rise, Lynch added, with riders up 40 percent since 2001.

“$10 million would go a long way to improve gaps in the system where there isn’t service,” he said.

Pat Bowden, president of Transit Workers Local Union 252, which includes thousands of bus drivers across Long Island and New York City, said the state needs to raise their contribution with more passengers in recent years.

“We grew and I don’t think anyone upstate realizes how much we grew,” she said.

That increased need combined with the inequity between Suffolk and Nassau puts Suffolk residents in an unfair position, Vision Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

“We send a lot of money upstate and we don’t always get it back,” he added.

If that extra funding was approved, Schneiderman said it would first be used to further expand Sunday service. A prior study identified 24 Suffolk communities desperately in need of extra weekend busses; only 10 were addressed in January. Expanded evening service is also in strong demand.

“That would make a big difference,” the legislator said.

For more coverage of this story, check out Long Island Business News and Newsday (subscription required).

Nassau Legislative Hearing Spotlights

Bay Park Plant Storm Walls, Electric Upgrades

A deputy county executive and contractor updated the Nassau County Legislature on progress at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker and Hazen & Sawyer Vice President Michael DeNicola told lawmakers they were slowly moving ahead with $830 million in post-Superstorm Sandy repairs and improvements at a hearing Thursday. The $830 million in federal money makes this Long Island’s single largest infrastructure project.

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant serves 550,000 Nassau County residents and processes about 50 million gallons of sewage daily. Superstorm Sandy crippled the plant last year with nine feet of saltwater flooding, knocking it completely out of service for two days. Millions of untreated and partially-treated sewage flowed through the plant and into local waters before emergency repairs were made.

Temporary measures kept the plant up and running again for months after Sandy. Emergency generators power the plant at $1 million every month, generating noise and odor complaints from neighbors. More than $700 million was allocated from county and state coffers to fund repairs by the end of 2013, although upgrades were needed at the plant for years long before.

At Thursday’s hearing, Walker said a $28 million contract to replace the electrical system would go to the legislature for approval early next week. A $37-million plan to erect an 18-foot concrete flood wall, he added, would go before the legislative body next month.

The project is scheduled to be finished in four years.

Presenters also touched on the funding, including the $830,383,784 in federal funds negotiated from FEMA and New York State. FEMA is expected to obligate that funding by the end of the month. Meanwhile, Nassau County is short almost $52,000 for actual expenses and examining other sources of revenue and reimbursements.

Finally, Walker and DeNicola continued to press for an ocean outfall pipe.

Effluent – treated sewage – is currently released into Reynolds Channel, a bay that borders Long Beach, Island Park, Oceanside, Point Lookout and other southern Nassau communities. Water in the channel does not get flushed out enough, allowing effluent to collect and impact the environment. But with an additional $750 million in federal money, county officials, environmentalists, civic groups and others say they could safely filter more nitrogen and pipe the effluent into the Atlantic Ocean.

Vision Long Island testified in support of the changes.

“Kudos to Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves for hosting the hearing and to Deputy County Executive Rob Walker and the technical team managing the upgrades to the Bay Park plant. A reminder to critics that $830 million federal funds secured for this project is the largest allocation for infrastructure in Long Island’s history,” Executive Director Eric Alexander said. “We’re glad to see the project moving forward.”

Thursday’s presentation can be seen in two parts here and here. For more media coverage of this story, check out Newsday andNews 12 (subscriptions required).

No Shortage Of Sandy Work For Friends Of Long Island

The weekend offers little respite for a contingent of South Shore volunteers helping their neighbors recover from Superstorm Sandy.

Friends of Long Island (FoLI) is an umbrella organization that represents several grassroots teams who have been demolishing moldy rooms, rebuilding houses, providing resources and generally supporting Sandy victims since fall 2012.

“The collaborative efforts of multiple organizations showed the true spirit of recovery,” FoLI Project Consultant Jon Siebert said.

Sticking with Freeport jobs initially, the red-shirted Friends of Freeport made another excursion into Suffolk County this past weekend. President Rich Cantwell caught wind of a West Sayville homeowner in need of help ripping out his newly-elevated home. Insurance premiums would not cover the entire cost of the repair and elevation to the home, but the charity from a small team of volunteers helped save the homeowner $10,000 in demolition. Cantwell said the home had already been partially ripped out, but sat unfinished and uncovered while insurance and New York Rising delayed, collecting more mold and flood damage. His team ripped out ceilings and walls throughout the house. He confirmed they’ll be back in the near future to finish work on a plaster ceiling, bathroom, bedroom and upstairs.

“The grassroots organizations like Friends of Freeport and all the rest of us cut through the red tape. What has to get done, let’s get it done,” Cantwell said.

Also in Suffolk County, Lindy Manpower and Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon (NSN) were back at a job the Friends of Freeport contributed to in January. Babylon resident Gina Bonner’s house was flooded with three feet of water from Sandy, destroying the first floor. Boyfriend Bob Coffey went to work full-time on the house, but family issues and a lack of financial support from New York Rising made for slow progress. Various FoLI groups came out to assist with demolition, adding insulation, working on floors and putting up sheetrock.

NSN President Theresa DiPietto said they supported Lindy Manpower volunteers, who ripped up the flooring in a back bedroom floor and living room before laying new subfloor. With the first floor subfloor sound, the volunteers will be back at some point to install a new kitchen floor and cabinets.

“It’s coming along. Maybe her house will be done by the New York Rising gets back to her,” DiPietto said.

Friends of Shirley and the Mastics tackled a pair of jobs this weekend. The first gig entailed collaborating with Boots on the Ground NY to help move a wounded veteran and his family to another home in the area. Both he and his family were shocked and overly appreciative for the support.

The eastern Suffolk team also moved supplies from a rented shipping container at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Mastic Beach to a semi-trailer donated by Shirley Sleep Shoppe. With the help of the Soot Boyz, Friends of Shirley and the Mastics overcame rusted breaks and successfully moved the 40’ semi-trailer to its new home in Mastic Beach. During the week, volunteers began the task of moving items out of the Conex container.

For more information or to support FoLI, check out their new website.

Rep. Israel Unveils Small Business Investment Legislation

Nearly half of all American small businesses were rejected for new lines of credit after the 2008 recession, while one-third were denied loans.

This uphill battle, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said, is why he will introduce legislation for businesses to help themselves. The Savings Accounts for a Variable Economy (SAVE) for Small Businesses Act would let small businesses invest 10 percent of their annual gross profits to later be used to pay employees.

“Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy and should have help preparing an economic rainy day fund. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to incentivize businesses to create tax-deferred savings accounts that can be accessed tax-free during specific times of economic downturn. This is simply common sense and will provide a much-needed cushion for New York small businesses that create jobs and keep our economy moving forward,” he said.

Israel toured three small businesses along Hillside Avenue in Queens on Monday, stopping at USHA Foods to make his announcement. Operated by President Anil Mathur and CEO Abhi Mathur, USAH Foods sells sweets, snacks and full meals in their Queens restaurant and ships 35 pounds of Indian food across the world daily. Enjoying a sample of their products, the congressman said they are the model of a small business.

But when the recession hit, Israel said many small business throughout America fell victim to a lack of the “two Cs” – customers and credit. Referencing a National Federation of Independent Business survey, 46 percent could not get new lines of credit and 35 percent could not get loans.

He credited Dr. Nathalia Rogers, director of the American Communities Institute at Dowling College, Long Island Business Council’s Bob Fonti and Vision Long Island.

The investment will deliver an economic boost in local businesses’ time of need, Rogers said, so they can continue creating jobs. The legislation also opens the door to all qualifying businesses throughout the country to participate.

“This should have been set up 20 years ago,” she added.

If approved, businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be able to invest in certain Treasury-approved investments. Those funds can be held in the account for eight years, at which point it must be withdrawn and taxed as regular business income. However, those withdraws can be tax-free if one of three conditions are met. The Department of Commerce can report two quarters of GDP decline, the Small Business Administration can specify a period during a time of need or the federal government can designate a disaster area like after Superstorm Sandy.

Calling small businesses the bedrock of the community, Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said the legislation will lead to enhanced economic development.

“Congressman Israel’s legislation will help local businesses employ staff, make capital investments and grow our economy without a burden to the taxpayers,” he said. “Vision Long Island was glad to partner with the Long Island Business Council, Dowling College, the Long Island Federation of Labor and local chambers to bring this concept forward to help our downtowns.”

Long Island Business Council Co-Chair Rich Bivone added that local businesses are the economic engine for individual communities.

Meanwhile, the legislation won support from Long Island Federation of Labor President John Durso for supporting the middle class with jobs.

“In times of economic downtown or hardship, it will strengthen a small business’ ability to preserve jobs while also continuing to maintain the services that they provide. It will give a small business owner the ability to set aside a tax-deferred portion of his or her own money to create and preserve good, middle class full-time jobs,” he said.

Message To States: Spend More Fixing Roads Than Building

If America’s 50 states allocated every dollar they spent on creating new lanes and roads on maintaining existing roads, a newstudy suggests every damaged road could be fixed by now.

In a winter spawning pot holes galore, advocacy coalition Smart Growth America and nonprofit Taxpayers for Common Sense released their second analysis of state-owned roads. Repair Priorities 2014: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads follows on the heels of the first report in 2011.

“Shifting funds away from road expansion to road repair can help governors, legislators and DOT officials lessen long-term financial liabilities without increasing spending,” the study’s authors said.

According to the study, states spent $16.5 billion annually on maintenance and repair between 2009-2011. They also spent $20.4 billion annually on creating 8,822 new lane-miles during that time. While the new roadways account for just 1 percent of the system, they cost 55 percent of funds spent on roads.

Repairing a road in poor condition is significantly more expensive than preserving a road in good condition. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every dollar spent on keeping a road in good shape requires $6-14 to rebuild that same road once it’s deteriorated significantly.

If the $20.4 billion had been spent on maintenance, the report said it would have funded repairs to bring 95,000 lane miles into good condition. That would have cut the current backlog by half and been on track to eradicate the backlog completely by 2014.

New York and the northeast actually bucked the trend. The Empire State spent $975 million annually in road repairs and $297 million annually in state-owned road expansion between 2009-2011. That translates to 77 percent going towards maintenance. Maine scored the highest with 86 percent and New Hampshire’s 63 percent was the lowest for the northeast.

However, that’s not the case as close as Pennsylvania and much of the country. The Keystone State $1.4 billion annually on road expansion and $877 million on maintenance; just 38 percent went towards repairing existing roads. Utah officials spent only 7 percent on maintenance while Mississippi allocated 3 percent to repairs.

And across the country, the study said, road conditions are getting worse. In 2008, 41 percent of state-owned roads were in good shape and 17 percent were in trouble. Three years later, 37 percent were good and 21 percent were in poor shape.

There was less of a change in New York. The amount of state-owned roads in good condition remained unchanged at 29 percent in those three years, while the amount of roads in poor condition increased only from 25 percent to 26 percent.

The study also offers a series of recommendations. State officials should consider raising the profile preservation projects since road maintenance is not always an easy sell to the public; use more aggressive asset management systems to choose the smartest investments; establish high but achievable targets and make progress available to the public; focus repair and preservation work on roads with higher traffic volumes; and use cost-benefit analysis to weight project approval as well as during project development. On the federal side, the report recommends tying highway funding to the condition of state roads and reporting state-owned roads separately in Federal Highway Administration data.

3/28

Bellone Unveils Plan To Install Sewers Under 12,000 Homes

Nitrogen pollution from private homes is the first target in Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s war on polluted waterways.

Bellone unveiled $1 billion plan Wednesday which will take 12,000 South Shore homes off septic tanks and connected them to new sewer systems.

“Where can we get the greatest bang for our buck,” he said.

The plans calls for homes near Carlls River in North Babylon and Deer Park, Connetquot River in Oakdale, and Forge River in Mastic, Mastic Beach and Shirley to be sewered. County officials said density of development and proximity to rivers that flow into the bay were among the criteria.

“These three areas, if we invest in sewer infrastructure around these three river corridors, we can reduce by at least 25 percent the amount of nitrogen coming into the bay from sewers and septics,” Bellone said.

About 70 percent of nitrogen is believed to come from homes and three-quarters of Suffolk is unsewered.

Environmentalists call septic systems that dump raw sewage into tanks in the ground antiquated. Sewer systems and treatment plants eliminate bacteria, nitrogen and other pollutants before discharging effluent – treated wastewater – into bodies of water like the Great South Bay.

Those pollutants, Bellone’s team said, led to the dearth of coastal vegetation. Wetlands and marshes not only provide habitats for wildlife, but they also serve as barriers during storms like Superstorm Sandy. These days the South Shore estuary contains less than 10 percent of the coastal vegetation it had in 1930. The wildlife and fish that call these wetlands, salt marshes and sea grass home have also been dying off.

“The hard clam fisheries declined 99 percent in Great South Bay right here. So that’s a huge decline,” Stony Brook University’s Dr. Chris Gobler said. “On the East End, the scallop fisheries declined 99 percent.”

The plan also calls repairs to an outflow pipe at Bergen Point Sewage Treatment Plant. The pipe, which channels effluent from the plant into the Atlantic Ocean, nearly failed during Sandy.

That project carries an estimated $242 million price tag, while installing new sewers near the rivers could cost $750 million. Suffolk County applied to tap the $2.097 billion in the latest round of New York Rising funds for housing, community, reconstruction and infrastructure needs. Bellone expects a decision from the state in the next several months.

On Wednesday, Bellone called his plan the “first phase” of a comprehensive plan. Back in January, the county executive declared war on nitrogen contamination when he released the first update to the county’s Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan since 1987. Politicians, environmentalists, scientists and others said critically high levels of nitrogen made it public enemy no. 1.

Vision Long Island joined Bellone at Wednesday’s press conference, along with Suffolk County Legislators William Lindsay III (D-Holbrook), Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), William Spencer (D-Centerport) and Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue). Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, LI Federation of Labor President John Durso, LI Federation of Labor Executive Director Roger Clayman, Suffolk Planning Commission’s David Calone, Oakdale Chamber of Commerce’s Ron Beattie, Town of Islip’s Anthony Senft Jr., Town of Babylon’s Deputy Supervisor Anthony Martinez, Suffolk Water Authority’s James Gaughren, Town of Brookhaven’s Brenda Prusinowski, LIA’s Matt Cohen and Mastic Library’s Lenny Levy were also in attendance.

“The leadership of Suffolk County Legislator Kate Maguire Browning and CCE Director Adrienne Esposito should be acknowledged along with the numerous community and business leaders in the Mastic-Shirley area who have worked for years to get some of these projects to this level of support and attention,” Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

Vision Long Island has been working with community, business and government leaders in Mastic and Shirley since 2001 to bring sewers to that community.

“We are hopeful that the foundation is in place to make this critical infrastructure investment a reality,” Alexander said.

For more coverage of this story, check out CBS and Newsday (subscription required).

 

MOVE NY Pitches Fair Tolls Plan To Regional Players

Drivers could pay more to enter Manhattan, but less to get around the rest of New York City.

Environmental consultant Alex Matthiessen and former City Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz are pitching their MOVE NY plan. Their goal is to create a fairer system with less traffic.

“We don’t claim to have the perfect plan. But we think we’ve come up with an approach that has several core elements that can help achieve a number of goals and solve a few problems that have vexed the city and the region for decades,” Matthiessen said.

Forming in 2010, MOVE NY is in the midst of a nine-month listening tour to hear out communities throughout the region. Meetings will be scheduled for the Hudson Valley and Long Island soon, organizers said, although Vision Long Island attended a meeting at Baruch College in Manhattan last Friday.

At the heart of their plan are new and increased tolls to get into Manhattan. Schwartz said areas with higher congestion and good public transportation should pay the most. According to their plan, a toll cordon would be created at 60th Street for cars headed into the midtown business district. The four free New York City-owned would cost $15 cash or $10.66 with EZ-Pass, but the existing MTA- and Port Authority-owned bridges and tunnels would remain unchanged.

Every day 11.5 million people ride public transportation in New York City and 2.5 million cars cross over bridges and tunnels, according to a MOVE NY film, along with 3.5 million people traveling south of 60th Street. And in the second most congested city in the country, they’ve seen three toll hikes since 2009 despite several service cuts.

Schwartz said tolls spiked ever since the MTA was created in 1968. The cost to cross the RFK Triborough Bridge in 1980 was just $3, rising to $8 in 2000 and $15 in 2013. By 2030, he projects the toll to cost as much as $50.

“That’s not sustainable. That can’t go on,” the former engineer said.

At the same time, 50,000 cars, trucks and taxis leave highways daily to use the free Queensboro Bridge instead of the Triborough Bridge and Queens-Midtown Tunnel that each cost $15 cash. Schwartz said a map of accident-prone locations highlighted both sides of the Queensboro Bridge.

“On highways you don’t hit pedestrians. On city streets you hit pedestrians,” he added.

Tolls for several bridges and tunnels to other parts of New York City would remain unchanged. Others would actually come down in price. The Throggs Neck, Whitestone and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges, for example, would drop from $15 cash to $10.

Plans also call for non-stop cashless tolling. Drivers could pay with a transponder – similar to EZ-Pass – or have their license plate photographed and be mailed a bill. AAA-NY Director of Government Affairs & Traffic Safety Services John Corlett said Friday they’re already finding 85 percent penetration with EZ-Pass. He expects that number to reach 90 with a new system, once that could use smart phones instead of the existing EZ-Pass. And for the 40 percent of the remainder that don’t pay the mailed bill, Corlett said some reciprocity exists with neighboring states not to renew licenses for toll offenders.

HNTB Corporation Vice President Gregory LeFrois said Americans responded to a 2013 survey about funding capital improvements supporting tolls over general tax increases.

“Tolling is paid for by people that use the facility and not everyone. The people that get the benefit pay the toll, and the people that may not, don’t have to worry about paying the toll,” LeFrois said.

Vision Long Island board and staff members provided support for the meeting.

“While the impact and benefits to the Long Island region are unclear at this time, this proposal is worthy of being vetted to local stakeholders across the Long Island region. Clearly alternative funding sources for transportation projects are needed and we look forward to a robust discussion of this proposal in the coming months,” Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

For more coverage of this story, check out the Daily News and Streetsblog. A link to Friday’s presentation is available onlinehere.

3/14

Assemblyman Wants $20 Million For Complete Streets Work

Spending $20 million could save pedestrian and bicyclist lives.

That was the message State Assemblyman Ed Hennessey preached in Patchogue on Saturday, joined by Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco, nonprofits and community groups.

Hennessey called on New York State to spend more on projects in Suffolk County to make streets safer for pedestrians and toughen penalties for hit-and-run drivers. He also asked the state Department of Transportation to use the state’s CompleteStreets Policy in the planning and design of road projects.

“If we want to make our roads safer, more user-friendly for everyone, more integrated with our communities, then we need stiffer laws but also better, smarter infrastructure. This is where the necessary funding and the commitment of our NYS DOT to implement the funding become imperative to follow through on the Complete Streets Policy,” Hennessey said.

Complete Streets – strategies to build thoroughfares that safely accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, mass transit and motorists – is a hot topic for organizations like Vision Long Island and Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

“More people are walking, more people are biking,” Vision Executive Director Eric Alexander said. “We need to design our roadways with just common sense solutions.”

Back in 2012, more than 15 percent of traffic accidents leaving a bicyclist dead in the state and more than 13 percent of New York’s fatal pedestrian accidents occurred in Suffolk County, according to data from the assemblyman’s office.  Suffolk County also accounted for nearly 10 percent of all traffic accidents involving fatal and personal injury.

“Long Island has some of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Ryan Lynch said. “Yet New York State only plans to spend 2 percent of its total transportation budget on pedestrian and bicycle safety projects. Governor Cuomo and the leadership of the State Senate and Assembly must prioritize funding for these types of projects to improve safety, mobility and quality of life on Long Island and throughout New York State.”

Hennessey introduced legislation last year that would increase prison terms for drivers leaving the scene of an accident where someone is killed or seriously hurt. If approved, it would double the maximum sentence to 5-15 years.

For more coverage of this event, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Bus Forum Brakes For NICE Driver, Passenger Concerns

A bus driver shared her concerns about the threat of angry passengers attacking and passengers griped about their own qualms.

The Ethical Humanist Society played host to a public forum for the Long Island Bus Riders Union on Monday. Nassau County Legislators joined labor and community advocates in Garden City to hear concerns about Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) service.

Following an incident Feb. 24 where a female passenger assaulted a driver in Franklin Square, NICE officials confirmed they are investigating Plexiglas partitions and other measure to protect drivers. Another passenger recorded the woman and her child on his cell phone before the driver was taken to the hospital; no arrests have been made.

Veolia Transportation took over operation of busses in 2012, current driver said schedule and route changes have enraged passengers. The driver told the panel they’ve been worried angry customers will take out frustrations on them as the most visible part of the company.

Meanwhile, Legislators Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) and Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) joined Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Long Island Federation of Labor and Vision Long Island hear out passengers’ concerns.

Disabled riders like David O’Donnell complained the vehicles are not maintained to be compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.

“The auditory and visual stop announcements do not work properly on the buses and can cause a visually or hearing impaired person to get off the bus at the wrong stop,” he said. “And, the wheel chair securement straps are not maintained and some do not work.”

Valley Stream resident Kimberly Saget addressed the issue of malfunctioning Metrocard machines giving her “read errors” and paying double fares.

“It is very frustrating because my Metrocard would have money on it but I would still have to fish for change to ride the bus,” she said. “I end up not only having to pay for my Metrocard, but I also have to pay again because the machine doesn’t take my card.”

These people rely on the buses to get to work, school, shopping and important meetings, Executive Director of Long Island Jobs with Justice said, and know very well what does not work.

“Nassau County leaders and Veolia need to listen to bus riders and make the necessary changes that will improve the riding conditions for all bus riders,” she said.

The forum also emphasized the impact of public transportation on local businesses and communities.

“Bus riders are employees that are critical to the economic health of the small business community. Their ability to efficiently travel to work stabilizes our communities,” Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

For more media coverage of the forum, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Developer’s Love Of Riverhead Behind Shared Office Space

A former lawyer and now the woman behind a Manhattan real estate firm, Georgia Malone quickly fell in love with downtown Riverhead.

Unique small businesses litter Main Street, she said, and the town’s government is very forward thinking. In fact, their pro-business mentality is part of the reason Malone is opening shared office space in Riverhead.

“It tries so hard to get business,” she said.

Malone and business partner Amir Korangy are still preparing 30 W. Main Street, although the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter. Up to 34 offices, plus counter space, could be available by July.

“It’s a novel idea but I think it’s something Riverhead could really benefit from,” she said.

Renovations to the tune of $1.7 million are underway. Malone and Korangy found much of the three-story brick building in a state of disrepair, with a new roof, brickwork, elevator, facade restoration and other repairs necessary. HVAC work was expected to begin next week, as glass for the walls separating offices should begin to appear.

Plans call for two 4,000-square foot floors of shared office space. The second floor offices will be smaller, Malone said, designed for younger entrepreneurs who can’t afford to lease larger spaces. About 22 offices will be available here. The third floor will consist of 12 larger offices more suitable for accountants, lawyers and other traditional businesses.

Counter space will also be available for a lower rate.

Malone said their venture is not a business incubator or think tank, which have experts guiding rookie entrepreneurs and taking a cut. Instead, 30 W. Main Street will simply house offices for rent.

“It’s a different concept for Long Island,” Malone said.

All three options will include access to lounge areas and a kitchen, as well as an allotment towards faxes and other services.

Not only will the offices house small businesses and their staff, but the project is also expected to create new jobs. At least 20 construction jobs are expected during renovations and a full-time office, bookkeeper and maintenance staff will work in the building.

The project has also received support from the Riverhead IDA. After a pitch from Malone and Korangy, the agency approved a series of tax abatements, including 10 years of property taxes. Malone was still gracious for the IDA’s support, and pledged to champion the rest of Main Street.

“It’s not about how to market my building. It’s about how to market Riverhead,” the developer said.

Anyone interested in renting an office should call GM & Co. at 212-838-6888. For more coverage of this story, check outRiverhead Local.

 

 

 

 

April

3/31

Buying Into Housing Development In Lieu Of Vacant Stores

A pair of boarded-up commercial buildings in Valley Stream are slated to be redeveloped into a transit-oriented apartment complex.

Once completed, the $15 million project will replace 10 vacant stores with 39 units of housing in a three-story building. Parking will occupy the first floor and the building will be connected to the Gibson Boulevard LIRR station.

D&F Development Group Principal Peter Florey said the Hewlett Harbor Point will be priced as workforce housing. The annual income limit for the 20 one-bedroom units is $45,000 and the limit for the 19 two-bedroom units is $85,000.  However, village residents and first responders will be given priority.

“It wouldn’t surprise me [to see others apply]. I’d expect the majority to be coming from the area. We want to make sure the Valley Stream folks get the first shot at getting in,” Florey said.

After getting Village approval last year, the project is expected to enter the construction phase this fall. Occupancy is expected for early 2016, with the application process beginning in the third quarter of 2015.

“Really good work happening in Valley Stream,” Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said. “Kudos to the local Village and organizations like Envision Valley Stream that are making changes in their downtown.”

Valley Stream is embracing housing diversity these days. The 72 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail of Sun Valley Towers were recently completed, while the 90 units of housing in Hawthorne Court will be available for lease soon. Valley Stream officials also confirmed a major Long Island developer is negotiating to build 250 residences near the Valley Stream LIRR station.

“[These projects are] a major shot in the arm for economic development in the area,” Florey said.

For more coverage of Valley Stream housing, check out Long Island Business News (subscription require.)

Volunteers Warn About Looming NY Rising Deadline

As the deadline for Long Islanders to seek financial restitution for Superstorm Sandy damage looms, a team of volunteers hit the message home on Saturday.

Friends of Long Island – a collection of grassroots community organizations supported by Vision Long Island – rallied to emphasize the April 11 deadline for NY Rising applications.

Volunteers in Mastic Shirley, Babylon, Lindenhurst, Long Beach, Oceanside, Freeport, Island Park and East Rockaway were out and about last weekend, reminding people about the deadline. Homeowners seeking help to rebuild, repair or elevate house must begin the application process before the deadline for any hope of getting a check.

Friends of Long Island groups are known for ripping out and rebuilding homes on the weekends.

Meanwhile, Suffolk County Legislators Rob Calarco and William Lindsay III are hosting an informational meeting for Sandy questions at Briarcliffe College in Patchogue on the evening of April 7. Representatives from NY Rising, Community Development Corporation of Long Island, Greater Patchogue COAD and Touro Law Center will also be on hand at that event.

In the Town of Babylon, volunteers will be at Town Hall today from 2-7 p.m. and tomorrow from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. with laptops to help residents with their applications. NY Rising staff will also be on hand to answer questions.

Residents looking for help getting started can call Friends of Long Island’s Jon Siebert at 631-316-8430. Anyone who wants to try signing up themselves can visit NY Rising online or call 1-855-NYS-Sandy.

There’s been minimal regional support in getting the message out, Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said, but local organizations and rebuilding groups have done a great job in canvassing their neighbors.

For more coverage, check out News 12 (subscription required).

More Calls For Safer Roads At Complete Streets Summit

“Here we have to rustle up energy to these common sense activities.”

Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island and emcee for the 2014 Complete Streets Summit, let a little passion slip through at the beginning of Thursday’s conference. He complained how people are still getting hurt and killed on Long Island roads, while other parts of the world have made the necessary changes to protect them.

The second annual Complete Streets Summit, held at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale, was a gathering of government leaders, planners, engineers, nonprofits and other community stakeholders who support policy changes to design roadways for all uses – not just automobiles.

For Sandy Cutrone, the Summit was a chance to remind participants of the campaign’s significance. The West Islip resident was an avid bicyclist since her days growing up in North Babylon; she was riding along Montauk Highway in Babylon Village last September when a van turned into her. Cutrone developed neck pain, vision problems and post-concussion symptoms that continue to keep her from working. Her story crossed the world in February after Suffolk County Legislator Tom Barraga criticized her for bicycling in Suffolk County.

Complete Streets, she added, could help prevent similar accidents in the future. That includes designated bike lanes and signage, better pedestrian crossings and traffic lights that display a red left turn arrow when the light turns green for oncoming traffic.

Downtowns would also benefit from more pedestrian and bicyclist traffic, Cutrone said.

“We won’t simply drive through. We will stop [and shop],” she said.

Complete Streets policy could also be a lifesaver, a change too late for Lavena Sipes. The Smithtown resident watched a driver high on heroin smash into her 11-year-old daughter, Courtney, back in 2009. Mother and daughter were crossing Main Street for a music lesson Courtney was looking forward to when an SUV sent her flying under another car and killing the girl.

The family moved from Texas to Smithtown in 2008. With shops along Main Street and people walking in the community, Sipes believed they were alright leaving their car behind.

Since her daughter’s death, the family founded the Courtney Sipes Memorial Foundation. The nonprofit advocates for pedestrian safety and supports youth interest in music and arts.

“It seemed safe. We had our blinders on,” Sipes said. “It’s easy to separate yourself from these tragedies and think it won’t happen to your family.”

Cutrone and Sipes joined Alexander in unveiling the Long Island Compete Streets Coalition at Thursday’s event. The coalition is a contingent of chambers of commerce, civic associations, local governments, engineering and professional trade groups, transit advocates and members of the public who want safe streets for all modes of traffic.

The group will look to coordinate Complete Streets planning efforts, communicate on finding opportunities for local projects, act as a clearinghouse for information and lobby with a united voice for safe roadways.

The keynote speaker at Thursday’s Complete Streets Summit was Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Referring to Barraga’s comments, the county leader admitted Suffolk was designed auto-centric as Robert Moses developed America’s earliest suburbs. But if Long Island wants to stimulate the economy, create a sense of place and reverse the Brain Drain, he said it’s time to embrace the common sense-solutions of Complete Streets.

“If we’re going to have a vibrant economy and a safe environment for all of us, then Complete Streets is part of the solution,” Bellone said.

Such policies would also play a part in his “Connect Long Island” initiative. The county executive wants to link the existing east-west railways with new north-south options like Bus Rapid Transit to connect universities, jobs and affordable housing. Complete Streets, he said, would help connect destinations without needing a car.

Bellone was flanked by Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) and Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin). He said the effort has to be less about changing culture and more about reminding residents why they moved to the suburbs in the first place, while she said transit-oriented development creates jobs, reduces traffic, keeps young professionals on Long Island, improves sales tax revenues and solves many of the region’s problems.

Under guidance of Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Ryan Lynch, the Implementation: Challenges and Policies panel began discussing issues facing Complete Streets solutions. Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said their village of 6,700 already embraces these policies. Passing Complete Streets legislation in 2012, the village has slowed speed limits, increased access to all modes of transit and added bus shelters and benches.

Celender was optimistic she could return next year with a success story for Welwyn Road and Shoreward Drive. The area currently has one lane of traffic in each direction with heavy congestion, deteriorating pavement, cracked concrete sidewalks and no pedestrian facilities. The village received a $5.1 million grant for enhancements, including brick walkways and raised crosswalks.

In Nassau County, Traffic Safety Coordinator Christopher Mistron focused on the three E’s of planning – education, engineering and enforcement. Instead of having EMS as a fourth E, Mistron said he wanted it to be encouragement. In education, the county official said having conversations about Complete Streets is effective. What starts as a dinner table conversation turns into pedestrian awareness about safety. In enforcement, Mistron said red light cameras have reduced crashes by as much as 40 percent. He also said police officers crossed crosswalks and chased after drivers who didn’t yield. In engineering, he said the county makes changes to their own roads but is limited by local governments.

A late minute addition to the panel, Suffolk Bus Riders Association President Robert DeVito emphasized both education for drivers and bicyclists. They go into schools teaching how to properly ride, but also stress that most bicyclists also own cars. DeVito said spending money on bridging the disconnect between bicyclists and other drivers would go further than infrastructure projects.

In the Town of Brookhaven, Councilwoman Connie Kepert said Complete Streets policies have been a success since the board passed it in 2010. Kepert said she’s finding some opposition to proposed transit-oriented development in North Bellport from neighbors to the south. They were able to install sidewalks and bike lanes on some roads, but the councilwoman said they’re still facing some opposition about Complete Streets.

“It’s not creating Queens in Brookhaven. It’s making the roads safe,” she said.

Led by VHB Director of Transportation Matthew Carmody, the second panel focused on the design and regulation to guide Complete Streets projects.

Babylon’s Director of Downtown Revitalization Jonathan Keyes said they don’t get many opportunities to rebuild communities in Babylon with 99 percent of the town built up. Wyandanch Rising may be “an engineer’s headache” with narrow roads and underground utilities, but wider roads would increase traffic speeds as well as making the work easier, violating the tenets of Complete Streets.

Rich Zapolski is still relatively new to the Town of Islip as their commissioner of Planning and Development, but he’s actively learning about Complete Streets and works with a small, but talented staff.  The Town approved a Complete Streets policy in 2010. Complete Streets is part of the planned Heartland Town Square, currently undergoing an environmental impact study, Zapolski said. He added they’re trying to incorporate the concepts in projects throughout the town’s other hamlets.

Southampton Transportation Director Tom Neely admitted his region may be less dense, although it’s geographically large. With lots of roads to worry about, Neely introduced a discussion of the expenses behind accidents. With the average accident in America costing $16,000, the director said his town sees about 2,000 accidents every year.

He urged conference participants and guests to vote for elected officials who want change. Many towns have an elected highway superintendent who operates independently of the town board. Southampton officials took an inventory of sidewalks to go along with their map of bike roads, which their highway superintendent used while plowing snow.

The Town of North Hempstead passed Complete Streets legislation in 2011. Town Planner Wes Sternberg said they used the policies when they put Prospect Avenue on “a diet.” What once was a four-lane road with limited but high speed traffic was turned into a slower, two-lane road. They’re also investigating solutions for Marion Street on the border of Greenvale and Oyster Bay. The neighborhood is fine by itself, but Glen Cove Road and Northern Boulevard traffic speed through as a shortcut. A car drives through ever 53 seconds on weekdays and every 38 seconds on Saturday.

“That’s a lot of traffic that shouldn’t be there,” Sternberg said.

To slow traffic down, he said, the town is considering a few options. That could include a lane choker to restrict to one lane of alternating traffic or using islands to constrict the roads. Other municipalities, he added, could try these solutions out temporarily using traffic cones.

Stepping away from Long Island, Wendel Companies Sr. Landscape Architect Dean Gowen examined Complete Streets through a project in upstate Buffalo. When they considered the $11.3 million-plan, Gowen said they needed to identify specific values, like improving traffic flow, opening up Brownfields properties and serving as a catalyst for revitalization.

Complete Streets, he added, incorporates three basic concepts. Projects must involve multiple forms of transportation, environmentally-sound decisions and include both education and smart technology.

The final speaker of the second panel was a newcomer to engineering firm Greenman Pedersen, inc. Transportation Safety Director Frank Pearsen reflected on his three decades with the New York State Department of Transportation to emphasize the importance of Complete Streets.

He worked on a project along Newbridge Road as a rookie engineer. Back then, he was proud of the four-lane road he created. Responding to elected officials’ complaints 20 years later, Pearsen realized the smarter decision to make it safer for everyone was actually to remove a lane and add traffic signals. He also responded to Main Street in Smithtown after Courtney Sipes was killed, tasked with finding a cheap solution quickly. After getting community input, the DOT used a west-bound lane to create a turning lane, added traffic signal and installed wider sidewalks.

Pearsen cautioned major projects like the NY Route 347 Safety, Mobility and Environmental Improvements project renovating 15 miles of highway are not often feasible solutions. Instead, he urged government officials to seek more practical low-cost solutions.

“The big projects are splashy, but few and far between,” he added.

For more information on how to join the Long Island Complete Streets Coalition, contact Vision Long Island.

Turbines Proposed Off Montauk Coast For LIPA RFP

Long Island may finally harvest wind power after all.

A Rhode Island companies is submitting plans for a 35-turbine wind farm off the coast of Montauk in response to LIPA requests for renewable energy last year.

Deepwater Wind’s Deepwater ONE project calls for turbines on platforms in 100-120 feet of water 30 miles off Long Island. The 6-megawatt turbines would generate more than 200 megawatts of power by 2018 and hook up to the LIPA electrical system on the East End.

LIPA released a request for proposals last year to generate 280 megawatts of renewable energy. The state-controlled entity is working with Con Edison and the New York Power Authority on a proposed wind farm off the South Shore. LIPA also canceled a wind project off the coast of Jones Beach in 2007 over cost.

Energy produced by the wind farm would be sold both to Long Island and coastal New England states, according to the company. They claim it will produce enough electricity to power about 350,000 homes and displace over 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off of the road.

Deepwater ONE would not be visible from Montauk’s shore, company officials said.

The project has also won support from 19 environmentalist and nonprofit groups, like Vision Long Island. They released a public letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, PSEG-LI and LIPA last week, praising Deepwater ONE and calling the ocean a “world-class” energy resource. Advocates said offshore wind power has provided clean energy to coastal Europe for more than 20 years in Europe without harming marine resources.

“We strongly urge New York to embrace and incorporate the potential of offshore wind power and utilize its close proximity to our increasingly demanding energy markets. For the sake of coastal resiliency, local jobs, increased investments in economic development and manufacturing, wildlife, and future generations of New Yorkers, we thank you for inviting proposals for large-scale renewable energy and look forward to working with you to advance offshore wind for New York,” the letter said.

LIPA is expected to announce a decision by December.

For more coverage of this proposal, check out Newsday (subscription required).

New GPI Traffic Safety Expert Supports Complete Streets

Frank Pearsen called his decision to join engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. “act II” of his career.

After spending almost 33 years with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Pearson joined the firm in February as their director of transportation safety for the Babylon office.

“I’m too young to stay retired. I’m only 55. I felt I had something to contribute to the profession,” he said.

Pearsen spent his entire career with the NYSDOT working hands on with traffic issues. Before he retired this past November, he was the acting regional director for the Long Island Region 10 area. His background includes traffic safety and/or calming projects along Hempstead Turnpike, Wantagh Parkway and Jericho Turnpike.

Greenman-Pedersen, he said, has the largest traffic-engineering group on Long Island and handled a lot of traffic safety work. Coming on board as the transportation safety boss for the Babylon office, Pearsen is responsible for quality control on active projects and expanding the firm’s role in traffic safety.

Looking into the private sector, New York City was a major pull. Pearsen said he was interested with the safety improvements made for bicyclists and pedestrians over the years, as well as the progress on Long Island.

“We’ve made progress over the last 10 years, but certainly we’re not where we have to be yet. There’s a lot more opportunities for improvement,” he said, referring to Complete Streets. “While I was with the DOT, we did some of that in Hempstead Turnpike and downtown Smithtown.”

Alternative transportation is also an important key to successful downtowns, which Pearsen supports. The Village of Patchogue, he added, has sparked emulation by other municipalities.

“Pedestrians are a mode of transportation, as are transit. I think you have to have a balanced approach,” Pearsen said. “Downtown areas shouldn’t really have much through traffic; it should be for local traffic.”

 

4/5

FoLI Leaders Cantwell, Castiglia Recognized For Their Service

They spend their weeks working regular jobs. But when the weekend comes, the work is just beginning for the Friends of Long Island.

Two veteran members of the Superstorm Sandy recovery coalition were honored this week for their service since the storm hit in October 2012.

Town of Hempstead awarded Friends of Freeport President Rich Cantwell the Make A Difference award. The honor is given every year to someone who makes a difference in their community.

“We did that and we continue to do that week after week since Sandy. We won’t stop. The work, compassion and dedication is unlike any other volunteer group I have ever had the privilege of being part of. YOU are the reason that so many families are home. Together, we have made a difference for Freeport, for families on Long Island, and for each other. I am proud and honored to be a small part of the we,” Cantwell said.

Meanwhile, Lindy Manpower founder Amy Castiglia was the focus of a FiOS news feature story about “Heroes on Long Island.” Taping in Lindenhurst on Tuesday, Castiglia received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the Long Island Volunteer Center. The event is part of National Volunteer Week from April 6-13.

Friends of Long Island is an umbrella organization of grassroots, community-based groups focused on recovering and rebuilding after Sandy. They are supported by Vision Long Island.

Sandy Nonprofit Wins $10k Prize For Kids’ Bedroom Furniture

Their families were forced to evacuate. Their parents lost thousands, and often tens and hundreds of thousands, of property. But the child victims of Superstorm Sandy lost their sense of security.

But with the help of Ikea, grassroots nonprofit Adopt A House wants to shine a little sunlight on these kids.

The Lindenhurst-based group won $10,000 from Ikea’s Life Improvement Challenge. Vice President Michele Insinga confirmed the winnings will be used to purchase bedroom furniture for youth ages 16 and under.

“It is really important. These kids lost a lot and they’re children. They’re just starting to get back home now. We want to give them something to be really happy about,” Insinga said. “We just want to see them happy and smile.”

The contest pitted Adopt A House against other projects from across America, including two from Long Island. Ikea collected votes from March 17-28. And in the end, the winners pulled in 68 percent of the vote.

“We’re pretty good at social media,” Insinga said.

No decision has been made yet on how many families will benefit or how much each youth will receive. The vice president said they’re hashing out the details with Ikea and expect to have answers by the end of the month.

Whoever does get a cut of the funds will participate in an event in early May. Families will enjoy lunch before working with designers provided by the company to choose their furniture.

The concept for furniture was a result of Adopt A House’s surveys. Regularly in touch with 2,000 members, parents surprised Insinga with their most requested items.

“Most of them said that even though they lost their living rooms, dining rooms, they were more interested in their children losing their bedroom sets,” she said.

Adopt A House is a member of Friends of Long Island – an umbrella of grassroots Sandy-recovery organizations supported by Vision Long Island. Created three days after Sandy, the nonprofit began delivering food and supplies, and ripping out houses. These days, they focus more on fundraising and informational workshops on topics like mold, banking and insurance. Including the latest Ikea funds, Adopt A House has distributed $130,000.

Islip’s Ronkonkoma Enhancement Project To Continue

The next phase of a project designed to define Ronkonkoma’s character is slated to begin very soon.

Islip Principal Planner Gene Murphy confirmed Phase II of the Ronkonkoma Streetscape Plan should start this spring or summer.

“This helps enhance the community identity of Ronkonkoma,” he said.

The project began last year after Ronkonkoma Civic Association board member Larry Farrell presented a proposal to Islip Supervisor Tom Croci about improving the hamlet’s identity in January 2013. The town board responded by allocating $200,000 for the streetscape improvement plan.

“This is the proper location in the Town of Islip to do this. For a relatively moderate investment, it really improves the hamlet,” Murphy added.

The project considers seven streetscape elements to beautify the neighborhood: curb and sidewalks improvements, brick pavers, decorative lampposts, landscaping, signs, crosswalks and enforcement of existing codes.

It also identifies 20 different projects along half a mile of Johnson Avenue and Ocean Avenue north to the LIRR station. The entire project calls for more than 350 feet of curbs, 200 feet of sidewalks and 1,300 feet of brick pavers, and at least eight decorative lampposts. Close to a dozen trees will also be planted.

Phase I took place last fall, highlighted by a new red and black sign at the corner of Johnson and Ocean Avenues. The town also tended to landscaping on the southeast side of Johnson Avenue, while the owner of Johnson Avenue stopping center repaved his own lot and installed curbs out of his own pocket.

“That initiative got him going that he had to fix up his property,” Murphy said.

Phase II, he added, focuses on modest improvements at the 20 sites. However, the Long Island Rail Road’s plans to install more tracks as part of their Double Track project have placed several of the sites in stasis. Instead, the Town of Islip is looking to move ahead with nine locations.

The most common element of these projects will be stamped decorative concrete between curbs and sidewalks, Murphy said. They’ll also install street lights, replace dirt with pavers and repair crumbling sidewalks.

Plans originally called for work to begin this month. Some road blocks, however, may delay the project. Murphy confirmed four of the nine sites are owned by Suffolk County and require their permission. The town is also coming to the end of their lighting contract at the end of April and bids are not due to return, let alone be evaluated, until the end of the month.

But if the project doesn’t continue this spring, Murphy is confident it’ll pick up again in the summer.

Nassau Chambers Support Sandy Recovery Effort

Most days the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce focuses on small merchants across western Long Island.

But on Thursday morning, the 48 chamber members put business aside to support the unpaid volunteers with Friends of Long Island. More than half of the individual chambers donated more than $2,000 to the coalition of grassroots Superstorm Sandy recovery groups. All of the proceeds will go towards building materials.

“The Nassau Council of Chambers is proud to have awarded this check due to the generosity of our members. We will continue to fundraise on their behalf. It is the least we can do as an organization,” President Julie Marchesella said.

Friends of Long Island is an umbrella for various community groups working throughout the South Shore. Vision Long Island provides support for their efforts, and spoke at Thursday’s meeting. The nonprofit shared recent activities of the Smart Growth movement around the island.

“Kudos to the small business community that really is the backbone of Long Island,” Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

The Nassau Council of Chamber of Commerce awarded a check to Friends of Long Island at their Presidents’ Roundtable which took place on Thursday, April 10.  The Nassau Council raised these funds through the generosity of their members in recognition of the volunteer efforts accomplished by restoring the regions residents/businesses back into their homes.

Design Team Makes Pitch For $4 Billion In Federal Sandy Funds

Daniel D’Oca doesn’t expect Long Island will win the full $800 million needed to prepare for the next Superstorm Sandy, but he is optimistic the area can get a cut of the $4 billion prize.

D’Oca is a principal with Interboro Partners – the lead firm of the Interboro Team – in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rebuild by Design challenge. Interboro partnered with engineering, planning, developers and others to solve the flooding problem on Long Island.

They joined nine other teams looking at flooding in other parts of the northeast in front of a HUD jury on Friday with their “Living with the Bay: A Comprehensive Regional Resiliency Plan for Nassau County’s South Shore” proposal. Results aren’t expected for another month, at which point they’ll identify which projects will see funding and just how much.

When the Interboro Team began meeting with Long Islanders and investigating the problem, it quickly became apparent there were multiple issues at play, each requiring a solution. Sandy sent large waves onto land, but impervious surfaces like asphalt kept the ground from absorbing stormwater. Water quality and environmental issues are critical for a region that lives on its source of water, while thousands of houses were damaged and destroyed by the storm.

Their solution was a five-prong plan with each component supporting another.

“These aren’t just five separate strategies. Each one makes the other better. If we could capture more stormwater runoff and keep more runoff from entering Mill River, it would improve the quality of water in the river and bay, and help us with the project to grow marshland,” D’Oca said. “We would like to see HUD fund a bit of everything. Having said that, there would still be a positive gain from HUD picking one or two of these things.”

The first piece covers the ocean shoreline. A large deposit of sand called a sand engine in Jones Inlet would harness tides and erosion to naturally build up beaches and shoreline. Additional sediment from dredging would support the beaches.

The second piece reflects the need for barrier islands to protect the mainland from damaging storm surge. Interboro’s plan calls for a dike landscape and a water retention park near Long Beach to protect existing critical infrastructure. Not only did Long Beach sustain some of the highest concentrations of Sandy damage, but it’s among the most residentially dense in Nassau County.

Marshes are also useful for buffering the mainland from storm surge and erosion, but they also support local ecology. This phase of the proposed plan would include a marsh island and ring levees – water-facing roads elevated by 5 feet equipped with stormwater-detention systems – around the Freeport shoreline.

Along the lower-lying developed areas, flooding can actually prevent mitigating flooding further inland. North-south rivers drain stormwater runoff, but outflow pipes can back up the pipes are inundated. Green infrastructure could not only reduce that flooding, according to the Interboro plan, but also pollution. Their solution calls for a sluice gate in the Mill River watershed to better manage stormwater, convert a nearby undeveloped parcel of land into a riverfront park that could filter stormwater and add stormwater swales to nearby streets.

Finally, their plan calls for smarter developing inland. Building along Sunrise Highway puts people outside of category 2 storm surges while remaining reasonably close to the water. It also supports the Freeport Plaza West mixed-use project and adds bike lanes.

All of these projects, D’Oca said, could be applied in other parts of the island.

Their plan also includes a series of “Phase I” components that are cheaper and require navigating less red tape. While their entire proposal and required studies would cost $800 million, Interboro presented their plan to HUD as a menu with different choices and prices.

“We don’t expect HUD to fund $800 million,” D’Oca said. “We would like to see HUD fund a bit of everything. Having said that, there would still be a positive gain from HUD picking one or two of these things.”

This design and planning effort is one of many regional plans for Long Island that are being sorted out at numerous levels. Vision Long Island is hopeful that federal and state infrastructure dollars will be allocated to address resiliency across Long Island’s South Shore. Check out the Rebuild By Design website for Interboro’s final proposal.

Revisiting The 2014 Complete Streets Summit

Last week’s More Calls For Safer Roads At Complete Streets Summit story contained a few errors. For the corrected version, check out Vision’s website.

4/12

Welcome To The New, Improved Village Of Patchogue

Just 10 years ago, Patchogue had a very different reputation. It was laden with boarded up storefronts and questionable neighborhoods.

But as the Village embraces its downtown, the community is coming back to life. Newsday explored the story last weekend, covering a community some say is a model for other downtowns.

“I think the community understood we needed dynamic change. Patchogue has always been a community in transition. From boat building in the 1800s, tourism in the 1900s, commercial mecca to a period of darkness to where we are today. I think people were ready to gamble on changes,” Mayor Paul Pontieri said.

Patchogue had fallen into a hard decline around the turn of the millennium. In 2002, 18.2 percent of storefronts were empty. Long Island department store Swezey’s closed up shop in 2003, adding to the list of long-term vacancies. Many parts of the village were dangerous, especially the neighborhood around the LIRR station by South Ocean Avenue. And the death of hate crime victim Marcelo Lucero in 2008 only attracted more negative attention.

But it was that acceptance for change that finally shone a little light on the downtrodden region. Workforce housing was a significant part of downtown investments. Copper Beech Village broke ground in 2006 and New Village is currently under construction.

Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said Patchogue and other growing downtowns are responding to the demand for smaller and more affordable housing for young professionals and retirees.

“Long Islanders love their local communities. Long Island is a community of communities. When people see positive changes, they want to stay here,” he said.

The 2.2 square-mile village also became a home to the arts. The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts attracts 150,000 for live performances, films and other productions. Artspace Patchogue Lofts replaced abandoned property with 45 apartments for artists and a gallery in the same building. The Village of Patchogue is also home to venues like 89 North and the Emporium.

In recent years, more than 550 new residential units have been added downtown. But Pontieri said the village’s success downtown is also reliant on their residential neighborhoods. A fair amount are within walking distance of downtown, and the others are easily within a short drive. The village put money into parks, new playgrounds, professional putting green next to playground and renovations at the municipal pool.

“We’ve made sure that people who move into this community because of the downtown have a residential neighborhood they can be proud of too,” he said.

Going forward, the mayor said infrastructure questions, especially parking issues, need to be resolved. However, he was optimistic about their future.

“Patchogue has gone through so many transformations in the last 120 years, nothing surprises me. But I think we’re in a good place right now.”

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

LI Sewer Plants Get ‘A’ Rating For Mandatory Nitrogen Reduction

Long Island and Connecticut are on pace to meet lower federal sewage limits, but New York City and Westchester are “at risk.”

Environmental group Save The Sound issued report cards Monday for the region about the amount of harmful nitrogen released by sewage treatment plants into the Long Island Sound. New York, Connecticut and the Environmental Protection Agency are requiring local communities reduce nitrogen output by 58.5 percent compared to 1990 levels.

Nassau County, Suffolk County and Connecticut all received A grades. While Connecticut is currently under the threshold, Save The Sound expects Long Island to meet the 2014 deadlines. According to their report, all six Suffolk plants have cut their output by more than half. Northport, which is undergoing a $9 million renovation, is the lowest at 67 percent and Kings Park is the highest at 90 percent.

“They’ve been able to pick up the pace [after Superstorm Sandy and the cold 2014 winter]. At this point, there doesn’t seem like they’ll be any problem,” Northport Trustee Damon McMullen said.

Village government has spent years trying to release less than 10 pounds of nitrogen daily from their plant. Questions first arose about waiting for technology to catch up before concerns about accuracy came to light. McMullen said none of the experts have guaranteed their expensive projects will get them to the new limit by Aug. 1, but he was optimistic.

In Nassau County, Glen Cove cut their nitrogen output by 80 percent as the high mark. The Great Neck Water Pollution Control District has trimmed their output by 77 percent, even after absorbing the Village of Great Neck’s wastewater. Village officials shut down their own plant in December after 80 years in operation. Meanwhile the district’s plant underwent a $60 million upgrade in 2010 to handle the additional flow. For their improvements, the district will receive a Smart Growth Award during the ceremony on June 13.

Meanwhile, the environmental group not only handed out B grades to New York City and Westchester, but labeled them at risk. Three of the eight combined sewage treatment plants have actually seen an increase in nitrogen output. The Hunts Point plant in the city saw a 61 percent drop, but the other four plants are under 50 percent. Both areas must reach the 58.5 percent reduction by 2017.

For more about Save The Sound’s grading, check out their website.

Some Answers in State DOT’s Compete Streets Report

A New York State Department of Transportation report on Complete Streets does contain some great news for policy supporters, but also leaves a few questions unanswered.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign reviewed last week’s report, describing it as a mixed bag.

The state’s Complete Streets Act was signed into law in 2011 and went into effect in 2012. The legislation establishes transportation principles that encompass consideration for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorcyclists and all users.

Last fall, the state DOT conducted workshops across the state for feedback on their Complete Streets policies. They met with community groups, local governments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations and other stakeholders to review their best practices and highlight seven case studies promoting Complete Streets.

Among the seven is the DOT’s Route 347 project, addressing 15 miles between Hauppauge and Port Jefferson. The plan calls for narrower lanes, lower speed limits, bicycle paths and pedestrian refuge areas. Carrying a $600 million price tag, the project is due for completion next year. The report also highlighted changes in the Village of Great Neck Plaza. Plagued by speeding and numerous accidents, the village went about reducing lanes and instituting traffic-calming measures. Since they finished in 2008, they’ve seen a 64.3 percent drop in accident-related injuries.

Moving forward, the state pledged to expand communication with community stakeholders and various government agencies; put more information online; complete revisions on the Complete Streets Planning Checklist now that stakeholder input has been received; clarify roles and responsibilities in the process; post sources of potential funding for Complete Streets projects online and revise existing state DOT documents to further support Complete Streets policies.

Tri-State’s Albany Legislative Advocate Nadine Lemmon was optimistic about the checklist, call it a useful tool for institutionalizing Complete Streets design into the decision-making process. She cautioned that its success will depend on how pervasively it is used. At a minimum, to be compliant with the state’s Complete Streets law that requires all projects receiving state and federal funding to use the checklist.

During outreach meetings, Lemmon said stakeholders flagged the need for more outreach, education and coordination with local partners, something the DOT responded to by identifying central staff as the go-to resource for planning and design questions. They’ll also hold workshops and informational meetings to train municipal staff across the state, which could alleviate some confusion about implementing the law.

However, Tri-State also critiqued the report for failing to consider two major impediments to Complete Streets implementation in New York State: the inconsistency between the law and NYSDOT’s “preservation first” policy, and how the agency will fund pedestrian and bicycle projects. While the report does clearly identify funding as an issue that needs to be addressed, it fails to provide solutions to this dilemma. One clear opportunity would be to dedicate funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the forthcoming 5-year capital plan.

The lack of insight into how the state will incorporate pedestrian and bicycle projects into the “Preservation First” policy was particularly disappointing to advocates, given that the policy excludes new bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure from 80 percent of transportation funds spent in the state.

This report comes in the wake of Vision Long Island’s second annual Complete Streets Summit. Attracting elected officials, policymakers, business leaders and transportation advocates, the event is an opportunity to improve safety for all users of the roads.

“We are pleased the Department of Transportation has taken their law seriously enough to outline metrics to being improvements. However, there still remains a need to reduce speed on state roads that intersect with bicyclists and pedestrians,” Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

4/19

Huntington ZBA To Consider More Mixed-Use Development

While construction is underway on a sizeable mixed-use project along Gerard Street in Huntington village, another bank of downtown housing could be coming.

An application is in front of the Town of Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals to create 14 new apartments over a fitness center. Located at the corner of New York Avenue and Gibson Street, the application calls for existing second-story office space to be converted and expanded into six two-bedroom apartments and one single-bedroom apartment. A new third floor would hold seven more apartments.

Monthly rent would be approximately $2,500, according to sources familiar with plans.

Property owner Greg DeRosa also owns a .4-acre vacant lot across the street, which would be converted into a gated parking lot for 28 cars, if approved.

DeRosa’s attorney, James Margolin, confirmed the Zoning Board has the plans but has not weighed in yet. They’re next scheduled meeting is May 1.

“Hopefully they’ll make a decision on the application that’s favorable to us,” Margolin said.

Large Turnout For Dowling’s 5th Annual LI Youth Summit

More than 350 high school students from 26 districts across Long Island participated in the 5th annual Long Island Youth Summit (LIYS) at Dowling College on April 4.

The goal of the LIYS is to work with the brightest and most active students to find innovative solutions to socio-economic and socio-medical issues affecting Long Island. During the conference, students work with experts in the fields of medicine, government, civic activism, economics, and the environment to address such issues as bullying, abuse of prescription drugs, mental health and self-esteem, water, renewable energy, Sandy recovery, economic development and housing, race, class and leadership.

Dr. Adam Aponte, director of North Shore-LIJ’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, touched on social inequalities illustrated through access to health care. Young people think differently and are more apt to embrace change than older generations, he said, which is important to solving health inequities. Aponte said America is becoming so diverse there will be no majority come 2040. And yet, he said the infant mortality rate in East Harlem is 9.5 percent compared to just 4.5 percent in the Upper East Side when the neighborhoods practically border each other. Education, culture, language and race all play a role, Aponte said, and the time to embrace diversity in all facets of life is now. More diverse populations create more ideas and solutions. The director also emphasized the importance of positive support for everyone. When he grew up as a poor Puerto Rican child, he found support in his dream of becoming a doctor from his friends and family, even after a ninth grade teacher told him not to aspire so high.

“Our goal is to engage students as early as possible in creative thinking about issues that affect Long Island,” said Dr. Nathalia Rogers, director of the American Communities Institute at Dowling College. “We’re looking for the development of future leaders in our communities and the Summit is the first step in the process. The Summit is also a great example of a public/private partnership among organizations in the fields of health, education, business, and policy that brings together resources for the purpose of giving young people the tools that they will need to succeed in the future.”

During the day of the Summit finalists and their teachers participated in nine workshops with 23 experts in the areas of business and economics, governance, housing and transportation, environment, socio-medical issues, race and education, and non-profit and civic activism.

This year’s slate of workshops were: Bullying, Cyber Bullying and Social Networking; Teens and Abuse of Prescription Drugs; Teen Mental Health, Self-Esteem and Well Being; Protection of Water and Open Space; Renewable Energy; Living on Long Island: Economic Development, Community, and Housing; Race, Class, Education and Economy; the Impact of Hurricane Sandy and Leadership.

After completing their topic workshops, the participants convened for a joint final session and the awards ceremony where they presented their workshop recommendations. The summary of recommendations from each workshop is provided below.

The Environment Issues 1: Protection of Water and Open Space workshop was moderated by Executive Director Adrienne Esposito and Executive Programs Manager Maureen Dolan Murphy from the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, along with H2M Water President Dennis Kelleher.

Water, participants agreed, is one of the most important environmental issues facing Long Island. Underground aquifers are the only source of drinking water, which is slowly becoming contaminated. Nitrogen levels increased by 200 percent between 1978-2005 in Suffolk County. Other pollutants, pesticides and volatile organic compounds have also been found in groundwater.

The group decided that education is the best solution to protect Long Island’s water, with so many people still unaware they only drink the water beneath their feet. More than half of medical facilities on Long Island still flush medicines down the drain and high nitrogen levels lead to algae blooms that kill fish and wildlife.

The Environment Issues 2: Renewable Energy workshop was moderated by PSEG Manager John Keating, EmPower Solar Community Programs Manager Tara Bono and Northrop Grumman’s Dr. Donald DiMarzio.

When panelists asked teens what they discovered while researching their projects, the discussion touched on geothermal energy. They discussed how a few thousand Long Island homes already use geothermal heating and cooling. Teens also said hydro power is possible on Long Island by funneling rain water into a channel that can turn turbines. Similarly, they agreed tidal and wave energy would also be a good fit considering the significant shoreline.

When the moderators asked what obstacles there are to renewable energy, students cited the cost of solar power, adding that banks are now offering loans to help with installation costs. They also discussed the lack of education when residents are unaware of available options. Public outcry, the teens added, is also an obstacle. Some went after the proposed Jones Beach wind farm because they could lose their view of the ocean.

The discussion ended with a consent that renewable energy homes are becoming more of a trend on Long Island.

Under the guidance of Impact of Hurricane Sandy workshop was moderated by Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Executive Director Kim Skillen, Friends of Long Island contractor Jon Siebert and Islip’s Deputy Incident Commander for Emergency Response Joseph Badala, students in the Impact of Hurricane Sandy workshop examined how the historic storm continues to affect Long Island.

Students and experts considered how microgrids with local power generation could keep the lights on in essential structures, burying power lines would prevent future outages but carry a large price tag, creating barrier beaches and marshland would protect the mainland from storm surge and why crying wolf on storms like Tropical Storm Irene left many Fire Island residents refusing to evacuate.

“People won’t leave their homes anymore,” Badala said.

Going forward, they agreed child health will be a long-term need, especially as kids pick up on parents’ stress in picking up the pieces, homeowners need to meticulously remove mold spores before rebuilding, grassroots community organizations are better equipped to handle future problems and that Long Islanders can help themselves by having the knowledge and an emergency kit ready before the next disaster.

Guided by Roel Resources President Ron Roel, Islip Councilman Steve Flotteron and D&F Development Group Principal Peter Florey, Levittown, Eastport-South Manor and Three Village School students participated in the Living on Long Island: Economic Development, Community and Housing workshop.

When asked why they selected economic development, one teen said he was interested in Smart Growth and believed it could promote “slumping” areas like St. James and Mt. Sinai. Another student described Manorville, which lacks a commercial hub – as just a rest stop on the way to the Hamptons. One Levittown teen was jealous of relatives in Northport for their Main Street compared to the big companies littering Levittown.

The group also touched on the students’ future careers and livelihoods on Long Island. A Manorville teen said he was concerned how small businesses can be successful on Long Island without a commercial center. Roel chimed in that 98 percent of the island’s 95,000 businesses actually have less than 20 people.

Transportation was another popular topic in this workshop. Not only is there a lack of north-south connections, they said, but Superstorm Sandy made it impossible to travel with the gas shortage. Trains are the primary source of public transportation, but the East End needs more mass transit.

A dozen students discussed Leadership with Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander, North Shore-LIJ’s Berthe Erisnor and Governor Cuomo’s Suffolk County representative Scott Martella.

Alexander warned that leadership is not for the faint of heart, as it involves putting yourself into a situation without the guarantee of success. But these teens were unperturbed, sharing their own stories of struggles and successes in both personal and academic goals. One student challenged her school to offer more assemblies on bullying. Despite the district’s apprehension, she pushed forward and made them a reality.

Martella reflected on some of history’s powerful leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. who were able to make changes despite not holding a position of power. One teen said she recognized leadership in a young child while on a church mission, while another said she and her parents displayed leadership applying to unattainable colleges.

Good leaders, Alexander said, are good people with the flexibility to do the right thing. That can include stepping back and recognizing someone else’s leadership. And by the end of their conversation, the group agreed that sincerity and strength coming from hard work and positive values are the most important components of leadership.

The Race, Class, Education, and Economy workshop was moderated by Dr. Nathalia Rogers, Director of the American Communities Institute at Dowling College, and Diana Coleman from the Nassau County Economic Opportunity Commission & Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC).

Participants in the workshop acknowledged that Long Island remains one of the most racially segregated areas of the United States and that growing social and economic inequality is impacting young people in a negative way.   Some solutions that students proposed included:  creating educational courses about value and achievements of different cultures and teaching these courses starting from early childhood. This will allow students to develop a more educated perspective on other cultures that may differ from perspectives of their parents.  Participants emphasized the need for the state to provide more resources to high-need schools through significant subsidies for afterschool programs and academic clubs.  Creating school districts that will include racially and economically diverse school population may also help to reduce social inequality.  Bayshore School District and Harborfields School District could serve as examples for such high achieving, diverse school districts.  In addition, creating school partnerships where high-need and low-need schools would partner through joint clubs, events, sports teams, and half-day cross-school curriculum may reduce racial stereotypes and contribute to better learning for everyone.   State and federal tax breaks for small businesses that will be willing to relocate and/or open in high need school districts will help those districts to receive higher revenue.

The Socio-Medical Issues 1: Bullying, Cyber-Bullying and Social Networking workshop was moderated by Dr. Barbara Meyers, Dr. Alison Tebbett and Dr. Amanda Riisen from the North Shore-LIJ Health System.

Participants of the workshop focused on strategies to prevent bullying and violence in high schools.  Students recommended education should be provided to students, parents, teachers and community members about how to handle bullying (including Dignity for All Students Act), not just once, but throughout the school year in a variety of settings inside and outside of school and formats that would include lecture assemblies, fliers and skill building activities. Instead of being a passive bystander, students should work to be more active in situations where bullying occurs. For example, students can stand up for the victim, tell the bully to stop, distract/divert the bully in a positive way and/or seek support from adults.  Also, students should be given education from the school on how to become more involved. It is important to foster a school culture which rewards students for positive social inclusiveness and acts of kindness: one high school has a newsletter which gives students recognition for this, another school has peer support groups where students can meet with peers to discuss instances of bullying. Bullying prevention strategies are most effective when applied to children when they are young -the earlier the better. Participants of the workshop encouraged teaching tolerance and inclusion early on to discourage cliques, exclusion and discrimination of others because of race, religion, socio-economic status, gender and/or sexual preference. Internet can become a useful tool to connect with children around the world to better understand and respect cultural and societal differences as well as similarities. Teachers and peers can also make students aware of websites where children who are bullied can share their stories and not feel alone.

The Socio-Medical Issues 2: Teens and Abuse of Prescription Drugs workshop was moderated by Dr. Stephen Dewey from the North Shore-LIJ Health System.

In this workshop students focused on the importance of safeguarding and proper disposal of prescription drugs, and peer to peer management of drug abuse issues. Many health care facilities such as nursing homes do not have an opportunity to properly dispose of prescription drugs. More programs are needed to collect unused prescription drugs from both private homes and institutional facilities. Participants discussed the need to create peer-to-peer groups that will focus on negative effects of prescription drug abuse.  Peer-to peer counseling is often the most effective form of prescription drug abuse prevention.

Meanwhile, the Socio-Medical Issues 3: Teen Mental Health, Self-Esteem and Well Being workshop was moderated by Denise Ingenito, LCSW, Director of Counseling at Dowling College, and Louis Medina, LCSW, from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.

One of the issues discussed in the workshop was that young people feel that they generally have a more receptive view on seeking counseling for mental well-being issues but are often shut down by their parents/caregivers when they intend to seek such counseling. They identified that there is a stigma attached to mental counseling. Students wondered how this stigma could be removed so that their parents/caregivers would allow them to get the support they need when they need it. During the discussion of self-esteem issues, students honed in on the decision making process that each young person went through to determine the choices (whether positive or negative) they made when feeling low about themselves. They identified seeking the guidance of someone who they deem a positive support and role model as being instrumental in making the right decisions. Students spoke at length about negative messages they all have received at one time or another from a parent, a coach, a teacher or a peer and how that impacted them. They came to the conclusion that even one positive person in their life could outweigh significant negative forces and for the youth who participated in the workshop, this made a huge difference.

The following students won awards for their original projects submitted to the 2014 Long Island Youth Summit:

Overall Best Project of the 2014 LIYS:

Anushka Roy and Deanna Pereira, Comsewogue High School, for their original Anti-Bullying Video. (Teacher:  Ms. Casey)

Best Project in the Bullying and Cyber-Bullying category:

Emilysia Almonacy and Erika Baier, East Islip High School, for their original video about Bullying. (Teacher:  Mrs. Neri)

Best Project in Social Networking Category:

Diana Sherwood, Eastport South Manner High School, for her essay on Social Networking. (Teacher:  Mr. Farrell)

Best Project in Teens and the Abuse of Prescription Drugs Category:

Natalia Eugene and Michelle Urrutia, Ward Melville High School, for their essay on Prescription Drug Abuse. (Teacher:  Ms. Kane)

Best Project in Teen Mental Health, Self Esteem and Wellness Category:

Maddy Ulrich, West Islip High School, for her essay about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Teens. (Teacher: Ms. Morgigno)

Best Project in the Water Protection Category:

Dinko Franceschi and Benjamin Winston, Ward Melville High School, for their essay on Protection of Clean Water.  (Teacher: Ms. Kane)

Casey Nevins and James Nevins, Comsewogue High School, for their essay on Protection of Clean Water. (Teacher:  Ms. Casey)

Best Project in the Renewable Energy Category: 

Katerina Baduk and Monica Rahman, Ward Melville High School, for their essay about the Importance of Renewable Energy. (Teacher:  Ms. Kane)

Best Project in Race, Class, Education, and Economy Category and the Southwest Airlines Award for an Outstanding 2014 LIYS Project:

Eric Van Deusen, Kings Park High School, for his essay on Racial and Social Inequality. (Teacher:  Mr. Clifford)

Best Project in the Category of Living on Long Island: Community, Housing, and Transportation

and the SouthWest Airlines Award for an Outstanding 2014 LIYS Project:

Marisa Bellacosa, Sarah Brennan, Kelly Cannon, and Caroline Hesse, General Douglas MacArthur High School, Levittown, for their original video on the past, present and future of Levittown.  (Teacher: Dr. David Friedman)

Best Project in the Category of Hurricane Sandy

and the SouthWest Airlines Award for an Outstanding 2014 LIYS Project:

Samantha Calzone, East Islip High School, for her photo album and essay on the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy. (Teacher: Mrs. Neri)

Anthony Diesu and James Burke, East Islip High School, for their Power Point presentation about an economic, social and environmental impact of Hurricane Sandy on Fire Island. (Teacher:  Mrs: Walsh)

Catherine Leard, Comsewogue High School, for her essay about the environmental impact of Hurricane Sandy. (Ms. Casey)

Best Project in the category of Art:

Ryan Cleary, Longwood High School, for his original Anti-Bullying Drawing and Essay.  (Teacher: Mrs. Gerard)

Best Project in the Category of Mixed Media Art:

Connor Bailey, Kings Park High School, for his original mixed media art work on the topic of Teens and Prescription Drug Abuse. (Teacher:  Mr. Celeste)

Best Project in the Category of Photo Art:

Bianca Rivera, Longwood High School, for her series of original photographs about the Impact of Hurricane Sandy. (Teacher: Mrs. Bussewitz)

Southwest Airlines Award for an Outstanding Project in the Category Living on Long Island:

Samantha Jablonski and Luke Lotardo, Eastport South Manor High School, for their essay and drawing about Smart Growth on Long Island. (Teacher: Mr. Farrell)

Sponsors for the event include North Shore LIJ, Southwest Airlines, Estée Lauder, Posillico, PS&S, H2M, RWDSU/UFCW Local 338, Harras Bloom & Archer, D&F Development, LI Business Council, Joy Squires, CCE and Vision Long Island.

“Southwest Airlines is thrilled to have joined forces with the team at Vision Long Island at this year’s Long Island Youth Summit – the talents and creativity displayed by local students was extraordinary. We hope those students who were awarded tickets from Southwest plan exciting excursions with their families to celebrate their accomplishments,” said Jill Simonson, regional leader of Community Affairs & Grassroots for Southwest Airlines.

For more information about Dowling’s Youth Summit, check them out online. Check out press coverage from Smithtown Newshere.

Jefferson Plaza, New Village, IDAs Honored By LIBN

Real Estate professionals gathered at Crest Hollow Country Club earlier this week to celebrate Long Island’s best deals of the year.

Fifty-two awards for commercial and residential projects were bestowed during the 2014 Long Island Business News Real Estate Awards on Tuesday evening, including several Smart Growth-friendly projects.

Jefferson Plaza in Farmingdale pulled down the Top Smart Growth Project honor. With Bartone Properties; TDI; Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana; and the Village of Farmingdale behind it, this project will replace a blighted warehouse and parking lot with 154 apartments and 19,000 square feet of retail in two new buildings. Plans also call for an underground parking lot with a 172-vehicle capacity. Ground breaking took place last fall and construction is underway.

The Top Mixed-Use Project in Suffolk County award was endowed to Tritec Real Estate for their New Village in Patchogue development. New Village is a 291-apartment complex with 46,000 square feet of retail space and 17,000 square feet of office space. The first apartment was leased at the beginning of the year, but the neighboring community has already invested into expansions and repairs in anticipation of the new development.

Both the Nassau County and Suffolk County Industrial Development Agencies took home IDA of the Year honors. The Nassau agency completed 21 projects in 2013, including several that encouraged companies to leave New York City. They kept more than 700 jobs on Long Island by keeping pharmaceutical maker PL Development from leaving for Florida. The Nassau continent also backed transit-oriented development like Jefferson Plaza and the 315-apartment Mineola Properties. Over in Suffolk, the IDA completed 24 deals to create $232 million in new local capital investment. Their new Boost program provides tax breaks to smaller tech companies, leading to the creation of a new tech cluster in Huntington village.

Congratulations to Long Island Business News for another successful awards ceremony.

Plans, Special Winners Unveiled At NY Rising Conference

Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off the NY Rising Community Spring Conference on Wednesday. Committee representatives from the 50 NY Rising Community Reconstruction communities statewide joined elected officials to close out the first phase.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone kicked off the event with support for the Community Reconstruction Program (CRP), followed by his Nassau County counterpart Ed Mangano and politicians from other areas. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio touched on some of the challenges he’s seen after Superstorm Sandy. Various community representatives also presented projects derived from their planning processes.

Cuomo addressed the audience about the need for the CRP process, emphasizing why it was so important for NY Rising to be a local process.

Local communities submitted projects for the Community Reconstruction Program (CRP) to the state in March after spending eight months recognizing resources, identifying goals and developing strategies. The CRP program came to life after Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The state funneled almost $600 million in federal Community Disaster Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds and encouraged each community to develop their own solutions that would become part of the plans released Wednesday.

“Rebuilding our communities is something that we cannot do from Albany or Washington, rather, we have to do it community by community across the state,” Cuomo said.

Twenty-one teams from Long Island were on hand to present, including Babylon/West Babylon, Freeport, and Mastic Beach and Smith Point.

“The NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program was another step in healing our storm-battered community. The program brought together Community members from many walks of life, all focused on a common goal – building back a stronger Village of Mastic Beach and Smith Point of Shirley. Today, with the release of the Village of Mastic Beach and Smith Point of Shirley NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan, we are well on our way to realizing this goal,” Co-Chair Kerri Rosalia said.

The next phase for the CRP project is to select projects for implementation in consultation with local municipalities and nonprofit organizations by looking at cost estimates, cost benefit analysis, potential to reduce risk to population and assets, technical feasibility, community support and HUD eligibility.

In addition to the original funding allocated to each community, Cuomo also announced winners of the NY Rising to the Top competition. This competitive grant process awarded $25 million for eight categories with a goal of fostering innovation, encouraging collaboration and promoting the development of the best possible Reconstruction Plans.

Of the eight categories, Long Island contingents won two. Oakdale/West Sayville won honors for the best innovative and cost-effective financing with their public/private partnerships. Possible economic development partnerships include a water taxi, bike share and trolley. The best use of green infrastructure award went to South Valley Stream for proposing green resiliency structures to protect the coastline. Both communities received $3 million on top of their original CRP funding.

Cuomo also took advantage of Wednesday’s events to announce a new program to review the clean water needs for Nassau and Suffolk both to improve water quality and increase resiliency against future storms. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will meet with community stakeholders and federal officials to provide recommendations to the governor.

Department of Environment Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens is slated to hold four meetings with Bellone and Mangano in the next two months. The first meeting is on for May 12 in Nassau County.

“Governor Cuomo’s plan to engage scientists, experts and the public to find solutions for Long Island’s wastewater problems is a welcome partnership and complement to Suffolk County’s efforts to reclaim our water. Suffolk County residents care about our drinking water and improving the resiliency of our coastal communities. I look forward to continuing to work with our state partners in this critical area,” Bellone said.

Downtowns Tipping The Scales Against Malls In Retail Fight

Mall owners need to watch their back.

A retail specialist said stores – both local and chains – are taking a second look at downtowns.

Malls are a dated concept, CBRE Retail Services Vice President Gregg Carlin said, predicting retailers will start opting for favorable downtowns before long. Smaller malls will just close up shop, he said, while larger malls will bring on residential and office tenants.

Regional malls currently account for 16.9 percent of all national retail space, down from 22.9 percent in 1982, Carlin said. Only 1,430 malls remain, he added, down from approximately 2,100 nationwide in 1990. On Long Island, the Walt Whitman, Roosevelt Field and Westfield South Shore Malls are or have recently spent significant money redesigning themselves.

At the same time, Main Street is becoming the hub of arts and entertainment in communities like Patchogue, Huntington, Farmingdale and Rockville Centre. High taxes are a concern, but the draw for growing downtowns is proving to be very strong. Panera Bread opened in Huntington village last year and Bonefish Grill is expected to open a location in Rockville Centre in 2014.

Eric Alexander, executive director of Smart Growth planning nonprofit Vision Long Island, said downtowns are more appealing to Long Island. He cited a recent survey that found 43 percent of Nassau and Suffolk residents want to live and work in mixed-use developments. Shopping is the next logical step in that series.

“People want to be in downtowns where there are more restaurants, arts, music, culture and events, not just in the summer but all year,” Alexander said.

In this economy, Nassau County Chamber of Commerces President Julie Marchesella said many business owners will look for better buys on Main Street. Marchesella, who also owns Queen of Hearts in Merrick, said working out of a mall requires more advertising costs and a cut of profits to go towards the mall owners’ coffers.

“Specialty stores have always preferred to be in a downtown area,” she said, adding that merchants are finding success in the downtown setting. “It’s a warmer, softer touch and more customer service-oriented than the rush of a mall,” she said.

For more on this story, check out Long Island Business News (subscription required).

4/26

Groundbreaking Finally Occurs For Wincoram Development

Plans to redevelop a blighted Coram movie theater have been moving forward for a decade, but concrete progress was made Thursday when a backhoe knocked down the old marquis.

Civic leaders, elected officials and investors gathered along Middle Country Road and Route 112 amid the raindrops to celebrate the groundbreaking of Wincoram Commons. The $55 million mixed-use project replaces the former UA movie theater that sat vacant for years.

“We’re going to see this vision happen. It’s been far too long this property has been on life support,” Coram Civic Association President Erma Gluck said.

In the blighted structure’s place will rise apartment buildings and townhouses. About 7,300 square feet of commercial will be built into the first floor of three-story residential buildings, with another 6,000 square feet in a commercial building along Route 112. Plans also call for a clubhouse housing a leasing office, fitness center and community space across from the office building. All of these structures are intended to frame a pedestrian-friendly plaza.

Actually, safer streets have been a driving force all along. The project was influenced by the Town of Brookhaven’s Middle Country Road Land Use Plan. Passed in 2006, it calls for walkable communities with an internal main street, multifamily housing and retail, and public meeting places.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who first worked on the development as a civic leader before elected to office in 2005, recalled how Vision Long Island gathered the community to create early ideas for the land. And now that Wincoram is moving forward, she said it will create jobs, employ green-building practices, add tax dollars to schools and create much-needed housing for both young and old.

“Wincoram is truly a win for Coram,” Kepert said.

Housing in the Wincoram Commons will be available in one-, two- and three-bedroom varieties. Monthly rent at the smallest unit is set for $1,176, with the two-bedroom running $1,410 and the three-bedroom unit going for $1,625.

Creating affordable housing is often considered essential to reversing the brain drain sending Long Island’s youth to New York City and other parts of the country. Several elected officials, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, expect Wincoram to be a part of the solution.

“This is exactly the type of project we need to reverse the brain drain,” Bellone said.

The development is expected to create 145 temporary construction jobs and 34 new permanent jobs. In addition, it also includes infrastructure expansion, like a connection to a nearby sewer treatment plant and a connector road from Route 112 to Middle Country Road to prevent congestion north of the site. A sidewalk between the development and nearby Avalon Bay at Charles Pond luxury apartment complex is also in the plans.

“We think this is a stopping zone to make Coram all it can be,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said.

Representatives from three private investors – Conifer Realty, Red Stone Equity and Capital One – were also on hand. Having millions in private dollars, organizers added, is a sign of their faith in Wincoram.

For more media coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Islip Passes Heartland Square Environmental Impact Study

More than a decade after developers Gerald and David Wolkoff proposed his massive Heartland Town Square and months since the latest progress, the developer team received good news this week.

The Town of Islip revived the $4-billion mini-city plan Tuesday when they voted to accept the final generic environmental impact study. The next step requires the Wolkoffs to prove they have incorporated enough environmental mitigation to receive a finding statement. They would also have to finalize the zoning process.

If eventually approved, the Heartland Town Square project would create affordable housing, mixed-use development, public transportation and new jobs. Plans call for 9,130 apartments and condos on the 452 acres of the former Pilgrim State Hospital, along with a hotel and convention center, an aquarium, civic space, 13-story commercial buildings and an entertainment district.

The developers purchased the property from New York State back in 2001 for $20.1 million proposed the project a year later. After an initial public hearing on the plan in 2004, the town and developers spent years in negotiations before the town board held the next public hearing in 2009.

Before Heartland Town Square can be built, however, the Town Board must approve the new Pilgrim State Planned Redevelopment District zoning, a combination of mixed-use residential and commercial zoning.

The project has also come under fire from unions, who are demanding the Wolkoffs only use union labor to build the project. In addition, delays have come in the form of tax assessments and traffic mitigation.

For more about this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Updates On Smart Growth From The Village Of Farmingdale

The Village of Farmingdale is celebrating Smart Growth projects underway in their community.

In an April 25 email to residents, village officials looked at progress in five projects. Two are underway by the Farmingdale LIRR station, and another is about to begin on nearby Main Street.

“This is an exciting time for the Village of Farmingdale. Multi-million dollar development projects will bring housing, jobs, economic activity and great adaptive re-use to the community,” Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said.

Jefferson Plaza is the largest project, a transit-oriented development that broke ground by the train station in November. Once completed, it will house 154 units of housing with 20,000 square feet of retail. Excavation of the site is finished, construction is ongoing and expected to be completed in 18 months; pedestrian covered walkways are completed. Village Hall is posting updates for the Jefferson Plaza project on their website.

Meanwhile, Staller Associates is about to begin demolition of a vacant Main Street property with 3,100 sq. ft. of retail and 26 apartments. And on the other side of the train station, a brick structure along Eastern Parkway will be redeveloped into 27 apartments.

The state Department of Transportation has approved new left-hand turning lanes on Main Street at the Conklin Street intersection. This is designed to enhance traffic flow through downtown. The Secatogue Avenue and Conklin Street intersection will be getting a right-hand turn arrow to facilitate traffic flow.

In addition to the development projects, Nassau County provided $1 million to Farmingdale to help re-build sections of Main Street. Plans call for safer pedestrian-friendly curb lines, re-surfacing of Main Street and improved sidewalks. Phase one, which consists of new sidewalks from the railroad tracks to Northside School as well curbing and road re-surfacing in this section, was expected to be finished by the end of April. Phase two, which encompasses sidewalks and drainage between Conklin Street through South Front Street, should be done by this month. Finally, a new sidewalk and drainage fixes from Conklin Street to Route 109 should be completed in June.

“In conclusion, we would like to thank Joe Belisi, Michael Venditto, Rose Walker, Ed Mangano and all at the County who helped to secure the grants for the infrastructure improvements helping to make our community safer and easier to navigate,” Ekstrand said.

Ekstrand also confirmed in the letter that the village’s are in strong shape. Taxes fall within the two percent cap, they said, and the Standard and Poor’s bond rating for Farmingdale is up two points to AA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May

5/4

Hundreds Tour LI For First Annual Smart Growth Saturday

The first annual Smart Growth Saturday attracted nearly 200 people gathered in downtowns across Nassau and Suffolk Counties to examine current and completed projects.

Tours meandered through Bay Shore, Farmingdale, Huntington, Mineola, Patchogue and Westbury, viewing communities that have won multiple Smart Growth Awards from Vision Long Island for transit-oriented, mixed-use and Complete Streets projects over the years.

In Bay Shore, Islip Councilman Steve Flotteron and Vision Board member Dr. Nathalia Rogers led a contingent around Main Street. Joined by the likes of Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert, NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program Lead Vanessa Lockel, and Friends of Long Island members Kim Skillen and Theresa DiPietto-Roesler, and members of the Central Islip Coalition of Good Neighbors, the tour viewed The YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts, Greenview Properties’ Chelsea Place and other business and housing projects.

Bay Shore was prosperous around the turn of the last century, Flotteron said, but the opening of the South Shore Mall and closure of local mental health facilities sent the community spiraling downward. Retail moved away from Main Street, residents lost their jobs and patients were dumped into various Long Island communities without any support. Rock bottom came in the 1990s when half of the storefronts were empty, and many of those that weren’t were churches or laundry facilities.

But the neighborhood is no longer a nightmare and still on the upswing. Alleyways between storefronts and parking were designed to be wide, well-lit and decorated. In some parts of town, community members and business owners pooled their money and bought some of the problem buildings in town. The current Second Avenue Firehouse Gallery was saved from demolition and rebuilt to reflect its image as the community’s first firehouse and Jewish temple. Derelict buildings were razed to expose canals and other water abutting Main Street; the site of the former Paradise bar is now the waterfront home of Bay Shore’s gazebo.

“We needed a village square and we didn’t have one,” Flotteron said.

The tour visited Chelsea Place, a development of 28 apartments in carefully designed structures. Even the smallest units – a one-bedroom unit priced over $1,000, is still built on two floors to create a sense of home. With flowers and black fences in front, garages tucked away in the back and neighboring the LIRR station, the development is part of the gateway to Bay Shore and popular connection to the Fire Island ferries.

In downtown Huntington, Vision board member Bob Fonti began the tour at the recently-renovated Paramount Theater. Fellow board members Ron Stein, Joy Squires and David Berg joined others in attendance. The theater, a $7 million investment, frequently attracts folks from across the island to Huntington for rock concerts and other events. It also acts as an anchor to many of the bars and restaurants in the area. From there, the tour walked along New York Avenue towards Main Street and east toward the Old Town Hall passing a row of shops that were among the first restore their facades to their historic character. In the plaza in front of the Old Town Hall the group discussed the proposed boutique hotel that has been approved for the property and some of the issues such as parking that the village is dealing with. The group walked north on Steward to see the site of the proposed mixed use development at the former Huntington Ice and Cube building then walked along Gerard Street towards two other mixed use projects.

The two projects are owned by Heatherwood Communities.  The first was built in 2005 and the second is currently under construction.  The rent for the apartments in the building on the corner of New York Avenue and Gerard Street are between $2200 and $2500 showing the high demand for downtown living.  Further down Gerard Street, in front of the post office, the group visited the roundabout that was installed in 2003 after a charrette held in the winter of 2000.  Stein gave the tour a history of Smart Growth in Huntington leading up to the Gerard Street Charrette. The roundabout has calmed traffic in the area, making it safer for pedestrians to cross between the municipal parking lot, post office and movie theater. It also made the area more attractive leading to restaurants fronting the roundabout starting to have outdoor dining. The tour group got a sneak peak of one just about ready to open.

Finally the tour headed back towards Main Street and up New York Avenue for a bite to eat at Portofino, one of downtown Huntington’s many restaurants.

In the Village of Mineola, Mayor Scott Strauss led another group, highlighting many of the ongoing projects and offering insight. The new building projects aim to serve existing and new residents, including a new transportation hub, residential buildings for seniors as well as young professionals, and LaunchPad LI, which seeks to help start up new businesses in the area.

The first stop of the tour was the Intermodal Facility, which houses more than 900 parking spaces, LIRR and NICE connections, and a pedestrian overpass to the north and south sides of the train station. In providing transportation to and from Mineola, the Intermodal Facility promotes residence and business.

Many of the new projects are residential, including Hudson One Forty, The Marquis at Mineola and the Mineola Properties. These buildings are all designed to serve the community by providing not only new housing options, but in-house amenities, logical parking planning (first floor and underground parking), and buildings that complement the existing architecture and layout of the downtown. Apartments will serve a variety of demographics, from two-bedroom apartments for young professionals at the Mineola Properties building, to 36 age-restricted units at the Hudson House.

By creating centralized and affordable, as well as luxury, apartments, Mayor Strauss hopes to bring a demand for new businesses in the downtown area. To help stimulate growth, Mineola has welcomed LaunchPad LI, a business accelerator and coworking community that helps young entrepreneurs and start-ups get off the ground in order to create companies and jobs on Long Island.

Another large project designed to stimulate growth is the Winthrop Research Institute. In addition to cutting edge medical research, the institute could bring in new jobs and increased business in the area from staff and conference attendees.

In leading the tour, Strauss spoke candidly about the delicate balance in pushing forward these new projects. The first priority, underlying any talks of business and building, has always been to serve the interests of the people of Mineola. The Village of Mineola has made it clear to any business looking to build that not only does the new project have to serve the people of Mineola, but that the project has to move forward with the Village’s long term interests in mind. Companies have been rewarded with projects being fast tracked in return for having invested money into paving roadways, parks, and capital projects.

“We realized change is inevitable, so we might as well have change on our own terms,” Strauss said.

Smart Growth Saturday in Patchogue Village, Vision Long Island Board Members Peter Florey and Lionel Chitty joined as it kicked off with Mayor Pontieri discussing some of the projects happening in his community. The Riverwalk – a 163-unit community half a block from the LIRR station and close to shopping, restaurants and performing arts on Main Street – was the launch point for the day’s events.

Developer Mike Kelly offered some history on the site, once the home of Clare Rose before becoming blighted. The loss of those jobs in the area affected the businesses on Main Street. Working together with the mayor and other levels of government, they were able to turn things around and create an incredible housing market like Copper Beach and breathe life back into their downtown.

Pontieri also spoke of his dedication to bringing back the downtown. He said he was focused on creating a place that the young people would want to live, and talked about how that has helped the downtowns because they support the local businesses.  “You know who is in our downtown on a Friday night? Our new 25-35 year olds. I’m the oldest one down there.” He also talked about how minimal these developments have been on the local school district. He noted that while he wants to be sensitive to the amount of school districts, you also want to create a place that people can age in. Getting the young people is just the beginning.

After touring the Riverwalk, residents walked by Copper Beech Village where they were able to see its connectivity to the other development and how they came around to the main street. Completed in 2007, Copper Beech is a community of 80 two-bedroom townhouses, located less than a block from the Patchogue train station. Homes were originally awarded as part of a lottery, and resales are limited to percentages of the Nassau/Suffolk area median income based on household size.

After passing Copper Beech Village, the tour passed the community garden and onto the recently completed ArtSpace – a five-story building with 45 live/work spaces on the upper floors and both The Patchogue Arts Council and Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center at street level. Completed in 2011, the $18 million project represents both economic revitalization and a strengthening of the local arts community. It also includes a 2,000 square foot gallery space. The tour guide explained how tenants vary between painters, musicians, graphic artist and even cake designers. They were encouraged to display their work outside of their apartments and in the gallery.

Continuing on the tour, Pontieri and Trustee Lori Devlin pointed out some the highlights in the village including great restaurants, long time business, and the many murals painted throughout the village.  Peter Florey of D&F Development shared some of the details of his future project on Main Street.

Participants were able to see some of the draws to the village including the Patchogue Theater for Performing Arts.  Revitalization of the Patchogue Theater for the Performing Arts, the Emporium and other venues began in 1997 when several local businessmen came up with the initial funds to purchase the Theater and the Village of Patchogue applied for grants to renovate the building. The theatre was restored to its original 1923 style in several phases with the first performance held in December 1998. There are now 944 orchestra seats and 222 balcony seats. Mayor Pontieri also mentioned The Emporium –a music venue, bar, beer garden and eatery with indoor and outdoor seating.

The tour closed out as participants made their way to the Four Corners New Village – a mixed-use development with 291 residential units, 46,100 sq. feet of restaurant/retail and 18,000 sq. feet of office space. There are five new residential buildings, each four stories over parking with the exception of the locations where the ground level is to be retail, which will be only three stories of residential. In addition to the existing retail at 31 West Main, retail will be located along Ocean Avenue, Main Street and Havens Boulevard.

Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander assisted Deputy Mayor Patricia A. Christiansen on a tour of the newly revitalized downtown in the Village of Farmingdale. Vision Long Island Board Member Neal Lewis kicked off the tour by outlining the importance of public process in planning redevelopment. Deputy Mayor Christiansen as well as past trustees who joined the tour, gave the history of the process and some of the challenges they have overcome to breathe new life into this vibrant downtown.  In the past, there were as many as 27 vacant store fronts in the village but they are now down to 2 vacancies.

On the tour, participants had a chance to see Jefferson Plaza which located diagonally across from the Farmingdale train station, and is also one block away from Farmingdale’s Main Street retail corridor. The project will be a mixed use transit oriented development consisting of 115 residential units with 162,000 gross square feet of residential and a 70,000 s.f. below grade parking garage with 172spaces. The project will feature high-end rental units with a range of amenities, and courtyard recreational areas as well as 12 workforce housing units.

Adjacent to the train station, participants passed the Staller Project which will feature a 27-unit apartment complex.  The project will include a new 3½-story building and the conversion of an existing brick warehouse keeping with the look of the red brick facade to better match the current downtown’s look.

A more passive part of the downtown are the parks.  Bethpage Road Pocket Park, formerly county-owned land, was transferred to the Village of Farmingdale for the purpose of creating a passive pocket park.  The park is located at the corner of Bethpage Road and Main Street in Farmingdale.  The Village Green, located between Village Hall and the fire Department, covers 1 mile of space in the middle of their downtown and a point of pride for the local village government.

Running from Fulton Street through to the railroad tracks, Main Street features a mix of local restaurants, businesses, and specialty shops.  The night scene has also improved with the opening of Croxley Ales as well as the well-known Library Cafe and various other bars.  Finally, the specialty shops are a draw with a wide variety of offered products.

In the Village of Westbury, Mayor Peter Cavallaro started out his tour at The Space at Westbury.  Joined by Vision Long Island Co-chair Trudy Fitzsimmons, Mayor Cavallaro took residents through downtown Village of Westbury.

Throughout the tour he referred to some of the key attributes that have assisted the village in their efforts.  This included having a active and cooperative Business Improvement District which helps to get business owners involved and host events that drew crowds to the downtown.  It also included creating an active and developing arts and cultural scene and the formation for the Greater Westbury Council for the Arts.  The Chamber of Commerce was also keep in not only bringing business in but to help retain them.  Lastly, wide community support for the Smart Growth initiatives was key.   Located on Post Ave. in their heart of their downtown, this theater enjoys new life as one of Long Island’s premiere downtown concert venues.  Referred to as the capstone of the downtown, The Space at Westbury helps to drive people to this smart growth community. Mayor Cavallaro pointed out that just a few blocks from their train station is a mix of housing, 130 businesses and only 8 vacancies, entertainment and beautiful neighborhoods surrounding the downtown.  Grants for façade renovations for are one of the things that Mayor Cavallaro believes helped jumpstart this revitalization.

   Through the tour, participants we able to see a variety of business in this vibrant downtown. On the corner of Post Ave and Maple Ave., participants passed the Piazza Ernetso Strada. They were also able to see a mix of housing types. Westbury Gardens has 39 townhouse-style condo and rental units.  Horizon at Westbury, which was also a part of the tour houses 90 condo units and Maple Towers Condos has 92 units.  Just north of The Space, Legacy on Post has 16 rental units.   Currently under construction, the New Krupp property will be home to 10 rental units as well as retail.  The Bristol is also in the downtown and has 140 assisted living units.

Downtown Facades, lighting, and commuter and shopper parking were highlighted on the tour to showcase how important a new look was to creating this new downtown and giving it a uniformed sense of place.

“Walking downtown reminds us of the reat progress made in many of our main streets across Long Island” say Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander. ““We are getting alot of great feedback from folks in other communities asking when is the next tour,” Alexander said.

For more information about this tour or if your community is interesting in particpating int he futre, contact our office at 631-260242 or email us at ea@visionlongisland.org.

New Parking Meter Management Comes to Long Island Downtowns

Some merchants in the Village of Patchogue are griping about new parking meters, although village officials championed the system as a way to protect Main Street.

According to a CBS story, metered parking is scaring away customers. But Deputy Mayor Jack Krieger said merchants asked Village Hall to keep motorists from occupying the same Main Street spaces all day.

“They asked us to enforce the code,” he said.

Until this winter, all 2,000 parking spaces in Patchogue’s business district had been free. Muni meters were installed in late December. A grace period was extended through January before parking enforcement officers began ticketing in early February. Krieger said they wanted residents to see the meters before they had to use them.

These days, 244 parking spaces on Main Street have a fee to use. Parking between 10 a.m.-6 p.m. costs 25 cents for a half-hour with a 90-minute limit. Between 6 p.m.-2 a.m., it jumps to 50 cents every 30 minutes, but there’s no cap. Officials also instituted a $5 flat fee for evenings, avoiding the need to keep feeding the meter.

The village is also exploring options with three municipal parking lots. The deputy mayor expects spaces closest to the back of stores to be metered, with those further away where employees park to remain free. They met with the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday to discuss details, e.g. time limits on free parking.

Revenue from the parking program, Krieger added, is going towards future parking projects. Local merchants asked Village Hall to provide more parking with the region enjoying an economic boom. But elected officials were reluctant to pass those costs on to taxpayers and the small businesses refused to pick up the tab.

They’re looking at a $10 million plan to buy properties, build surface parking and erect a parking garage. In all, that would accommodate about 500 new parking spaces.

“The money from the parking meters goes directly into a fund to be used to buy property, to make lots safer and all the things we have to do. Free parking isn’t free; it takes a lot money to maintain those lots,” Krieger said.

Both Islip Councilman Steve Flotteron and Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander argued metered parking is a tool to maintain the flow of customers Smart Growth creates.

“I think it will ultimately work out,” Alexander said. “The key is communication. The key is how it’s managed.”

In the hamlet of Bay Shore, Flotteron confirmed Town of Islip officials are developing plans for parking meters. Expected to be in place later this year, the councilman said meters persuade employers not to soak up prized parking by their stores and create customer turnover.

“It’s a good problem. Years ago we had nobody parking on Main Street. Now with Smart Growth ventures over the years in Bay Shore, we need to manage parking,” Flotteron said. “There will always be plenty of free parking.”

Downtown Riverhead vs County Rd 58: Competitive or Complementary?

In a matter of miles, the Town of Riverhead has two very different commercial faces.

Downtown Riverhead is just 3 miles away from the corporate shopping centers of Route 58, but these small businesses receive an average of 7,000 less visitors every day. Despite its charm and attractions like the Long Island Aquarium and Suffolk Theater, Riverhead is still facing an uphill effort to bring people to the downtown.

Part of the challenge is bringing awareness to shoppers on Route 58 of the Main Street just minutes away.

“Route 58 was designed and planned this way,” Vision Long Islander Executive Director Eric Alexander said. “The town board intentionally wanted to see big retailers locate there.”

Route 58 was built in 1936 as an industrial zone, but turned to shopping centers with the rise of big box and warehouse style stores like Walmart and Costco, along with the accompanying chain restaurants, such as Applebee’s and Starbucks.

With the rising movement on Long Island towards smart-growth, downtown Riverhead has been undergoing changes to bring business and residents back in. Spearheading these efforts is Town Supervisor Sean Walter, who is working towards revitalizing the downtown by inviting new projects and businesses onto Main Street.

“If Main Street wants to survive, it has to reinvent itself,” Sean Walter told us over the phone. “The stores on Route 58 aren’t going away if there’s a demand for them.” Route 58 is an easy place to build, there is plenty of land to build large stores, and bring in a lot of money and customers with them.”

Sean Walter sees the survival of the Riverhead Downtown coming from new projects that bring business to residents. In a rough economy, he told us, people will be more inclined to be drawn downtown by the prospect of business.

In addition to opening new stores, Riverhead has been taking efforts to provide more residential development in the downtown area. Summerwind Square is a next generation residential development just a block over from Main Street, which boasts 52 rental units and retail space approaching 8,500 square feet.

One large struggle that Riverhead still faces is its lack of public transit. With Long Island Rail Road trains only providing 4 trains per day, and limited bus services, people are very dependent on cars. “Cars are just a fact of life out here,” Walter acknowledged.

The Hyatt does provide shuttles to nearby attractions, such as vineyards and the Tanger outlets, but these options are for people staying at the hotel.

Despite the challenges and competition, Downtown Riverhead is poised to push forward, and Sean Walter is confident. “Riverhead is already ahead of the curve on Long Island,” he told us, and with this forward momentum, you can be sure to see further growth.

For more on this story, check out this article in Long Island Business News (subscription required).

Senator Gillibrand Announces Pedestrian Safety Initiatives

Long Island’s roadways, some of which are the most dangerous in the Tri-State area, may receive federal funding for improvements toward pedestrian safety if Senator Kristen Gillibrand’s newly written legislation passes.

Gillibrand’s Pedestrian Safety Act of 2014 contains legislation to allow funds for federal highway safety to go to improving walkability and pedestrian safety on Long Island roads.

Many of Long Island’s roadways are impractical for pedestrians, with road crossings that are few and far between, and are designed for limited safe use by pedestrians. In 2012 there were 39 pedestrian deaths in Nassau County alone, and nearly 1000 injuries, according to the State Department of Motor Vehicles. Suffolk County did no better, with 41 fatalities and 559 injuries. Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau has been named by the State DMV as one of the most dangerous roads in the region, and Jericho Turnpike in Suffolk has been deemed the region’s most dangerous road for pedestrians.

Senator Gillibrand announced the new bill at Eisenhower Park this past Monday, and spoke about the need for safer roadways.

“Too many pedestrians have lost their lives or suffered serious injuries along dangerous roadways on Long Island. We must ensure that our communities have safer streets that protect our children, seniors, and pedestrians. These common-sense federal measures would provide more investment towards safer roadways and help prevent these tragic accidents from happening.”

Road improvements that could be funded with federal dollars would allow for safer road crossings and more separation between pedestrians and motor vehicles. This can be achieved through design solutions such the pedestrian hybrid beacon, a type of crosswalk that allows crossing highways and roads without pedestrian intersections. Other methods include pedestrian sidewalks, crossing islands, and countdown signaling.

 “Federal legislation aimed at pedestrian improvements will go a long way to addressing this safety epidemic facing Long Island roadways,” said Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander. “For too long folks have been wringing their hands saying design solutions do not exist.”

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray has acclaimed the new bill, saying the legislation “will safeguard all pedestrians and help local governments to protect our children, senior citizens, and all neighbors who walk along area streets.”

In conjunction to improving the walkability of existing roads with the newly announced bill, Gillibrand has also co-sponsored The Safe Streets Act of 2014, which will improve the new designs in federal road projects to allow for safe use by not only drivers, but pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit passengers.

For more on this story, check out Newsday.

Zucaro Making A Name In Sandy House Lifting Industry

Andy Zucaro was fortunate to avoid flooding from Superstorm Sandy that continues to plague thousands along the South Shore. But with his crews in the field helping less fortunate Long Islander, the owner of Zucaro Construction had a sobering realization.

“As we were fixing all these houses, I realized they were going to flood again,” he said.

A commercial construction contractor with 35 years in the business, Zucaro recognized the business opportunity in house raising last winter and entered the market. With years of labor and structural experience, he cold-called the manufacturer of equipment used in lifting buildings. They identified California-based Charlie Scott as the best in the business.

Zucaro Construction bought Scott’s third-generation business and moved his team to Long Island in February 2013. The new Zucaro House Lifters raised their first house later that month.

In the 15 months since, they’ve raised 97 homes. And if NY Rising actually releases money to homeowners in the near future, Zucaro said there’s an opportunity to work on hundreds or thousands of homes in the next five years.

“I’m geared up for it,” he said.

The California team has also spent the past year training their new Long Island coworkers. Zucaro House Lifting now has two teams of seven specifically handling the liftings; a third crew is coming together now.

With more than a year of experience, Zucaro’s company has also formed a relationship with Sandy recovery nonprofit Adopt A House. The Lindenhurst-based organization provides accurate information and resources to victims of the storm.

Christina Galante, cofounder of Adopt A House and Zucaro’s new director of Marketing, said this gives members of the nonprofit a trustworthy source on lifting houses. The company provides answers to basic questions and can obviously also offer estimates.

“I know I’m pointing them in the right direction,” she said.

When it comes to the actual job, Zucaro House Lifting handles demolition of the foundation, placing helical piles, installing the new foundation and lowering the house. The owner said he works with “reputable contractors” who can handle the rest of the work; these same companies also come to Zucaro with work.

For more information about Zucaro Construction, check them out online.

Alexander: LI’s downtowns shaping up

During this long, cold winter, construction crews were busy in many of our downtowns.

The business districts of Mineola, Westbury, Farmingdale, Huntington, Bay Shore and Patchogue, among others, are all completing building projects. In Mineola, there are three $80 million construction projects underway; Farmingdale is completing two multifamily buildings adjacent to its train station. Westbury opened a theater, while Bay Shore, Patchogue and Huntington have new mixed-use developments close to opening.

Many Long Islanders are touring these six communities at the inaugural Smart Growth Saturday to get a feel for what’s working and what’s coming next. As we know, Long Island is a community of communities and decisions on the shape and character of land use are derived locally. Regardless, these six communities are part of a regional trend that’s revitalizing our Main Streets.

Some common themes for success include:

1. Someone is in charge of managing the place. Four of the six communities are managed by local villages; Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro, Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Eckstrand and Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri are all visionary and hands-on in managing the place-making details and growth of their main streets. In the case of the downtowns of Huntington and Bay Shore, both are managed by town departments guided by local business leaders. The bottom line is that proactive local government matters in ensuring these redevelopment projects integrate with successful day-to-day Main Street operations.

2. Rental housing allowed. Housing growth on Long Island is starting to occur in downtown communities. These six downtowns have accommodated over 2,000 units of rental units and condos with more on the way. Ask any shop owner on Main Street with apartments moving in how the new residents support and frequent these establishments, and you’ll find these new neighbors very supportive anchors for economic stability.

3. Live performing arts. You don’t have to traverse to Manhattan or Brooklyn to see your favorite performing artist or appreciate local art and culture. The Paramount in Huntington, the Space at Westbury and the Emporium in Patchogue have national recording acts that draw thousands of young people each week while assisting the local restaurants and bars. Art galleries, shows and other performances keep LI’s downtowns a destination and not just a place to meet your daily retail needs.

4. Thriving restaurants/bars. The Meetball Place in Patchogue, the mellow atmosphere of the Chi Lounge in Westbury, authentic Portuguese cuisine in Mineola, 70-plus restaurant choices in Huntington, two new cafés and locally grown food in Farmingdale – these are just a sampling of the food and drink choices attracting folks downtown. Long Island’s main streets feature premier dining for all cuisines, tastes and income levels.

5. New entrepreneurs. Mineola and Huntington both have opened their doors to high-tech entrepreneurs with the newly opened Launchpad LI incubator space. The connection these young businessmen and women bring to the local downtown is palpable and sets a standard for the type of office environments to come around Long Island.

6. Welcoming diversity. Thriving commercial centers reflect the growing diversity of our communities. Go out on a Friday night and see folks of different ages, races and income levels frequent – and, in many cases, live in – these downtowns. In an increasingly multicultural society, these changing demographics represent the true community our Long Island has become and helps everyone in business and in our neighborhoods.

7. Public support and community leadership. Growth is planned by local governments, chambers of commerce, civic associations and local property owners. The projects approved by these six communities have largely been met with vocal public support – a far cry from the typical depiction of angry civic opposition to change. Not only is there community support, but the local officials run on campaigns tied to their revitalization projects and win handily.

The successes of these places were also derived without one big project, one big federal or state grant, one big plan or one big directive from a regional body or higher level of government. The progress has simply been a series of strategic interventions over a long period by local community, government and business leadership.

The good news is that in many downtowns, now you can shop, eat, recreate, live and invest. If you live in a community with a downtown that’s not yet in these transformative stages, publicly support local revitalization efforts. There are many places that prove there is market viability – and, ultimately, stronger communities.

5/12

President Obama visits Tappan Zee Bridge, urges more investment in transportation infrastructure

As part of his push to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, President Obama has fast tracked the New NY Bridge, a new bridge to replace the crumbling Tappan Zee. Obama announced the plans on Wednesday alongside the banks of the Hudson to fast track the bridge, along with 11 other major projects nation-wide. This initiative will make it easier for projects to start with less bureaucratic hurdles.

“Rebuilding America, that shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Obama said. “One study recently found that over time we’ve fallen to 19th place when it comes to the quality of our infrastructure.”

“Over the past 50 years … our investment in transportation has shrunk by 50 percent,” he added. ” … China invests four times what we do in transportation.”

A 1.6 billion dollar federal loan has been granted towards the 3.9 billion dollar project. The rest of the money is being financed through bonds paid by higher tolls. The project has been in talks for 10 years, and 80 million dollars had already been put into planning the replacement. These plans couldn’t come to fruition due to what New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called the “Political gridlock, government paralysis, fear and indecision (that) had taken control.”

Both President Obama and Governor Cuomo stated that the new bridge is a necessity. “It’s been unsafe. It’s been in need of repair for many, many years,” Cuomo acknowledged.

 “At times, you can see the river through the cracks in the pavement,” the President said. “Now, I’m not an engineer, but I figure that’s not good.

In addition to the more obvious benefits of structural integrity, Obama has pushed the funding for transportation and infrastructure projects as a way to help the economy. Infrastructure projects create construction jobs, and Obama argues that jobs follow good infrastructure. As Obama stated it, “First-class infrastructure attracts first-class jobs.”

President Obama’s plan is a four year, $302 billion transportation proposal with approximately half of the funding coming from fuel taxes. This proposal would allow states to put tolls on federal interstate highways with additional funding being provided by closing corporate tax loopholes and making other changes in business taxes.

New infrastructure also leads to environmental and transportation benefits. New pipes for water would lead to less waste of our resources, which is particularly important in areas that have been experiencing drought. “Nearly half our people don’t have access to transit at all,” the president said, and new infrastructure such as bridges and roadways can assist in expanding access to transportation.

Vision Long Island supports additional infrastructure spending for our aging roadways and will be working with national organizations seeking passage of a version of this legislation.

For more information you can check out CBS NY’s coverage here.

Hearings on Clean Water Infrastructure for Nassau County begin

The first of four hearings on clean water infrastructure was held at the Nassau County Legislature on Monday afternoon. A group of scientists and specialists testified at the hearing, in what amounted to across the board support for a proposed ocean outfall pipeline to be built at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant with federal assistance.

Long Island’s surrounding waters, particularly the West Bays, contain high levels of nitrogen, which cause a multitude of environmental concerns. Eutrophication is the ecosystem’s natural response to the introduction of nitrates, sewage, and fertilizers, and it leads to hypoxia (a lack of oxygen in the water) and algal blooms. These conditions lead to a collapse in the ecosystem, with the death of plant and animal life, and the destruction of the salt water marshes.

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant serves 40 percent of Nassau County residents, and dispenses 80 percent of the nitrogen found in the West Bays, according to George Pavlou, the New York regional contact from the EPA. The plant discharges into the Reynolds Channel, an area with poor water circulation and lacks tidal flushing. The plant received large-scale damage due to flooding from Super-storm Sandy, and higher nitrate concentrations have been found in the surrounding waters since.

The literal collapse of the salt water marshes could have a large impact in the event of a hurricane, or an extreme weather event such as Super-storm Sandy. These marshes provide a barrier to tidal surges, leading many people throughout the hearing to refer to them as “natural infrastructure.”

The collapse of this local ecosystem is having a large effect on Long Island life, particularly those living near the West Bays in places like Long Beach, Island Park, Lawrence, and Hewlett. The algal blooms produce Ulva, a thick green algae also known as sea lettuce, which washes up on the beaches and gives off a strong odor.

“People call us all the time asking if it’s safe to swim in the water, or eat the fish they caught,” testified Adrienne Esposito, the Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

These are problems that previous generations in the area did not have to deal with, noted Carl LoBue. LoBue, a Marine Research Scientist from the Nature Conservancy, also lives on the South Shore, and related that the changing conditions have dimmed the enjoyment of summer activities such as water sports. He also noted that the collapse of salt water marshes could lead to widespread property damage and more limited use of docks.

The front running solution lies in building an ocean outfall pipeline at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. By running a pipe out into the ocean, the nitrogen rich effluent won’t be disposed into the West Bays, where it lingers and causes such harmful effects.

Commissioner Joe Martens from the Department of Environmental Conservation reveaeled that he had already sent a letter requesting the necessaru funds to build the pipe. The request asks for a FEMA grant of approximately $690 million in public assistance funds as well as an additional $130 million for the purpose of reducing nitrogen in the effluent being discharged into Reynolds Channel in the Western Bays.  The letter also asks for the federal government to consider funding the conversion of small treatment plants in Long Beach and and Atlantic Beach to pumping stations aimed at sending effluent to the Bay Park plant.

Martens noted that “Reducing nitrogen is a resiliency issue as well as a water-quality issue,” and that “It’s going to take the collective voice of all those involved in the Nassau County community, both the environmentalists and the business community, to achieve . . . the ocean outfall pipe.”

These funds would be in addition to the $810 million already allocated to improve and upgrade the Bay Park plant, which serves around 40% of Nassau County.  The official request was made May 6th in a letter from Commissioner Martens to W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The outfall never would have been placed in the Reynolds Channel if they knew what we know about water circulation today,” Dr Lawrence Swanson, the Associate Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at SUNY Stony Brook, told the crowd.

In addition to the pipeline, other treatment plants such as the Long Beach Treatment Plant, may be turned into a water pumping station, so that treatment can be consolidated to the retrofitted and renovated Bay Park plant.

Speakers throughout the day unanimously backed the plan, citing it as safe, cost effective, and an opportunity to rebuild critical infrastructure both smarter and stronger.

Many speakers cited the importance of such infrastructure to business, tourism, and residents all over Nassau County. Vision Long Island Director, Eric Alexander, pointed out the importance of reliable and safe infrastructure for new residential projects in Nassau, and that certainty in infrastructure will help boost new business and investments on Long Island.

You can read more on this at Newsday.

Riders and Advocates call for an increase in funding for Suffolk County Transit Bus

Suffolk County Transit was hoping to greet 2014 with a significant expansion of service thanks to an additional $10 million that the County had requested from the state.  Instead it was only given $500,000, barely enough to cover inflation costs.  Unfortuntaely, this lack of state funding is all too common according to advocates, and is quite unbalanced when it comes to other Counties in our region.

This past Monday, May 12th, supporters delivered 1,500 signed petitions to NYS Senator Phil Boyle’s office calling for more adequate public funding from the state for Suffolk’s sole bus service provider.  It was noted that while Suffolk County pays for over 50% of its Bus service with 35% help from the state, Nassau County kicked in only 2% for its service while the sate footed over 50% of the costs.

This disparity isn’t unique though as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone noted when he wrote that “Other suburban counties such as Nassau and Westchester receive up to five times the amount of state funds that Suffolk County receives,” in a letter to Governor Cuomo on  May 10th. Additional funding would be most welcome since recent expansions to service are showing signs of success in Suffolk.  Suday Bus Service has proven quite popular as of this past March, with ridership on Sunday rising 97% and some lines showing as much as a 56% increase.

“Suffolk County has done a decent job of supporting its bus system and has shown that if given additional resources they will expand service,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “Suffolk County’s New York State elected officials need to do more to support the millions of riders and businesses who depend on the reliability of the system.”

As part of the delivery of the petition, Vision Long Island Assitant Director Tawaun Weber and a number of local transportation advocates boarded the S40 bus in order to get to Senator Boyle’s office. “More and more we are seeing that our young people want access to reliable public transportation,” said Ms. Weber. “Not only for them to get to school but to allow them access to jobs hereon the island after graduation.”

For more on this you can check out the Long Island Press’ coverage here.

5/18

Patchogue Walmart Hearing Draws Hostile Crowd

A proposal to open a Walmart in East Patchogue was met with hundreds of unhappy residents and business owners earlier this week.

More than 200 attended Monday’s Brookhaven Planning Board meeting to critique plans to build the discount department store near Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center. Most of those signed up to address the board opposed the proposal.

Residents like Lawrence Scinto said the 98,000 square-foot store could worsen pollution, affect the Fish Thicket Nature Preserve across the street, leach customers from existing retail and deteriorate traffic to the point it impacts emergency response times to the nearby hospital. A traffic study said Walmart would add 378 cars to the evening rush hour.

“Traffic is gonna be a nightmare. It’s already at its maximum now,” Daniel Wirshup said.

Walmart representatives said they would create 250 part- and full-time jobs with the store and invest $1.25 million on traffic improvements.

Happy to see the community turn out, Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said opening the store could damage the push to install sewers and erect mixed-use housing near the Bellport LIRR station.

“The Walmart proposal has the potential to cannibalize nearby downtown business districts like Patchogue and hurt revitalization efforts like the North Bellport TOD initiative,” Alexander said.

Members of the Patchogue Chamber of Commerce and others also voiced similar concerns. A chamber member described Walmart’s proposal to reduce traffic by eliminating a sidewalk over a bridge as “dumb growth,” while another woman said local stores within a mile of a Walmart have a 25 percent chance of closing after the first year and 50 percent after the second year.

Suffolk County’s Planning Commission voted against the application in December, saying it did not fit in that location. However, the Brookhaven Planning Board can still approve construction with a supermajority of five votes instead of four.

Vision also provided testimony at the hearing.

“This location is a poor place for a Walmart since they hurt surrounding businesses and it is so close to two communities that are trying to revitalize or build their downtowns,” Vision Long Island Sustainability Director Elissa Kyle said.

For more on this story, check out News 12 and Newsday (subscription required).

Fence A Sign Of Progress For Boutique Huntington Hotel

Construction of the Huntington Hotel could finally start in the not-too-distant future.

Chain-link fencing was recently erected around Old Town Hall in downtown Huntington. The site has long been expected to become the cornerstone of a 55-room boutique hotel.

The Huntington Town Board awarded the project, led by property management firm Emerson J. Dobbs, a certificate of approval on May 6. That provides necessary permission to build in a historic district.

Officials created the historic overlay district in 2008. In 2010, they voted unanimously to place Old Town Hall within that district and to offer special permission to operate a boutique hotel – which is not normally permitted in C6 zoning.

Dobbs attorney James Margolin recently said the approval was one of the last pieces of paperwork. The Town Planning Board issued conditional site plan approval in February 2013 and a building permit has already been filed.

Plans call for Old Town Hall to be the cornerstone of the proposed hotel, with the building restored to its original condition from 1910. A larger, three-story building would then be constructed over the existing parking lot north along Stewart Avenue to Gerard Street. While the former Town Hall boasts brick with a limestone façade, the new building will be constructed with limestone and a brick façade. Both buildings would be connected by a glass atrium.

When guests walk into the Old Town Hall to check in, eat breakfast or have a drink at the lounge, they would see three grand, arched windows and a broad set of stairs connecting the buildings.

All of the guest rooms will be housed in the second building. According to the floor plan, each floor will house 18 rooms. Six will run parallel with Gerard Street in the back of the structure, while two sets of six rooms will run parallel with Stewart Avenue.

For more on this story, check out the May 15 issue of Long Islander News.

Reform Could Reduce Water Transportation Drought

New transportation legislation could cut red tape drying up America’s water transportation networks.

The House of Representatives voted 412-4 Tuesday in favor of bipartisan reform sponsors claim is designed to eliminate bureaucracy, streamline the infrastructure project delivery process, promote fiscal responsibility and promote economic growth.

Originally proposed by Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY) and other Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members, the bill known as Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) has attracted attention for eliminating earmarks. If approved, it would eliminate trying infrastructure funds to specific projects selected by lawmakers.

Of course the bill will also shake up water transportation projects going forward. Where studies would drag on for 15 years, they would be limited to just 3 years. The bill would consolidate or eliminate unnecessary studies and streamline environmental reviews.

“Investment in our water and wastewater infrastructure is essential to the health of our communities, both economically and environmentally,” Bishop said.  “This legislation will create well-paying jobs in the construction industry, help us create a more sustainable infrastructure system, and allow us to better protect our coastlines from future storms like Superstorm Sandy.  It also serves as an example of the good we can accomplish by setting aside partisan differences and working together toward a common goal.”

If approved, it would establish a new process for future proposals to be reviewed with Congressional oversight. Sponsors would bring their projects to their regional Army Corps of Engineers for review, who in turn would send supported projects to Congress for review before including them in future water bills.

The legislation would also deauthorize $18 billion of inactive projects previously approved in the 2007 water legislation, include sunset clauses in new approvals to prevent future backlogs, leverages private sector investments to enhance federal funding and supports underserved, emerging ports.

“This legislation supports our water transportation network to keep our Nation competitive, improve the flow of commerce, and provide a foundation for job growth,” Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said.  “WRRDA is also the most policy and reform-focused measure of its kind in decades, and the most fiscally responsible water resources bill in history.  It cuts red tape, reforms the federal bureaucracy, accelerates project delivery, and more than fully offsets authorizations for needed infrastructure improvements by deauthorizing unnecessary, outdated projects.  This is legislation that’s good for the economy, good for jobs, and good for America.”

Transportation Advocates Urge Suffolk To Tap Capital Funds

The Suffolk County Legislature listened to transportation advocates earlier this week petition for more resources.

Deaths and accidents are still occurring, nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Ryan Lynch said, but the funding isn’t there. Complete Streets, he added, can make a difference.

According to Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee, 52,000 New Yorkers were injured in almost 90,000 crashes during 2010-2012, while Tri-State analysis of federal data found 122 pedestrians were killed along Suffolk County roads in that timeframe, including 16 alone on Jericho Turnpike.

Meanwhile, Lynch testified federal and state agencies are looking to cut funding. The current federal transportation bill – MAP-21 – cut dedicated walking and bicycling infrastructure investments by 30 percent. The New York State Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2014-2017 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program approved last year plans to spend only 0.98 percent of its transportation funds. That marks a 40 percent, or more than $100 million, cut for bicycling and pedestrian projects compared to the 2011-2014 plan. The DOT has planned to cut spending on walking and biking projects by 24 percent over the next four years, resulting in just 0.57 percent of regionally allocated transportation dollars being spent on these projects.

Suffolk County passed and signed Complete Streets legislation in 2012, a law designed to redesign area roadways to calm traffic and provider safer roads for pedestrians, bikers, public transit and all users.

But the federal and state transportation cuts put more pressure on local governments to fill in the gaps, Lynch said. Tri-State, AARP and Vision Long Island urged the Suffolk County Legislature to amend the proposed Suffolk County Capital Program to include funding to create a Complete Streets Implementation fun. Vision Assistant Director Tawaun Weber recommended no less than $1 million for four years.

Investing in infrastructure like raised crosswalks, pedestrian safety islands, protected bike lanes and landscaped medians can force drivers to slow down and improve general safety on Suffolk County roads.

“We hope our legislators can prioritize safe street infrastructure and this capital program,” Lynch said.

How Smart Growth Can Rebuild Post-Sandy LI Stronger

In the wake of Superstom Sandy, planning officials from both Suffolk and Nassau Counties teamed up with EPA, FEMA, MTA and New York Department of State officials to rebuild Long Island more resilient to the next storm. They called it the Smart Growth Resiliency Partnership.

And on Tuesday at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale, they held the Accepting the Tide: A Roundtable Discussion on Integrating Resilience and Smart Growth on a Post-Sandy Long Island conference.

Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey, State Smart Growth Planning Director Paul Beyer and NY Rising CRP Director Jamie Rubin spoke at the event. They were joined by Sustainability Institute Director and Vision Long Island board member Neal Lewis and a host of other experts to discuss the progress.

Panels covered how Smart Growth fits in the wake of Sandy, how green infrastructure is effective in New York City, integrating mixed-use and transit-oriented development, resources necessary to making resilient Smart Growth work on Long Island and specific steps for the future.

Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander was in attendance. Half the crowd came from state agencies and national organizations, Alexander said, which gave interesting perspectives to consider.

Feds Approve $400 Mil Sandy Funds For LI Sewage Projects

Long Island is in line to get another $400 million in sewer aid.

News broke Thursday that a portion of the $16 billion federal CDBG funds available for Superstorm Sandy recovery via Disaster Relief Appropriations Act would go to improving water quality in Nassau and Suffolk County.

In Nassau, $150 million will be allocated towards the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. Those funds will be used for a nitrogen-removal system. Excessive nitrogen levels feed algae to grow faster than the ecosystems can handle, blocking sunlight that causes other plants to die and consume oxygen. Nitrogen pollution can also lead algal blooms that are toxic to humans.

Effluent – treated sewage – from the Bay Park plant is released into nearby Reynolds Channel. The South Shore body of water is already at risk, environmentalists say, from the channel’s inability to flush new water in and out. There’s not shortage of calls for an outfall pipe that would dump effluent into the Atlantic Ocean, which can circulate water far more effectively.

“Putting nitrogen in Reynolds Channel is like pouring poison in the water,” Senator Chuck Schumer said.

Meanwhile, Suffolk County will receive the other $250 million for various sewage projects. County officials have not announced specific sources for the funds, but they do have comprehensive plan that could use serious financial assistance.

“Hurricane Sandy highlighted a serious environmental problem in low-lying South Shore communities: rising nitrogen pollution fed from failing septic systems that caused a water quality crisis in the region. That’s why I supported Suffolk County in their pursuit of federal Sandy funds for four critical sewer projects, and raised it to the attention of HUD Secretary [Shaun] Donovan,” Schumer said. “I am pleased with the news that they will receive at least $250 million dollars, and will continue to fight for more.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone unveiled a $1 billion plan to fight nitrogen pollution back in March. He proposed taking 12,000 South Shore homes off septic tanks and connecting them to new sewer systems – a $750 million endeavor. Those homes near Carlls River in North Babylon and Deer Park, Connetquot River in Oakdale, and Forge River in Mastic, Mastic Beach and Shirley could reduce nitrogen pollution by 25 percent.

About 70 percent of nitrogen is believed to come from homes and three-quarters of Suffolk is unsewered. Environmentalists call septic systems that dump raw sewage into tanks in the ground antiquated. Sewer systems and treatment plants eliminate bacteria, nitrogen and other pollutants before discharging effluent – treated wastewater – into bodies of water like the Great South Bay.

The second major component of Bellone’s plan calls for repairs to an outflow pipe at Bergen Point Sewage Treatment Plant. The pipe, which channels effluent from the plant into the Atlantic Ocean, nearly failed during Sandy. That carries a $242 million price tag.

When he announced his plan, the county executive said he would apply to tap the second round of the New York Rising funds for housing, community, reconstruction and infrastructure needs – valued at $2.097 billion. The total amount in the third round has yet to be announced.

Vision Long Island has lobbied and given testimony in support of federal Sandy aid for wastewater treatment systems across Long Island.

For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

5/25

Port Jeff Transit-Oriented Development Advances

A new transit-oriented development in Port Jefferson will get some financial support from the Town of Brookhaven.

Rail Realty, a division of the Gitto Group, confirmed the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency recently accepted their application.

However, Rail Realty Managing Member Anthony Gitto said details were in short supply from the IDA. They are considering three sources of incentives for the apartment complex near the Port Jefferson LIRR station – sales tax and material, mortgage taxes on loans and up to 10 years of tax abatement.

Plans call for a 105,000 square-foot development on Texaco Avenue with 74 apartments in three stories of new construction. Underground parking will be available, as will limited on-site parking across the street.

Apartments would be just two blocks away from the train station.

“There’s a desperate need for housing on Long Island. Ideally if you have housing near a train station, it makes it more beneficial if they don’t want vehicles,” Gitto said.

The managing member said they’ve received conditional site plan approval from the Village of Port Jefferson, but still need full site plan approval. Currently, he added, they’re working on sewage and health department approvals.

“According to what I’m being told, we should have all our approvals some time in October,” Gitto said, adding that they could begin demolition and foundation work at the end of the year if the weather cooperates.

For more on this, check out Long Island Business News (subscription required).

From Police To Pizza, How To Run A Downtown Business

“It’s tough owning a small business let alone three small businesses.”

Artie Berke spent a decade serving the public as a police officer, but he’s most known as the man behind Cilantro and Nina’s Pizzeria in Northport and Huntington. Earlier this week, Newsday featured the entrepreneur in a business profile.

Berke spent 12 years with the NYPD when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. Two of his friends were killed, leaving five children behind. The concept of mortality swept over him, changing his mindset. Dispatched to patrol Ground Zero afterwards, he spent $100 from his own wallet to buy a better gas mask

He gave up police life completely in 2002. Berke and wife Lynne sold their Huntington home to buy an old deli in Northport. They opened Nina’s Pizzeria downstairs and moved in upstairs. A decade later, Nina’s is one of the oldest restaurants in the village

Meanwhile, Kasper’s Hot Dogs opened on Woodbine Avenue in late 2011. A popular California business with a lengthy history and celebrity clientele like Clint Eastwood and Reggie Jackson, business was struggling and Berke took over in June 2012. He added more toppings and panini to the menu, but business dropped like a rock after the summer ended. Kasper’s closed for good in January 2013.

Enter Cilantro. The former hot dog shop became a fast food, made-to-order Mexican restaurant just a month later. Not only did it cater to different palates, but Berke hoped it would be profitable even when downtown Northport quiets considerably in the fall and winter.

“I liked hot dogs, but it’s just a summer season food. This has always been on the back burner of my head,” he said when Cilantro debuted.

A year later, Cilantro proved to be a success, even in the winters. After a lot of research, Berke and three investors opened a second location next to the Paramount in Huntington village in January 2014. The downtown concert venue received a Smart Growth Award in 2012.

“The line passes right in front of my store. Most people would think that is an inconvenience having your doorway blocked sometimes. I think of it as free exposure,” he said. “Also, staying open late is huge getting the people leaving the Paramount is great for business.”

Berke, along with Vision Long Island, is a member of the Northport Village Merchants Association and has been very supportive of downtown initiatives.

For more about Berke and his restaurants, try this Newsday article (subscription required).

Report: Many Americans Still Underwater With Their Homes

Nearly a fifth of homeowners in this country owe more on their house than it’s worth.

Online real estate database Zillow released their Negative Equity Report earlier this month, exploring trends in mortgages and housing across 23,000 zip codes.

The report revealed that fewer Americans are underwater as home prices continue to rise through eight quarters, but almost 10 million homeowners still owe more than their equity. According to the report, 18.8 percent of homeowners are underwater through the first quarter of 2014. That’s an improvement over the 25.4 percent in the first quarter of 2013 and 19.4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

The number, however, is actually closer to 36.9 percent when homes with a shortage of equity to cover closing costs and the down payment on a new house are considered. Zillow found that homeowners with less than 20 percent equity are effectively locked out from trading up to a larger home.

Compared to 34 other cities in the report, New York City homeowners are in significantly better shape than many. Zillow found 84.3 percent of New York homeowners have loan-to-equity ratio of 100 percent or less. The 35.9 percent with a ratio under 40 percent – the strongest category in the report – came only behind San Jose’s 40.1 percent, Pittsburgh’s 37.5 percent and San Francisco’s 36.7 percent.

On the other hand, Detroit, Atlanta and Las Vegas have at least 4.8 percent of homeowners facing loans worth more than twice as much as their equity. Just 1.6 percent of New Yorkers fall into that category.

On average, Americans with negative equity owe 39.3 percent – $71,669 – more than the value of the house. And yet, the report finds 92.8 percent of homeowners are current on their mortgage payments. That figure is up from 91 percent last year.

As a result, housing inventory is on the slide again, dropping under the mini-surge that occurred late last year. Lower-end homes are the most in short supply. According to the Zillow report, developers are purchasing inexpensive homes and converting them to rentals, competing against first-time homebuyers.

For more on the issue, check out Zillow and this AP story in Newsday (subscription required).

State To Insurance Company: Pay Up For Delays After Sandy

A Rhode Island insurance firm was penalized $327,400 Thursday for delays after Superstorm Sandy.

The New York State Department of Financial Services issued the fines after an investigation into Narragansett Bay Insurance Company’s inspection of Sandy claims.

“When a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy strikes, insurers must respond rapidly to help their policyholders recover and rebuild,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The investigation revealed that Narragansett repeatedly failed to perform inspections of damage in a timely manner. Policyholders complained to state officials last year about waiting weeks for adjustors to arrive and missed appointments.

In addition to the fine, Narragansett agreed to amend its procedures and within 60 days demonstrate to the state that it can process catastrophe claims within New York deadlines.

“While [Narragansett Bay Insurance Company] does not agree with the findings of the [Department of Financial Services], we have decided that it is in the best interests of our policyholders, agency-partners, reinsurers, and investors to accept their conclusion, move beyond this matter, and continue to focus our time and efforts on meeting the continued coastal homeowners insurance needs of our customers,” the company said in a statement.

Jon Siebert, a member of the Friends of Long Island volunteer organization that helps rebuild Sandy-damaged homes and support afflicted families, said homeowners who carried flood insurance before the storm deserve to be home by now.

Nineteen months later, countless numbers are still waiting, wading through the process. For many, the choice to leave their homes and call it a loss and begin anew is a reality,” Siebert said.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Report: Making America’s Communities Safer For Pedestrians

The New York metro area is among the least likely major cities to have local commuters on foot be killed, but it does have the highest ratio of pedestrians to total traffic deaths.

Advocacy coalition Smart Growth America released Dangerous By Design 2014 last week, which examined fatalities, traffic accidents and road conditions between 2003-2012. The report also discusses Complete Streets, success stories and other guidance.

According to the report, 4,005 pedestrians were killed in New York between 2003-2012. Of those, 3,384 occurred in the Long Island-New York-Northern New Jersey region. Among 51 metro areas around the country, the region ranks no. 48 in Pedestrian Danger Index – rate of pedestrian deaths relative to the number of people who walk to work.

The region also suffered 10,414 traffic-related fatalities between 2003-2012, which made it’s 32.5 percent of pedestrian fatalities the highest among all 51 regions. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana had the second most with 28.3 percent.

Some of the data is slightly better on Long Island. Nearly 31 percent of the 1,000 traffic fatalities in Nassau County were pedestrians, along with 23.2 percent of the 1,550 fatalities in Suffolk County.

However, both Long Island counties also saw some of the highest per capita pedestrian fatalities. The New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island region had 1.76 annual deaths per 100,000 people between 2008-2012. That number climbs to 2.31 in Nassau County and spikes to 2.43 in Suffolk County. Those figures put Long Island within the top five counties with the highest per capita rates; Suffolk is second and Nassau is tied for fourth with Manhattan. New York City combined (2,941) has slightly more traffic fatalities than Long Island (2,550).

Street design, the coalition said in the report, makes a difference in road safety. While every scenario offers different obstacles, most solutions entail lower traffic speed, less pedestrian exposure to motor vehicles and accessible crosswalks.

In the report, Smart Growth America recommends the federal government invest more biking and pedestrian funds in Transportation Alternatives Program; hold states accountable for traffic fatalities and serious injuries by setting and reaching realistic reductions in deaths; adopt a national Complete Streets policy; increase the federal cost share for certain safety programs and improving federal data collection in traffic-related deaths.

Smart Growth America is using a letter campaign to promote safer roads. Digital messages are being sent to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking for states to set and work towards realistic targets for reducing deaths and injuries; meeting safety measures established by Congress and removing flexible highway funding on non-safety projects if those targets are not met.

For more about this study, check out the coalition’s website.

Complete Streets Funds Added To Suffolk Budget Amendments

Suffolk County may end up covering the slack from the state and federal government after all.

Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) confirmed county lawmakers included $250,000 to implement Complete Streets policies – designed to create roads safe for pedestrians, bikers and all users – in the omnibus amendment for the June capital budget vote. Legislators will vote on Tuesday.

“A Complete Streets amendment means we are putting money towards our legislation. This annual expenditure will go a long way to promote safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists on our Suffolk County roads,” Calarco said.

Also supported by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), the amendment will add $250,000 annually for Complete Streets implementation in 2015, 2016 and subsequent years.

“Legislator Calarco has been a true champion for Complete Streets and this is a great step forward to making our streets safer for everyone who uses them. We applaud the Suffolk County Legislature for pushing this issue forward,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Ryan Lynch said.

Suffolk County passed and signed Complete Streets legislation in 2012. However, the current federal transportation bill – MAP-21 – cut dedicated walking and bicycling infrastructure investments by 30 percent. The New York State Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2014-2017 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program approved last year plans to spend only 0.98 percent of its transportation funds. That marks a 40 percent, or more than $100 million, cut for bicycling and pedestrian projects compared to the 2011-2014 plan. The DOT has planned to cut spending on walking and biking projects by 24 percent over the next four years, resulting in just 0.57 percent of regionally allocated transportation dollars being spent on these projects.

Meanwhile, the federal and state transportation cuts put more pressure on local governments to fill in the gaps. Tri-State Transportation Campaign, AARP and Vision Long Island testified before the Suffolk County Legislature last week to amend the capital budget. Vision Assistant Director Tawaun Weber recommended no less than $1 million for four years.

Investing in infrastructure like raised crosswalks, pedestrian safety islands, protected bike lanes and landscaped medians can force drivers to slow down and improve general safety on Suffolk County roads.

“We are happy to see Suffolk County provide dedicated funds for desperately-needed Complete Streets projects. This is the type of initiative that is needed to move Suffolk DPW towards creating safer roadways for our region,” Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander said.

Senate Committee Makes TOD Eligible For More Assistance

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) unanimously approved legislation earlier this month to reauthorize highway portions of the MAP-21 federal surface transportation bill passed two years ago. MAP-21 is set to expire Sept. 30.

If approved by the entire Senate and Congress as a whole, it would fund the highway program at current levels plus inflation for six years. Beginning with $40.3 billion this year, that would be increased to $40.9 billion this year through $45.1 billion in 2020. Included in that is a new National Freight Program beginning with $400 million in 2016 and up to $2 billion in 2020 and the Projects of National and Regional Significance Program at $400 million annually – a $100 million drop from 2013.

Under the proposed extension, to be considered for the Projects of National Regional Significance Program – which provides federal funding for expensive and important projects – projects must cost no more than $350 million, 30 percent of a single state’s federal highway aid, 15 percent of a state’s highway aid for rural states or 75 percent of the state with the most highway aid for multiple states. The bill would set the maximum grant size at $50 million.

However, the bill does not include language for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. Currently funded at $600 million, that is a major deficit in spending in the proposed legislation.

Funding for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) – a federal loan system for large-scale transportation projects created in 1998 – would be cut by $250 million down to $750 million annually. However, transit-oriented development would now be eligible for assistance. This was considered for MAP-21 but never made it into the final version.

Due to the jurisdiction of the Senate EPW Committee, this bill addresses the highway portion of the program. Other committees in the Senate have jurisdiction over the transit, safety and funding aspects of reauthorization.

The legislation, along with EPW Chairman Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and EPW Committee Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), won support from advocacy organization coalition Smart Growth America.

“I applaud Senator Boxer and Senator Vitter for advancing this bill to provide immediate and stable funding for America’s transportation networks. How we build our nation’s infrastructure has tremendous implications for neighborhood development and the economic resilience of our communities. The proposed bill includes provisions that will help local communities grow in smarter, stronger ways,” CEO Geoff Anderson said.

For more on this legislation, check out T4America and StreetsBlog.

 

June

Awards Recap

13th Annual Smart Growth Awards Celebrates Long Island’s Progress, Leadership

Over 800 community, business and government leaders gather to celebrate Smart Growth individuals and projects through past 12 months

The 13th annual Smart Growth Awards is taking place Friday, June 13 from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The new venue has an even larger capacity with more than 800 people attending the 2013 Awards.

After a dozen years of awards, almost 45 nominees were considered for the 12 awards up for grabs this year.

Emcee and Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander introduced the honorees, followed by a short film of each honored person or project and a brief speech by the honorees.

“The hundreds of honorees we’ve had over the past 13 years have connected to the public and can now demonstrate successful projects,” he said of the Smart Growth Award honorees. “At this event we show the positive examples of Smart Growth driven by the local community.”

This year’s Regional Leadership award was presented to two recipients. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano received the honor for securing Bay Park Sewage Plant infrastructure funding, passage of Complete Streets legislation and promoting Transit-Oriented Development. Mangano accepted the award via cell phone from a last-minute meeting about funding for a Bay Park ocean outflow pipe. H2M Senior Vice President Robert Scheiner received the award for his years of service in municipal government, advancement of community and infrastructure projects and corporate citizenship.

“My administration has worked closely with Vision Island to plan and build safer roadways, greenways and new transit-oriented housing options in Nassau County,” Mangano said. “I am honored to receive Vision Long Island’s Regional Leadership Award and thank them for recognizing my efforts in securing funding for Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant repairs, implementing a Complete Streets initiative and for achieving transit-oriented development in our downtowns.”

“It is a great honor to be recognized alongside such influential and extraordinary people. I look forward to continuing to work with Vision Long Island to develop the infrastructure necessary to make Long Island more affordable, more exciting and easier to navigate,” Scheiner said.

The other honorees this year were Long Island Green Markets Director Bernadette Martin for managing farmers’ markets in downtowns across the island; Operation SPLASH for keeping area waters free of pollutants and advocacy at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant; the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District for their state-of-the-art 5.3-million gallon daily capacity plant; Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman for finding a way to fund Sunday busses; Greenview Properties for building mixed-use properties as part of the ongoing revitalization of Bay Shore; Coram Civic AssociationTown of BrookhavenConifer Realty, Community Development Corporation of Long Island for creating a main street development out of a blighted property;Downtown on Main for adding mixed-use development in Smithtown; Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylonthe 11518,East Rockway and Sandy Support, Massapequa Style for local efforts in rebuilding the South Shore post-Sandy; Envision Valley Stream and Valley Stream for working towards a healthy downtown business district; and the Watchcase project for preserving a historic building while creating distinctive downtown housing choices.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also spoke about Smart Growth at the ceremony. The region needs sustainable economic growth to have a vibrant future, he said, referencing the brain drain and need for walkable communities. The county executive joined Alexander and others at a national planning conference in Buffalo earlier this month.

“If you look at the number of people in attendance at this award ceremony it is clear that there are good things happening in Long Island and more good things coming,” Bellone said.

As the 11518, Sandy Support, Massapequa Style and Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon received their awards to wrap up the afternoon, other Friends of Long Island volunteers joined them on stage. With dozens standing behind the dais, Southwest Airlines and Vision Long Island surprised them with flight vouchers as a show of gratitude. Southwest’s Jill Simonson presented the gift to 50 Sandy volunteers.

Past honoree and 2014 lead sponsor Michael Puntillo, from The Jobco Organization, joined Glen Cove Mayor Reggie Spinello during lunch to announce the groundbreaking of the Glen Cove Piazza.

The Smart Growth Awards honor individuals and organizations taking leadership in advancing Smart Growth projects, policies, regulations and initiatives. The event highlights the efforts of leaders in government, private sector and the community that exemplify Smart Growth principles in such areas as transportation, mix of land uses, housing options, open space preservation, clean energy, compact design, revitalization, sense of place and planning.

Since the first Smart Growth Awards in 2002, more than 100 have been bestowed to people, projects and policies across the island. The City of Glen Cove has received the most with six, with Riverhead and Bay Shore each earning five, and Huntington, Patchogue, Mineola and Great Neck earning four.

Smart Growth policies favor mixed-use, mixed-income development that is attractive and strategically-designed to enhance the greater area. Smart Growth reduces traffic by making transit, walking, and biking realistic and pleasant options, thereby contributing to community health, safety and vitality. It embraces clean energy and sustainability by design. It focuses on infill, redevelopment and open space preservation in order to create more livable places conducive to a variety of transit options.

Thank You To All Of Our Event Sponsors:

A Special Thanks To Our Filmmakers:

THEM Media Inc. is a multi-disciplinary integrated media company producing content for television networks, advertising agencies, film studios and record labels. THEM was founded by Executive Producer Tony Harding in 2006 as a 21st-Century production company set to address the changes, challenges and overlaps in the advertising arena, television programming and new media landscapes. Tony Harding’s vision was to merge exceptional talent from diverse media backgrounds to become, together, a powerful multi faceted production boutique. THEM offers an innovative blend of creative production, development, new media and programming. THEM’s diverse portfolio of media projects includes television programs, commercials, music videos, feature films, branded entertainment and branded content for the web and mobile devices.

THEM Media’s company culture is to challenge conventional thought, provide clients with innovative concepts in a collaborative and inclusive environment and aggressively deliver cutting edge solutions. The company’s versatile think tank talent roster is comprised of accomplished directors, ad savvy creatives and seasoned producers, who embrace Harding’s “can do” philosophy and always find innovative ways to enable clients to achieve their objectives.

Congratulations To This Year’s Distinguished Honorees:

Sense of Place: Bay Shore Revitalization,

Greenview Properties

Bay Shore has had new stores and restaurants moving in to the downtown, and new mixed-use development provides a new demographic of residents. Greenview Properties is the force behind three of these new projects, and the recipient of the 2014 Sense of Place award.

Around the turn of the last century, Bay Shore was prosperous. But the opening of the South Shore Mall and closure of local mental

health facilities sent the community spiraling downward. Retail moved away from Main Street, residents lost their jobs and patients were dumped into various Long Island communities without any support. Rock bottom came in the 1990s when half of the storefronts

were empty, and many of those that weren’t were churches or laundry facilities.

The neighborhood is now on the upswing. Alleyways between storefronts and parking were designed to be wide, well-lit and decorated. In some parts of town, community members and business owners pooled their money and bought some of the problem buildings in town. The current Second Avenue Firehouse Gallery was saved from demolition and rebuilt to reflect its image as the community’s first firehouse and Jewish temple. Derelict buildings were razed to expose canals and other water abutting Main Street; the site of the former Paradise bar is now the waterfront home of Bay Shore’s gazebo.

A resident of Bay Shore, Greenview Properties President Larry Gargano and his company acquired their first Bay Shore property in the late 1980s. At that point, the community was struggling with commercial vacancies. He’s seen steady slow improvement in 15 years, with a surge of restaurants, businesses and offices opening.

Greenview has made significant progress on a trio of mixed-use projects in downtown Bay Shore. The first is the company’s new headquarters on Shore Lane. Known as the 5 Shore Lofts, the building is home to 11 studio and one-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors with company’s offices on the ground floor. Located across from the Long Island Railroad station, Chelsea Place is part of the gateway to Bay Shore. The mixed-use development was constructed in 2008; it houses 28 duplex apartments and a small amount of retail space. Even the smallest units – a one-bedroom unit priced over $1,000, are still built on two floors to create an intimate sense of home. Cobblestone curbs around the neighborhood, garages hidden in the back of the buildings, and colorful flowers and black fences in front give the community a traditional feel compared. Meanwhile, Greenview’s Village Place development is still under construction. Once complete, it will offer studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom duplex apartments in a walkable distance from Main Street. Commercial and retail will return to the site on the first floor, with housing on the top two floors.

Gargano has emphasized infill projects, redeveloping existing downtown buildings for quality rental housing. He credited the Town of Islip with being receptive to mixed-use and multi-family developments. The neighborhood, he added, also supports his projects since a thriving downtown boosts property values for single-family homeowners.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Compact Building Design: Watchcase

Once a symbol of nineteenth century industrialization, a former watch factory was an eyesore in the heart of Sag Harbor. It had spent years in various industrial uses, but spent 25 years falling into disrepair.

The site, however, will once again be a major component of the village in its new life as Watchcase. The team behind this multi-family development – developer Cape Advisor, engineers Racanelli Construction and architects Baldassano Architecture – is receiving the 2014 award for Compact Building Design.

Measuring 2.29 acres and sandwiched between Division, Sage and Church Streets, the site has a rich history appropriate for the East End village. The property was first developed in 1881, becoming a steam cotton mill in the 1850s. The mill fell victim to the end of the whaling industry in Sag Harbor in 1871.

Fahys Watch Case Company relocated from New Jersey and opened a new brick factory on the site. The factory produced jobs, especially countless immigrant workers from Ellis Island. By the turn of that century, they were producing more than 12,000 watch cases every day. Employees worked by light streaming through oversized windows.

But fire consumed most of the factory in 1925 and the company succumbed to the Great Depression in 1931. The building sat vacant for six years before Bulova began operations. They signed a 10-year lease in 1937 before buying the property outright. Manufacturing continued through World War II before the plant closed in 1980. The building sustained damage from water penetration and moisture.

Cape Advisors purchased the site in 2005, but legal hurdles and the recession stalled development. Progress didn’t resume again until 2010. In a walkable community, Badalamenti said the Watchcase development offered a chance to revitalize downtown Sag Harbor. Residents of the project’s 64 condos and townhouses will support local merchants. But that location and the historic nature of the building, he added, requires extra care.

Once complete, Watchcase will house 47 lofts within the factory and 17 units of housing in adjacent townhouses and bungalows. It’ll also hold a pool and outdoor patio, pavilion and fitness center, new sidewalks, landscaping and

an underground parking garage for 100 cars.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Housing Choices: Wincoram Commons

At best, Coram lacked a community hub to define its character. At worst, stretches of Middle Country Road were blighted.

But after the turn of the millennium, members of the neighborhood took action. The Coram Civic Association and Town of Brookhaven joined Conifer Realty and the CDC of Long Island to create Wincoram Commons. This project has netted all four the 2014 Housing Choices award.

Once completed, Wincoram Commons will create 176 units of workforce housing and 13,300 square feet of commercial space. A backhoe could be seen ripping up the remains of a deserted UA movie theater on the 17.65-acre site in March, symbolizing progress

on the $55 million mixed-use development. About 7,300 square feet of commercial will be built into the first floor of three-story residential buildings, with another 6,000 square feet in a commercial building along Route 112. Plans also call for a clubhouse housing a leasing office, fitness center and community space across from the offi ce building. All of these structures are intended to frame a pedestrian-friendly plaza.

Coram Civic President Erma Gluck said residents are excited about having a downtown, which will both create a sense of place and support local business by locating stores near homes. The name of the project hails from a native American chief who once oversaw the region; residents picked the name.

The development is also creating 145 temporary construction jobs and 34 new permanent jobs. In addition, it also includes infrastructure expansion, like a connection to a nearby sewer treatment plant and a connector road from Route 112 to Middle Country Road to prevent congestion north of the site. A sidewalk between the development and nearby Avalon Bay at Charles Pond luxury apartment complex is also in the plans.

The Wincoram project began as an intensive planning process led by Vision Long Island and the town in 2002. Residents met with

planners and traffi c engineers during focus groups, presentations and discussion groups to create plans for land use and a network of roadways in Coram and Middle Island.

Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, president of the Middle Island Civic Association before being elected to the town board in

2005, was anxious to ditch strip-zoning. Mixed-use development and walkability are important for creating a sense of identity, she

said. The town’s land use plan was adopted in 2006, identifying the blighted UA theater as a potential mixed-use site.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Sustainability: Great Neck Water Pollution

Control District

What began as mandates to reduce nitrogen pollution in the Long Island Sound transformed into the 2014 Sustainability award for the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District. Federal and state environmental agencies are requiring sewage treatment plants tied to the Sound to reduce their nitrogen output by 58.5 percent from 1990 levels. Located along the border of Nassau County and New York City, the Village of Great Neck and the water district each had their own plants. District Superintendent Chris Murphysaid the solution was consolidation.

The district operated a plant with a daily capacity of 3.8 million gallons and the village maintained a plant that could process 1.5 million gallons every day. In 2010, the sewer district began a $60-million expansion to their facility while village officials began preparing to demolish their plant. The improved facility opened in January 2013 with a daily capacity of 5.3 million gallons. And this past December, they began treating all of Great Neck’s sewage. In total, the plant is processing just about 3.6 million gallons every day.

Having the additional capacity, Murphy said, creates more opportunities and benefits. District officials are contacting businesses and other municipalities in hopes of selling them on hooking up to the plant. Comparing the system to a bus with varying number of riders, Murphy said residents will see lower taxes if the costs can be divided among more customers. He also said processing more flow at the plant means less goes into septic systems.

“A well-maintained septic system may do an acceptable job, but it doesn’t have the same treatment as a technologically advanced

system like ours,” he said.

Meanwhile, the expanded plant removes significantly more nitrogen than required and treats more sewage at a lower price than both plants combined. Some of this is possible from using an asset management system. Typically found in larger sewage plants, the Great Neck system became more efficient when computers keep track of maintenance schedules and automatically dispatch staff.

Murphy said they also built the expanded facility with the environment in mind. About 30 percent of the electricity necessary to run the plant is generated through green means on site. Stationary solar panels generate about 10 kilowatts every hour, although district staff are redesigning flat roof space so additional solar panels can be installed down the road. Sewage plants produce methane gas, which is typically used to run a boiler or just burned and released. At the Great Neck plant, methane turns microturbines, creating 130 kilowatts of power. They also have a rain garden on site, which collects stormwater from the parking lot and runs it through a garden of indigenous plants that excel in removing phosphorus and nitrogen before it goes into Manhasset Bay.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Creating a Mix of Uses: Envision Valley Stream and Village of Valley Stream

For their efforts in 2013, this year’s Mixed-Use award goes to Envision Valley Stream and the Village of Valley Stream.

Envision Valley Stream is a nonprofit designed to grow Valley Stream through residents, business, education, houses of

worship and other facets of the town. Created in 2009, their goal is to enable communication and cooperation to improve the community.

Founder David Sabatino said he’d like to see the new York State Department of Transportation implement pedestrian islands and signal timers for pedestrians. Customers, he added, routinely complain about how dangerous crossing the highway is.

Walkability and participation, Sabatino added, are essential for a thriving downtown. He’s also hoping to see some multifamily housing to help stop the brain drain. Mixed-use development can be a major piece of the solution, attracting more residents, shops, customers and professionals. As a local business owner, mixed-use development increases his local customer base.

In 2013, village officials amended zoning code to allow mixed-use developments and were named by the Long Island Railroad

to a study that will explore promoting development around LIRR stations. The Sun Valley Towers project last year and will include

13,000 square feet of retail and parking on the first floor and 72 apartments on the top four floors.

Also in 2013, the Valley Stream Village Board approved Complete Streets legislation. Complete Streets policies are designed to make roads safer for all users by painting narrower lanes, adding bicycle lanes, improving intersections and lowering traffic speeds. The mayor said they are investigating the best locations to implement the new policies and improve walkability and safety on the roads.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Strengthening Existing Communities: Downtown

On Main, Smithtown

Across from Smithtown Town Hall and sitting along Main Street, a former lumber yard sat abandoned for so long vines and shrubs

were growing inside.

To describe the former Nassau-Suffolk Lumber and Supply Corp. as a blighted property is akin to calling Smart Growth an interesting idea. But contractor Zucaro Construction and developer DC5 Properties are breathing new life into the property, earning them the Strengthening Existing Communities award.

Once a lumber yard, the 3-acre property sat untouched for several years since someone last tried developing the land in 2009. The town dropped taxes to benefit owners North Fork Management & Maintenance, but later issued a stop-work order after they demolished more buildings than they were permitted. Meanwhile, graffiti covered the building, plywood replaced a broken window, pieces of the storefront began collapsing and plants grew inside.

Last fall, Smithtown Town Board voted to remove zoning restrictions on the property once plans for Downtown on Main were filed. Town officials placed a restrictive covenant on the site during a 1987 zoning change, limiting 0.9 acres strictly for lumber use. In exchange for relaxing the zoning, North Fork agreed to have demolition complete by April 1.

Once complete, the Downtown on Main project will house 56 apartments and up to 15,000 square feet of retail in four buildings on the lot. That would include three, three-story residential buildings with 12 apartments in each, plus a 11,149-square foot mixed-use building with another 20 units. In addition, 20 apartments have been set aside for workforce housing.

Construction boss Andrew Zucaro and DC5’s Jared DeLew said the building will feature a turn-of-the-century appearance. After consulting with experts, they planned on using a brick or stone exterior. But what it looks like is nothing compared to what they hope it will do for downtown Smithtown. DeLew said there’s a movement on Long Island to eschew suburban sprawl in favor of community living. They hope the former lumber yard can help create a sense of place.

Demolition occurred earlier this spring with construction underway. Once complete, Zucaro said it will improve the local tax base since small businesses will see increased customers.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Revitalizing Communities: Bernadette Martin, Friends & Farmers

The 2014 Community Revitalization award is bestowed to Bernadette Martin for her work in supporting both the local economy and well-being through farmers’ markets.

Martin is the director of Long Island Greenmarket, an organization that manages five markets and promotes open space preservation.

She founded both market management organization Friends & Farmers and the Long Beach farmers’ markets in 2008. Martin contacted Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford (D-Long Beach), although city officials were already considering a market before the new resident touched base. She filed paperwork with the state, convinced some of her vendors from the city market to take the risk and opened the market that July.

The Long Beach market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays. The weekend hours attract musicians and artists, adding to the sense of community. But even the weekday hours draw large crowds.

These days, Long Island Greenmarket also manages farmers’ markets in Amityville, Kings Park, Nesconset and Spinney Hill – in Great Neck. They also perform live cooking demonstrations and distribute recipes, distribute vouchers for fresh produce to senior citizens from New York State and accepts food stamps at their markets.

Farmers’ markets, the director said, offer substantially different choices than supermarkets. Produce grown for the latter are designed for aesthetics and lengthy transportation, while locally grown fruits and vegetables are more about taste. Markets also serve a role in supporting small businesses. Local farms can participate with very little overhead, only needing to purchase insurance and rent a tent. At the same time, downtown merchants benefit from the extra traffic and restaurants can use the local food.

Agriculture is also a major part of Long Island’s economy; Suffolk County is the largest source of production in the state. And although development is consuming farmland, Martin said it’s easily worse in other parts of the country. Farming is also gaining interest with young people, Martin said.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Transportation Choices: Legislator Jay Schneiderman, Sunday Bus Service

The 2014 award for Transportation Choices goes to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) for his work with the Suffolk County Transit system.

Suffolk County measures 86 miles wide and home to nearly 1.5 million people. Some sections of the county are more densely populated, while others like the Town of Brookhaven have more empty space.

In the 2nd Legislative District, Schneiderman said the rich and famous flock to the waterfront during the summer, but very poor residents also live in the area. It’s an unusual situation where two people are living in a 20-bedroom house within half a mile as 20 people living in a two-bedroom house. To make matters worse, the area lacks clinics, public transportation and other support services. Schneiderman said he routinely battles with other legislators for public resources despite the Hamptons’ reputation.

The problem extends beyond the borders of Brookhaven. Alternative transportation is very limited throughout the county, a region

that is growing older. The population in Suffolk is aging, and there is a lack of housing, transportation and resources available to them. Busses would be a strong option for them, as well as young professionals and residents who can’t afford to own a car.

The legislator championed the cause beginning in 2007, but his focus stretched across all 86 miles of Suffolk. According to a study,

24 of the county’s 50 bus routes needed Sunday routes. He proposed a pilot program, bumping bus fare from $1.50 to $2 to cover buses on Sundays and holidays between Memorial Day and October. A casual poll of riders by Schneiderman found riders supported the initiative, although former County Executive Steve Levy tried to sabotage the plan. He issued a formal poll, but was surprised at the results again in favor of the more expensive fare.

The additional service was added to 10 routes throughout the county this past January, and has already been reported as an overwhelming success. Since those additions, 3,000 people are riding every Sunday.

Now, Schneiderman is focused on adding Sunday service for the other 14 lines, adding expanded evening service and otherwise growing the Suffolk County Transit system. Public transportation supports small businesses and downtowns, with the latter growing in popularity across Suffolk. Busses not only get shoppers to reduce air pollution, but they add sales tax revenue to the county by delivering shoppers to local stores.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Environment: Operation SPLASH

The award for Environmental and Historic Preservation goes to Operation SPLASH for their efforts in protecting Long

Island’s waterways and shorelines.

Based out of Freeport, Operation SPLASH is a nonprofit that cleans garbage from the water and advocates for marine life.President Rob Weltner said polluting the area’s ecosystem for decades has cost Long Island precious resources.

A Freeport native, Weltner grew up fishing and clamming with his father. But when it came time for his children to enjoy the water, years of pollution eliminated many maritime opportunities. More than 65 million gallons sewage are dumped along Long Island’s bays and shorelines every day, while storm drains route oil and other waste directly into the water.

Operation SPLASH was founded in 1990 with a beat up old boat and a handful of volunteers to pick debris out of the water. Fast-forward to 2014, and the organization now features 3,500 volunteers and six boats docked at the Town of Hempstead’s Guy Lombardo Marina in Freeport, Nassau County’s Wantagh Park Marina and East Rockaway’s Town Marina. Captains go out once a day, taking volunteers from all walks of life wherever they feel there is the most garbage.

Every year Operation SPLASH removes about 125,000 pounds of debris. They’ve rescued more than a million pounds of plastic bags, plastic bottles and bottle caps, juice boxes, styrofoam cups and food containers, BBQ grills, hot water heaters, flat screen TVs, engine blocks and coconuts. But after Superstorm Sandy, the nonprofit picked up more than 300,000 pounds of debris in 2013.

The storm also crippled the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant with nine feet of storm surge. The plant serves 550,000 Nassau County residents and processes about 50 million gallons of sewage daily. Weltner has joined the contingent calling for an ocean outfall pipe at the plant. Reynolds Channel is too stagnant to handle normal release of treated sewage without increasing nitrogen

levels, but the ocean can easily dilute the effluent.Weltner said the outfall project had originally been discussed 36 years ago, but was put on hold. Not only would the upgrades protect water for Nassau County, but he also said it would create temporary jobs for Long Island workers.

When the federal government created the “Rebuild by Design” contest for tri-state areas to win additional Sandy relief funds, the nonprofit worked with the team representing Long Island. They hosted boat and bus tours to proposed project sites in Nassau County.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Regional Leadership: H2M Senior Vice President

Bob Scheiner

This 2014 Regional Leadership award goes to Robert Scheiner for advancing Long Island’s infrastructure from behind the scenes.

Now a senior vice president with H2M Architects + Engineers, Scheiner began his career with the Town of Riverhead in 1976. He spent a decade directing all phases of architectural, planning and structural engineering projects, including designing comprehensive master plans, coordinating public works projects and providing architectural designs and supervision on all architecture projects. He served as director of Community Development & Planning before becoming deputy supervisor and assuming all oversight for construction projects, and water and sewer districts.

While H2M began as water and sewage specialists in 1933, Scheiner came on board in 1986 to start their architectural division. The company currently employs more than 50 architects. Now a senior VP and chief marketing officer, he still steers the firm along

Smart Growth currents. H2M is working on the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, and Scheiner believes downtown development is

not possible without proper sewer and water systems.

In fact, he believes Long Island is at a crossroads with a need for more transportation and housing opportunities. He supports downtown development, open space preservation and Complete Streets transportation policies as a board member with Vision Long Island.

“There’s a positive change we can all see,” Scheiner said.

By the same token, he’s interested in making the region more hospitable to young professionals. Transit-oriented development would create affordable housing and lower taxes, both of which are desperately needed to retain the talent pool with which to attract employers to Long Island. That mindset also benefits his employees. Scheiner said the average H2M employee is in their young 30s.

But his concern for the community doesn’t end at 5 p.m. Scheiner has a history of philanthropy and volunteering in leadership roles.

As vice chairman of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, he participates on the Executive, Government Relations,

Green/Sustainable, and Huntington Village Parking Improvements committees. He’s also a board member for the Community Development Coalition of Long Island and former chair of the Leadership Huntington Foundation. A former Rotarian in both Riverhead and Huntington, Scheiner received the Paul Harris Fellowship by the Huntington Station Rotary. The Huntington Chamber awarded the Commack resident its John Klaber Memorial Award last fall for his devotion to the community and leadership roles throughout the town.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Regional Leadership: Nassau County Executive

Ed Mangano

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is a recipient of this year’s Regional Leadership award. He accepted the award via cell phone, away at a last-minute with the U.S. EPA to secure additional unding for the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

His foray into politics began with an election to the Nassau County Legislature in 2002. During his seven-year tenure, Mangano represented the 17th Legislative District and was honored by the League of Conservation Voters for championing open space and ground water. But his campaign changed to cutting wasteful spending, fixing the assessment system and limiting debt just to pay expenses in 2009 when he successfully ran for the county executive title.

These days, Mangano is heavily focused on economic development, especially on Main Street. Of all jobs in Nassau, he said, 60 percent come from small businesses. These merchants tend to be the most generous in supporting their community through youth sports, PTAs and schools.

The solution to the brain drain, he believes, is a combination of downtown entertainment, housing and transportation. It’s called transit-oriented development and it combines commercial and residential uses in a walkable environment with transit solutions nearby. In the Village of Farmingdale, construction is underway for Jefferson Plaza. Once complete, the two-building development will house 154 apartments and 19,200 square feet of retail neighboring the LIRR station. Over in Mineola, The Winston and The Churchill incorporate 275 units of housing and 36 units of senior housing near the LIRR station and bus terminal. In Great Neck Plaza, Plaza Landmark offers 93 units of housing.

While the county executive said fewer youth are leaving these days, he announced the creation of the Nassau 200 program during his State of the County address in March. This includes a panel of 200 residents born between 1979-1995 to determine what neighborhoods young people want and how likely they will be to set up a business in Nassau.

Mangano and his economic development team have helped create and retain more than 19,000 private sector jobs in Nassau County. Nassau has also attracted new homeland security jobs, high-tech jobs, as well as film and television industry jobs to the former Grumman-Navy property in Nassau. In 2013, the state Department of Labor reported that Nassau County leads the State of New York in terms of job growth and employment.

The county executive also emphasized maintaining and improving the county’s infrastructure, especially the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. Badly in need of updates before Sandy, the plant “was basically destroyed” by nine feet of saltwater flooding. Millions of untreated and partially-treated sewage flowed through the plant and into local waters before emergency repairs were made. Temporary measures kept the plant up and running again for months after Sandy, but emergency generators cost taxpayers $1 million every month and generated noise and odor complaints from neighbors. More than $830 million was allocated from county and state coffers to fund repairs by the end of 2013.

Complete Streets Legislation as proposed by Mangano, was passed by the County Legislature earlier this year. The county executive said the purpose for this legislation is to “set forth standards and guidelines to help us better plan road projects to make Nassau’s roads the safest they can be at all time for pedestrians,bicyclists, and drivers alike.”

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Community Leadership: the 11518, Neighbors Supporting Neighbors and Sandy Support, Massapequa Style

When Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Eastern Seaboard in 2012, communities along Long Island’s South Shore joined New Jersey and parts of New York City in bearing the brunt of the damage. But amid the carnage, individuals put aside their own problems and came to the aid of their neighbors. These groups of volunteers eventually united, along with Vision Long Island, under the banner of Friends of Long island.

The situation was especially bad in the Rockaways where nine feet of saltwater inundated the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. Responsible for treating wastewater from 550,000 Nassau County residents, the plant had been sorely in need of renovation before Sandy knocked it offline. Millions of untreated and partially-treated sewage flowed through the plant, local waters and nearby communities before emergency repairs were made two days later.

Community Leadership award recipient the 11518 was formed in April 2013 as a resource for residents to stay informed. President Dan Caracciolo said they were plagued by seven feet of flood water, flooding half the town. Initially the plan was to provide information and survey the community about unmet needs, but results revealed residents were tackling a variety of issues. Some were waiting for contracts, others needed legal aid and some were trying to bridge the fiscal gap between insurance and FEMA. The group’s monthly meetings began a support group with support for each unique situation. They distributed goods around the community and began to tackle unmet needs.

The 11518 also banded volunteers together to accomplish “little wins” for the Rockaways. They assist homeowners with ripping out

some damaged homes and light repair work. The goal is remind residents why they chose to live in East Rockaway and Bay Park.

Executive Director Kim Skillen and President Theresa DiPietto-Roesler founded Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon.Skillen and DiPietto-Roesler went to work, collecting clothing and household goods, and distributing them from the First Presbyterian Church in Babylon Village. They filled the church just 24 hours after Community Leadership posting on Facebook, along with fi ve classrooms and a gym after 48 hours. They helped hundreds of people working out of the church for two weeks. They moved into the field and began cooking outside of the Fred Shores Beach Club. As residents began to clean up and rebuild, volunteers provided a hot meal. Barbecues began to include information with FEMA, AmeriCorps and local agencies on hand.

These days, the organization continues to inform, facilitate and feed. Skillen admitted she may not know how to sheetrock like other Friends of Long Island members, but she knows just who to call when a homeowner asks. They organized a holiday party for 200 in 2012, giving gifts to every child and more than $6,000 in a gift card raffle for parents. Neighbors Supporting Neighbors also played a role in educating the community about NY Rising when that was born last year. More than 500 people attended one of their Q&A session with NY Rising boss Jon Kaiman.

They’ve also become a COAD (Community Organization Active in Disaster). While confusion about getting immediate help and later financial support reigned, COADs are trained to serve as a go-between for those in need and sources of aid. Information and guidance for insurance matters turned out to be almost as important as the clothing, shelters and food volunteers distributed.

Another member of the Friends of Long Island is Sandy Support, Massapequa Style. This Community Leadership winner works very closely with another nonprofit, Adopt A House. The community organization was founded in January 2013 to disseminate information about everything and anything.

The group began making welcome baskets for neighbors who could return home. But it was April 2013 when Sandy Support, Massapequa Style and Adopt A House first worked together to celebrate children who survived Sandy and the storm’s aftermath. These days, Sandy Support, Massapequa Style continues to serve as a source of information and resources. They helped encourage homeowners to apply for NY Rising funds before the April 11, 2014 deadline. Members went door-to-door disseminating fliers.

Families on the organization’s list have also received various aid, including grants valued at $1,000, as well as 500 trees and shrubs.

This month, Sandy Support will invite families to refurnish kids’ bedrooms with the help of a $1,000 Ikea grant. All five top leaders have been Sandy victims themselves and bring a unique prespective and understanding to their community rebuilding approach.

 WATCH THE FILM HERE

Here Are Some Supporting Remarks From The Event:

Vision Long Island Co-Chair Bob Fonti

“I am so proud to be in the company of such great business and community leaders honored at this year’s Vision Long Island Awards luncheon. Leadership starts from the top build upon passion and dignity from the bottom up. Congratulation to all that are here today as your presence and hard work continue to make a difference.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone

“I thank Vision Long Island for continuing to promote and support smart growth initiatives. The work of the organization continues to ensure the economic vitality of the Long Island region in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.  The continued challenge by Vision Long Island placed before government, planners and developers serves as an impetus to all to create and support projects that which advance smart growth principles.  Congratulations to all 2014 Smart Growth Award recipients.”

Long Island Green Markets Director Bernadette Martin

“It is with gratitude that I accept Vision Long Island’s Smart Growth award for community revitalization. I am very passionate about my work to promote regional food producers and creating positive community events, so it’s amazing to be recognized for my work from such a great organization.”

Greenview Properties President Larry Gargano

“We’re very happy to be recognized by Vision Long Island. We believe that the Smart Growth initiative that is taking hold on Long Island will have a very positive impact for the communities and residents.”

Operation SPLASH President Rob Weltner

“We’re very grateful. All of the people getting awards, that means they’re doing something good for our island.”

Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert

“Wincoram is truly a win not only for Coram but for the region as a whole. Wincoram is a sustainable, mixed-use, walkable project which will provide housing options for our young people as well as empty nesters. It is the type of project we should be building more of on Long Island. Congratulations to the Coram Civic Association and thank you to Vision Long Island.”

Coram Civic Association President Erma Gluck

“After 10 long years, it’s so exciting to receive an award for this project. The Coram Civic Association worked really hard for this dream to come true. This project will jumpstart the heart of Coram. We are grateful that CDC-LI and Conifer Realty asked us what we envisioned for this parcel.”

Zucaro Construction Founder Andy Zucaro

“Long Island has always been a magnificent place to live and work. The Smithtown Main Street project is a perfect Smart Growth model that is sure to take our wonderful island to heights that were previously unimaginable.”

Envision Valley Stream President David Sabatino

“Our organization is honored to be among grassroots efforts and examples of good government being recognized at Vision Long Island’s Smart Growth Awards. Collectively we are working to make our communities and Long Island a better place to live, work and play.”

Village of Valley Stream Mayor Edwin Fare

“I am proud of the work that my administration has done in fostering smart-growth in Valley Stream through visionary mixed use development to support our burgeoning downtown, and the small businesses that are so vital to our village.”

Baldassano Architecture Principal Alex Badalamenti

“On behalf of the extended Watchcase Factory team, we thank Vision Long Island for this award and your great work with our Long Island communities.”

Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Executive Director Kim Skillen

“Neighbors Supporting Neighbors is humbled by this award. We are grateful that Vision Long Island and Friends of Long Island are partners in recovery with us. The past 20 months is unlike anything we have lived before and will live again.”

Sandy Support, Massapequa Style President Kelly Harris

“Sandy Support, Massapequa Style is the advocacy group for all people affected by Hurricane Sandy. Its founder and 7 key members were all affected and 6 remain displaced as of today. We truly understand the needs of everyone affected since day 1. We remain committed to advocating for changes to policy that will not only help sandy survivors, but will also be fair and reasonable. We are committed until everyone is home, since there really is ‘no place like home.’”

the 11518 President Dan Caracciolo

“We appreciate this award for community development. We are continuing to assist our residents as they recovery from Hurricane Sandy.”

Public Officials In Attendance:

NYS

NYS Senator Jack Martins

NYS Assemblyman Ed Hennessey

NYS Assemblyman Ed Ra

NYS Special Advisor on Superstorm Sandy Relief Jon Kaiman

Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Scott Martella

Former NYS EDC Chairman Charles Gargano

Nassau County

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano

Nassau Legislator David Denenberg

Nassau Legislator Laura Curran

Nassau Legislator Selia Bynoe

Nassau Legislator Michael Venditto

Nassau Legislator Laura Schafer

Nassau Planning Commission Chair Jeff Greenfield

Suffolk County

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone

Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman

Suffolk Legislator Rob Trotta

Suffolk Planning Commission Chair David Calone

Suffolk County Water Authority Chair James Gaughran

Town of Babylon

Supervisor Richie Schaffer

Town of Brookhaven

Supervisor Ed Romaine

Councilwoman Connie Kepert

Councilman Kevin Lavalle

Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro

Town of Hempstead

Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby

Town of Huntington

Supervisor Frank Petrone

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson

Councilwoman Susan Berland

Town of Islip

Councilman Steve Flotteron 

Town of N. Hempstead

Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio

Councilwoman Viviana Russell

Town of Oyster Bay

Councilman Anthony Macagnone

Cities & Villages

City of Glen Cove Mayor Reggie Spinello

Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles

City of Long Beach Jack Schnirman

Nassau County Village Officials Association Warren Tackenberg

Suffolk Village Officials Association & Babylon Mayor Ralph Sciordino

Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender

Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Eckstrand

Village of Freeport Deputy Mayor William White

Village of Freeport Trustee Jorge Martinez

Village of Island Park Mayor Mike McGinty

Village of Valley Stream Tom McAleer

Village of Westbury Mayor, Peter Cavallaro

Village of Westbury Deputy Mayor William Wise

Check Out Our Event And Media Links:

The event journal is available online here.

youtube them

Special thanks to our videographers, Them Media. Watch all of the honoree videos on our YouTube page.

newsday

View this article on Smart Growth Awards winner Valley Stream and Envision Valley Stream in the Valley Stream Herald.

View the article on Smart Growth Award winner Bob Scheiner in Patch.

View this Long Islander News article on Smart Growth Award winner Bob Scheiner.

View this Long Island Business News op/ed piece on Long Island overcoming obstacles.

View this lilocalnews story on Smart Growth Award winner Ed Mangano.

View The Corridor for stories about Smart Growth and Vision Long Island board member Veronica Vanterpool

Here Are Some Of The Photos From The 2014 Smart Growth Awards:

Save the Date for the 13th Annual Smart Growth Summit on Friday, Nov. 21!

Register today! Sponsorships are available!

[ ] Visionary ($15,000) [ ] Leader ($10,000) [ ] Gold Sponsor ($5,000) [ ] Sponsor ($2,000) [ ] ___ seats ($125/person)

Method of Payment: [ ] Check enclosed [ ] Check sent (faxed replies only) [ ] Pay at the door [ ] Credit Card

Attendee Name(s): ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Affiliation:_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Address: ____________________________________________________City, State, Zip: ___________________________________

Email: _______________________________________ Phone: ____________________________ Fax: ________________________

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Credit Card Number: __________________________________________________ Expiration Date: ___________________________

To RSVP or for more information please contact 631-261-0242, info@visionlongisland.org or fax 631-754-4452.

In Closing…

We are pleased to report the 13th Annual Smart Growth Awards was a special event for all of us working to maintain and create great places on Long Island.  The attendance was the largest we have ever had and the energy in the room was spectacular.

The stage full of Sandy volunteers or the tributes to the many leaders and projects were all highlights.

We would like to thank all of the communities, businesses, public officials and sponsors who made the event a success but more importantly thanks for all you do each day to advance Smart Growth on LI.

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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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Friends Of Freeport To Be On NBC House Renovation Show

Watch George to the Rescue on NBC when new episodes return in September and keep an eye out for some familiar faces.

The Friends of Freeport joined fellow member Ben Jackson and Bens General Contracting Corporation in rebuilding a room for an Oceanside family at no charge so they could spend more time together.

“We as a Long Island community have to help each other. We have to take lessons from years gone by where neighbors knew each other and helped each other. As life got busy, we got away from that,” Friends of Freeport President Rich Cantwell said. “We have to help each other. It’s the right thing to do.”

Hosted by George Oliphant, George to the Rescue is a home improvement show with an element of surprise. Projects that will save a home, solve an ongoing issue or otherwise strengthen a family are suggested to the network. Oliphant and a team of volunteer contractors go to work while the residents are ushered out of the house until the grand reveal at the project’s completion.

In Oceanside, Jose and Kathie Urquiza could never gather the family to eat together. The kitchen was way too small to seat the volunteer firefighter, Valley Stream School District secretary, 14-year-old Claudia and 8-year-old Jose at the same time.

A small dining room in the cape was turned into a bedroom for their son, Kathie Urquiza said, shortly after they moved in 11 years ago. That left them with a routine of feeding the children first and then eating themselves while the kids were doing homework.

She wrote to George to the Rescue in January 2013 and heard back from the network this past February.

Bens General Contracting Corporation was asked by NBC to work on the Oceanside home three months ago, after working on a job for Oliphant last season. This time the plan was to demolish an existing sunroom, build a new 10’ by 20’ dining room and fully decorate it within 15 days. They finished in 14.

The job began three weeks ago with Friends of Freeport’s Rock Stars crew on hand to assist in demolishing the existing room. Cantwell said they didn’t know the Urquiza family and offered their muscle as a friendly gesture, although he acknowledged Friends of Freeport member Patti MacDonald actually knew Kathie Urquiza from work.

MacDonald first learned Oliphant was coming to Oceanside on Monday, May 12 from her co-worker. A day later with the Friends of Freeport, she learned the Superstorm Sandy volunteers were working on a project in Oceanside the same day.

“I said I am definitely taking off of work to do that because she is one special person,” MacDonald said.

Sure enough, the speech pathologist was standing in the dumpster organizing debris that first day. Jackson’s company continued the work, with Friends of Freeport’s Green Thumbs team handling landscaping at the very end.

And during all three weeks, the Urquiza family was staying at the Ramada Inn in Rockville Centre. They weren’t allowed to return until the big reveal on Monday. MacDonald was up front when her colleague saw their new dining room.

“As soon as she saw me she pointed and was so excited,” MacDonald said.

A few days back in their home with the new dining room, Urquiza was still touched. Calling their work “a blessing and a gift” that will change their lives, she praised the Friends of Freeport.

“It just moves me because I truly feel like giving back is what we’re here to do. We should all be of service, whether it’s something small or something grand,” she said.

NBC placed a moratorium on photos of the house until the episode finally runs, possibly Sept. 20.

Huntington ZBA Considering Another Mixed-Use Building

Another mixed-used development could be coming to Huntington village.

The Town of Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals late last month considered a request to demolish an existing commercial structure on New York Avenue and replace it with apartments and a restaurant.

The existing 2,450 square-foot building is currently vacant. At one point, it had been home to Huntington Bay Music, Sole Salon and Art Works Printing.

Instead, property owner GAK Properties wants to demolish the building and replace it with a 6,300 square foot building. A restaurant would occupy the first floor, while two apartments would occupy the second floor.

Zoning Board members and nearby business owners expressed concern about parking, already a hot-button issue downtown. A traffic engineer for the applicant said municipal lots adjacent to Thai USA and the Huntington Elks Lodge would provide ample parking.

The ZBA tabled the request later that meeting, pending completion of a SEQRA review.

Several other mixed-used developments in Huntingon village. The Zoning Board signed off on a three-story building on Wall Street that will replace the infamous Black Lantern, while construction is underway for a heatherwood Communities development along Gerard Street and another three-story building at the former ice house on Stewart Avenue.

Check out the May 29 issue of The Long-Islander for more details.

South Nassau Plan Nets $125 Mil In Federal Sandy Money

Long Island will get a cut of the federal Rebuild By Design money after all.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the winners for their $4 billion in funding to rebuild and mitigate damage after Superstorm Sandy earlier this week. The Interboro Team – led by Interboro Partners – won $125 million.

“This is a huge victory for us and Long Island. We think this project will go a long way to make Long Island more resilient,” Interboro Partners’ Daniel D’Oca said.

Back in late March, the team submitted a five-prong plan with each component supporting another. One component, the lowlands solution, was selected by HUD to be funded.

Along the lower-lying developed areas, flooding can actually prevent mitigating flooding further inland. North-south rivers drain stormwater runoff, but outflow pipes can back up the pipes are inundated. Green infrastructure could not only reduce that flooding, according to the Interboro plan, but also pollution. Their solution calls for a sluice gate in the Mill River watershed to better manage stormwater, convert a nearby undeveloped parcel of land into a riverfront park that could filter stormwater and add stormwater swales to nearby streets.

D’Oca said the process between the announcement and receiving the money is arduous, but he was optimistic it could happen in 2014.

He added they have not given up on the other four components. The goal now is to find additional funding for that part of the project.

The first piece covers the ocean shoreline. A large deposit of sand called a sand engine in Jones Inlet would harness tides and erosion to naturally build up beaches and shoreline. Additional sediment from dredging would support the beaches.

The second piece reflects the need for barrier islands to protect the mainland from damaging storm surge. Interboro’s plan calls for a dike landscape and a water retention park near Long Beach to protect existing critical infrastructure. Not only did Long Beach sustain some of the highest concentrations of Sandy damage, but it’s among the most residentially dense in Nassau County.

Marshes are also useful for buffering the mainland from storm surge and erosion, but they also support local ecology. This phase of the proposed plan would include a marsh island and ring levees – water-facing roads elevated by 5 feet equipped with stormwater-detention systems – around the Freeport shoreline.

Finally, their plan calls for smarter developing inland. Building along Sunrise Highway puts people outside of category 2 storm surges while remaining reasonably close to the water. It also supports the Freeport Plaza West mixed-use project and adds bike lanes.

For more about the announcement or the Interboro project, visit HUD online.

Unveiling $108 Million New Village Development In Patchogue

Vision Long Island joined Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, elected officials, business owners and residents Tuesday to celebrate another component in the revitalization of Patchogue.

Developer Tritec hosted a ribbon cutting for their New Village project – a $108 million mixed-use development.

The project will offer 291 new apartments, 46,000 square feet of retail and 18,000 square feet of office space. All residents will have access to club rooms, fitness facilities, roof top gardens, outdoor fireplaces and grilling areas, although some tenants will also have private decks and parking.

Parking is also a key piece of New Village, adding 500 spaces. Of those, 293 are underground.

Early residents began moving in this spring.

The New Village development received a Smart Growth Award from Vision Long Island in 2008 and the 2009 Top Mixed Use Project from the Long Island Business News.

“Kudos to Mayor Paul Paul Pontieri, Planning Commissioner Lori Devlin, the Village board, the developer, their team and all the folks responsible for moving this project forward,” Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said.

Brookhaven Approves Ronkonkoma Hub Zoning

The Ronkonkoma Hub is on track.

The Town of Brookhaven voted to rezone property around the Ronkonkoma LIRR station for the $475 million project on Tuesday.

If the project continues to move forward, it would create a 53.73-acre transit-oriented development along Union and Ronkonkoma Avenues.

Plans currently call for 1,450 apartments in one-, two- and three-bedroom formats, 195,000 sq. ft. retail and 360,000 sq. ft. of office space. It would also include 60,000 square feet of flex space for convention space, meetings, gatherings and the like.

The project originally called for a new sewage treatment plant on the Town of Islip side of the border, capable of processing 1.1 million gallons daily but expected to handle just 400,000 gallons a day. However, Suffolk County officials confirmed they would consider hooking the Ronkonkoma Hub project to the existing Southwest Sewer District via seven miles of new pipe.

An earlier version of the plan, including the sewer plant, garnered a Smart Growth Award from Vision Long Island in 2009.

The Town Board voted only on rezoning Tuesday, not eminent domain. Some businesses neighboring the LIRR station are concerned they will be forced out after developer Tritec considered having the town force them out “as a tool of last resort.” However, Brookhaven officials have publicly stated they will not employ eminent domain.

Vision Long Island supported the plan, but Director Eric Alexander was concerned about the potential for eminent domain.

“Folks shouldn’t lose their property for a revitalization plan,” he said.

If approved, construction of the Hub could take up to 10 years

For more on this story, check out News 12 (subscription required).

 

Piazza Latest In Pro Transit-Oriented Development Trend

The conversation on Long Island is about transit-oriented development, and the surge in popularity.

According to the Wall Street Journal, transit-oriented development (TOD) projects like the upcoming Glen Cove Piazza are on the rise.

Between 2007-2013, 7,800 units of housing were approved near train stations said Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander. Conversely, just 360 units were approved between 2002-2006. More than 10,000 units are under consideration across Long Island.

“For Long Island, where we have close to 100 downtown business districts, it’s about filling in the development that was ripped apart by suburban sprawl,” Alexander said.

Advocates said a walkable, transit-centered island is still a long-term goal after years of opposition from governments and residents concerned about new development. In Glen Cove, Mayor Reginald Spinello said the Piazza project was delayed by politics.

And the battle is only intensifying as the MTA’s Double Track and East Side Access projects continue. The Long Island Rail Road is scheduled to complete a second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma by 2018 and connect to Grand Central by 2021.

TOD advocates argue they will increase demand for housing near LIRR stations.

In Glen Cove, the city and developers celebrated a groundbreaking for 110 units of housing and 30,000 square feet of retail. Plans call for three five-story buildings of mixed uses.

Stan Sommers, owner of Hair Above Salon in Glen Cove, said the area needs new blood in terms of residents and businesses.

“Having 200 new bodies living next door to me, it’s like Christmas,” he said.

For more media coverage, check out the Wall Street Journal article (subscription required).

Hempstead Turnpike Still Very Dangerous For Pedestrians

The death of a teenager on Hempstead Turnpike is prompting renewed cries for change.

Bryanna Sopin, 13, was killed in an apparent hit and run accident. The Levittown teen, who reportedly had Down syndrome, wandered out of her family’s house in the early hours of Sunday, June 15 before coming to Hempstead Turnpike. Police said a minivan blew through a red light and hit Sopin without stopping. First responders performed CPR but were unable to save her.

Michael Elardo, of Syosset, surrendered himself to police two days later. The retired NYPD officer was charged with leaving the scene of an incident, a class D felony, although Elardo claims he thought it was a traffic cone he hit.

Back in March 2012, Tri-State Transportation Campaign found Hempstead Turnpike was the most dangerous road for pedestrians within the Tri-State area. The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) responded with a pledge to implement short- and long-term improvements based off research of pedestrian crashes from 2008-2011.

Eight years later, the DOT has spent $2.2 million. That includes wider crosswalks, longer countdowns for pedestrians crossing and new medians. But with the state agency reportedly says it’s done for now. But eight pedestrian deaths, including Sopin, since has transit advocates like Tri-State calling for more.

“I think the DOT should be applauded for their initial steps, but we think more can be done to make the road safer,” Tri-State Associate Director Ryan Lynch said.

Traffic speeds, Lynch said, are very high on Hempstead Turnpike. If a pedestrian makes a mistake while crossing and gets into a collision with a moving vehicle, they’re likely to die.

He advocated for installing pedestrian safety islands, adjusting speed limits as needed and making existing traffic medians more visible.

Hempstead Turnpike was supplanted by Jericho Turnpike for the deadliest road in the 2014 rankings, released by Tri-State in February.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano Receives

Smart Growth Award At Business Breakfast

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano provided an economic report to business leaders Friday. Standing before 200 small business men and women at the Capitol Grill, Mangano, Nassau IDA Joe Kearney and Hempstead Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino spoke about economic development and downtowns.

Vision Long Island’s Director Eric Alexander and board members Michael Puntillo from Jobco, John Keating from PSEG and later Steven Kreiger from Engel Burman presented Ed with a Smart Growth award for his work in Bay Park, advancing TOD housing and passing Complete Streets legislation among other projects.

Mangano received his Regional Leadership award from Vision at the event. He was unable to attend the Smart Growth Awards in person back on June 13 due to a conflicting meeting with Bay Park financial supporter, the U.S. EPA.

Click here to view the video from the Smart Growth Awards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July

6/29

Pedestrians In Danger On Montauk Highway In Lindenhurst

First, it was a teenager’s death on Hempstead Turnpike. Now, it’s a near fatality involving a young boy on Lindenhurst.

Village of Lindenhurst officials, residents and transportation advocates renewed a request to the Department of Transportation (DOT) last Friday for improvements to a strip of Montauk Highway.

Much like the 13-year-old killed trying to cross Hempstead Turnpike on June 15, a 10-year-old boy was struck by a car on June 14. John Johnson, of Lindenhurst, was with his family going across Montauk Highway when they were caught in the middle of the road without the refuge of a median. The nearest vehicle began to slow, but Johnson sprinted into the next lane and a car launched the boy 15 feet in the air.

The child is expected to survive, but locals say the stretch of road between South Strong Avenue and Park Avenue is just too dangerous to continue ignoring. Brittney Walsh, 18, was killed two years ago when her car was rear-ended by an alleged drunk driver.

Village officials have pestered the state for traffic-calming measures for a decade, including Mayor Thomas Brennan writing to the DOT in March for a traffic study and requesting one lane be eliminated in each direction. The state responded with a statement that they began a study using “traffic data analysis and sound engineering principles.” They also said traffic engineers are conducting on-site observations, delay studies, crash analysis and a speed study.

However, Village officials said they are unaware of any studies and have not met with any DOT staff.

“We’ve had nobody come down and sit with us and go over our concerns,” said Village Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Cullinane. “If they’re just doing counts and statistics, that’s not enough.”

Not only does the crosswalk lack a median, but there are no traffic lights. A sign warning motorists about pedestrians is just 150 feet away from the intersection where Johnson was hit, following a curve in the highway.

“We almost lost a young boy trying to cross this road, which is very difficult. How many people have to die before something is done?” Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffery (R-Lindenhurst) said.

Both officials have pleaded for the DOT to remove a lane, while advocates recommend making some modifications to improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow.

“Narrower lanes, well-designed medians, a number of things which makes the road seem narrower, which makes drivers more diligent and cautious,” Vision Long Island Sustainability Director Elissa Kyle said.

For more coverage of this story, check out WLNY TV-10/55 and Newsday (subscription required).

Baldwin Plants Seeds For Unity With Neighborhood Garden

Tomatoes and squash are going to unite Baldwin.

Community members celebrated the grand opening of the Baldwin Community Garden two weeks ago. Located on Grand Avenue, just behind the Baldwin Historical Museum, the 9,375 square foot plot is a symbol of a united population.

“It will show Baldwin that when we get together, we can really make stuff happen,” Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran said.

Once the site of Mumby’s Pond, the water disappeared underground via culvert when developers built nearby. What had been a pond neighbors ice skated on became a large piece of land incapable of supporting a building.

“In recent months, we’ve been trying to get the historical museum more involved in the community. We’ve been able to get the museum back on their feet and partnered with them on the garden,” Baldwin Civic Association President David Viana said.

Rita Cavanagh took over as the civic’s Beautification chairperson in November, and immediately went to work addressing the lack of green spaces north of Sunrise Highway. She settled on creating a place residents could come with their children, a book or a coffee and enjoy nature. After five months of pestering Nassau County, Cavanagh convinced county officials to sign a five-year lease with the civic association – the first ever.

Baldwin Civic Association volunteers tend to the garden, although residents are invited to visit and pick produce at their leisure. A bed of tomatoes are already in the ground and a second bed with herbs, squash and hot peppers have also been planted. Cavanagh said vegetables, berries and herbs should be regularly available. And depending on concrete from the culvert and Nassau County, the garden could one day house fruit trees.

“You go if you need some stuff. You’re more than free to take it,” Viana said, adding he hopes more volunteer to work in the garden.

A circle of sunflowers have also been planted in the garden, creating a future hiding spot for children playing or seeking refuge from life. The back piece of the circle is a 12-foot wide sun, donated by the Baldwin School District from a high school musical production.

“We’re getting so many compliments,” Cavanagh said.

7/6

Nassau Sewage Plant Deal Aims To Save Taxpayers Money, Improve Water Quality For 1.1 Million Residents

Handing maintenance and operation of three wastewater plants will reduce Nassau County spending by at least $233.1 million, officials announced Tuesday.

County Executive Ed Mangano unveiled the 20-year agreement with United Water at a meeting of his Wastewater Plant Advisory Committee. Vision Long Island reviewed the presentation from United Water’s President Richard Henning and his team.

“This partnership was formed to dramatically improve the County’s ability to protect our environment and the health and well-being of our residents. Together with United Water, we will implement unprecedented advances in environmental protection, odor control, management efficiencies, plant aesthetics and public information. Furthermore, this effort permits a more effective and efficient management of the plants and sewage system following the federal government’s significant investment in storm hardening of our infrastructure,” the county executive said.

A part of French multinational corporation Suez, United will be responsible for the Bay Park, Cedar Creek and Glen Cove Sewage Treatment Plants. Combined, they process wastewater for 1.1 million Nassau County residents.

Nassau County will maintain ownership of all three plants, but United Water will be responsible for operating the plants. Company officials also said they will implement programs to resolve major deficiencies in the system.

Nassau County will also be responsible for overseeing United, with the company providing written reports detailing operation and maintenance every month. Both sides will meet regularly to review performance and county officials will also perform an inspection every year. In addition, there will be a full-scale inspection of all three plants every fifth year to help the county determine if United Water is meeting its obligations.

Company officials have pledged not only to operate the plants to best protect the surrounding wetlands and estuaries, but to also hire Nassau County employees when possible. Part of the agreement calls for United to use certain county employees at the sewer plants to generate no less than $10 million in annual savings. Employees not hired by United to work at the plants would be moved to vacant county positions as part of a no-layoff agreement in the deal.

Wall Street-based financial consulting firm PFM Group was hired by Nassau County to independently review the agreement. According to Nassau County and United Water, PFM Group found the contract could save $233.1 million over the 20 years, and may actually save closer to $378.9 million when the savings of personnel reassignments and reduced overtime are factored into the equation.

The recently-announced arrangement was supported by several Long Island environmental activists.

“Knowing there is a direct connection between the performance of Nassau County’s sewage treatment plants and the water quality of our bays and beaches means water treatment is something we need to be the absolute best at. We believe United Water will help us to achieve this goal by bringing worldwide experience and new technologies to our wastewater plants so that the residents and the sea life get what is deserved and that is the absolute best,” said Rob Weltner, president of Operation SPLASH.

“[Citizens Campaign for the Environment] fully supports the hiring of an established and highly experienced, qualified, professional contractor, specializing in wastewater treatment management. We believe this is an essential component for cleaner bays, estuaries and our ocean. It has become exceedingly clear the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), Cedar Creek and the Glen Cove STP must be operated by a management and engineering firm possessing a proven history of successfully operating and implementing advanced wastewater technology,” Citizens Campaign Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said.

Mangano actually picked United Water to take over maintenance and operation back in 2012. The concept was to create a deal since the county’s Sewer and Storm Water Authority would go broke by 2014 if nothing changed. At the time, he claimed United Water would freeze prices through 2015, never raise them beyond the consumer price increase, taxes would still be collected by the county and employees would not be laid off.

A county source said the new deal does not give jurisdiction over rates to United Water.

Vision Long Island reviewed the presentation from United Water as a member of the most recent Wastewater Plant Advisory Committee.

“With hundreds of millions of dollars in federal capital funding in place to upgrade Nassau sewer infrastructure, it is a wise investment to improve management and operational efficiency. The proposal allows for growth of the sewer systems without increased costs. This provision, along with efforts to improve water quality, will allow downtown redevelopment projects to move forward in the safest and most sustainable manner possible,” Director Eric Alexander said.

For more about this story, check out Newsday (subscription required) or Mangano’s press release.

 

GOP Proposes $11 Billion Shell Game To Fund Highways

If nothing changes, the Federal Highway Trust fund could hit zero by next month and be $18 billion in the red by 2024. But a proposal with temporary fixes by Republicans in the House of Representatives has Democrats up in arms.

Ways and Means Committee approved a bill Thursday to move $10.8 billion around to sustain highway and transit funding for states until May 2015.

Sponsored by committee chair Dave Camp (R-Michigan), the legislation calls for pension smoothing, increase customs user fees and transfer $1 billion from a fund to fix leaking underground fuel tanks.

“I know these policies are not perfect, but they are viable, have been used by the House and Senate before and should pass both the House and Senate quickly,” Camp said. “With these policies, we can steer clear of another crisis showdown, and we should.”

Democrats criticize the plan, saying it’s letting Republicans and Congress off the hook for developing a long-term solution. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) proposed legislation for a six-year transportation bill that was defeated along party lines earlier this year.

“It is a mistake to take the pressure off this Congress and kick it down the road,” Blumenauer said, adding it will likely be even harder next year in the partisan atmosphere of a presidential campaign.

Created in 1956 to finance the country’s Interstate Highway System, the Highway Trust Fund. In 1982, funding for mass transit was added. The fund has been the home for federal fuel tax beginning at 3 cents per gallon in the beginning to 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993.

For years Congress passed long-term plans and properly funded the account. But since the new millennium, the Federal Highway Trust fund has been leaning heavily on transfers from the general fund – including $12 billion in 2014. By 2024 at this rate, general funds would account for one-third of the fund’s revenue.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has already warned the fund would no longer have money for promised aid to states in the first week of August. Gradually slowing down, the account would be empty by the end of the month.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said publicly he wants to bring it up for vote in the House next week. Reports, however, question if the GOP boss has enough votes to pass it without Democratic support.

For more media coverage, check out Long Island Business News (subscription required) and the Wall Street Journal.

7/13

Surprise Flash Mob As Sandy Volunteers Help Raze House

Superstorm Sandy volunteers Friends of Long Island (FOLI) knew Ed Anderson as a veteran, member of FOLI affiliate Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon (NSNB) and victim of the historic storm. But what they didn’t know is that Andersen was battling cancer at the same time.

NSNB, fellow FOLI partner Lindy Manpower, United Way of Long Island and others gathered on Sunday to demolish Andersen’s Babylon house, a critical step in the rebuilding process.

“Unfortunately the insurance money he received and the money from NY Rising is not going to be enough for him to demo and rebuild his house. Together, we are completely demoing Ed’s house straight to the ground,” NSNB Executive Director Kim Skillen said.

Neighbors said the volunteer’s home was destroyed 18 months ago and he couldn’t demolish it himself.

Meanwhile, Andersen was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003. Chemotherapy sent the cancer into remission, but it relapsed in 2011. Debilitating side effects of stronger drugs forced the Babylon resident to give up his job as an electrician.

But volunteers from Teachers Federal Credit Union, Town of Babylon, and FEGS Health and Human Services joined FOLI to raze the remains of his brick house and cook food on a grill for everyone on site. As a special surprise, Long Island Flash Mob Organization danced to “All Star” and unveiled a banner reading “Bring Ed Home.”

“Everything today is so humbling,” Andersen said.

Friends of Long Island is an umbrella organization for local grassroots groups to rebuild after Sandy; Vision Long Island supports the organization. Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon collected and distributed clothes immediately after Sandy, help homeowners through the recovery process with information and provide food both immediately after the storm and to volunteers working on houses. President Theresa DiPietto-Roesler was recently seen on the Weather Channel when a reporter visited the Island Harvest Food Bank.

For more coverage of Sunday’s events, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Budget Cutting $10 Mil For Water Quality Makes Waves

A decision to cut nearly $10 million in federal funding for water quality could dry up some Long Island downtowns.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D) publicly began a crusade to restore $9.9 million for the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act grant funding. President Barack Obama cut every penny in his proposed 2015 budget released in March.

“Long Island’s beaches are great resources that attract swimmers, fishers and boaters, and we simply cannot let federal funding for monitoring contamination and water quality be slashed,” Schumer said.

Congress passed the BEACH Act in 2000 to better protect Americans using recreational waters. It required states adopt new or revised water quality standards, while the Environmental Protection Agency studied and published new criteria for pathogens. The project was to be funded with grants from the EPA to coastal states.

New York communities received $330,000 of the $9.55 million allocated this year. Of that, Nassau County received about $45,000 in BEACH funds and Suffolk County pulled in almost $96,000 in BEACH funds. More than 130 beaches between both counties have high bacteria levels, according to nonprofit National Resources Defense Council. If the BEACH Act funding is removed, local governments would pick up the tab as no other federal funding is available for monitoring and notification.

“BEACH Act funds support important environmental monitoring. Protecting the safety of beach goers is a top priority and I thank Senator Schumer for his efforts in restoring these critical funds,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said.

“BEACH Act funding is critical to our beach surveillance program, which tests between 4,000 to 5,000 samples from 190 beaches each summer to ensure that residents and tourists who visit Suffolk County are swimming in waters that are clean and safe. This funding is essential to public health and Suffolk County’s economy,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

The island’s economy could take a hit as a whole if the funding is removed, especially with its identity so heavily associated with water. Long Island is known for fishing, shellfishing, swimming, sailing and other water activities.

In the Village of Northport and many waterfront communities, aquiculture has long been a means of making a living. The hub of activity downtown, the most prized commercial real estate in the village is along Northport Harbor. Even Northport’s mayor, George Doll, works as a lobsterman.

But Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said it’s grown difficult to pay the bills on the water.

“Very, very few people can still earn a living from aquiculture,” he said.

Tobin also confirmed tourism is an essential part of Northport’s downtown economy. Not only do Long Islanders drive to the quaint town on the water’s edge in the summer, but Connecticut and other more distant visitors routinely dock their boats and visit Main Street.

Tobin is a member of the Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee, a contingent of environmentalists, elected officials and scientists focused on restoring water quality in Northport and Centerport since 2010. While some research has suggested fertilizer and other pollutants in stormwater runoff have contributed to harmful algal blooms, the deputy mayor said there are many questions remaining and cutting funding delays answers.

“We need to understand what specific steps we can take to regain economic productivity and recreational pleasures. Eliminating funding for such studies not only prevents regrowth of this economy but can lead to further deterioration and a continued job-killing condition. Cutting out that grant money is a very false economy,” Tobin said.

Rob Weltner, president of Operation SPLASH, has become an expert in Long Island’s waters after years of leading volunteer efforts to clean them up. He believes nitrogen is the single biggest problem affecting the area, describing it as “Miracle Gro.”

“I think it‘s our biggest issue on Long Island. When it rains you have bacterial and beach closures, it’s only for days. When you have a brown tide, it’s for weeks. If you have a red tide, humans can get sick from that,” he said.

Both terms refer to harmful algal blooms. Excess nitrogen enters the waters and causes intense growth of algae. The microscopic organisms also die quickly, and the large quantities of decaying algae consumes oxygen necessary for fish and other wildlife. While many of these blooms are not directly dangerous to people, the algae found in red tides can cause eye and respiratory problems if enough is consumed.

Nitrogen, Weltner added, also puts Long Island at risk in the next Superstorm Sandy. Salt marshes provide a habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife, but they also protect the mainland from waves and erosion. Excess nitrogen feeds plants roots, causing them to have more shallow and less stable root systems. Suddenly the marshes become very fragile and become smaller.

“We’re losing a lot of salt marsh area,” the president said.

7/20

Finding Infrastructure Solutions With Existing Funds

Transportation infrastructure is critical for creating jobs, sustaining businesses and getting Americans around.

Standing under a closed federal highway bridge in Delaware last week, President Barack Obama issued an executive order to increase investment in infrastructure. His administration believes the Build America Investment Initiative will improve public-private partnerships and inter-agency cooperation.

The centerpiece of the movement is the Build America Transportation Investment Center. To be launched within 120 days of Obama’s announcement on July 17, it will serve as a one-stop shop for state, local, tribal and territorial governments use federal transportation programs to facilitate innovative approaches to financing projects, provide information and technical assistance. The center will be located at the Department of Transportation (DOT).

As announced, the Center’s “Navigator Service” will make DOT credit programs more accessible to states and local governments. The Center will also promote awareness of existing resources like the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which provides long-term funding for highway and transit projects with dedicated revenue sources. In addition, it will share best practices from states with strong track records on private investments.

The Build America Investment Initiative also establishes the Interagency Infrastructure Finance Working Group. Co-chaired by the secretaries of Departments of Treasury and Transportation, and with membership of various federal departments, the group is designed to research and support public-private partnerships. They must meet for the first time by Aug. 16 and return to the president in four months with recommendations on promoting awareness and understanding of innovative funding by lower level governments.

And come Sept. 9, the Treasury Department will host the Infrastructure Investment Summit. The event is expected to bring together leading project developers and institutional investors with state and local officials and their federal counterparts. They’ll focus on innovative financing approaches to infrastructure, and highlight other resources that support project development.

Meanwhile, transportation remains a divided issue in Washington, D.C. The federal government is prepared to cut highway and infrastructure spending by 28 percent on Aug. 1, threatening 100,000 jobs. At the same time, Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on a solution to solve the dying Federal Highway Trust Fund. Financed by a gas tax that has not been increased in two decades, the president wants to close business tax loopholes while Republicans proposed borrowing funds from other federal programs to delay the decision until next spring.

For more information on the Build America Investment Initiative, check out the DOT website and New York Times.

Suffolk IDA OKs $3 Mil Tax Breaks For Huntington Hotel

When the doors to the future Huntington Hotel finally open, they could be a bit lighter with new tax breaks.

A team of developers, led by Emerson J. Dobbs Inc., successfully petitioned the Suffolk County IDA for $3 million in tax relief over 15 years on the $10.4 million project.

IDA members expressed concern last month when developer Jay Dobbs suggested constructing parts of the hotel in Pennsylvania and assembling them in Huntington village with a crane. Dobbs assured them no local contractor could produce the modular components. However, the IDA tabled their request until more specifics could be provided.

But on Thursday, Dobbs said they were reconsidering conventional construction over the modular design.

Either way, he pledged to employ local workers. If they go the modular route, the developers would hire 75-90 locals. And $6.5 million of the $8.9 million construction budget, Dobbs added, will be performed and supplied by local contractors and vendors.

The new assurances were enough for IDA Treasurer Peter Zarcone Jr., also an officer in the Local 66 Laborers International Union, and Board member Kevin Harvey, also an officer in the Local 25 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to join the five other IDA members in approving the tax breaks.

Plans call for Old Town Hall to be the cornerstone of the proposed hotel, with the building restored to its original condition from 1910. A larger, three-story building would then be constructed over the existing parking lot north along Stewart Avenue to Gerard Street. While the former Town Hall boasts brick with a limestone façade, the new building will be constructed with limestone and a brick façade. Both buildings would be connected by a glass atrium.

When guests walk into the Old Town Hall to check in, eat breakfast or have a drink at the lounge, they would see three grand, arched windows and a broad set of stairs connecting the buildings.

All of the guest rooms will be housed in the second building. According to the floor plan, each floor will house 18 rooms. Six will run parallel with Gerard Street in the back of the structure, while two sets of six rooms will run parallel with Stewart Avenue.

The Huntington Hotel is set to open in fall 2015.

Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said he was happy to see the downtown project moving forward.

“This use will nicely compliment the rejuvenated retail, restaurants and musical venues like the Paramount,” he said.

For more coverage on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Early Support For $43 Mil Walkable Apartments In Port Jeff

The Village Board must approve a state environmental review, but new apartments could be coming into downtown Port Jefferson.

Developer Tritec recently received preliminary approval from the Suffolk County IDA for a six-figure tax break on their proposed 112-apartment design. Late submission of financial documents limited the IDA’s action back at the June 26 meeting, although the Board of Directors backed the $43 million complex.

Tritec officials confirmed they want to purchase the purchase vacant 3.35-acre Heritage Inn Motel for $3.9 million and convert it into a 14,3000 square foot building. In addition to 42 one-bedroom and 70 two-bedroom apartments, the development would include patio decks, a club room, connections to community walking networks and useable outdoor spaces.

“As one enters Port Jefferson Village from the west on 25a, you must past a vacant boat yard, and a vacant and dilapidated motel. These two properties are directly across from the harbor. It appeared to us that any revitalization of this part of the Village must include a revitalization of this area.  With its proximity to the water, the harbor front village and the park, we felt this would be an excellent location to construct a multifamily complex that could satisfy the need for quality housing, and add jobs and economic activity to the local economy,” Vice President Rob Kent said. “After extensive meetings with the Village and the local civic groups, we have proposed to build the 112 unit complex currently on file with the Village. The project was designed to maintain conformity with not only the local zoning code, but to also fit seamlessly into the attractive and well established architecture of the Village.”

The price tag on this construction is estimated at $37.2 million, which includes a subsurface parking lot with 168 spaces and 10 above ground spaces.

Tritec officials boast eliminating the surface parking lot reduces localized heating, eliminates light pollution and allows for more green space. Plans also call for bicycle racks and paths to promote alternative transportation, while the building itself is erected vertically to leave more undisturbed areas.

If approved, the project is expected to create 179 construction jobs.

The developer also claims their project will support the local economy. New residents are projected to have $3.2 million in discretionary income, most of which is frequently spent within 10 miles of home.

The development also won support from the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. Not only will it eliminated the blighted west gateway to the Village, Director of Operations Barbara Ransome said alluding to the closed motel, but it would add to the community’s population total.

“We think it will be a good shot in the arm for the business community down there because you’re bringing in more people,” Ransome said.

Tritec is seeking a 20-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) – paying Suffolk County the existing taxes for 10 years before phasing in taxes at the market rate over another 10 years. They’re also looking for a mortage-recording tax savings and sales tax abatement on equipment and construction costs, although the IDA needed more time to consider the exemption.

Downtown Carle Place In Need Of New Identity

Carle Place may not be a large, booming downtown. But then again, it doesn’t have to be.

Tucked in between the Village of Westbury and Roosevelt Field Mall, the community of 5,000 people is often overlooked.

Westbury Avenue is home to a creamery, bars, clothing services, florists and a variety of local businesses. Unfortunately, it’s also home to vacant storefronts and properties with overgrowth and garbage problems.

“They don’t stop. They keep going,” said Frank Signorello, owner of The Hollow Creamery ice cream parlor.

The area is “struggling with bright spots,” Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said, although community merchants are optimistic that can change. Carle Place Civic Association President John Hommel would like to see small shops and cafés to create local flavor, while Studio Novelle co-owner Samantha Shea said Carle Place has a wide base of customers.

North Hempstead Business and Tourism Development Corporation Executive Director Kim Kaiman said the town has taken steps to beautify the area, like placing flags on lampposts for Independence Day.

Alexander said the solution involves niche retail and two-story development to create a neighborhood retail feel.

For more coverage, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Legislators Sign Off On $1.14 Billion Sewer Deal

A Nassau County committee last Friday signed off on final approval for a $1.14 billion, 20-year deal to contract wastewater experts that could save taxpayers $233.1 million.

The seven-person rules committee from the Nassau Legislature unanimously agreed to hire United Water to handle management and operation at the Bay Park, Cedar Creek and Glen Cove Sewage Treatment Plants.

“This agreement offers a sustainable path forward for our sewage treatment infrastructure while also offering tremendous financial and environmental benefits,” Presiding Officer and committee member Norma Gonsalves said.

Legislators Kevan Abrahams, Dennis Dunne, Judy Jacobs, Howard Kopel, Richard Nicolello and Carrie Solages also voted on the matter. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and United Water CEO Bertrand Camus were in attendance.

The deal now goes to state-monitoring board NIFA for approval.

“The plants will be a better neighbor to the residents that reside by them,” Mangano said to legislators. “And, importantly, it will reduce the costs of operating these plants.”

A part of French multinational corporation Suez, United is poised to be responsible for three county-owned plants that process wastewater for 1.1 million Nassau County residents. In exchange, they will be paid $57.4 million annually.

Nassau County will maintain ownership and control over rates, but United Water will be responsible for operating the plants. The county is also responsible for making $1.5 billion in investments, $600 million of which were approved by the Nassau County Legislature in 2009 and 2010.

Nassau County will also be responsible for overseeing United, with the company providing written reports detailing operation and maintenance every month. Both sides will meet regularly to review performance and county officials will also perform an inspection every year. In addition, there will be a full-scale inspection of all three plants every fifth year to help the county determine if United Water is meeting its obligations.

Company officials have pledged not only to operate the plants to best protect the surrounding wetlands and estuaries, but to also hire Nassau County employees when possible. Part of the agreement calls for United to use county employees at the sewer plants to generate no less than $10 million in annual savings. Employees not hired by United to work at the plants would be moved to vacant county positions as part of a no-layoff agreement in the deal.

Vision Long Island provided testimony at the hearing and was briefed as a member of the Nassau Wastewater task force.

“Vision Long Island supports this operational agreement to upgrade the efficiency and operation of the Bay Park, Cedar Creek and Glen Cove treatment plants.  These changes to facilities that have been left in disrepair for over a dozen years combined with a federal infusion of resources will improve water quality and allow for growth in our downtowns.   Kudos to County Executive Mangano, Presiding Officer Gonsalves and Minority Leader Abrahams for working in a bipartisan fashion for the betterment of Nassau’s infrastructure,” Director Eric Alexander said.

The recently-announced arrangement was supported by several Long Island environmental activists.

“Knowing there is a direct connection between the performance of Nassau County’s sewage treatment plants and the water quality of our bays and beaches means water treatment is something we need to be the absolute best at. We believe United Water will help us to achieve this goal by bringing worldwide experience and new technologies to our wastewater plants so that the residents and the sea life get what is deserved and that is the absolute best,” said Rob Weltner, president of Operation SPLASH.

“[Citizens Campaign for the Environment] fully supports the hiring of an established and highly experienced, qualified, professional contractor, specializing in wastewater treatment management. We believe this is an essential component for cleaner bays, estuaries and our ocean. It has become exceedingly clear the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), Cedar Creek and the Glen Cove STP must be operated by a management and engineering firm possessing a proven history of successfully operating and implementing advanced wastewater technology,” Citizens Campaign Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said.

Mangano actually picked United Water to take over maintenance and operation back in 2012. The concept was to create a deal since the county’s Sewer and Storm Water Authority would go broke by 2014 if nothing changed. At the time, he claimed United Water would freeze prices through 2015, never raise them beyond the consumer price increase, taxes would still be collected by the county and employees would not be laid off.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required) and Herald Community Newspapers.

Schumer To Congress: Green Light Highway Funds ASAP

Sixteen bridges on Long Island are deficient and need work, while another 391 are obsolete. But if the federal Highway Trust Fund is not sorted out quickly, they could remain in need of upgrades.

Speaking from an LIRR overpass in Old Westbury, Senator Chuck Schumer called on his colleagues in Congress to find a way to keep the highway fund solvent, referencing more than 400 federal-aid eligible bridges on Long Island that needs upgrades or have become functionally obsolete. None of the bridges are unsafe.

“The Highway Trust Fund is too important to Long Island’s economy, and to our safety, to let it become insolvent,” said Schumer. “Congress should step up and reach a bi-partisan agreement that continues to provide the funding New York and the country needs to carry out local highway and mass transit construction projects, as well as plan for future bridge and road upgrades and repairs.”

Created in 1956 to finance the country’s Interstate Highway System, the Highway Trust Fund. In 1982, funding for mass transit was added. The fund has been the home for federal fuel tax beginning at 3 cents per gallon in the beginning to 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993.

For years Congress passed long-term plans and properly funded the account. But since the new millennium, the Federal Highway Trust fund has been leaning heavily on transfers from the general fund – including $12 billion in 2014. By 2024 at this rate, general funds would account for one-third of the fund’s revenue.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has already warned the fund would fall below $4 billion in the first week of August and no longer have money for promised aid to states. Gradually scaling back payments to all 50 states, the cuts could stall projects already underway and in the planning stages, or force locals to pick up the bill. If nothing changes by Sept. 30, all payments from the highway fund would be stopped.

In Nassau County, eight federal fund-eligible bridges are structurally deficient and 213 are functionally obsolete; another eight bridges in Suffolk are deficient and 178 are obsolete. While neither category is unsafe, both should be addressed. Structurally deficient bridges are those with a significant defect in their structure, and usually have speed and weight limits on them to ensure safety until they can be upgraded. Functionally obsolete bridges have a design that is no longer appropriate for the bridge’s modern-day uses and are usually lacking a key safety feature like a safety shoulder or are unable to accommodate new volume, traffic or weight because of its design.

If not fully funded, Schumer said the cuts would delay about 112,000 roadway projects and 6,000 transit projects across the country. New York State receives more than $1.6 billion every year, with 409 highway projects across the state using those funds. On the island alone, there are 42 highway projects under construction worth more than $318 million.

He added that construction delays, particularly during summer construction season, could have a significant impact on jobs throughout the state. According to the Center for American Progress, if necessary funding is not authorized for the fund next year, New York could lose more than 12,400 jobs, including many construction jobs.

In addition to highways, the fund also provides funding to states to expand and improve their public transit systems. That account is expected to drop below $1 billion by the end of October, the point at which DOT will need to begin scaling back payments to New York State.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

New York State Announces ‘Road Diet’ For Conklin Street

Five Farmingdale teenagers died in May after the sedan they were driving in collided head-on with an SUV less than a mile from downtown Farmingdale. Now Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to dip into the Complete Streets toolbox to prevent future deaths.

Cuomo announced last week that the New York State Department of Transportation will put Conklin Street on a road diet.

Conklin, especially along the Nassau-Suffolk border where the accident occurred, has a reputation as a dangerous road. It’s part of Route 24 – one of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Another young driver died in March 2013 within two miles of the more recent site.

“There’s excessive speeding and we needed traffic calming,” Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said.

A mountain of flowers and candles rested against a pole near the intersection of Conklin and Staples Street where the teens’ crash occurred. More than two months later, Cuomo wants to narrow Conklin from four lanes to two lanes – one in each direction – between Secatogue and Birch Avenues. His plan also entails a 15-foot two-way left turn lane that will be added in the center of roadway.

The lane reduction will be instituted as part of an ongoing Department of Transportation project. The state resurfacing and restriping all of Hempstead Turnpike, beginning from the Meadowbrook State Parkway and moving east to Route 110. They’re expected to complete the entire project by the end of the year.

After the accident, the governor ordered new radar systems installed at the corner of Conklin and Walnut Streets designed to detect speeding vehicles and trigger red lights.

The mayor admitted traffic may slow down with the reduction in lanes, as well as cutting into speeding. However, he said the improved safety was worth dealing with it over that short stretch.

“Even if it doubles your travel time, how long does it take you to go two miles?” he said.

“With the redevelopment of downtown Farmingdale underway with new stores and additional apartments, walkability is more of a factor than ever for Main Street,” Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said.

For more on this story, check out the Farmingdale Observer.

Amityville Considering Tax Breaks For Mixed-Use Changes

Something of a struggling community, Amityville could see some changes to promote the Village’s downtown.

Trustee Nick LaLota proposed creating tax incentives for landlords to redevelop commercial space with new residential space upstairs last week.

His suggestion would target properties along the three-block stretch of Broadway Avenue corridor between Ireland Place and Railroad Avenue, excluding the former Brunswick Hospital property. It would grant a full tax exemption on improvements with a price tag of $10,000 or more that convert nonresidential into mixed-use for eight years with a graduated rate over the next four years.

The next step for LaLota’s proposal is a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 8.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

NY Rising Officials, House Lifters Meet With

Friends Of Long Island Sandy Volunteers

With the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy a couple months away, grassroots teams of volunteers learned how houses are lifted and received an update from state officials on the NY Rising project.

At least 50 community members attended the July 23 Friends of Long Island (FoLI) meeting at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale.

NY Rising Buyout Coordinator Rebecca Sinclair said both the buyout and acquisition programs have been frequently used.

“The program is very active right now,” Sinclair said

Damaged homes in the flood plain are eligible for the acquisition program – NY Rising pays the homeowner pre-storm value before repairing and selling the house. The buyout program includes just those houses that fall within state-sanctioned zones. Those homeowners receive pre-storm value plus up to 10 percent, but the property remains undeveloped. Almost 200 homeowners have opted into the buyout program, Sinclair said, while 700 properties in Nassau and Suffolk are part of the acquisition program.

She also touched on Long Islanders who don’t own a house. NY Rising does help renters, Sinclair said, with relocation assistance and some financial support.

“We do have a large number of renters,” Sinclair said.

Jaye Fox, NY Rising’s director of multifamily housing, explained their role with landlords. Tenants are invited to contact the state about the property-owner, especially if the landlord is not aware of the resources available.

All rental properties are eligible for aid. Individual residents need to file for their condos and coops, although their association can file for support restoring shared living areas. Fox said at least 67 percent of tenants must file for the building to receive the total maximum aid, or else they will receive a percentage relative to the number of respondents.

However, Fox revealed many of the landlords filing for aid don’t own large building.

“Right now about 88 percent of our total pool of rental properties is 1-2 family homes with the vast majority single-family homes,” she said.

NY Rising boss Jon Kaiman confirmed they are still trying to get checks out the door. Closing jobs out, he said, is a major focus. Contractors and homeowners with work completed are waiting for the state to pay the second half of their award to finish the job.

He also apologized for delays since IEM replaced ProSource in daily operation of the NY Rising program. The Minnesota-based ProSource was appointed via emergency procurement, although North Carolina-based IEM was awarded the contract earlier this year after an RFP. Now that the new firm is firmly in place, Kaiman pledged they would balance hiring more caseworkers and spending prudently.

“We are talking to them about bringing in additional personnel to assist because we realize you can’t wait three weeks to get a call back,” he said. “That should be a little better going forward. We apologize.”

Kaiman also explained why many caseworkers are geographically inconvenient for applicants. Initially the plan was to have staff placement based on regional proximity. But staffing cuts along the way and trimming hours in Suffolk led to three-quarters of all caseworkers being located in Nassau County. Many of the worst affected, he added, are from Nassau County.

FoLI members also heard from Zucaro House Lifting Consultant Zachary Rapaport at last week’s meeting.

Zucaro, also a construction company, handles the lift. They begin each potential job with an evaluation and connect homeowners with architects and engineers to help with repairs.

“We are a pretty good first step in getting people help,” Rapaport said.

Each lift begins with a litany of permits and paperwork – a building permit, foundation plans, soil sample and elevation certificate, followed by disconnecting the utilities – they often recommend allocating an extra month for National Grid’s frequent tardiness. The building is then lifted eight inches and left untouched for about a day; creaks or changes in levels mean repairs are necessary before the lift can continue.

Houses sitting on pilings are typically very safe – crews are working on foundations underneath them, although Rapaport confirmed they can take extra measures if a particularly nasty storm is expected.

The meeting also included a presentation by American Mobile Home about providing temporary homes; David Smotrich and Partners about architecture and renovations; and the Visiting Nurse Service and Long Beach Reach about mental health counseling on Long Island.

American Mobile owner Joe Donaghy said their temporary, emergency homes have been housing Long Islanders since the day after Sandy. The standard process entails a free site inspection on the same property where construction is happening. After choosing options on the mobile home – e.g. two or three bedrooms – crews install the home and utilities directly from existing lines. On average, Donaghy said they’re finding residents need these temporary homes 3-5 months.

For more about the Friends of Long Island, their projects or to volunteer, check them out online.

Alexander: Imagining LI Without The E

This opinion piece originally ran in the Long Island Business News as part of their special report on Route 495.

Over the last 60 years, the Long Island Expressway opened up the central part of Long Island – largely farmland and open space – to sprawl development. Folks have trouble remembering life before this roadway, which has had profound effects on our land use and infrastructure.

One could argue that if the billions in transportation investments spent on the LIE went instead to preserving and expanding Long Island’s old trolley system, investing in rail and bus options and properly maintaining safe local roadways, our island would look and function much differently.

The LIE didn’t have too transformative an effect on communities in western and central Nassau, but once it crosses the Northern State Parkway through Plainview, Melville, Dix Hills, Brentwood and Hauppauge… now it’s going through communities that aren’t served by either a train line or the Northern State, and presumably it’s made them more attractive to developers than they otherwise would have been.

After that, it runs fairly close to Ronkonkoma, Holbrook, Holtsville, Medford, Yaphank, Manorville, Calverton and Riverhead – and with the exception of Ronkonkoma, all of these communities have limited or nonexistent train service.

If the communities of Ronkonkoma, Holbrook, Holtsville and Hauppauge weren’t bisected by the LIE, it would have promoted more local road connections between northern and southern communities, which would have lessened traffic pressure on the collector roads that pass over or under the LIE. More of Ronkonkoma would be walkable or bikable, too, if the train station wasn’t set off by the LIE.

What would have happened if the money spent constructing the LIE had been spent instead on improving service along the Main Line and creating north-south transit connections? We would still have farmland in Plainview, Melville, Dix Hills and Brentwood. Brookhaven would be far less developed, with the exception of areas close to stops along the Main Line and close to other preexisting arterial roadways.

Instead of Ronkonkoma being a mega-station, other stops along the Main Line would handle many of those commuters, reducing the need for acres and acres of parking in Ronkonkoma. Holbrook, Holtsville and Manorville might still have their own stations (they were all closed in the latter part of the 20th century). We would have had East Side access decades ago

We can’t pretend that without the LIE, Long Island wouldn’t have followed national development trends of auto-oriented sprawl, but at least it would have been contained along existing arterial routes instead of opening up the whole middle part of the island to development. People would still be driving from their single-family homes a few miles to their train station to commute to the city, but we’d be in a far better position for transit-oriented development on much of the Island – and have more open space than we have today.

Now fast-forward to reality. Over the last 60 years, as single-family home subdivisions, office parks, malls and big-box retail centers developed around the LIE, the agencies in charge of managing our infrastructure thought the growth would continue forever. In 1996, the NYS DOT created the LI Transportation Plan 2000, which identified a 2-percent growth rate a year – not just for the LIE but all of our east-west roadways, in the anticipation that auto development would continue. Sixteen road-widening projects were planned through Brookhaven, along with exits like Robbins Lane in Syosset to service the never-built Cerro Wire mall.

What changed was sprawl slowed and limits to growth arose. Land preservation advanced as Suffolk, Huntington, Brookhaven and the five East End towns sponsored ballot measures to secure additional open space. The single-family home market weakened, cutting values by as much as 40 percent in LIE-serviced areas like Brookhaven. Folks could no longer access mortgages, and were faced with an oversupply of unsold homes, resulting in record foreclosure rates.

There is good news here. We now have the opportunity to make excess road capacity work for us. We can increase density at the Ronkonkoma Hub and build a new downtown at Heartland Town Square. It’s time to finally invest properly in bus and rail transit, particularly in Suffolk County – we’re long overdue to make our existing roadways safe for walking and biking.

The LIE can continue to serve a purpose for transportation to industrial parks, other job centers and existing homes. Beyond that, the future of Long Island transportation requires different thinking and an alternate set of investments.

August

8/2

Commuter Mass Transit Benefit passes Senate Finance Committee

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s provision to extend Commuter Mass Transit Benefit passes the Senate Finance Committee. This is good news for those who take public transportation instead of driving because it creates parity between the two and becomes retroactive to January of 2012. It will cover up to $240 per month since that time which matches the amount matched for drivers who commute.

“As I have made it abundantly clear, I have no intention of letting this vital tax benefit for middle-class families go gently into the night,” said Schumer. “It makes absolutely no sense to provide those who drive to work with a tax break and make commuters who use mass transit pay more. It’s an unwise and unfair disparity in the tax code and I intend to fix this inequity.”

According to Mark J. Epstein the chair of the Long Island Rail Road Commuters Council: “The LIRRCC strongly applauds the efforts of Senator Schumer in trying to restore parity between those that use mass transportation and those that drive to work. This is a wrong which must be righted.”

And according to David Buchwald Chairman of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council: “Commuters and local businesses need all the help they can get in these tough economic times, and this tax benefit is a smart way to create jobs, encourage mass transit use, and lower the cost of living for area residents.”

Having this in place will make more people want to ride the mass transit options available in Metro NY which will mean less of a need for fuel in our cars, less congestion on the streets, and will ultimately save commuters money, over $200 million, according to the Transit Center, to be exact. All of these things will better the commute and the world we live in.

Vision Long Island suports the restoration of this credit as a needed benefit for commutersand our region as a whole.

You can read Senator Schumer’s full press release here.

Proposals for the new Nassau Coliseum taking shape

Four developers have submitted proposals for the development of the 77 acres surrounding Nassau Coliseum, county spokesman Brian Nevin said Tuesday.  Patchogue-based Baldassano Architecture, Garden City developer Breslin Realty, Plainview developers Renaissance Downtowns, and Syosset developer Ed Blumenfeld will compete to be master developer.

The winning proposal will have to be promising enough to keep the New York Islanders from relocating.  The bid-winner will be asked to negotiate with Islanders owner Charles Wang, who has said he will not stay at the current arena past his lease’s expiration in 2015.  Although each developer hopes to inspire Wang, the owner’s plans remain unknown.

Monti said he hopes to build a new arena, along with bioscience research facilities and a convention center, with eventual links such as bike lanes, shuttles, or light rail connecting the Coliseum project and the village of Hempstead.  His submission to the county’s request for qualifications, or RFQ, outlined a development team that includes Manhattan real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, Spector Group, an architect with offices in Manhattan and Woodbury, and sports facility architect Populous, formerly known as HOK Sport, which designed Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

Don Monti of Renaissance Downtowns said his plans would emphasize community involvement and financing would include his partners and potentially federal and state funds.  “I love when people say it’s impossible,” he said, adding that he planned to reach out to the Islanders if he wins. “I deliver. We’re going to keep them here — no ifs, ands or buts.”

You can read more on this at Long Island Business News and Newsday 

$875G allocated to Glen Cove for ferry terminal

After 14 years of planning, the city of Glen Cove has finally acquired the funding it needs to build a passenger ferry terminal.  On Thursday the state’s U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, announced that the Federal Highway Administration would allocate $875,951 to the city.  The grant provides the final funding necessary to allow construction of the $3.5 million, 2,700-square-foot facility on Glen Cove Creek.

“This is great news for the city and the region,” Mayor Ralph Suozzi said. He added that construction of the terminal, expected to be operational by fall 2013, and ferry service to Manhattan would be an economic boost.

Gillibrand added, “This terminal will increase economic development opportunities as part of the larger waterfront development project” to create the mixed-use Glen Isle complex on a previously blighted waterfront.

With $14 million in previously awarded federal funds and about $600,000 of Glen Cove’s own resources, the city has already dredged the creek, built bulkheads, installed a pier and floating docks, removed contaminated soil, installed utilities and built the terminal foundation.

Suozzi said the $875,951 and a matching contribution of  $175,190 from the city would fund construction of the first floor and shell of the second floor, a waiting area, restrooms, a small office and area for kiosks on the first floor.  A second phase, estimated to cost about $2.2 million, would expand the second floor to accommodate a restaurant and offices, and bring up the terminal space to a total of 7,500 square feet.

The city will soon advertise for bids for a ferry operator to transport commuters to the city, and will also offer harbor and dinner cruises when construction ends.

In its 2005 Long Island Sound Waterborne Transportation Plan, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council identified the Glen Cove ferry as a viable regional site for destinations to the west. The plan noted that ferry services operating on Long Island Sound made more than 4 million passenger trips and nearly 2 million vehicle trips per year, making the region one of the country’s top 10 ferry markets.

You can read a copy of Glen Cove’s press release here.

Read more at Newsday. 

Durso: Time running out on the Coliseum

The following Op-ed appeared in Long Island Business News on August 2, 2012

This summer may be the last chance to catch the outgoing tide on the top economic development project for our region – the Coliseum and the surrounding high-value 77 acres of land. If a new arena is not built, the New York Islanders, its anchor tenant, has promised to find a new home when its lease expires in 2015. Understanding that it takes 2 1/2 years to build a new arena, we must act now.

There is a lot of talk these days about policies necessary for job creation. Have we forgotten about the 2,000 existing jobs at the Nassau Coliseum? Last week I spent time talking to some of the people who work there, people who are going to be directly impacted if we cannot break the logjam preventing the redevelopment.

Paul works part time as a security guard, a position he’s held for 12 years. With two daughters ages 20 and 17, the eldest in college and the other preparing to enroll in September, it is a job he needs to keep.

“If they (the Islanders) leave and they don’t fix it up, it will be like a ghost town over there,” he said. Paul is one of 150 security guards at the Coliseum working hockey games, concerts and special events.

Similarly, Kerry works nights part time as a parking lot attendant. He has been there for almost 30 years.

“It pays the bills. It’s not like we’re living like kings … a lot of the men rely on it,” he said. “And working there is like being with family – it’s a nice place to be.”

John works full time at the Coliseum as a painter. He spoke with pride about the work he does, which includes painting the lines on the ice. He has two kids attending Nassau Community College. He worries whether he’ll be able to find another job if the Coliseum closes and doubts if any would offer the same kind of benefits. At age 50, he says he’s a “marked man” understanding how much tougher it is for older workers who lose their jobs.

When he was asked what the impact would be if the Coliseum closed, he said, “a place full of tumbleweeds and a higher unemployment rate that people on Long Island can’t imagine.” He went on to recite a litany of positions that would be lost including related jobs like advertisers, event managers, vendors and suppliers. “It trickles down. People don’t realize how many other businesses are connected to this place,” he said. If the Islanders leave, he added, it’s doubtful the Coliseum would survive.

Many other workers like Paul, Kerry and John are facing the same uncertainties. A report commissioned by the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency estimated that if the Coliseum is shuttered, 2,660 jobs and approximately $104 million in annual payroll earnings would be lost. The analysis projects that the county could lose $243 million annually if the New York Islanders were to leave the Nassau Coliseum. The county government would lose sales tax, hotel tax and entertainment tax revenues of $7.8 million. On the other hand, starting work on a new arena could create 1,500 construction jobs right away, something our economy and our members urgently need.

Our Long Island labor movement will not give up on this project – a lot of working families are counting on us. We will accelerate the efforts to bring together political, business and community leaders.

It is not too late to find the right combination of creativity and leadership that can give our region and Nassau’s hub a brighter future.

John Durso is the president of the Long Island Federation of Laborand is the president of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW. He also servees on the Vision Long Island Board of Directors.

 

8/9

Small Business Savings Accounts Launched At LI Tech Day

In March, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) revealed he wanted to create tax-deferred savings accounts for small business owners. On Tuesday, the plan is looking even stronger.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone joined Israel and Vision Long Island in announcing legislation for his Savings Accounts for a Variable Economy (SAVE). With Bishop joining Israel, the bill permitting small businesses to invest 10 percent of their annual gross profits is expected to be introduced in the near future.

“Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy and should have help preparing an economic rainy day fund,” Israel said.

If approved, businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be able to invest in certain Treasury-approved investments. Those funds can be held in the account for eight years, at which point it must be withdrawn and taxed as regular business income. However, those withdraws can be tax-free if one of three conditions are met. The Department of Commerce can report two quarters of GDP decline, the Small Business Administration can specify a period during a time of need or the federal government can designate a disaster area like after Superstorm Sandy.

Referencing a National Federation of Independent Business survey, Israel said 46 percent of small businesses could not get new lines of credit and 35 percent could not get loans after the recession. During 2008 and 2009, 170,000 American companies with less than 100 employees closed up.

“This is very important legislation that creates tax-breaks for small businesses that will allow them to access their own monies tax free for the purposes of business survival and development. This is the first time in our nation’s economic history that we have a potential to create a nationwide infrastructure for delivering a direct and effective stimulus to small businesses when they need it most,” Dr. Nathalia Rogers, director of the American Communities Institute at Dowling College, said.

Long Island Business Council (LIBC) Suffolk co-Chair and Vision co-Chair Bob Fonti revealed Tuesday he came up with the idea 20 years while working with his accountant on plans for the growth of his business. It also had major support from (LIBC) and Vision Long Island. LIBC Nassau co-Chair Rich Bivone called it a major investment for the area’s economic engines.

The announcement from Bishop and Israel came at LaunchPad Huntington during LI Tech Day, an opportunity for local high-tech start-up companies to meet with elected officials from Washington, D.C. through the Town of Huntington.

“In order to ensure that the economy on Long Island continues to grow, we must do everything we can to support our small businesses. The legislation Congressman Israel and I are introducing will help to do just that by allowing business to build a financial buffer that can see them through tough times. I would like to thank the leaders from the business community who are here today for their continued partnership with us to meet the needs of Long Island’s small business owners,” Bishop said.

John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor and Vision Long Island board member, offered his approval. If approved, it would create jobs and improve financial security for small business owners.

“This bill will ensure the continuation of good middle class fulltime jobs, which in uncertain economic times, can help calm the troubled financial waters of our country,” Durso said.

Referencing Vision’s 17 years rebuilding Long Island’s downtowns from within, Director Eric Alexander said the nonprofit was glad to partner with Israel and Bishop on legislation that will help local businesses employ staff, make capital investments and improve the economy.

“The financial growth of the small business community is the cornerstone of Main Street redevelopment,” he said.

For more on this legislation, check out News 12 (subscription required) and Long Islander News.

LI Better Equipped For Rains, Still Not Fully Prepared

Wednesday’s historic rains proved Long Island is better prepared for an emergency after suffering through Superstorm Sandy, but just how much better?

Newsday’s Joye Brown examined how October 2012 helped fire departments, police departments and municipalities cope with dangerous flooding.

Southwestern Suffolk County was the bulls eye of the system, with more than 13 inches of rain on Long Island MacArthur Airport from overnight through late morning. Other communities in the narrow rain axis also saw heavy rains – Holbrook measured in over 12 inches while both Ronkonkoma and Massapequa collected more than 8 inches.

Falling at extremely heavy rates – 5.35 inches fell between 5-6 a.m. in Islip, floodwaters quickly rose. Large swaths of the Southern State Parkway, Northern State Parkway, Sunrise Highway, Route 106, Route 107, Route 109 and other major thoroughfares were closed, only after countless cars and drivers were trapped in chest-high water.

When North Babylon firefighters responded to the first calls of stranded motorists at 5:18 a.m., Brown said, they were surprised to find almost two dozen submerged cars on the Southern State Parkway. They were later joined by Babylon and Deer Park Fire Departments in taking motorists to the North Babylon station on Hale Road for a Red Cross-supplied meal until the water subsided.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone confirmed hundreds of cars had been abandoned along flooded highways and streets. And by the time the county’s emergency services office opened at 5:30 a.m., Brown said firefighters and police were already rescuing drivers.

Nassau and Suffolk County emergency crews were able to employ inflatable rafts and high-axles vehicles, the latter originally purchased after Sandy and brushfires on remote terrain. Both proved to be valuable tools in saving life and property.

However, not everyone saw the silver lining in the dark storm clouds on Wednesday. Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said the heavy rains proved that infrastructure, transportation and other systems need significant improvement before the next major storm arrives.

“The event shows the need to further strengthen primary evacuation routes … to ensure that they are resilient to urban and flash flooding,” Alexander said. “If this were an incident where a mass evacuation of some of Nassau and Suffolk’s three million residents was necessary, impassable roads would have caused a disaster within the disaster.”

New York State Troopers reopened the last highways at 1:15 p.m., more than an hour after raindrops stopped falling.

 

Pedestrian Plaza In Works For Douglaston LIRR Station

Douglaston is already a popular neighborhood.

Just over the New York City border, Douglaston has a LIRR station. Major highways are a short drive away. There’s plenty of open space in the form of Alley Pond Park and Udalls Cove Park Preserve.

What it’s missing is Smart Growth, especially around the train station. The north side of the station is littered with vacant storefronts and a handful of open businesses. Those open to patrons are limited to the likes of a travel agency, dry cleaner, lawyer’s office and martial arts studio. There’s nowhere to pick up groceries on the way home or grab a coffee with friends.

But that could be changing with a new pedestrian plaza outside the LIRR station. Approved by the area Community Board last month, the construction will add about 3,000 square feet of public space and include umbrellas, tables and chairs.

The application was submitted in 2013 by nonprofit Douglaston Local Development Corporation, a product of the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society, to slow decline of the area. Not only do patrons drive to other commercial strips to shop, but many landlords have not modernized their properties to attract new tenants.

Urban design firm Dadras Architects was hired by the historical society in 2011 to come up with a revitalization plan. Partner Victor Dadras said the neighborhood needs to gather together, set obtainable goals and be proactive. The end result was the “Main Street Strategy for the Douglaston Village”

Improving community space is a major part of the community’s plan, especially around the train station.

“This is an immediate, positive step,” Dadras said.

The architect added that his firm is finding successful local downtowns involve a social activity. That includes the farmers’ market already underway in Douglaston, as well as brand new bar Wine Time.

“The issue, like a lot of our Main Streets, is that the old commercial district was replaced by the strip mall, automobile, Internet. It needs a rethinking. A big part of that we find in our work across the country is redefining what our commercial district is. We find it’s very much a social space,” he said.

Construction of the plaza is already underway and expected to be completed quickly in coming days.

According to city transportation staff, the Douglaston LIRR station sees about 2,300 riders every weekday and 1,000 riders on the weekend.  There’s also additional car and foot traffic from a nearby school.

The architect said the next phases of the community strategy entail streetscape improvements and new plans for the former LIRR station building. The MTA relieved all human personnel at the Douglaston station in 2009 and is considering opening the building to the community.

“We’re going to be more actively using the station building for community functions. We will be doing some renovations there, maybe putting in a coffee vendor or food vendor there,” Dadras said.

For more on this story, check out The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

8/16

Huntington’s “Hottest Club” Honored By Billboard

Located in downtown Huntington, The Paramount is quickly becoming a popular music venue for Long Islanders and the rest of America.

Billboard Magazine named the venue it’s 23rd “Hottest Club” in 2014.

“While not even 3-years-old, we are now on a list with some of the most famous music clubs in the world.  Having Billy Joel, Ed Sheeran and many other once-in-a-lifetime concert experiences on our stage just in the last year, is what we are all about and while #23 is nice, we do not plan to rest on our laurels and will keep working until we are no. 1,” Paramount Director Brian Doyle said.

The ranking was based on attendance figures from May 2013 through April 2014.

The Paramount replaced Huntington village landmark IMAC in September 2011. In the three years since, the club has played host to countless modern and classic bands, boxing matches, comedy shows and other performances. Theater officials estimate they host nearly 200 events every year.

The venue is capable of holding 1,555 people, although various seating and standing arrangements are possible. It’s also home to the V.I.P. Founder’s Room – a private speakeasy-themed area for 450 guests.

Long Island is the 20th largest media market in the country, and The Paramount is just one example of the downtown theater sweeping through Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The Space at Westbury opened last year, while 89 North and The Emporium operate in Patchogue. These venues encourage patrons to dine locally and window shop in neighboring small businesses before and after shows.

Vision Long Island presented The Paramount with a Smart Growth Award in 2012 and sees the venue as a critical anchor for downtown Huntington.

For more about this story, check out Billboard and Newsday (subscriptions required).

Village OKs Permit For ‘Sam Glass’ Project Apartments

More mixed-use development is coming to downtown Farmingdale.

Landlord Samuel Glass received permission earlier this month to build 14 studio apartments atop a toy and hobby shop along Main Street.

Known colloquially as the Sam Glass project, the proposed mixed-use development first came to light about a year ago. Plans called for changes on both two-story buildings on the lot neighboring the train tracks. Six long-vacant apartments in the front building will be removed as the structure is converted to complete retail. The back building will be demolished and rebuild with two floors of residential and a ground floor for parking.

Village of Farmingdale officials approved the special-use permit, opening the door to 6,153 square-feet of studio apartments. A special-use permit is required for companies to participate in the village’s new Downtown Mixed-Use overlay district.

The Village Board will typically waive as much as 90 percent of retail parking with municipal lots available, although residential parking is mandatory since turnover is significantly less. Glass is paying the village $5,000 for one commercial space and providing 17 parking spaces under the back building for the 14 apartments. Glass must now return to Village Hall with architectural drawings before applying for a building permit.

Downtown Farmingdale has embraced Smart Growth since Mayor Ralph Ekstrand was elected in 2012. That includes the Jefferson Plaza project neighboring the Farmingdale LIRR station. Breaking ground in November, it will house 154 units of housing with 20,000 square feet of retail. Excavation of the site is finished, construction is ongoing and expected to be completed in 2016. Village Hall is posting updates for the Jefferson Plaza project on their website.

These intiatives are part of an effort by the Village Board that began in 2006 with a Visioning plan developed with Vision Long Island to embrace more activity in their downtown. The mayor was recently interviewed by Newsday about his community’s future as a destination.

“We have a lot of stuff going on,” Ekstrand said.

For more on the Sam Glass project, check out the Farmingdale Observer.

Eating Up New Diner Show: Big Boost For Main Street

A crowd of hundreds gathered outside Tim’s Shipwreck Diner Monday evening, loudly cheering and chanting owner Tim Hess’ name. The man of the hour arrived in a red SUV, Northport police blocking Main Street to all other traffic.

Hess and girlfriend Janet Eckel stepped out, greeted personally by TV personality and reality show host Ty Pennington. Tears streamed down the owner’s face as the crowd anxiously waited for Hess to see the improvements Pennington and local volunteers completed inside the diner.

But as the sun fell in the sky and camera crews shot take after take both before and after the SUV arrived, the crowd dwindled in size. Area businesses confirmed they saw business pick up while the crew was in town from Thursday through Monday, but do shows like these only a flash in the pan for downtown communities?

Neither Northport Chamber of Commerce President Debi Triola nor Seymour’s Boatyard General Manager Dave Weber Jr. think so.

“It’s a win for everyone, definitely for Tim. I couldn’t see inside, but I’m sure it’s beautiful,” Triola said.

The project by Bray Entertainment is a pilot for the Food Network. The show goes by the working title of American Diner Revival and uses local volunteers to help Pennington surprise the restaurateur after a few days of renovations. Food Network reportedly picked up the show earlier this year, although the air date has yet to be announced.

While paint, light fixtures, skylights, countertops, seats and other mostly cosmetic changes were made, Weber said Hess was fishing in Montauk for the weekend. Meanwhile, video crews set up shop at Seymour’s, weeks after they scouted the location at Eckel’s recommendation.

Seymour’s was home to video production crews and physical labor. And when they weren’t running to and from Shipwreck, Weber said the crew grabbed footage around Northport Village. That included the Farmers’ Market, docks and individual stores.

“They wanted to create a little buzz they were in town. They did that by talking to different merchants,” he added.

But the show may have added more than just a little buzz. Triola said both news of the filming and airing of the pilot will boost tourism to Main Street.

“I would definitely think it would be [a] long-term [boon] for people to see what a great community it is,” she said.

In the short-term, Weber added that business in many local shops picked up while shooting was ongoing.

“It wasn’t just my business and Tim’s diner that benefited,” he said.

A Food Network spokesman said the show is still in production and no premiere date has been scheduled. Sources involved with the shoot said the show is likely to air sometime this fall.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Hudson House Opens Doors To Senior Tenants

Hudson House is open for business.

Mill Creek Residential’s affordable housing for the 55-and-older crowd opened for occupancy last week.

“Now that we have been able to showcase the Hudson House through property tours over the last couple of weeks the interest among has increased dramatically. We have seemed to exceeded expectations with the quality of construction, high level of finishes and convenient location within the Village of Mineola. We are looking forward to moving the first residents into the community before the end of the month,” Vice President Jamie Stover said.

All 36 apartments in the four-story building feature modern appliances, wood-plank-style flooring, keyless entry and other amenities On-site parking is available, but it’s also within walking distance of the LIRR Mineola station.

Renters must have household incomes at or below 80 percent of the area median income, currently $105,100. The monthly rent for each of the 28 one-bedroom apartments is $1,578 and monthly rent for each of the eight two-bedroom apartments is $1,893, according to Mill Creek officials.

“Hudson House is a welcome addition to our community,” Mineola Village Mayor Scott Strauss said in a written statement. “It is one more building block in our downtown revitalization and in making our master plan a reality. Additionally, it provides needed housing for seniors.”

Vision Long Island had an opportunity to tour the project, Director Eric Alexander said, and can attest to the quality of the development and its favorable proximity to the downtown and active LIRR station.

Meanwhile, work on Hudson House’s sister community, Modera Mineola, is underway. When leasing begins next year, it will offer 275 market-rate rentals. Tenants are expected to move into Modera Mineola next June.

For more about this story, check out the Long Island Business News.

Walkable Neighborhoods Good For Social Life, Health, Safety

A review of several hundred studies in the past decade proves Smart Growth is on the right track.

Arizona State University’s Emily Talen and Julia Koschinsky compared 225 studies for their own “Compact, Walkable, Diverse Neighborhoods: Assessing Effects on Residents” in Housing Policy Debate. They focused on the well-being of residents, ignoring environmental benefits and other topics.

“We find that the literature coalesces around social, health, and safety effects and that most of the intended benefits of the CWD [compact, walkable and diverse] neighborhood are supported—that is, they have been found to have significant, positive effects for urban dwellers. Thus, on the whole, CWD urban neighborhoods have been found to positively affect social relations, health, and safety,” the authors said.

CWD neighborhoods are not the norm in America, according to the report. In 2013, just 14 percent of neighborhoods were places where most errands could be run on foot, according to Walk Score.

Talen and Koschinsky define CWD neighborhoods as communities that are compact, promote social connection, enable public transit and other public services, and provide sufficient market catchment to support businesses within walkable distances. They must have plenty of nearby destinations, short blocks and interconnected street networks, diverse socially and use of land, human-sized buildings and feature central places for multiple activities. While not identical, CWD neighborhoods are related to sustainable neighborhoods, which focus on physical qualities of urban form like good access to services, lower transport costs, and walkable and safe neighborhood.

Construction and design does have some impact on social relations, the report suggests, although just how much is hard to tell. The connection between density and social interaction is likely not linear; one study found low-rise, high-site coverage housing improved social interaction more than high-rise, low-site coverage. CWD neighborhoods typically have higher rates of social interaction than traditional neighborhoods, according to the study, with sidewalks playing a major role to passive contact among residents. Public spaces that are specifically designed to increase resident encounters have been shown to have positive effects on social interaction, especially in mixed-income areas and within walking distance (3-5 minutes). Physical arrangement of buildings has even been shown to lead to friendships.

Their analysis of health factors in these communities typically centered on travel behavior, especially reduced car usage. The studies reviewed considered a number of factors, including length of trip, destination and proximity. In the end, multiple studies suggest CWD neighborhoods lead to more walking, lower weights and other health benefits.

However, there were inconsistent findings when comparing green space and obesity, as well as density and physical activity.

“People living in CWD neighborhoods, especially places defined by accessibility and gridded street networks, tend to have higher health ratings, with an important caveat being that these relationships may not hold where there is significantly high crime and high poverty,” the study’s authors said.

In terms of safety, the report cautiously supports the argument that neighborhoods with more residents will be safer as there are more eyes keeping watch. They considered the segregationist approach of gates and limiting access to certain points but decided it only works in limited, affluent populations. Instead, street trees, common in CWD neighborhoods, help give off the impression that the community is well cared for, making it less likely to be targeted by criminals. Studies have shown that mixed-income leads to increased feeling of safety by low-income residents accustomed to living in concentrated poverty, the authors said, while mixing residential and commercial uses may reduce crime.

A preview of the article can be found on at Taylor & Francis Online. More analysis is available by Better! Cities & Towns.

Public Weighs In On PSEG LI’s $200 Mil ‘Utility 2.0’ Plan

A new plan to tap renewable resources and make Long Island more energy savvy is being heard by residents, with mixed feedback.

As part of their deal to operate LIPA’s electrical grid, PSEG Long Island is required to create long range plans. Unveiled on July 1, Utility 2.0 is designed to reduce peak energy demand, increase renewable energy production and educate customers.

The plan would cost PSEG Long Island $200 million, in addition to $15 million to LIPA for capital improvements, for improvements made between 2015-2018. They’re seeking LIPA’s approval by Dec. 1.

The single largest piece of the plan calls for a $60 million investment into programmable thermostat program modernization and expansion. This would expand the direct load control thermostat program – which gives the utility control over connected thermostats – to reduce peak demand, especially from central air conditioning and pool pumps. It would also include distribution of 1,000 smart plugs for consumers to see just how much energy their appliances are drawing. PSEG Long Island estimates this would save 100 megawatts (MW) or 2,700 megawatt hours (MWh) every year.

Utility 2.0 also calls for a $45 million investment into solar PV systems. Providing incentives for behind-the-meter systems and to customers currently unable to use existing incentives is estimated to save 30 MW or 100,000 MWh annually.

By the same token, the plan also suggests encouraging further use of geothermal heating and cooling. These systems use half as much electricity as conventional heating or cooling systems by tapping into the ground. However, they’re also very expensive, up to $40,000. The federal tax credit covers 30 percent and LIPA already offers $1,500 per residential geothermal heat pump. However, PSEG Long Island wants to spend $10 million to increase the residential rebate to $2,250, bump up commercial rebates and improve customer education. Their goal, beginning with 400 customers in 2015, is to save 5 MW or 7,800 MWh annually.

Renewable energy was part of the testimony Vision Long Island offered in Mineola on Wednesday during one of five public hearings across Long Island held by the New York State Department of Public Service. Sustainability Director Elissa Kyle critiqued PSEG Long Island for failing to invest in wind power.

“Energy from wind is one of the most viable sources of renewable energy for Long Island. This plan should include some proposals to increase the availability of wind energy. The wind farms that have been proposed in the past to be built in various locations off of Long Island shores would help to diversify the types of renewables available to customers,” Kyle said.

Sierra Club agreed the plan falls short when it comes to renewable energy.

“Governor Cuomo promised us a modern utility, but we can’t have a modern utility run on last century’s dirty energy sources. PSEG-LI’s commitment to invest in energy efficiency and solar is a great start, but Long Islanders are demanding a plan that includes building large-scale renewable energy, including offshore wind,” member Matt Kearns said.

PSEG Long Island’s proposal also calls for a $13 million investment into energy efficiency in the Rockaways. Still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, the area has long had limited generation and transmission interconnections. Utility 2.0 calls for an annual savings of 5.5 MW or 21,500 MWh by offering efficiency enhancements to low-income, multi-family housing, public facilities and other customers. Specifically, they want to help residents and businesses replace inefficient room air conditioners, refrigerators and light bulbs, and install 1 MW of solar PV systems.

Vison Long Island’s Kyle agreed energy efficiency is a means to reducing fossil fuel dependence. However, she recommended expanding the subsidies for replacing appliances in low incomes housing in the Rockaways to low income housing throughout the island.

“Many of those who can benefit most from a reduction in energy usage due to limited budgets are those that are least able to afford the upfront cost that is many times associated with these improvements.  Energy costs are a significant percentage of household budgets for those in subsidized or other affordable housing,” she said.

As part of Utility 2.0, PSEG Long Island also proposes LIPA spend $15 million in capital improvements. That includes various improvements and repairs to the South Fork. According to the utility, the East End is the highest increase in demand on Long Island. The South Fork already requires $294 million new underground transmission cables and substation work. However, they also recommend more solar PV systems, direct load control technology, battery storage and microgrids to ensure reliable power. PSEG Long Island did not offer exact costs for these improvements.

Additional hearings were in Riverhead, East Hampton, Smithtown and Rockaway Beach during the week.

For more coverage of the Utility 2.0 proposal, check out News 12 (subscription required). Find the full copy of Vision’s testimony here.

Meanwhile, LIPA is moving forward with their plans to add green energy. That includes a proposed $1 billion wind farm capable of generating 200 MW sent to Long Island via underwater cables. The proposal was one application for a renewable energy project capable of generating 280 MW sent out to bid. PSEG Long Island took over day-to-day management in January, but will not assume responsibility of the buying and selling power until Jan. 1, 2015.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Green Man Plus Holds The Light Longer For Pedestrians

The fight for Complete Streets on Long Island is slowly progressing, but there’s still necessary developments. Timed crosswalks are a major tool to keep pedestrians safe.

But what happens when the timer just isn’t long enough for all of the island’s aging population to cross busy thoroughfares?

The answer may lie halfway around the world in Singapore.

City planners created the Green Man Plus system to give some people more time to cross. The basic concept of most crosswalks is that pedestrians push the button and cross within the time allotted – although that doesn’t always happen. The Green Man Plus system distributes special cards to those in need. They can tap that card on a scanner above the button, and the crosswalk will give them additional time. That can range between an extra 3-13 seconds.

The city’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) kicked off the program in 2009 at five intersections. Five years later and Singapore now has hundreds of Green Man Plus crossings, many near residences for the elderly and disabled.

By the end of next year, they hope to have 495 crossings by 30 housing communities.

“We have received positive feedback and suggestions since the implementation of the Green Man+ scheme. We will expand this scheme to more locations. When the second phase is completed in 2015, more elderly and pedestrians with disabilities will benefit from a comprehensive coverage of Green Man +,” said Dr. Chin Kian Keong, LTA’s group director for both Road Operations and Community Partnership and Transportation and Ticketing Technology.

For more about the new crosswalks, check out Urbanful.

8/23

Schumer Announces $16.5 Mil To Buy Sandy Homes

Another $16.5 million in federal Superstorm Sandy aid is coming to Long Island.

Senator Chuck Schumer on Sunday announced funding to create new buffers against future storms.

This money will come from the USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program, designed to purchase properties and remove man-made structures in favor of floodplain restoration projects.

Mastic Beach and Shirley will receive $5.6 million, with Amagansett getting $9.9 million and Stony Brook receiving $1 million.

“Mastic-Shirley and other parts of Suffolk County were repeatedly hit by severe flooding from Sandy and Irene, and it’s great news that the USDA has agreed to provide millions in federal Sandy relief funding for critical resiliency projects in these communities,” Schumer said in a statement. “With this funding, Suffolk County can work with willing homeowners to establish flood protection buffers that will build up natural defenses on the shores of Long Island against future storms.”

This funding is in addition to the buyout program from NY Rising. The state will purchase damaged homes in assigned high-risk areas for full pre-storm value plus up to 10 percent; those properties remain undeveloped. NY Rising officials confirmed about 200 Long Island homeowners had opted into the buyout program during a Friends of Long Island (FoLI) meeting earlier this month. Another 700 Long Island properties were part of the acquisition program, receiving pre-Sandy value in exchange for the rights to rebuild and sell the lot.

Friends of Long Island is a coalition of grassroots community programs cleaning up after Sandy. Volunteers from the Rockaways, Freeport, Babylon, Lindenhurst, Mastic Beach and other parts of the island gather resources, demolish flood-damaged houses, rebuild homes and otherwise support devastated families.

“The funding allocated to Mastic-Shirley from the USDA to purchase storm damaged properties and add them to the Conservation area is a great allocation of Federal Sandy funds. Although the allocation was smaller than other areas, it will help protect a significant amount of homes from future impacts,” FoLI consultant Jon Siebert said.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

10th Annual Blue Claw Crab Festival Hooks Thousands

More than a thousand scuttled about Marine 1 in Mastic Beach over the weekend, enjoying seafood and live entertainment.

The Mastic Beach Property Beach Owners Association celebrated their 10th annual Blue Claw Crab Festival Sunday.

Freshly-prepared blue claw crab, shrimp, fresh corn, calms and crab cakes sold out again.

There were no shortage of vendors near the shoreline, but members of the Mastic Beach Ambulance, Knights of Columbus and Mastic Beach Fire Department also set up shop in the festival.

“As usual, the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association organized an event that was a shining example on how great Mastic Beach can be,” Village Trustee and former Property Owners Association Director Maura Spery said.

Spery added the event was created to show off Mastic Beach’s 6.5 miles of publicly-accessible waterfront, free of homes and private development.

“It really highlights how beautiful it is in Mastic Beach,” she said.

A number of volunteers helped make the 10th annual festival a reality, including several from Colonial Youth and Family Services. Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning has also continued to support the event.

“I am honored to support the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association and help assist them in funding the festival,” Browning said. “Every year the Blue Claw Crab Festival  has drawn residents from not only Suffolk, but also Nassau County and New York City to the Village of Mastic Beach. The Mastic Beach Property Owners Association has done an excellent job of highlighting the beautiful waterfront of Mastic Beach.”

Crowds walked, biked and use the shuttle to attend the festival if they didn’t drive themselves.

“Despite many residents still being displaced or under construction after hurricane Sandy it was a great turn out. The festival really brought community members together. Great job Mastic Beach Property Owners,” Vision Long Island Assistant Director Tawaun Weber said.

For more on this event, check out the Brookhaven News Herald.

 

September

8/30

Swapping Offices With Two Floors Of Apartments?

Scorched by flames, a downtown Huntington building may be reborn as mixed-use development.

A two-story brick building on New York Avenue was scorched by a fire in March. Now Huntington-based architects Hoffman Grayson Architects have plans to add a third floor and housing.

The company unveiled preliminary plans for the building during a Planning Board meeting last month. If approved, it would convert the older brick structure into a three-story building. Retail would remain on the ground level, but apartments would replace offices on the second floor and occupy the new third floor.

A company spokeswoman confirmed the firm had two pre-application meetings with the town’s Planning Department, soliciting recommendations. Now formally filed, Hoffman Grayson will need Zoning Board variances for parking, expanding the building and adding new uses.

Much of the three-story building would be new construction, although the spokeswoman confirmed some existing structure and walls would be used if possible.

According to published reports, members of the Huntington Planning Board were reluctant to support the preliminary plans. They expressed concerns about having architecture compatible with the structure’s neighbors and downtown Huntington. The town’s Planning Department suggested changes may be more cosmetic than substance.

Huntington village is also home to other mixed-use projects. Construction is well-underway on Gerard Street where 7,000 square feet of retail and 12 apartments on three floors are replacing one-story retail. Projects have also been proposed in the former Huntington Ice & Cube building and further north on New York Avenue. Mixed-use development was also a major part of the New Gerard development that won a Smart Growth Award in 2005.

For more about this story, check out the Aug. 14 issue of The Long-Islander.

Tapping Vacant Driveways For Downtown Parking

Last week we looked into ordinary people renting out their cars and time in ridesharing services. But what about those parking spaces when everyone’s driving around?

Parking on Long Island can be pretty tough. Business owners, stakeholders and town officials in downtown Huntington formed a parking consortium in 2012 to tackle the issue while some in the Village of Northport are unhappy with public parking on Saturdays.

At the same time, large parking lots prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground, hold onto heat and consume valuable real estate, and that’s not just on Long Island.

Part of the solution may be renting out privately-owned parking spaces. Like AirBNB allows guests to sublet an apartment from the primary tenant and ridesharing turns ordinary cars into taxis, one of the latest trends is renting out driveways, parking lots and garages.

JustPark and SPOT are designed for individuals, while ParkMe and Parking Panda accommodate owners of larger lots and garages.

These companies are more popular in cities like New York, although JustPark has a few dozen listings spread across the island. For the most part, these consist of someone’s driveway available for $10-$15 a day.

For more on this story, check out Urbanful.

Flood Insurance, Misinformation Still Major Problems

Jon Siebert is a consultant for Friends of Long Island, an umbrella for grassroots organizations helping neighbors clean up and recover from Superstorm Sandy. Vision Long Island supports Friends of Long Island.

September is National Preparedness Month, where FEMA encourages the public to become educated in preparing their homes, families, pets and businesses for any sort of disaster that may occur. Being prepared involves being informed, having a plan in place and having proper supplies on hand. Although government and nonprofit agencies assist to the best of their ability when a disaster strikes, multiple disasters in various locations, lack of funding and inadequate coordination can make the relief and recovery process less than smooth. There is no magical FEMA fairy that comes to every disaster and replaces the drywall in your soaked home in 24 hours while replacing your flooded vehicle and providing you shelter as long as you need. It is the responsibility of the individuals to take every precaution possible to make themselves “whole” again, rather than rely on outside assistance that may not come.

Long Island and the Greater New York area have certainly seen its share of different sorts of disaster over recent years – including terrorism to hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and flooding. The flooding of Western and Central Suffolk County a little over three weeks ago was nothing but a slap in the face to an area still recovering from Sandy almost two years prior. Over 13 inches of rain fell in some areas, including those who were largely affected by Sandy. To bring that to perspective, these areas received more rain in three hours than they did in three months.

Having visited Disaster Recovery Centers put together in Islip and Lindenhurst by local municipalities for this recent flood event, I have praises and “thoughts” after.  First, I thank and commend these municipalities for holding these events. It is a great way to not only assist the residents and business owners, but to give them a central location to go when assistance is needed. However, when proper access to resources on individual issues is not available for the residents the whirlwind of confusion begins. I can offer one example of many. In one recovery center, the following services were available: an intake station, NY State Department of Financial Services (to help those with insurance needs), American Red Cross to give a cleanup bucket and take their information, as well as other state and county departments. For those without insurance, a fair amount of whom were elderly or disabled, there was no help available. The 211 system did not start taking data from people who were affected and needed assistance in gutting their homes until a week after this event.  Some people that were “trained” to call 211 were told only to apply for FEMA (which is not assisting for this event). A lot of money went into implementing that system and using it as the “clearinghouse” for information and resource linkage post-Sandy… why the delay in enacting it and providing accurate information for this event? All of that information collected from various agencies was not immediately available to the volunteer organizations that can provide relief. It is very important the county’s Offices of Emergency Management look into implementing a better system to coordinate an organized response. Many of the tools and assets are available to assist residents in time of disaster. They just need to be put into the toolbox neatly so that when they need to be used, you can open the box and fix the problem rather than search for the right size socket for three weeks.

Although the area has made strides post-Sandy, this just underlines some of the work that still needs to be done to make Long Island more resilient and responsive to future events. A large percentage of residents and business owners that were affected were not in the 100-year flood plain this round. Unfortunately, many who were affected in the recent flooding did not have flood insurance. Those that did are either being low-balled by the adjustors or have inadequate coverage. A lot of residents and business owners assume that they have “insurance” so all will be covered. Please, do not assume this. As many learned from Irene, Sandy and this recent flooding event, there are a lot of incidents where people think they should be covered and then learn that they are not. I fully support NY State stepping up and asking for federal legislation to allow consumers to have outlined, in plain language, a comprehensive understanding of what their insurance policy covers 45 days prior to renewal. This would allow consumers to ensure that they make the best decisions on their future path, whether they are renters, business owners or homeowners. The insurance industry makes a hefty commission off of National Flood Insurance Program policies; they should work for it to protect their insured.

9/30

Volunteers Build Community Vision For Central Islip Park

They sweated under a hot sun, toiled in concrete and dirt, lifted heavy weight and worked under a short deadline.

But when a long Friday finally came to an end for more than 200 volunteers building a playground in the new Central Islip Community Park, there was no shortage of smiles.

“Individuals can make a difference,” WABC-TV President Dave Davis said.

Two years ago, a 30-acre parcel of the former Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center was covered with overgrowth. It had been unused for 20 years. But a community visioning for the area, led by Vision Long Island, had plans for the land.

For 30 years the community sought a park. And not only was a new public space necessary as condos went up on the former Pilgrim State, Islip Councilman Steve Flotteron said, but residents wanted a community space to promote positive choices.

“Keeping the kids on the right path is the goal,” Flotteron said.

The project received a state grant last year to build improved bicycle and pedestrian paths on the west side of the park to connect with a nearby LIRR station. 2013 also saw the project win a Smart Growth Award from Vision Long Island.

The first of three phases included clearing the land, building the paths and constructing a pair of soccer/football fields for the Police Athletic League. Construction is still underway on the fields, Flotteron said, which should open next month alongside the playground.

This past Friday, residents and community stakeholders joined volunteers from nonprofit KaBOOM! and Disney – including ABC News President James Goldston – all day building the playground. More than 200 volunteers like Vision Long Island board member John Keating and Assistant Director Tawaun Weber worked on the playground. Aside from two months of planning, logistics and preliminary work to prepare the site, all of the actual construction took place in six hours. Volunteers assembled swings, installed slides, poured concrete and built wooden planters from scratch.

Final touches and installation of rubber flooring is expected to happen any day.

“It’s still a work site,” the councilman said alluding to construction of the fields.

The final phase of the project is the creation of shuffleboard and bocce ball courts, a bandshell, pincnic areas and koi pond. The entire park is expected to be finished by fall 2015.

But it won’t take a year for Central Islip families to enjoy the new playground, which is expected to attract more than 7,200 children.

“The residents of Central Islip are grateful for the support from the Town of Islip, KaBOOM! and Disney in bringing a new playground to Islip Community Park that will serve the children in community well,” Debbie Cavanagh, president of Central Islip Coalition of Good Neighbors. “This is the first stage in building our park, which was just a dream for our community but was brought to life today by our partners and community volunteers. Without them, the playground build would not have been a success.”

Check out ABCFiOS 1 and News 12, for media coverage of the build.

Huntington Station Shows Pride With Fifth Annual Parade

Hot sun beams and oppressive humidity cooked Long Island on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to keep thousands from celebrating the fifth annual Huntington Awareness Day and Parade.

Bands from both Huntington and Walt Whitman High Schools marched up New York Avenue. They were joined by various community organizations, firefighters, a Marine honor guard, elected officials and vintage cars along New York Avenue.

Dogs and volunteers from Little Shelter were also a part of the parade, although the heat forced the adoptable canines out early.

At the forefront of the parade, Grand Marshals Chris Algieri, Anthony Mastroianni and Thomas Jerideau waved to the crowds before being honored in a ceremony. Algieri is an undefeated boxer slated to fight the legendary Manny Pacquiao in November. Mastroianni is a lifelong Huntington Station resident with years of service in the Navy, politics and Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. Jerideau retired from the New York City Transit Authority before serving with the Huntington African American Task Force and Huntington Station Revitalization Task Force.

Arriving at Church Street, the parade dissolved into large fairgrounds. Merchants and community groups set up booths amid live music and other entertainment.

Vision Long Island joined the festivities and noted the energy in the community was palpable due to the upcoming Source the Station revitalization projects.

For more coverage about the event, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Frustrated Long Beach Still Waiting For Hospital Reopening

A deal was hashed out months ago to reopen a barrier island hospital ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, but residents continue to make lengthy trips to other hospitals as bureaucracy stalls the move.

The Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) closed after Superstorm Sandy inundated the 162-bed hospital and caused $56 million in damage. A deal was reached with South Nassau Communities Hospital (SNCH) in May to purchase the hospital for $11.7 million with hopes of reopening this summer.

The sale, however, has not gone through because the New York attorney general’s office has yet to sign off on the agreement.

Meanwhile, SNCH opened an urgent care facility next door in Long Beach. Emergency care doctors work in the facility, but cannot accept trauma patients or ambulances. That requires designation as an off-site emergency room, which entails state health department approval. SNCH officials have reportedly been told to wait on applying until the state creates regulations on how off-site emergency rooms should operate.

For now, island residents in need of emergency medical care face a trip to SNCH in Oceanside or Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Lido Beach-Point Lookout Fire Commissioner Chas Thompson said the length of an average ambulance ride has tripled from seven minutes to more than 22 minutes.

“For patient care, it’s a long time,” Thompson said.

Long Beach residents said the city of 33,000 needs its own hospital.

“Too many lives are at stake,” Andy Goober said.

The situation has been a mess ever since Sandy hit the area in October 2012. Repairs and construction were finished in summer 2013, but state health Commissioner Nirav Shah refused to authorize reauthorize opening the hospital, which was losing $2 million annually since 2007. This past February, Senator Chuck Schumer (D) called on FEMA to transfer $100 million in Sandy aid from LBMC to SNCH; that was finally approved this spring.

Back in January, Island Park resident Sue Hecht, Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) and 40 other residents held a “die-in” around the LBMC. Participants lay motionless outside for three minutes, representing the danger of not having local medical care.

“Everybody within Long Beach, Atlantic Beach, Lido and even Island Park feel that area needs a hospital. It’s a good 20 minutes before you’re going to get to a hospital,” Hecht said, adding residents could start pushing for another die-in if progress doesn’t come soon.

For more on the situation at Long Beach Medical Center, check out Newsday (subscription required) and CBS.

Dead Malls Reborn As Downtowns, Mixed-Use Development

When a mall goes belly up in America, one of the most common futures for the lot is mixed-use development.

NPR published an article earlier this week on malls, many of which are struggling, and what happens when they can’t stay afloat.

With about 1,200 enclosed malls in the country, only one-third are successful. The Internet, Great Recession and demographic shifts are leaving more and more empty.

When a mall does die, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ellen Dunham-Jones said, they most frequently become office space. Google opened their Google Glass division in a 500,000-square foot lot that was once a mall and home to HP.

Mixed-use town centers are the second most popular option and other mixed-use projects are the fourth most common successor. Dunham-Jones said it makes sense from environmental, sustainability and social points of view.

Forty malls across the country have actually been razed and replaced with downtowns. In a Denver suburb, 22 blocks of walkable downtown replaced a large regional mall on a 100-acre site. That incorporates retail on the ground floor and apartments and offices above. Tax revenues are way up and traffic significantly down.

“Folks in their 20s — millennials — most of them grew up in the suburbs and most of them have made very clear they want to live a more urban lifestyle. They don’t want to become their parents,” she said.

9/13

East Rockaway Village Board Approves Waterfront Condos

New transit-oriented housing is another closer to reality in a community still recovering from Superstorm Sandy.

The Village of East Rockaway Board of Trustees unanimously approved plans for 84 condominiums

on Wednesday night.

Developer Beechwood Organization wants to replace an 80-year-old derelict warehouse and marina with six four-story buildings of condos along the water. They’re also looking to rebuild 1,050 feet of Sandy-damaged bulkhead and build 65 new boat slips.

Vision Long Island provided testimony supporting the plan.

“The improvements to this existing boatyard will support the local restaurants, an existing supermarket, gym as well as Main Street, all of which could use a built in customer base given the post Sandy economic impact. The project is a short walk to a train station with excellent service into New York City and can serve as a great example of successful transit-oriented development.”

For more coverage of this story, peruse Long Island Business News (subscription required).

Gearing Up For Monday’s ‘Car Free Day’ With Pep Rally

“Suffolk County needs to be car free in order to have sustainable economic growth.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embraced alternative forms of transportation at Thursday’s rally for Car Free Day. Bellone shared the stage with transit officials from Long Island Rail Road, NICE Bus, Suffolk Bike Riders Association and 511 NY Rideshare; representatives from powerhouse employer North Shore LIJ and members of local chambers of commerce at Farmingdale State College.

The second annual Car Free Day, slated for Sept. 22, will again focus on a very simple concept – drive less or not at all. That includes riding LIRR and county buses, but it also includes walking, bicycling, rollerblading and even telecommuting and carpooling.

As of Friday, almost 2,500 people pledged not to drive themselves on Monday.

The county executive said alternative forms of transportation are important to create a more connected island and better connect individual communities.

Car Free Day will also benefit the environment, according to several participants. NICE Bus Marketing Director Jack Khzouz said they operate 300 carbon neutral buses, while North Shore LIJ Sustainability Director Lisa Burch her company reduced their carbon footprint by 30 percent with alternative programs, like a shuttle from the Great Neck LIRR station.

“Thirty percent of greenhouse gases from Long Island are attributed to transportation,” Burch said.

But getting more drivers to give up their cars in favor of alternative forms of transportation could be difficult without support and planning. Suffolk Bike Riders Association President Bob Devito confirmed more people will walk and bike if roads are safer. Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander offered to collect pictures of unsafe roads to create a compilation of necessary projects. Transit-oriented development, Alexander added, is critical for downtowns to grow.

After opening comments, yesterday’s rally featured a trio of panels. Suffolk County’s Darnell Tyson and Vision Sustainability Director Elissa Kyle touched on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and transit-oriented development. Bellone’s Connect LI initiative, Tyson said, would rely on BRT to establish north-south corridors. Every trip begins and ends as a pedestrian, Kyle added. She also said that building in downtowns with transportation options available not only leads to healthier residents, but more robust economic communities.

In another panel, Burch and Farmingdale mechanical engineering professor Mohamed Zogli examined alternative fuel vehicles. The hospital spokeswoman said they’re supporting sustainable transportation with electric car charging stations. But only 10 percent of Long Island’s energy is renewable, Zogli added. He is conducting research on energy storage and working on a renewable energy smart grid project.

The third panel looked at the behavioral changes behind Car Free Day and alternative forms of transit. Farmingdale State social science expert Eva Pearson referenced a study that found people enjoyed public transportation more than they expected once they actually used it. If it becomes easy and efficient, she added, more people will embrace it. 511 NY Rideshare’s Katie Dunn encouraged employers to create incentives for employees to stop driving. That includes supporting employees in creating carpools and using public transportation.

For more information and to take the pledge, visit Car Free Day online. For media coverage, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Enjoying Festivals In Farmingdale, WestburyGlen Cove

Long Island was abuzz this past weekend with a festivals, fairs and other community events taking place in downtowns.

The Village of Farmingdale may have been hosting their first annual Music Fest, but the results were very promising. About 12,000 were on hand between both days of the weekend, rain kept some of the crowd away on Saturday, to hear a slate of musicians like Rock and Roll hall of famer Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals perform on multiple stages on the Village Green. Supported by the likes of Mayor Ralph Ekstrand, Treasurer Brian Harty and developer Anthony Bartone, the event also incorporated vendors, outdoor dining and a Kid Zone with magic shows, character visits and a 90-foot mural painted by children.

Meanwhile, the Westbury Street Fair attracted thousands on Saturday with pony rides, a petting zoo, jack-o-lanterns and other family-friendly entertainment. Hosted by the Westbury Business Improvement District and Greater Westbury Council for the Arts, the event also included a chalk street mosaic and a “Pop Up” arts gallery in an empty 1,300 square foot store front along Post Avenue.

Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) again helped organize the sixth annual Gold Coast Concours/Bimmerfest in Glen Cove on Sunday. Thousands of Long Islanders meandered about the city hub, checking out colorful Ferraris, Rolls Royces, Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs. Not only does the event bring people into Glen Cove, it also raises money for the Diabetes Research Institute. The first five Bimmerfests raised more than $300,000.

Not All Downtown News Is Good: Landmarks Close In Riverhead, Babylon, Bellmore

The push is on to revive downtowns across Long Island, but that doesn’t mean the news is always rosy. Three established downtown landmarks recently gave up the ghost.

In Riverhead, Dennis McDermott closed up his restaurant, the Riverhead Project, at the beginning of the month. The New American eatery was a converted bank building with a sharp-looking, but expensive design. The struggling economy and harsh winter also sent the restaurant into the red. McDermott had been looking for a partner, but gave up on Sept. 12, saying “Nobody wanted to invest in a restaurant in Riverhead.” For more on this closure, check out Newsday (subscription required).

In the middle of the island, Bow Tie Cinemas shut the doors to their three-screen Babylon theater after a showing of “Guardians of the Galaxy” on Sept. 7. The theater first opened in 1922 as The Capitol Theatre, becoming The Babylon Theatre in 1925. Along the way, Prudential Theaters and United Artist owned the venue until the mid-nineties when it was purchased by Cablevision’s Clearview Cinemas. The Babylon location was one of 41 Clearview theater sold to Bow Tie in 2013. Bow Tie CEO Joseph Masher said business declined despite lowering prices and improving audio/video equipment. For more about the former Babylon Theater, check out Newsday(subscription required).

Across the border in Nassau County, Weinman’s Hardware stopped serving Bellmore residents Sept. 13. Weinman’s was a landmark in the community. Owner Roy Weinman met customers in the final days, thanking them for their support. The 89-year-old’s father opened a general store in 1922; Weinman moved the store across the street and renamed it in 1935. When he wasn’t selling products, he was in the store fixing broken items for customers. Big box stores, the owner said, cut significantly into business. Check out News 12(subscription required) for more on Weinman’s Hardware.

Sandy Volunteers Offer $8K In Grants To Veterans In Need

They’ve entered mold-ridden homes and gutted them. They’ve demolished small buildings. And sometimes they plant pretty flowers too.

They are the Friends of Long Island (FOLI), a coalition of grassroots volunteers working in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Over the weekend, FOLI announced a micro-grant for veterans still battling the storm.

“Even before Sandy hit Long Island almost two years ago, area veterans were among the most vulnerable of the population. As a third winter post-Sandy approaches, helping those with unmet needs who have served rebuild their lives and homes is as important as ever,” FOLI Consultant Jon Siebert said.

Friends members learned about funding from the Home Depot Foundation, who was offering $5,000 in gift cards to veterans still reeling from Sandy. The volunteers combined that with $3,000 in a Riverhead Building Supply from Long Island Cares to open the grant.

Applicants must either be a veteran or the survivor of a veteran; the primary renter or homeowner; have been affected by Sandy; have unmet reconstruction needs; and be able to provide discharge papers. Winners will be selected by severity of need and potential of bringing the veteran to a resolved situation.

As of Thursday afternoon, Siebert said about 20 had already applied. With each seeking several thousand dollars in aid, he hoped more donations and sources of funding could be uncovered.

“I’d love to be able to see $50,000,” Siebert said.

Contributions can be made on the FOLI website. Volunteers can also sign up online to help with these projects.

“If people want to volunteer with the reconstruction, that can turn a small grant into something larger,” Siebert said.

Applications are available between Sept. 16 and Oct. 3. Grants will be awarded by the end of business Oct. 10. Veterans must have a case manager from an organization like Catholic Charities or FEGS email the consultant for an application; homeowners and renters without a case manager can contact Siebert for assistance.

NY Eligible To Vie For $1 Billion After Sandy, Snowstorms

New York State is one of 48 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C. and 17 local governments eligible to compete for the lion’s share of $1 billion in federal disaster preparedness funds.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Design launched their National Disaster Resilience Competition on Wednesday. States and local governments impacted by presidentially-declared major disasters between 2011-2013 can seek funding for plans to mitigate future disasters.

“The National Disaster Resilience Competition is going to help communities that have been devastated by natural disasters build back stronger and better prepared for the future,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said. “This competition will help spur innovation, creatively distribute limited federal resources, and help communities across the country cope with the reality of severe weather that is being made worse by climate change.”

Municipalities will compete for $1 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG-DR), with selected projects receiving as much as $500 million. Project not selected for final review will also be eligible for some funding, up to $2.5 million per project and $30 million among all proposals.

Plans must correlate to the community and the disaster they are recovering from. The entire Tri-State area would be eligible from Superstorm Sandy in 2012, although Suffolk County dealt with an eligible snowstorm in 2013 and both Nassau and Suffolk were eligible from a 2011 snowstorm.

Applications are due in March 2015. Some applicants will be selected to move onto Phase II with more specific analysis of how their project will make their area more resilient. HUD expects to announce the final winners late in 2015.

For more on this story, check out The Journal News (subscription required) and HUD’s website.

Fonti: SAVE Legislation A Small Business Lifeline

This editorial was originally written by Vision Long Island board co-Chair and Long Island Business Council Suffolk Chairman Bob Fonti for Long Island Business News earlier this week. Dr. Nathalia Rogers, of Dowling College, was also instrumental in creating this legislation.

This summer Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) introduced a critical piece of legislation, the Savings Account for a Variable Economy for Small Businesses Act.

The SAVE Act was created to help small businesses by introducing tax benefits during difficult economic times and by providing economic stimulus to preserve jobs and create new jobs for businesses that have 50 or fewer employees. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) has joined Israel in sponsoring the bill.

If signed into law, the SAVE Act would allow small businesses to put aside up to 10 percent of their yearly profits, tax-free, into tax-deferred savings accounts. The bill specifies three conditions under which the monies can be withdrawn, tax-free, from such accounts: during the times of economic downturn (defined as three consecutive quarterly declines in the GDP), after a natural disaster strikes a small business’ operating area and at any time the federal government chooses to stimulate the small-business economy for the purposes of job preservation and job growth.

The idea behind the legislation was suggested by a small-business owner during a federally funded study that looked into new ways to help small businesses. I first discussed the idea with my CPA while talking about the growth of my business a few years ago. Subsequently, the American Communities Institute at Dowling College worked with the LIBC, Vision Long Island, the Long Island Federation of Labor and numerous small-business owners to develop a policy proposal that would allow the federal government to help small businesses and their employees stay above water during tough economic times.

The legislation also enjoys broad-based support from the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, LISTnet, private-equity investors and the full membership of the 75-organization Long Island Lobby Coalition.

According to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, 46 percent of small businesses couldn’t get new lines of credit and 35 percent couldn’t get loans after the recession. During 2008 and 2009, 170,000 American companies with less than 100 employees closed.

In 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 431,879 New York State businesses had fewer than 100 employees – though collectively those firms employed 2.75 million people and paid $123.5 billion in wages.

On Long Island, despite favorable location and a highly skilled workforce, small businesses face onerous taxes, high energy costs and layers of regulation. The good news is that we’re seeing some private investment in new Main Street businesses across Long Island. In the Village of Farmingdale, 23 local businesses opened right after the groundbreaking of a new downtown mixed-use development. This economic growth creates an environment that produces jobs and services and adds value to the local community.

Despite these gains, we need additional incentives that will help make new and existing small businesses – the backbone of our economy – succeed.

The SAVE Act, for the first time, creates a direct way of providing economic stimulus to small businesses across the nation. While the federal government has provided a stimulus to large employers in the past, most recently in the automotive and banking industries, it has never done so for small businesses.

So why support the SAVE Act? It emphasizes self-reliance, allows universal access to tax benefits and provides economic security for a rainy day. Business owners could rely on their own money to support their businesses, which may reduce the need for costly SBA loans in the future. And every business owner – regardless of age, race or type of business – will be able to access this benefit.

The financial growth of the small-business community is the cornerstone of Main Street redevelopment. This legislation will help local businesses employ staff, make capital investments and improve our local economy.

9/20

Learning What Works Downtown On Smart Growth Saturday

Another round of tours is in the books as Saturday marked another successful Smart Growth Saturday.

Elected officials, community stakeholders, businesses and residents joined Vision for the second event of 2014 with tours of Rockville Centre, Great Neck Plaza, Babylon and Port Jefferson.

Read the full story here.

Islip, Jobco Cut Ribbon On TOD Housing In Central Islip

Another transit-oriented development is officially open.

Great Neck-based Jobco Realty and Construction celebrated the opening of Foxgate at Islip in Central Islip over the weekend.

Read the full story here.

Huntington Station Community Agreement Coming Soon

An agreement that will open up construction in the Huntington Station revitalization efforts is expected to be signed next month.

Renaissance Downtowns, the area’s master developer, confirmed they expect a Town Board vote on the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in October. A Community Benefits Agreement can be required by municipalities as part of the SEQRA process in area rezoning to provide public benefits.

Read the full story here.

DiNapoli: Local Govts Underspending On Infrastructure

Local governments need to spend more on infrastructure.

These municipalities are spending $1.2 billion every year, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a report released earlier this month, compared to the $3.9 billion needed to keep up with deteriorating capital assets.

Read the full story here.

9/27

Officials Join Joyful Vets To Celebrate Homeless Housing

Words clearly could not describe the joy within Nat Conigiliaro, but the message was clear.

The 82-year-old Korean War veteran is a resident of the newly-opened Liberty Village, a housing development designed specifically for homeless veterans and their families. He lost his apartment and everything he owned after Superstorm Sandy.

But on Monday, he joined elected officials, other veterans and business leaders at a ribbon cutting ceremony for his new housing development in North Amityville.

“It’s heaven. It’s paradise. It’s a Garden of Eden. It’s home,” Conigiliaro said, recalling a conversation with his new neighbor.

Developed and managed by nonprofit Concern for Independent Living, Liberty Village offers 48 single-bedroom apartments and 12 two-bedroom units. As of Monday, 56 apartments were occupied and the remaining four were likely to be filled quickly.

“This project is the result of unprecedented collaboration among federal, state and local leaders, all of whom understand that ending veteran homelessness on Long Island will take a concerted effort using all of the resources available in the best manner possible. We are grateful for their assistance,” Concern Executive Director Ralph Forman said.

The nine-acre property was part of the North Amityville Armed Forces Reserve Center, which closed in late 2011. The Long Island Coalition for the Homeless worked with the federal government and funding sources through earlier this year on the 40,000 square-foot brick building itself for their new office and community resource center.

But terraforming the former Nike missile silos behind the building into a housing development was a much tougher challenge. A 1994 federal law gave communities the right to take over closed military bases to help local homeless. But funding restrictions gave Suffolk County and the Town of Babylon less than the full year in 2012 to navigate rivers of red tape at the federal level.

Forman asked Senator Chuck Schumer for help. Schumer pushed both U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Defense to sign off on the transfer, while Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer dealt with the zoning, subdivisions and site plan on the local level.

“We were all worried this project would go down the drain because of bureaucratic snafus,” Schumer said.

When plans for Liberty Village were first created, Bellone was still the Babylon Supervisor. It was Jan. 1, 2012 he assumed his role as leader of the county with the most veterans anywhere in New York State.

“They are the backbones of our communities all across the country,” he said on Monday.

Not surprisingly, the development earned high praise from neighboring Coalition for the Homeless. Executive Director Greta Guarton said knocks two months off their goal of eradicating Long Island homelessness by December 2015. But when veterans were moving into the complex, hidden from the street by their new digs, Guarton found herself beaming from the looks on the surprised veterans’ faces.

“It’s been a long time the county’s been working on this. It’s amazing to see the doors opened,” she said.

Concern officials offered their gratitude to Senator Chuck Schumer; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; U.S. Department of Defense; New York State Homes and Community Renewal; New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance Corporation; New York State Office of Mental Health; Suffolk County, the Town of Babylon; National Equity Fund; Bank of America; Metlife Foundation; the Home Depot Foundation; Northrup Grumman; Citi Community Development; the Ann Allen Cetrino Family Donor Advised Fund and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

For more on this story, check out News 12 (subscription required) and Concern for Independent Living.

Grease May ‘Green’ Sewer Plant With Energy, Fiscal Savings

A $2 million investment by the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District could save both taxpayers and the environment in the long run.

Sewer district officials are considering building a grease receiving station that will accept grease from Long Island restaurants and create energy.

“As a Water Pollution Control District, every day we take waste and turn it into something beneficial for the environment. This grease receiving station is just another way for us to take a nuisance waste product and generate real tax savings for our residents,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Jerry Landsberg said.

If it happens, the district could take grease from traps at restaurants and food-preparation companies in exchange for a fee. That could generate more than $180,000 in additional revenue every year.

That grease would be fed into anaerobic digesters at the plant. Anaerobic digestion – a process that breaks down biodegradable material without oxygen – can reduce the amount of semi-solid sludge left at the end of the sewage process. Adding grease, district officials said, would decrease district’s sludge hauling costs by up to 30 percent – to the tune of $100,000.

The new plant opened by the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District in January 2013 also produces a significant amount of its own electricity. In addition to solar panels, the facility use methane created in the sewage process to turn microturbines. Adding grease to the process would create 30 percent more methane and electricity, and a savings of more than $40,000.

The district underwent major expansion in recent years. Less than five years ago they operated a plant with a daily capacity of 3.8 million gallons while the Village of Great Neck Plaza maintained a plant that could process 1.5 million gallons daily. In 2010, the sewer district began a $60-million expansion to their facility a village officials prepared to demolish their plant. The improved facility opened in January 2013 with a daily capacity of 5.3 million gallons. And this past December, they began treating all of Great Neck’s sewage, processing about 3.6 million gallons every day.

Vision Long Island awarded the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District a Smart Growth Award this summer.

The district conducted a feasibility study into handling grease in 2009, as well as an engineering report and marketing studies in 2014.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Art Nonprofit Could Draw More To Downtown Amityville

Downtown Amityville could get a boost, if a Minneapolis-based nonprofit likes what they see next month.

The Village Board last week unanimously approved spending $15,000 on a feasibility study with Artspace in front of rousing support from a packed house.

Artspace is a nonprofit real estate developer that helps create spaces for artists to live and work. Trustee Nick LaLota said Patchogue officials credit Artspace for pushing their revitalization along; Patchogue is one of just 36 projects around the country.

But LaLota, Mayor James Wandell and the Amityville Village Board believe they can be the next in line. Artspace will send staff into the village Nov. 4-6 for the study.

“We’re told there’s about a 20 percent success rate of studies,” the trustee said. “I do like Amityville’s chances. Our proximity to the Long Island Rail Road, local highways are within Artspace’s parameters.”

If approved, this would lead to mixed-use development. The ground floor would house a theater or some cultural use, while 30-40 new loft apartments for artists to live and work would go upstairs. The exact location of the development hasn’t been determined; nonprofit staff will generate a list of possibilities during the study.

When the current administration took office 18 months ago, they emphasized reducing the 20 percent vacancy rate downtown. Controlling taxes was an important first step, LaLota said, although the second phase is to work with smart developers like Artspace.

“Artspace invested in a project in Patchogue, and played a critical role in the revitalization of that village, as well as numerous other communities around the country,” Mayor James Wandell said. “If we are successful, Artspace in Amityville will benefit our community and incentivize people from outside of Amityville to patronize establishments within our village.”

Village officials are working with the residents and volunteers in the Downtown Revitalization Committee, Amityville Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations to prepare for the study. Support for Artspace, verified by the standing room only crowd for last week’s vote, continues to be very high.

“Everybody we talked to, especially our shop and business owners, asked us for more feet on the street. Right away that would help with that,” LaLota said.

For more media coverage, check out the Amityville Record and Newsday (subscription required).

Commuters May ‘PWark’ Close To Port Washington LIRR

Commuters from Port Washington may be tapping their smartphones before they hop on the train.

North Hempstead Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio (R-Port Washington) is proposing an app to limit cars at the LIRR station in the village by matching drivers with passengers.

The app, known as PWarkit, could help drivers find commuters searching for rides and get them to the train station with at least two passengers. In exchange for participating, motorists would be permitted access to parking spaces closest to the platform.

About 1,000 spaces are currently available at the Port Washington station, and that’s after the village spent $4 million to acquire four new lots since 2010.

“Parking is not the best use of prime real estate,” she said. “The last couple of years, the parking district has purchased more land and expanded the number of parking spaces. It’s still not enough parking — it’s a great train line, and everyone wants to be on it.”

De Giorgio worked with community members for months on the proposal, which would need Village Board approval.

The project has elicited some public support. Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein said they are always open to innovative ideas.

“The problem with parking on all of Long Island, it’s woefully inadequate; clearly, ridership is increasing and parking spaces are not,” he said.

For more media coverage, check out Newsday (subscription required).

 

October

10/4

Progress For Garvies Point Project At Public Hearing

Garvies Point developer RXR Realty went before the Glen Cove Planning Board Tuesday night for the public hearing on subdivision and site plan approval to convert a former Brownfield waterfront into mixed-use development. The developer didn’t get ok, but the city did authorize their consultants to prepare a draft resolution of approval. The project is expected to be discussed at a Planning Board meeting in the near future, where minor changes and details will be cleaned up before the vote. They also approved giving a positive reference to the Zoning Board for a minor variance.

Garvies Point was once the contaminated home of industrial factories and a marina. RXR Realty and the City of Glen Cove partnered in 2007 to create a mixed-use future for the Superfund site.

Plans for the 56 acres north of Glen Cove Creek call for a luxury hotel, 860 residential units – a 50-50 mix of condos and apartments, 50,000 square feet of office space, 25,000 square feet of retail space, 85 new boat slips and 20.8 acres of open space in the form of an esplanade, bike path and 2.9 miles of pathways.

The project also connects to the neighboring Glen Cove Ferry Terminal and Boat Basin Garvies Point Road.

Tuesday’s hearing focused on Phase I of the project. That includes 387 multi-family apartments in two buildings on 27.5 acres, 3,055 square feet of retail, the esplanade and relocation of the Glen Cove Anglers Club.

RXR Vice President Tom Graham said they wanted to build apartments first since they can be rented quicker than condos can be sold, giving the development more life.

One member of the public offered his approval to the project, saying the waterfront needs to be developed in some capacity and the Garvies Point project has been the fruit of years of work. He also said the Chamber of Commerce would like to see the project move forward. Real estate broker Gabor Karsai told the board the business community is excited about the project.

Vision Long Island honored the Glen Cove Waterfront Redevelopment project with a Smart Growth Award in 2010. Vision was at the hearing and previously testified in support on multiple occasions.

For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Upstairs Apartments Get Zoning OK In Huntington Village

Less than a month after plans became public to add more mixed-use development in one downtown Huntington property, town officials signed off to add housing atop the building next door.

The Huntington Zoning Board approved a parking variance to build a second floor above the New York Avenue restaurant Red at their Sept. 16 meeting. The addition would house a single-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment.

The neighboring commercial building was destroyed by fire in March. But the conflagration also led to severe smoke and water damage to Red and another neighboring business.

Owner Nino Antuzzi began repairing his restaurant shortly after the blaze next door. His plans allowed the building to structurally support a second floor in case he received permission, the process Antuzzi is going through now.

The only condition of the Zoning Board’s unanimous approval was two parking spaces be allocated for the apartments from the lot Red uses.

Meanwhile, Huntington-based architects Hoffman Grayson Architects have unveiled plans during a Planning Board meeting in August to add a third floor onto the neighboring two-story brick building where the fire originated. If approved, retail would remain on the ground level, but apartments would replace offices on the second floor and occupy the new third floor.

A company spokeswoman confirmed last month they had two pre-application meetings with the town’s Planning Department, soliciting recommendations. Now formally filed, Hoffman Grayson will need Zoning Board variances for parking, expanding the building and adding new uses.

Much of the three-story building would be new construction, although the spokeswoman confirmed some existing structure and walls would be used if possible.

Huntington village has recently become a hub for mixed-use projects. A number of projects have been constructed, approved or in the process including: 7,000 square feet of retail and 12 apartments on Gerard Street; a three-story development at the former Huntington Ice & Cube building, on Stewart Avenue and further north on New York Avenue. The Gerard Street development won a Smart Growth Award from Vision Long Island in 2005.

For more on this, check out the Sept. 25 Business Section by Long Islander News.

Long Beach Residents Ask State To Extend NY Rising Deadline

The deadline for Long Islanders to file for financial assistance in the wake of Superstorm Sandy hit six months ago, but one lawmaker is asking Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office to consider accepting new applications.

State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said residents keep coming to see him with desperate hopes of filing for aid from NY Rising, despite the April 11 cutoff. In a letter he penned to Cuomo last month, Weisenberg asked the governor to reopen enrollment until Dec. 31.

“We have a whole population of people in trouble trying to get a resource that they’re entitled to. I just feel that too many people that are deserving are not going to do what they need to do to be able to have some kind of stability in their life and recover,” he said.

Many residents, the assemblyman said, failed to file for a slate of reasons. They may not have had access to technology at the time, were overly confused by constantly changing criteria and/or did not understand the significance of the deadline due to illness, age or disability. A lot of people were not properly given information, he added.

“Two years later as residents are still recovering from Sandy, many are still falling short when it comes to financial assistance to rebuild their homes and lives. With so many changes in the program, community groups scrambled to let residents know about the April 11 deadline and program changes, however not all people were reached. Reopening the NY Rising application process would help those who are the most vulnerable receive the assistance necessary to recover,” Friends of Long Island consultant Jon Siebert said.

Other local, independent Sandy recovery organizations have observed that a limited amount of resources for outreach were expended.

However, officials in the governor’s Office of Storm Recovery – overseeing NY Rising program – say they did enough in the year applications were being accepted and don’t see the need for any extensions. More than 3,000 Long Beach applications have been filed, with about 2,000 homeowners receiving $140 million. State officials also said Long Beach homeowners received $84.7 million for repairs and $23.5 million to purchase 47 damaged homes. NY Rising has also helped cover hiring municipal workers to meet the demand for building inspectors and permits.

For more on this story, check out Herald Community Newspapers.

Glen Cove Accepting Proposals For Vacant School Property

What will happen with the former Coles School?

Glen Cove officials are formally inviting developers to submit proposals for the vacant school building and grounds on Cedar Swamp Road. City mayor Reginald Spinello released a public statement Monday inviting potential proposers to submit Expressions of Interest for the redevelopment/adaptive re-use of the property.

The city built the school in 1929 on land purchased from Coles Family, conveying ownership to Glen Cove School District. In 1948, Glen Cove officials negotiated with area residents for rest of current school property. But just two years later, New York State designated the school district as a separate entity from the city.

Solomon Schechter middle/high school rented the property from 1998 until 2011, even after the school district sold it back to the city for $2.5 million in 2002. The conservative Jewish school left the $400,000 annual rent bill behind for a cheaper site in Williston Park.

The former school building is a short walk from the Glen Street LIRR station and on the border of commercial development along Cedar Swamp Road and residential neighborhoods behind.

Spinello said proposal that involve the sale of the property are preferred, although the right leasing offers will be considered. He also said they want to “promote synergy of activities along the Cedar Swamp Road corridor, including Sea Cliff Avenue.”

Proposers must attend a visit of the property on Oct. 15 at 1 p.m. Building Department records and photographs of the interior will be distributed at that time.

The request for expression of interest document can be obtained either via the NY State Contract Reporter, the City of Glen Covewebsite or online by using this FTP site link with username: Coles and the password: Coles2014. All inquiries must be submitted in writing only to Ann S. Fangmann via email by email or fax at 516-759-8389.

Study: Rockville Centre Among Best Cities For Retirement

Looking for a Long Island community to call home in the silver years? Take a look at Rockville Centre.

The Village of Rockville Centre was named the second best city in New York and best on Long Island to grow old in by financial education website CreditDonkey. According to their study, published on Oct. 2, Rockville Centre had one of the best all-around ratings.

“We have hit the trifecta,” Mayor Francis X. Murray said. “We have always known that Rockville Centre is a great place to grow up in and raise a family. But it’s now confirmed to be one of the top places to spend your golden years. With everything we have to offer through our Sandel Senior Center, this is no big surprise.”

The study considered cities with a population at least 20,000. Each city received a score based on five categories: senior population, housing, income, recreation and health care/social assistance. Rockville Centre finished top in health care and social assistance.

The Sandel Senior Center provides Rockville Centre’s older adults with a multipurpose facility that promotes vital aging and life satisfaction through programs and activities, volunteer and civic participation and meaningful social engagement. A full schedule of classes, programs and activities are available, along with daily transportation and meals. The Sandel Center was recently reaccredited by the National Council on Aging and National Institute of Senior Centers and remains the only senior center on Long Island to achieve this designation.

The City of Glen Cove finished third, City of Long Beach finished fourth and Village of Garden City finished seventh.

Check out CreditDonkey for the full study. For information about the Rockville Centre Department of Senior Services or the center, contact the Sandel Senior Center at 516-678-9245.

Expert: Slow Sunrise Highway Down For Pedestrians

Walkability expert Dan Burden toured Valley Stream, Baldwin and Freeport back in June after state plans to spend $3.8 million on Sunrise Highway improvements alarmed the community. Last week, his recommendations to make the highway safer for pedestrians and bicyclists were publicly disclosed.

Attendees to the meeting, including a pair of state Department of Transportation (DOT) representatives, were at the Freeport Library last Thursday to examine Burden’s suggestions. The meeting was organized by AARP, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Vision Long Island. Burden himself was unable to attend.

“You release a plan without community input, people are not going to be happy,” AARP Associate State Director Will Stoner.

The trio of advocates championed the cause after residents, elected officials and community stakeholders in southern Nassau County learned the state was planning a multi-million overhaul of Sunrise Highway without their feedback. At one point the project was listed as finalized on Transportation Improvement Program [five-year plan for federally-funded regional transportation projects].

AARP, Tri-State and Vision asked Burden to fly into town and meander along Sunrise Highway through all three downtowns. Along the way, the walkability expert called attention to a number of specific flaws in road design and construction. Traffic lanes larger than 10 feet – 11- and 12-foot lanes were found in Valley Stream and Baldwin – encourage drivers to speed, while traffic lights strung diagonally across an intersection – found in Freeport – are too high for drivers to see pedestrians in the road. Unpainted crosswalks and debris along sidewalks also limited walkability, while pedestrian buttons are largely ignored.

In the meantime, Sunrise Highway is routinely ranked as one of the most dangerous roadways in the region for walking. According to a Tri-State Transportation Campaign analysis of pedestrian fatality data, from 2010-2012 eight pedestrians were killed along Sunrise Highway in Nassau County. Over the same time period, there were 94 crashes between motorists and pedestrians and 32 crashes involving motorists and cyclists along Sunrise Highway alone.

The problem lies in the fact that Sunrise takes on two personalities across the island. It’s a high-speed highway with service roads in nearly all of Suffolk County, but it becomes Main Street for a number of Nassau County communities. Small businesses and sidewalks border the highway, with pedestrians expected to cross on foot.

Sunrise Highway, Tri-State Transportation Associate Director Ryan Lynch said, is broken up into super blocks. These lengthy stretches between crosswalks make jaywalking more of a necessity, rather than expecting pedestrians to walk half a mile just to reach an intersection and then another half a mile after crossing it. These designs “really don’t work for pedestrians,” Ryan said, referencing the number of fatalities.

Instead, Burden wants to renovate the roads with pedestrians, bicyclists and other users in mind. And if a car-pedestrian accident still occurred, his plan calls for slower speeds that make deaths far less likely.

In the short-term, he recommended setting the speed limit at 30 MPH within the downtowns. A person struck by a vehicle traveling at that speed has a 60 percent chance of living, according to a London study, compared to just a 20 percent survival rate at 40 MPH. Redesigning roads to encourage slower driving and pedestrian safety, the expert added, would also play a role. That includes narrowing travel lanes to 10 feet as the default width, moving guardrails from the grass to the curb, making crosswalks more visible. Burden also advocated for adding lighted, sheltered bike racks at transit stations to promote bicycling.

Given a little more time, he believes Sunrise Highway could use mid-block crossings and curb extensions at intersections to reduce crosswalk lengths. His mid-range plans also call for ADA-compliant sidewalks designed with buffers from the street and space for building frontage and driveways narrowed to 14-feet in each direction.

In the long-term, Burden suggested building roundabouts, pedestrian islands and medians with median noses to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety. Those roundabouts, he added, could serve as village gateways.

A DOT representative at the meeting implied that the DOT would not likely build any roundabouts; she said they require a significant number of right of ways. However, she did confirm their plans for Sunrise include more than just repaving. The representative did not discuss specifics about the project, other than the initial early fall timeline has been thrown out the window with no new deadline in place.

A DOT spokeswoman said “the NYSDOT’s NY Route 27/Sunrise Highway Safety Study, this study is currently being finalized.”

For updated information on the status of this project, contact AARP, Tri-State or Vision Long Island.

Study: $400 Mil Streetcar System Could Fix Nassau Traffic

Nassau County has a traffic problem. Nobody denies there are too many cars on the road and not enough mass transit options.

But a joint study by Nassau County and the Federal Transit Administration into the 77 acres that make up the Nassau HUB identifies modern streetcars as the answer to these concerns. The best solution calls for a streetcar from Mineola to Hempstead via South Street in Garden City, an almost $400 million project.

The Nassau Hub Study Alternatives Analysis/Environmental Impact Statement (AA/EIS) was completed in August and recently distributed. Coming on the coattails of a 2006 study identifying transportation issues, AA/EIS investigated transportation improvements eligible for federal funding.

The study examined the Nassau Hub, more than 11 square miles and home to the Nassau Coliseum, Hofstra University, Nassau Community College, Roosevelt Field, Eisenhower Park and Museum Row, along with countless residents and small businesses.

Nassau County selected Forest City Ratner for a $229-million lease of the Coliseum property. Their proposal not only included a major renovation of the arena, which they will assume control of Aug. 1, 2015, but a 13,000-seat arena, 2,500-seat venue with two floors similar to the House of Blues and Fillmore concepts, a 60,000-square foot destination movie theater, a 25,000-square foot recreational anchor that include bowling, a 35,000-square foot lawn for uses like outdoor concerts and seasonal skating rink, and 60,000-square feet of restaurants. But in December, developer Bruce Ratner said the area surrounding his complex isn’t appropriate for office space, housing, stores or technology centers.

The AA/EIS study confirmed a series of transportation breakdowns in the Hub. Many of the roads are already at maximum congestion and increased traffic is projected through 2035; transit service does not adequately serve the region; disjointed land use patterns limit mass transit options; and the lack of transportation choices limits sustainability and decreases livability. Much of Hempstead Turnpike has “unacceptable” amounts of traffic, along with significant portions of Old Country Road and Stewart Avenue.

With the study in hand, FTA and Nassau officials want to develop transit improvements to mitigate congestion and offer practical transportation options; enhance mobility to and from area; encourage development of transit-friendly land use patterns; enhance quality of life and minimize damaging the environment; and support transit-friendly and economically-sustainable parking

They examined a number of possible routes through the Hub and 13 different forms of transportation ranging from private passengers buses to aerial trams. After weighing the options with their goals in mind, the study’s authors focused on four options: combinations of modern streetcars and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) going from Mineola to Hempstead either via the Source Mall or South Street. These options carried capital costs between $120 million and $425 million with operating and maintenance costs between $5 million and $10.6 million.

But in the end, the study revealed a modern streetcar traveling from Mineola to Hempstead via South Street was the most prudent choice. It would take less than 15 minutes to travel from Mineola to the Nassau Coliseum, more than five minutes faster than the BRT option and six minutes faster than the Source Mall streetcar option. Nassau and FTA officials also cited its ability to support affordable housing and use alternate sources of fuel – electricity.

Such a project could carry a $376 million price tag in capital expenses alone, plus $8.9 million every year in operating and maintenance costs. The AA/EIS study found federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, New York State Regional Economic Development Council and the Nassau County General Fund and Capital Program could cover about 20 percent each. The New York State Department of Transportation could also kick in about 10 percent.

Coming up with specific sources and amounts of funding is part of the next step post-study.

Check out the full study for more details.

Students Set Out On Foot For Annual ‘Walk To School Day’

Leave the bus and car behind. That was the message on Wednesday when communities across America participated in national Walk to School Day.

Beginning in 1997, more than 4,600 schools across the country signed up to participate in 2014. That includes Tremont Elementary School in Patchogue-Medford School District; Norwood Avenue Elementary School in Northport-East Northport School District; Manorhaven Elementary School in Port Washington School District; Roosevelt Middle School in Roosevelt School District; and South Bay Elementary School in West Babylon School District.

Students are invited to walk or bicycle. When safe, they’re asked to make the entire trip. In other cases, families gather at a set location and make their way to school from there. School officials can also have children walk or bike at school to celebrate the day.

In 2013, 4,447 schools in all 50 states, Washington, D.C and Puerto Rico registered for Walk to School Day that October, while 1,705 registered for Bicycle to School Day that May.

Both programs are supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Center for Safe Routes to School.

For more about Wednesday’s events, visit Walk to School Day’s website.

10/17

An Update On Farmingdale Revitalization Initiatives

Thursday’s meeting of the Concerned Citizens Association of Farmingdale (CCAF) at Allen Park featured guest speakers Mayor Ralph Ekstrand and Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander answered questions and offered project updates.

“I love what’s happened to Farmingdale,” CCAF Vice President Tina Diamond said.

At 231 Main Street, Ekstrand said the Lofts are moving along. The Staller Associates project is expected to house 26 apartments and 3,100 square feet of retail space. The mayor said steel girders will be installed in the next few weeks and the development should be open around August.

A few blocks east, the Jefferson Plaza project should be opening soon. The Farmingdale mayor said the smaller piece of the two-part development – 39 apartments and 6,200 square feet of retail – should be available by November. A vacant warehouse across the street should become 115 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail by this spring.

Ekstrand also touched on the contaminated Waldbaums shopping center on Main Street. The site remains a New York State Superfund site after a drycleaner contaminated the soil and groundwater with PCE. The soil has since been remediated, but the groundwater isn’t finished yet. The mayor said investors bought the commercial loans during the recession, and were stuck with the bill after the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was permitted to close 300 stores by a federal bankruptcy court. Left with an $11.4 million bill for a property worth $3 million, Ekstrand said they walked away. However, he also said a new investor, who remains anonymous at this date, is looking to purchase the property and pay for the remediation as soon as the foreclosure process is finalized.

Smart Growth in Farmingdale, Alexander said, began early in the new millennium. Two years after a civic-based Smart Growth committee was formed in the village, Vision was hired to begin the master plan update process. Community members actively participated, eventually coming up with a plan to create nearly 200-800 units of housing. In 2012, the same year Ekstrand won his election on a Smart Growth platform, the village approved a revised master plan that called for 400 units of housing. Farmingdale, Alexander said last night, currently has approved 200 units downtown.

He also said the concept is spreading across the island. Aging Baby Boomers are the strongest residential clientele, looking for smaller, more affordable housing in walkable communities. Those savings can be translated into more dinners on the town, visiting family or going on vacation. But young professionals, Alexander added, are also looking for alternative forms of housing. Those not leaving Long Island are looking for jobs, entertainment and affordability.

While the Farmingdale Music Fest may have been more geared towards Baby Boomers than Generation X or Y, Alexander said the event, which attracted 10,000 people over two days last month, was a great example of the role arts, music and culture play in the community.

“I think that’s the type of spirit we heard community members desired from the visioning process,” he said.

Before Smart Growth was even a concept in Farmingdale, Diamond said the village was in bad shape. At one point, 23 storefronts were vacant. But during the ensuing decade, she said the change in strategy and active community helped create the downtown that is now one of the most popular on Long Island. Only one storefront is currently empty and/or not in contract.

“We want to see what will happen when the apartments get occupied,” Diamond said anxiously. “We’ll see what happens.”

For more updates on these projects, check out the village website.

Former Buffalo Congresswoman Meets Local Business Leaders

Former Buffalo Congresswoman Kathy Hochul came to Long Island to meet local business owners, developers and community leaders last week.

Hochul is a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in the upcoming election. On Oct. 6 she stopped by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. It was her second stop in the town on her campaign trail; she spoke at a Melville union hall in August.

This time she met with chamber brass, Long Island Business Council co-Chair Bob Fonti, Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander and Ryan Porter, vice president with Huntington Station master developer Renaissance Downtowns.

They greeted her with a crumb cake from a local bakery and a gift bag for the upcoming Long Island Fall Festival – the largest in the northeast. They toured the Heckscher Museum of Art. And along the way, Hochul shared her experiences as a councilwoman for the upstate Town of Hamburg and pledged to be an advocate for downtowns.

“A big employer was threatening to leave town,” she said about Ford challenging a reassessment. “We needed to make a tough decision. That’s the kind of issue where we don’t want to blindside [school districts, chambers and other levels of government] – that was the sort of communication we had ongoing.”

Hochul is partnered with incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She is replacing incumbent Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who backed out for medical reasons. If the ticket wins, she would assume control of the Regional Economic Development Council.

For more on this story, check out the Oct. 9 issue of The Long-Islander.

Waiting On FEMA To Commit To Long Beach Hospital Sale

More hurdles have delayed a possible emergency room for Long Beach.

South Nassau Communities Hospital (SNCH) is waiting on FEMA for as much as $175 million to demolish the parts of the Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) and build a new free-standing emergency department.

The Long Beach hospital was closed nearly two years ago after Superstorm Sandy inundated the 162-bed hospital and caused $56 million in damage. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved a deal in May to sell the hospital to SNCH for $11.7 million, a transaction expected to be completed before 2015 according to a Fitch Ratings upgrade for SNCH last month.

But while New Orleans-based Blitch Knevel Architects start working on plans to demolish and replace damaged parts of the hospital, South Nassau officials are waiting for assurance that FEMA will help cover the bill.

A FEMA spokesman said there is no time table yet for the facility.

Meanwhile, Blitch Knevel is examining plans to demolish three older parts of LBMC. They’re also studying whether newer sections of the hospital can be saved. LBMC officials initially spent $20 million on repairs and construction finished in summer 2013, although South Nassau officials said much of the hospital remains irreparably damaged.

The situation has been a mess ever since Sandy hit the area in October 2012. State health Commissioner Nirav Shah refused to authorize reauthorize opening the hospital, which was losing $2 million annually since 2007, until they could develop a more sustainable business plan. This past February, Senator Chuck Schumer (D) called on FEMA to transfer $100 million in Sandy aid from LBMC to SNCH; that was finally approved this spring. The project was also delayed last month when the New York attorney general’s office was tardy signing off on the bankruptcy sale.

Meanwhile, SNCH opened an urgent care facility next door in Long Beach back in July. Emergency care doctors work in the facility, but cannot accept trauma patients or ambulances. That requires designation as an off-site emergency room, which entails state health department approval. SNCH officials have reportedly been told to wait on applying until the state creates regulations on how off-site emergency rooms should operate. They could opt to allow South Nassau to use the site as a temporary emergency department if construction on LBMC is underway.

For now, island residents in need of emergency medical care face a trip to SNCH in Oceanside or Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Lido Beach-Point Lookout Fire Commissioner Chas Thompson said last month that the length of an average ambulance ride has tripled from seven minutes to more than 22 minutes.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Accounts Small Businesses Can Count On

This opinion piece was written by Dowling College’s Dr. Edward Gullason about the federal SAVE for Small Businesses Act introduced by Congressman Steve Israel and originated with Dowling College’s Dr. Nathalia Rogers and the Long Island Business Council. This piece was originally published in Newsday on Oct. 8.

Congress is considering allowing small businesses to save up to 10 percent of their gross profits each year, on a pretax basis, in small business savings accounts as a way to help them weather bad economic times.

Small businesses, which provide a significant share of U.S. jobs, have an especially difficult time obtaining financing when credit markets freeze during recessions, resulting in a large number of those businesses disappearing. This was demonstrated in dramatic fashion in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. Under the proposed program, eligible small businesses would be able to withdraw these savings tax-free, subject to certain limitations, during significant economic downturns and calamities, such as hurricanes.

These arrangements would enable small businesses to be more self-sufficient for funding during difficult periods, enhancing their prospects for survival. In its present form, the Savings Accounts for a Variable Economy for Small Businesses Act would allow small businesses to retain and create jobs that would otherwise vanish during especially challenging times.

The idea for this proposed federal legislation, introduced last month by Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), emanated from the 2012 study, “Small Businesses in a Struggling Economy: Socioeconomic Issues and Measures to Help the Small Business Climate,” funded by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and prepared at Dowling College’s American Communities Institute.

Here are some of the benefits:

As a consequence of the increased self-sufficiency made possible through these accounts, small businesses would realize lower borrowing costs and higher profits during difficult times.

Small businesses would achieve a greater degree of financial stability over the business cycle, given the rainy-day-fund nature of these accounts. This increased stability would reduce the frequency of small business bankruptcies and job losses during severe economic downturns and weather calamities.

The federal tax base would be larger, and the federal budget deficit would be smaller, than they would be otherwise during austere times.

Brokerage firms and banks would realize greatly increased business as a consequence of providing this new and innovative investment product for small businesses. This would translate into increased profitability and job creation in the financial services industry, which would greatly benefit the Long Island and New York City economies.

If the proposal becomes law, America will owe Dowling College a debt of gratitude for facilitating the creation of the most significant financial innovation since the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and the 529 College Savings Plan.

10/24

 

Suffolk Offering $8 Mil In Superstorm Sandy Relief

As the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaches, additional financial relief will be afforded to many Suffolk County residents and businesses.

Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter announced earlier this week that $8 million in tax refunds and assessment reductions will be available for those with homes and businesses sustaining moderate and severe damage from the storm.

“I was glad to stand with County Treasurer Angie Carpenter today as she announced that tax reimbursement checks have started going out to Hurricane Sandy Victims who’s homes were severely damaged. Sandy victims have gone through a lot of red tape and bureaucracy, it is great to see the county mail these checks as quickly as possible,” Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey said.

The Superstorm Sandy Assessment Relief Act, passed by state legislators in 2013 after being introduced by 14 members of the Assembly, aims to assist with property tax relief on a sliding scale. The assessment reductions are based on the damage percentage of the improved property. Local governments needed to approve the measure to provide relief. It was part of the Long Island Lobby Coalition’s 2013 agenda.

“This is a tremendous relief to those who sustained damage during Sandy. Many residents were still paying taxes on homes that they could not live in. I am thankful that this Act will provide substantial relief to those who applied in order to put some of the financial pieces back together,” said Jon Siebert, a consultant from grassroots recovery group Friends of Long Island.

Ed Andersen, a Village of Babylon resident and member of FOLI affiliate Neighbors Supporting Neighbors, was excited to hear that this assistance was available. Unfortunately, he also found out about the opportunity once funds were becoming available, not at the deadline.  His house, substantially damaged by Sandy, was demolished by FOLI volunteers in July and now he waits for NY Rising funding and has been trying to recover since.

“I just found out about this. There is nothing that we can do. I was told that this [the deadline to apply] came down from Albany and there is nothing we can do. I wish that I would have known about that,” Andersen said.

Advocates say there are many who could have been eligible for the Superstorm Sandy Assessment Relief Act but will miss the opportunity after a short application window combined with inconsistent and lackluster outreach initiatives. Andersen may have received assistance totaling close to $6,000 for the first year after Sandy.

“My disaster case manager didn’t know or tell me. My NY Rising case manager didn’t know. The only way that I find out about anything to help is through community groups. If it weren’t for Neighbors Supporting Neighbors, Friends of Long Island and Adopt a House, I wouldn’t know what is out there,” he said.

Read more in Newsday for additional details about this story (subscription required).

Huntington Station Marches In Wake Of Unsolved Murders

In a neighborhood actively working to redesign itself, the Huntington Station community took action after more tragedy.

More than 500 people wearing maroon and white, the colors of Walt Whitman High School, marched in honor of Maggie Rosales on Tuesday. Rosales, 18, was stabbed and found dead on Lynch Street late on Oct. 12.

March for Maggie participants gathered at Heckscher Park in Huntington village, listening to rallying cries from community activists like Matt Harris and Mary Beth Kraese. They crossed Main Street and flooded the Town Board meeting.

The crowd, too large for the meeting room to hold, heard from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Suffolk Police Chief James Burke. With four unsolved murders in Huntington Station in as many months, both county representatives pledged to bring the culprits to justice. And after they left, Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone and the Town Board had their hands full with the incensed crowd.

Violent crime remains an issue, many said, and gangs are growing more powerful.  And it’s been a problem for years. Back in 2010 the South Huntington School District closed Jack Abrams Intermediate School in the wake of violent outbreaks. The building became an administrative office until it reopened last year as a magnet school.

Huntington Station is a part of the Town of Huntington, surrounded by well-to-do neighborhoods while struggling with lower levels of income and higher crime rates. But back in 2012, town officials and community members kicked off a plan to change the area’s identity. The Town Board named Renaissance Downtowns as the master developer for the region. Implementing social-media based crowd-sourced placemaking campaign Source the Station, Renaissance is working on several specific projects. That includes a boutique hotel and office, retail, apartments over stores at Gateway Plaza, artists’ lofts and gallery space.

For more about Tuesday’s rally, check out ABC-7 and Newsday (subscription required).

 

What’s The ‘Buzz’ About Arts In North Hempstead?

When the Town of North Hempstead featured downtown arts venues and events like the Space at Westbury, Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington and the Gold Coast Film Festival in Great Neck – all three communities enjoying a resurgence supported by Vision – for a video series promoting the town, they reached out to Vision Long Island.

Director Eric Alexander answered questions from Kim Kaiman, executive director of North Hempstead Business and Tourism Development Corporation and host of the Business Buzz, in an Oct. 21 episode about the arts. The idea, Alexander said, is to bring and retain more people downtown. That includes mixed-use housing in the heart of the community, as well as theaters, restaurants and nightlife.

“They bring hundreds, if not thousands, in each week. That helps the local businesses, helps the restaurants, helps the bars, it helps all the associated retail. So you have people on Main Street actively excited about this place. After a show, which I’ve done personally at the Space, you go to a restaurant after and, here in Westbury, there are after hour night clubs,” he said.

After their discussion, Kaiman took backstage tours of the Space, Landmark and Gold Coast Film Festival, chatting with the folks behind the scenes along the way.

Find the full episode of Business Buzz on YouTube.

DEC Tree Grant Plants Seeds For Greener Rockville Centre

Rockville Centre officials have secured state funds to improve green space along Maple Avenue.

The Village was awarded $21,740 in Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grants for urban forestry projects by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) last week. This money will be used to plant trees on the thoroughfare just north of Sunrise Highway.

“Trees and green spaces are an important part of Rockville Centre,” Mayor Francis X. Murray said. “The DEC understands the benefits of community and urban forests in protecting our air and water and improving the quality of life, and these grants are a valuable tool to support local projects to develop and manage these resources.”

The Urban Forestry grants are part of New York State’s ongoing initiatives to address climate change and environmental justice. Selected projects target local environmental needs and can truly benefit the community and the environment, including watershed protection. The Village of Rockville Centre was one of 10 recipients chosen from 145 applications.

“Urban forestry programs are vital in promoting clean air, clean water, energy savings, habitat creation and an improved quality of life for New York residents,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said. “The grants announced today, made possible under Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s increased allocations to the Environmental Protection Fund, will help improve the environment and economic conditions across the state.”

Rockville Centre has been recognized as a “Tree City USA” for the past 26 years from the DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests. The national program provides the framework for community forestry management for cities and towns across America.

“The village has been extremely aggressive in pursuing grant money for worthy programs,” Murray said.  “It keeps taxes down while improving the quality of life in our village.”

The Town of Oyster Bay also received $33,461 in grants from the state as part of the $280,000 awarded on Oct. 16. Nearly $800,000 in urban forestry funds was awarded earlier this year.

For more information about the urban forestry grants, check out the DEC online.

10/25

NYS Announces Millions For Suffolk Sewers, Bay Park

An appearance by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Long Island days before Election Day included promise of $480 million for infrastructure projects in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Joined by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Representative Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst in Oakdale on Tuesday, Cuomo announced plans to fund $383 million for sewer connections in Mastic/Shirley and other parts of Suffolk, and advance $97 million for Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant renovations.

“Superstorm Sandy showed us how important coastal resiliency is to helping Long Island communities withstand the impact of extreme weather. Today we’re acting on that lesson and strengthening our natural defenses against future storms,” the governor said.

The incumbent governor’s announcement identified $300 in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funds and $83 million in low-interest loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for a quartet of sewage projects advanced by Bellone. Homes near Carlls River in North Babylon and Deer Park, as well as Connetquot River in Great River, would be connected to the Bergen Point sewer system. Parcels in the Patchogue River Watershed would prevent pollution of the river and Great South Bay by connecting to the Patchogue Sewer District. Properties near the Forge River in Mastic, Mastic Beach and Shirley would connect to a new wastewater treatment plant near the Brookhaven Town Airport.

“Suffolk County saw firsthand how devastating extreme weather can be in Superstorm Sandy. With that in mind, we are continuing to build back from that damage and make our infrastructure more resilient for the future, and I am very pleased that we are kicking off a series of actions that will bolster coastal resiliency against future storms. By strengthening our wastewater treatment facilities and reducing harmful nitrogen pollution, we can improve water quality on Long Island and ultimately create safer communities for our residents,” Bellone said.

Meanwhile, the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant serves 550,000 Nassau County residents and processes about 50 million gallons of sewage daily. Superstorm Sandy crippled the plant last year with nine feet of saltwater flooding, knocking it completely out of service for two days. Millions of untreated and partially-treated sewage flowed through the plant and into local waters before emergency repairs were made. Emergency generators powered the plant for almost two years, generating noise and odor complaints from neighbors and costing about $24 million.

This past winter, FEMA and New York State agreed $830,383,784 in federal funds would go towards post-Sandy repairs and infrastructures. That includes a new electrical system and 18-foot concrete wall around the plant. And on Tuesday, Cuomo confirmed will receive the advance to get work going. Both he and Mangano also said they would continue to push FEMA for funds – about $700 million – to create an ocean outfall pipe instead of releasing treated sewage into Reynolds Channel.

“In addition to devastating homes and businesses across Nassau County, Superstorm Sandy caused tremendous damage to some of our most vital infrastructure – which as we learned, can make a bad situation even worse very quickly,” Mangano said. “Today, we are taking another crucial step forward to not only repair the damage that was done, but make the Bay Park plant stronger and more resilient than ever before.”

Cuomo also announced that Suffolk County and Stony Brook University will allocate $2 million to fund research for new technology to remove nitrogen from cesspools and septic systems. The university’s New York State Center for Clean Water Technology will use the money to seed a larger-term initiative.

“Healthy natural wetland habitats are crucial barriers against the coastal erosion and infrastructure devastation of major storms – keeping them healthy is essential. Reducing harmful nitrogen pollution is one of the best ways to do that, and by establishing the Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University, we can develop better technology to remove this pollution more effectively and efficiently,” Throne-Holst said.

For more on this story, check out this clip from the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Long Island Business News and Newsday(subscriptions required).

Local Sandy Leaders Review Progress Two Years Later

Wednesday marked the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy crushing parts of the northeast. But some who continue to rebuild from the historic storm expect additional years of recovery.

Friends of Long Island (FOLI), an umbrella organization for grassroots community Sandy recovery organizations, issued an update on the recovery process and identified concerns in the recovery process.

Rich Schaffer, supervisor of the Town of Babylon, offered his thanks to the volunteers gathered at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College on Monday. He also reflected on a conversation with Lindy Manpower founder Amy Castiglia at Camp Bulldog – a temporary source for donations, aid and information in Lindenhurst immediately after the storm – how the South Shore would need up to five years to fully recover.

“We’ll continue to work as partners with each and every one of you,” Schaffer said on Monday.

Long Beach COAD’s John McNally speculated a 10-year-plan is more likely.

As of the second anniversary, FOLI has helped more than 600 families demolish flooded homes and rebuild. The volunteers have also raised almost $500,000, not counting another half a million in donated materials and labor, to distribute as aid via grants and fundraisers. Friends of Freeport President Rich Cantwell said his organization has helped almost 300 Freeport families come home.

“It’s the people in the community who know our community,” Cantwell said about grassroots efforts. “We can get the job done.”

The president also praised local municipalities supporting each other, the state’s Community Reconstruction Program tapping locals to create plans and larger infrastructure investments. But while the local angle is making a difference, Castiglia said several challenges remain. Not only was there poor communication during the storm, but there’s been an overall lack of clarity on the FEMA process and dealing with insurance companies. She also said the state needs to hire more disaster case managers and make the process more clear and succinct.

Looking forward, FOLI Consultant Jon Siebert touched on solutions. Both Nassau and Suffolk Counties’ emergency preparedness plans need improvements for collaboration with local governments; more disaster case managers should be hired; federal policies need to change amounts of certain funding; add transparency to the state’s NY Rising project and provide dedicated funding for events not covered by FEMA. Siebert also called for infrastructure improvements across the island, arguing that it’s more cost-effective now and avoids “floating cesspools” in the future.

Monday’s event also offered FOLI members an opportunity to provide updates. Many echoed the 11518 President Dan Caracciolo in reporting their communities were at various stages. Some residents still have not returned home, some have but are contemplating selling to New York State and others tapped all of their retirement savings to get home.

“Friends of Long Island has been an incredible resource for all towns included,” Terry Reichel, of Island Park Battered Not Shattered, said.

Before the press conference came to an end, NY Rising boss Jon Kaiman went before the volunteers. The state has awarded $750 million, although he admitted the process hasn’t been perfectly clear. His office, he added, is responsible for giving money away and ensuring all federal requirements surrounding the funds are met.

“I know most of the people here are confronting me. I’m glad to take more because it’s not an I or you, but an us,” Kaiman said.

For more on Monday’s event, check out News 12, this column in Newsday (subscriptions required) and the full agenda here.

Ebola, Hackers Hot Topics For Balboni With LIBC

Small businesses can take precautionary measures against natural disasters, hackers and global threats.

Once deputy secretary of New York’s Office of Public Safety, private security consultant Michael Balboni spoke at the Long Island Business Council Wednesday. About 50 people attended the meeting in the East Farmingdale Fire Department.

Balboni, now a managing partner with Redland Strategies, told Long Island business leaders they have a responsibility to be proactive and take ownership of the issue. He’s also served as a New York State Assemblyman for seven years and a State Senator for nine years.

Cyber security, he added, is one of the most serious concerns. The former deputy secretary urged the group not to download questionable emails on company servers, bring home a laptop containing sensitive data or send restricted data without verifying the target. Additional tips are available on the Department of Homeland Security’s and Small Business Administration’s websites.

“Those are the type of steps that can destroy your business,” he said.

Balboni also said business owners and management are responsible for ordinary emergency preparedness. That includes keeping employees clued into emerging threats around the world, identifying a shelter within the office and putting together a go-bag.

“Everyone who takes these steps makes us as a country more resilient,” he said.

The security expert also touched on the Ebola outbreak, saying America and the rest of the world must stop it at its source in Western Africa before it spreads, and terrorism, which is defined as an act that terrorizes a people. When it comes to modern terrorism, Balboni said there are three major types: lone wolves, hackers and people going overseas to be trained and returning. All of them tend to be newcomers with no history, but no tradecraft.

The Long Island Business Council also received short updates on small business savings legislation they helped create. While Congressman Steve Israel is moving forward on the federal level, State Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and State Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) expect the New York version to be approved in 2015. Language in the proposed state bill was tweaked earlier this year, prompting the Assembly to vote against it.

“I’d be shocked if it wasn’t passed by the governor,” Lavine said.

For more information about the Long Island Business Council, visit them on Facebook.

AARP Report: Baby Boomers Poised To Leave Long Island

If nothing changes, hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders could flee the region.

According to an AARP New York report released Monday, Baby Boomers are concerned about the situation on the island and may not retire in Nassau or Suffolk if no changes are made. The “State of the 50+ in Long Island, New York” report was unveiled during a meeting with Long Island Smart Growth Working Group at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College.

“This economic powerhouse is worried,” said Will Stoner, AARP New York’s state associate director for livable communities.

New York State is home to 6.8 million Baby Boomers, 1.1 million coming from Long Island. When AARP New York interviewed 401 from the island, only 70 percent felt some level of confidence they would be able to retire, with just one-third of that group planning to retire to Long Island. Twenty percent were not at all confident they could afford to retire and 67 percent found it likely they’d have to retire elsewhere.

And if they do leave, Baby Boomers would take a lot of power with them, said AARP New York officials. Stoner said the 70 percent departure rate would cost Long Island $22 billion annually in economic activity. His boss, Director Beth Finkel said 106 million Baby Boomers across the country are responsible for $7.1 trillion in economic activity – almost half of the gross national product.

“Pay attention to the Boomers,” Finkel said.

Expenses are the paramount for cause for alarm. The monthly rent or mortgage bill concerned 36 percent of the 401, the cost of utilities worried 46 percent and, among homeowners, 60 percent were concerned about property taxes.

Ongoing rises in basic housing costs combined with uncertainty in retirement income make for a tricky situation. According to the study, 37 percent of surveyed Baby Boomers do not have any option for retirement savings through their employer. Those that do find just 20 percent of employers contribute and only 10 percent are offered pensions for plans with definite benefits. AARP has supported the concept of optional work and save plans, with several variations floating around Albany.

Stoner also recommended the state create an independent consumer advocacy office. New York is one of the few states – against 40 states and Washington, D.C. – not to have an advocate fighting against utility rate hikes. The Connecticut Office of Consumer Council saved residents $730 million since 2012. According to the AARP New York report, 83 percent of responding Baby Boomers support having their own independent advocate.

The survey also found Baby Boomers are concerned about caregivers. Family members tending to aging Boomers save New York State $32 billion a year, but that comes at personal expense. Sixty-six percent of working family members caring for the 401 survey respondents said they take time off during the day to provide care. Another 20 percent reported moving to part-time and 18 percent took a leave of absence from their job.

According to AARP, there are more than four million family caregivers throughout the state. They help family, friends and neighbors with transportation, finances, eating, dressing and managing medication. But many are overlooked when medical providers enter the picture, as an expensive cycle takes place. Elderly patients are admitted to hospitals, treated and released without support, causing them to return to the hospital. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate $17 billion annually in Medicare funds is spent on unnecessary readmissions. AARP officials are backing a piece of New York State legislation – the Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) Act. If passed, it would require a designated caregiver to be alerted when the patient is admitted, informed of all treatment in the hospital and trained to aid the patient upon discharge.

For more information, follow this story in CBS and, News 12 and Newsday (subscription required).

State Funding Six LI Alternative Transportation Projects

New York State is giving nearly $8 million to Long Island communities for six transportation projects.

A cut of $70 million distributed throughout the state for 68 projects, these plans are expected to promote bicycling and walking, as well as boost tourism and economic development in these communities.

“These projects will help communities become more walkable and bicycle friendly, as well as show off the natural beauty that exists in every corner of this state,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. “I thank the Federal Highway Administration and our representatives for helping the state secure this funding so that residents and visitors alike can enjoy New York like never before.”

The largest piece of the Long Island funds is $2.5 million for Jones Beach State Park. Suffolk County was awarded $1.4 million for pedestrian and bicycle improvements along the Nicolls Road Bus Rapid Transit Corridor, while Nassau County will receive $1.8 million for the Long Island Motor Parkway Multi-Use Trail. Another million is earmarked for the City of Long Beach for their boardwalk, along with $750,800 for the Town of Brookhaven’s North Country Road Complete Streets project and $382,520 for school safety zone improvement in the Village of Island Park.

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy said, “I am thrilled to hear that more than $7 million in federal and State funds will be coming to Nassau County to make much-needed improvements to our transportation infrastructure. These investments will help provide more transportation options, make our roads safer, and allow for greater recreational opportunities at our parks. We must continue moving forward on these critical investments so Long Island will remain the best place to live, work and play.”

Congressman Tim Bishop said, “There is a great need on Long Island to ensure the safety of our pedestrians and cyclists as our population continues to expand. The Federal Highway Administration funding will help to make projects that improve accessibility and reclaim old railroad corridors a reality. This will help not only to increase safety along shared roadways, but also lessen the burden on our environment by aiding in the effort to decrease automobile traffic.”

Coming from the Federal Highway Administration, the funds will be administered by the New York State Department of Transportation. This program covers up to 80 percent of the project cost, with the difference coming from the project sponsor.

The projects announced Monday were chosen through a competitive solicitation process. All 135 applications were rated on established criteria that included public benefit and community support for the project; connectivity to an existing transportation system; how well the proposed improvements benefit walking and bicycling; impact on local or regional economies; availability of matching funds; and ability to deliver the project within federally required timeframes.

For more on this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

DiNapoli To MTA: Borrowing $15 Billion Will Raise Fares

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has a $15 billion budget gap coming down the pipe, but fares will rise significantly if they borrow more to pay it off.

According to an Oct. 21 report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, MTA officials should be wary of borrowing to pay off $15.2 billion in capital expenses through 2019. Every $1 billion they accept is expected to raise fares by 1 percent.

“Over the coming months, the MTA will have to work closely with its funding partners to close the $15 billion gap in its capital program. Additional borrowing could increase pressure on fares and tolls, and while the MTA should look for opportunities for savings, deep cuts could affect the future reliability of the transit system and jeopardize expansion projects,” DiNapoli said.

The gap comes from the agency’s 2015-2019 capital program. A $32.1 billion plan was recently rejected by state officials because of a $15.2 billion gap in revenue. Lengthy collective bargaining and negotiating left the MTA an additional $1.5 billion in the red. Agency officials tapped resources to pay down long-term liabilities and capital projects.

And even without taking on more debt, the comptroller’s report estimates the MTA’s outstanding debt will reach $39 billion by 2018 – more than double the 2003 amount.

Riders are already facing a 4 percent fare and toll hike come March, independent of the capital budget gap.

Meanwhile, DiNapoli also finds the MTA is taking some steps in the right direction. LIRR ridership isn’t quite back to the record-setting 2008 numbers, but it has been growing after a 6.3 million drop through 2011. Tax revenues are also rebounding from weak recession numbers.

The comptroller also said the agency is making progress toward its goal of finding $1.5 billion in recurring annual savings by 2017. These improvements have helped the MTA close projected gaps in its operating budget for calendar years 2015 through 2017, leaving a manageable shortfall of $262 million for 2018 stemming from health insurance, overtime, debt service and liability claims growing faster than revenues.

For more coverage of this story, check out CBSStreetsBlog and the Daily News.

LIPA Rally Powers Cause For Offshore Wind Turbines

New York Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) joined dozens of community leaders outside LIPA headquarters Thursday for a rally in support of offshore wind power.

Yesterday marked the final LIPA Board of Trustees meeting before they are expected to decide on the renewable energy RFP as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pledge to provide Long Islanders with 400MW of new renewable energy. Both LIPA and PSEG-LI have committed to follow through with his promise.

Englebright offered LIPA with a letter from the rally participants emphasizing the economic opportunity for building on the coast of Long Island, as well as a petition with more than 20,000 signatures. They urged LIPA to follow through on their commitment to invest in 280 megawatts of new renewable energy this year by choosing an offshore wind project 30 miles off the coast of Montauk.

Deepwater Wind’s Deepwater ONE project calls for turbines on platforms in 100-120 feet of water 30 miles off Long Island. The 6-megawatt turbines would generate more than 200 megawatts of power by 2018 and hook up to the LIPA electrical system on the East End. According to published reports, LIPA officials over the past week suggested Deepwater ONE may be too expensive.

“Offshore of our Long Island coast, the wind is strong and constant. Our region is blessed with this high wind resource that we would be wise to harness as we transform our energy economy. Committing to power Long Island with offshore wind will put us on a path to meet New York State’s renewable and energy efficiency goals, including reaching the 50 percent carbon emission reduction by 2030 and the 80 percent reduction by 2050,” the assemblyman said.

Advocates also said the project would create jobs, grow the economy and produce enough clean, reliable electricity to power 150,000 homes. It could also help meet the island’s peak power demand without building additional, dirty fossil fuel plants.

“There are clearly many questions concerning Long Island’s energy future and a focus on renewables and energy efficiency is needed.   We do know that this offshore wind project provides alternative energy, is economically viable and has broad community support.   We encourage LIPA to move forward with approvals without delay,” Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said.

“The time is now. No more waiting, no more delays. We are calling on Governor Cuomo and the LIPA Board to seize this historic opportunity to finally make offshore wind a reality for Long Island,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Programs Manager Maureen Dolan Murphy said.

“New York State should be making every effort to transition to cost-effective renewable energy sources, and moving away from installations that rely on fossil fuels,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.

Positive Steps For Proposed Amityville Apartments

Amityville Village officials and residents were receptive towards a potential apartment development during a public hearing Monday evening.

Developer Robert Curcio Jr. has proposed a new 12-unit apartment building on Oak Street. If approved, the one-bedroom apartments would rent for $2,000-$2,200.

Trustee Nick LaLota said feedback from both the board and residents in attendance was very positive. They believe the new housing development will bring more customers for existing and new downtown business.

“The community and the board is looking for ways to find opportunities that will support our shops and restaurants downtown,” LaLota said.

Curcio needs zoning for the half-acre property changed from retail business and B residence to C residence, which allows for multiple units of housing. The developer would also require approvals from the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board, with attorney Bruce Kennedy confirmed Curcio’s purchase of the property is contingent upon.

LaLota said the Village Board tabled the vote until Nov. 10 to consider existing residents on the site. The property is currently home to four families living in three houses owned by the estate of a family deeply-rooted in Amityville.

“We have to take some time to find an accommodation for those families,” he said.

The delay, LaLota added, also stems from Artspace’s impending visit. Artspace is a nonprofit real estate developer that helps create spaces for artists to live and work. Village officials spent $15,000 for the nonprofit to conduct a feasibility study for mixed-use development downtown; Artspace only works with 20 percent of applicants. Nonprofit officials will be in town Nov. 4-6 and LaLota said the board wants their feedback on the Oak Street apartments.

Meanwhile, the trustee is supportive of Curcio’s proposal.

“We’re analyzing the impact on traffic, parking. But in general we like the idea of bringing high-end residential to our downtown. The more walkable it is, the better chance Amityville’s revitalization will be,” he said.

For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

 

 

 

 

November

Summit Recap

 

The 13th Annual Smart Growth Summit Recap

More than 1,100 Long Islanders join together to address

downtown revitalization and infrastructure!

Vision Long Island was very happy to see the outpouring of positive support for the 2014 Smart Growth Summit. More than 1,100 attendees participated at the Melville Marriott, with over 500 for breakfast and 850 for lunch. The energy in the rooms was palpable and a truly optimistic vision emerged.

Highlights from the event included an excellent and thorough speech from Senator Chuck Schumer on federal infrastructure investments at breakfast, an upbeat luncheon keynote from Congresswoman-elect Kathleen Rice, and economic updates from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and Nassau Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves. Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos released a report on the demographic challenges and investment solutions. National Grid’s Ken Daly announced a $700 million upgrade to the Natural Gas system.

NYS Senators Jack Martins, Phil Boyle and Carl Marcellino committed to bringing infrastructure dollars and jobs for Long Island and passing the small business savings accounts legislation.

Supervisors Judi Bosworth from North Hempstead, Brookhaven’s Ed Romaine, Southampton’s Anna Throne Holst and Huntington’s Frank Petrone, along with Councilmen Steve Flotteron from Islip and Ed Ambrosino from Hempstead outlined redevelopment efforts in Port Washington, Ronkonkoma, North Bellport, Southampton and Huntington Station respectively. Mayors and Trustees from the Villages of Westbury, Great Neck Plaza, Mineola, Freeport, Babylon, Patchogue and Mastic Beach updated folks with their projects. Other Villages present included Great Neck, Manorhaven, Farmingdale, Valley Stream and Brightwaters.

Project and development updates were outlined from Don Monti’s Renaissance Downtowns approval in Hempstead, David Wolkoff’s Heartland Square project in Brentwood, RXR’s approval at Garvies Point in Glen Cove and Tritec’s Ronkonkoma HUB. Off Long Island Forest City Ratner presented for a project on Roosevelt Island; Mill Creek presented in redevelopments in Jersey City. Steven Krieger from Engel Burman covered the economic impact of redevelopment on school districts. Around the region developer/invester George Tsunis spoke on the economic importance of infrastructure investment.

Civic, chamber of commerce and neighborhood revitalization groups were present and active throughout the day. A report on Fair Housing was previewed at the Summit as well from the LI Housing Services. Office of Storm Recovery’s Jon Kaiman led a post Sandy recovery panel with other NYS officials and Sandy rebuilding groups.

Workshops were held on topics ranging from energy, water, downtown redevelopment, public safety, arts, tourism, parking, jobs, new town centers, fair housing, transit, traffic calming, healthy communities and others – 24 workshops in all with over 160 speakers.

Finally, the 40-table trade show was great and the well-attended Youth Summit at Dowling College with participation from Dowling, St. Joseph’s College, Stony Brook University, Hofstra, and Deer Park and Syosset High Schools continued to engage young folks in the future of Long Island.

Vision co-Chair Trudy Fitzimmons reiterated the organization’s support for locally-based planning efforts to meet our regional needs.

Special thanks to Vision’s Board, staff and of course all of the Summit sponsors: JP Morgan Chase, Jobco, Renaissance Downtowns, National Grid, Southwest Airlines, RXR, Engel Burman, H2M, GPI, South Asian Times, VHB and 50 other sponsors.

Opening Remarks

Senator Charles Schumer addressed the breakfast crowd about promoting infrastructure growth, bringing more jobs and creating sustainable community in Long Island in a post-industrial era.

Investing in infrastructure, Schumer said, is a fundamental function of government. Recognizing the need to repair as well as revitalize Long Island infrastructure following Superstorm Sandy, Schumer presented a bill to fund resiliency in infrastructure. About a third of the money, billions, was for resiliency improvements on Long Island to do new things and to upgrade. The Bay Park Nassau County sewage plant, which processes sewage for half million people, received an $810 billion FEMA grant to build a more modern, cleaner plant. In Suffolk, where only 30 percent of the county is sewered, flooding is more likely. In low-lying communities within Shirley, North Babylon, Oakdale, $315 million was allocated for new sewer systems.

Schumer also stressed the importance of revitalization projects to bring back downtowns. He used Wyandanch as an example, saying he was able to obtain funds for sewers and the train station. In Nassau, he used Glen Cove as an example, where the community is moving closer to creating a waterfront community and on what was once a Brownfield site. Money has also gone toward making dangerous roads safer, slowing traffic and improving walkability.

Schumer said the transportation bill is a big thing coming up. He wants to replenish the Highway Trust Fund with this bill and make sure Long Island gets it’s fair share. He also wants to obtain TIGER transportation grants to help with the revitalization of the island’s downtowns.

“Long Island is a great place to live, but if we don’t revitalize our infrastructure it won’t be such a great place for the next generation,” Schumer said. “We have to build the downtowns, rebuild and revitalize, and get the best transportation possible. I’m going to do everything I can to deliver smart, future-looking transportation and infrastructure dollars to Long Island as long as I’m senator for the United States.”

Current State of the Towns and Villages

Traditionally, we welcome a panel of town supervisors and village mayors who are supportive of downtown redevelopment and infrastructure investments in their communities.

The breakfast panel, State of the Towns & Villages, was led by Joye Brownfrom Newsday. The panel featured Judi Bosworth, Town of North Hempstead supervisor; Frank Petrone, Town of Huntington supervisor; Ed Romaine, Town of Hempstead supervisor; Anna Throne-Holst, Town of Southamptonsupervisor; Ed Ambrosino, Town of Hempstead councilman; Steve Flotteron, Town of Islip councilman; Ed Ambrosino, Town of Hempstead councilman; Peter Cavallaro, Village of Westbury mayor; Ralph Scordino, Village of Babylon mayor; Scott Strauss, Village of Mineola mayor; and Robert Kennedy, Village of Freeport mayor.

 

 

 

 

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North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said her constituents can agree that affordable senior housing is a pressing issue in their community. Two affordable senior housing developments are in the works, including a 72-unit development near North Shore Hospital. “These seniors built our town and we want to make sure they are able to stay here,” she said.

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said it’ll never be “easy” to talk about Smart Growth since each successful step forward brings with it new challenges. He used the example of apartments above stores, saying it was taboo 10 years ago and is now generally accepted, but brings new challenges such as parking to accommodate additional downtown residents. “Every time you do something positive and try to make a change there’s an additional challenge that follows, but it’s what keeps us going,” he said. “The challenges can be solved not only at the town level and other levels of government, but through networking with the private sector and other communities.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said the challenge of Smart Growth lies not in new ideas, but in escaping the orbit of old ideas. Projects such as the Ronkonkoma Hub, the AVR at exit 68 are moving forward and the town has been lobbying the MTA to move the Yaphank LIRR station to East Yaphank to improve connectivity with tech and industrial centers. Siting recent successes in Patchogue Village he said, “There is a path forward for remaking suburbia and redefining what it used to be.” Romaine added that two areas in the Town of Brookhaven – along the Patchogue River and the Mastic Shirley peninsula along the Forge River – will be sewered through a large state grant. The state may spend $190 million at the Forge River site and the town will contribute 15 acres just north of Sunrise Highway at the airport to facilitate a sewage treatment plant.

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Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she’s seen a change in sentiment toward certain aspects of Smart Growth among her constituents over the past year, particularly in the area of affordable housing. A new 30-unit affordable housing development was recently approved, although it is now fighting an article 78. She said projects like the Sandy Hollow Cove Apartments, designed to look like a farmstead, is an example of affordable work force housing that blends right into the neighborhood.

Suffolk’s shortage of sewage systems remains a critical Smart Growth issue although steps are being made to make progress.Islip Councilman Steve Flotteron said results of a study will soon shed more light on his town’s sewering options. Flotteron also said the Town Board recently adopted the environmental impact statement for Heartland Town Square, opening the project to seek a change of zones, although it will likely be a couple of years before it goes through the town and Suffolk County planning authorities.

Hempstead Councilman Ed Ambrosino discussed the exit of the Islanders and a major investment in the retail sector between Nassau Coliseum and the Marriott Hotel which he said will be a destination for young Long Islanders as well as visitors throughout the country. The Marriott will undergo an approximate $95 million-renovation and a large Bass Pro Shops store will be part of nearby development.

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Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss discussed how construction on multiple housing projects in his village, especially near the LIRR station. About 890 units are expected to open in the next few years and Village Hall is working closely with developers and residents to keep everyone in the loop. Once open, he expects them to help keep young residents in Mineola and add to municipal coffers when vacant buildings were a burden on the community. “Every village, town and county is going to change,” he said. “We have to control and manage the change. If you don’t control it, it’s going to control you.”

Babylon Mayor Ralph Scordino said infrastructure has been rebuilt since Sandy hit two years ago, giving residents a sense of security. The Village pool, for example, was up and running eight months after the storm, the marina was rebuilt and the bulkheading was raised to improve infrastructure around slips. They also purchased property with the County to raise the bulk head and hold back water from the Great South Bay. Scordino said it was all done through a great sense of community and volunteerism.

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said his village experienced financial stress as a result of Sandy and as a result the Village Board decided to increase revenue by developing along Sunrise Highway. A professional and retail complex is being developed right by the LIRR station. The village is seeking improved walkability and a professional retail complex is being developed near the LIRR station. The village is undergoing numerous infrastructure projects along its waterfront.

Check out the full video of this panel here.

Economic Development & Infrastructure Suffolk

Infrastructure is one of the key ways government can help spur economic development and allows businesses to thrive by permitting growth, providing efficient transportation between locations and creating public spaces that enhance the value of their surroundings.

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne GregoryJoanne Minieri, Suffolk County IDA; David Calone, Suffolk Planning Commission; and George Tsunis, George Tsunis Real Estate, discussed ongoing initiatives and smart growth planning issues facing Suffolk County in a panel moderated by Long Island Business News Publisher John Kominicki.

Gregory said the legislature has pushed for funding for transportation improvements and service expansions, such as the bus service. He also discussed progress on improvement initiatives to Nicolls Road and the 110 corridor. Progress is being made on smart development infrastructure projects in Wyandanch Village, the Ronkonkoma Hub, the Heartland Project, East Farmingdale and Huntington village that will attract and create jobs.

“Community based planning is critical in everything,” said Minieri. “People have the right to know what the long-term vision is for a location…When you do a regional plan and do the proper community outreach and come together with good planning and great design, it can eliminate some of the concerns or fear of the unknown. Then you implement and modify as times change.”

Panel guests agreed that affordable housing is the most pressing issue facing not only Suffolk County, but all of Long Island. Affordable housing is required to house the aging population and to entice young professionals to stay and invest in the communities they grew up in.

Young professionals of the Millennial generation are attracted to connected communities with vibrant downtowns where they can live, work, and play all in one spot, Tsunis pointed out. “Amityville, Mineola, Westbury, Valley Stream, and Patchogue are getting it right,” he said. “Millennials are not in a position to buy homes, they rent.”

County leaders hope that Suffolk’s transit-oriented development, water quality initiatives and tax incentive programs will provide the infrastructure to attract businesses and developers provide job opportunities and build affordable housing for the young workforce and their future families.

Minieri discussed County initiatives to extend the LIRR’s further north and south to R&D hubs and create transit-oriented districts, as well as initiatives to connect MacArthur airport with the Ronkonkoma hub. Calone added that zoning flexibility around new transportation hubs can be used to both entice developers and drive the use of public transportation by residents.

The panel also discussed shifting population demographics in Suffolk County. Currently the fastest growing age demographic is ages 55-75, according to Kominicki, with the largest growth in ages 0-2 being among minority populations. Gregory said the majority of people in America will be people of color by 2042, and considering that many of those people live in and are served by failing schools, a sincere effort should be made to invest in our schools. Calone added that underserved schools should be better funded and for investment in STEM programs.

Tsunis said communities should embrace diversity because many new entrepreneurs are from minority groups and will hire local workers.

Calone said that the county will soon unveil its first comprehensive plan since the late 70s. The document has been in the works for two years and is expected to be wrapping up within the next two months, he said.

View highlights of this panel here.

Complete Streets

On the Complete Streets panel, AARP’s Will Stoner, Wendel’s Dean Gowen, BikeLid’s Kimberly Pettit, Greenman Pedersen’sFrank Pearsen, author John Massengale and moderator Veronica Vanterpool from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign looked at Long Island’s roads and how to make them safer for all uses.

Vanterpool touched on Sunrise Highway tours this summer with walkability expert Dan Burden before moving on to Tri-State’s report of the most dangerous roads. The most deadly road for pedestrians in 2013 was Jericho Turnpike, supplanting Hempstead Turnpike.

Gowen said the island needs to upgrade roads with new utilities and design them for accessibility if traffic flow is to improve. He recommended projects like creating separate bike lanes, planting trees, installing smart LED traffic signals and moving overhead utility lines underground.

Pettit, whose company created a 200-pound bike shelter they hope to sell to municipalities across the northeast, focused heavily on bicyclists. She emphasized the need for segregated bike and walking paths. BikeLid shelters are currently available for downtowns and train stations, and other potential sites.

Massengale is the author of “Street Design, the Secret to Great Cities and Towns.” The government is responsible for building roads in both urban and rural communities, he said. Back in the 1990s, they funded bike roadways. Earlier in that century, he added, many New York City roads were one-way, making them a place where people wanted to be.

AARP has 33 million members, Stoner said, and 200 municipalities have 200 Complete Streets policies. When senior citizens can no longer drive, they become isolated. He also touched on the state Department of Transportation’s plans to spend $3.8 million on Sunrise Highway improvements in Nassau County without any local involvement. AARP was a part of the Burden tours, which called on uniform, narrower lanes to calm traffic.

Pearsen worked for the state Department of Transportation until leaving for Greenman Pedersen. In the Summit, he touched on the Newbridge Road project in East Meadow. They put the thoroughfare on a road diet, turning a two-lane road in each direction into a one-lane road each way with a central turning lane. Pearsen also said streets must be designed to accommodate bikers and pedestrians.

View highlights of this panel here.

Renewable Energy

The Renewable Energy panel was moderated by Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who worked closely with Caithness to bring one of the cleanest power plants in the northeast to Long Island, and featured three people well connected with Long Island’s efforts to grow clean energy sources in our region: Clint Plummer from Deepwater Wind, Beth Fiteni from NYSERDA, and Tara Bono from EmPower Solar.

The panel opened with Plummer speaking on the challenges of energy infrastructure East of Riverhead that Deepwater has been confronting.  Due to aging infrastructure it has become difficult to keep up with the needs of a growing population. He noted that wind could go a long way in counterbalancing that, especially during some of the peak times of the day when the strain on the local grid grows enormously. He also said the turbine technology has improved to the point where they can be placed so far offshore that they would not be visible, which could help to quiet some of the resistance to placement. Plummer also noted that offshore wind is a growing industry with Long Island’s geographic location positioning it to be a leader in employing the 13,000 Americans projected to be in the inustry by 2030.

Next, Fiteni spoke on NYSERDA’s efforts to incentivize solar and renewable energy in the region. She identified lowering costs not generally associated with installation such as training and the price to manufacture the panels as potential challenges. NYSERDA has been working to help lower those while incentivizing installation and streamlining the process for lower income communities. New York State also has a program called K Solar that is administered by NYSERDA and provides rebates for those who need it while offering loans at a lower interest rate to off set the cost of installation. They’ve also been working to change local zoning codes to help incentivize residents while offering free energy audits to those interested in switching over to renewable energy. She also briefly touched on other smaller renewable energy programs that provide small scale wind, geothermal and solar thermal energy.

Finally, Bono spoke on EmPower’s efforts on the island, noting that Long Island’s energy is usually provided National Grid and aging, older power plants. However, that is changing, with Long Island being home to the largest solar power plant east of the Mississippi. PSEG has also been growing its solar infrastructure, more than doubling their units from five to 10,000 in the past few years. As a source of energy solar is an excellent alternative, especially considering that Long Island is the second most expensive energy consumer in the country. The number of incentives is also on the rise in the form of tax credits, flexible financing options, high lifetime savings, amenable zoning codes, and solar ready homes having a higher home value.

View highlights of this panel here.

Financing Transit-Oriented Developments

The Financing TODs panel dug into some of the more pragmatic issues in getting Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) built. Anthony Manetta of Standard Advisors Group began the panel by acknowledging that elected officials are beginning to understand that Transit-Oriented Development is one way to help mitigate the “brain drain” trend that has been occurring on Long Island without completely changing the suburban landscape but rather adapting to economic and social trends. He then introduced the panel of speakers from both the public and private side of TOD financing.

Bob Paley of the MTA explained how TODs need to be conceived from a neighborhood perspective. They need a higher degree of coordination to stitch together all of the elements including the public realm. Parking garages are a major component of suburban TODs and can be financed publicly through federal programs or privately through increased land value and lease-able space that wraps the structure.

Gerry Bogacz of NYMTC explained the “T” in TOD is key. There has to be local desire and a local government that can help coordinate local, state and federal programs and agencies to fund different elements of the development. Municipalities have to learn a lot to accomplish this and having a mix of transit services can improve the success of the development.

Matt Frank of the Richman group pointed out the two issues that impact the financial feasibility of a project which are infrastructure and density.  The private elements will be able to get funding, but paying for the public infrastructure can be difficult whether it’s a plaza or a parking garage.  The developer can only pay for it is there is enough density in the project to cover the cost-there needs to be public private partnerships to make things work.

Andrew Saluk of NEFCU explained how the more local nature of credit unions can sometimes be more flexible with financing than larger institutions. Having employees familiar with the local economy can help a credit union assess the viability of a project and offer insight that may not be available to national banks. He also explained how residential development is always the lowest risk to finance, particularly apartments- people always need a place to live, and mixed use makes sense from the perspective of the “economics of life.”

Bill Purschke of Zodiac Title Services explained how the title process factors into the development process. Mixed use, transit oriented projects aren’t completely new or different than conventional development, just more complex. They work behind the scenes with developers government and owners to help facilitate the process – many times transfer of ownership and easements are needed to create the development that is a mix of private and public.

Fair Housing/Segregation On LI

Quoting Reverend Goodhue, Huntington Township Housing Coalition’s Dr. Richard Koubek started the Fair Housing/Segregation on LI panel by saying “Let’s pray for a welcoming community,” which inherently comes down to welcoming zoning reform, racial diversity, different household types and affordable (local AMI-based) opportunities on Long Island. Joined by Michelle Santantonio of Long Island Housing Services, Sol Marie Alfonso-Jones of Long Island Community Foundation and moderated by Lawrence Levy of Hofstra University, the panel covered the history of housing segregation, current discriminatory practices and efforts to combat it.

As the third most segregated suburb in the United States, U.S. Census data shows that school segregation and housing-cost burden has gotten worse over the past five years. Tracking school district scores shows the worst effects of these practices on LI’s youth; it is evident in the test scores, numbers attending four year colleges and the concentration of poverty by school district in the region. Yet despite the data, there’s been no shift in the conversation to race and social justice from elected officials or Albany. Only the economics of failing to diversify the housing stock resonates with voters. Panelists agreed that stronger enforcement of anti-discrimination housing practices and population planning in Nassau and Suffolk are needed to arm allies and elected officials with the facts, and confront Long Islanders with harsh truths.

View highlights of this panel here.

Downtown Showcase Nassau

The Downtown Showcase Nassau County panel, moderated by John O’Connell of Herald Publications, focused on the successful Smart Growth projects in a few key Nassau County communities. Leaders of these communities, many of whom spoke on the panel, have overcome and continue to overcome the challenges of parking, retaining millenials and aging baby boomers, pedestrian safety, infrastructure, and attracting tourists and customers. The primary theme of this panel was gaining community support and only implementing projects that made sense in the community. They also agreed on the importance of building a partnership within all levels of government to keep projects making steady progress despite political shifts.

Jean Celender, mayor of the Village of Great Neck Plaza, highlighted some of the major successes of redesigning the village’s downtown corridor, including complete streets elements to make the area more appealing to the changing face of Long Island. There are more than 90 apartment buildings next to the train, safer streets for pedestrians, traffic circles to ease traffic congestion, and a textbook example of a successful road diet.

Peter Cavallaro, mayor of the Village of Westbury, spoke about the need for taking negatives in a downtown and turning them into positives. He led the way in transforming many underutilized spaces in his village into condos, co-ops, public green spaces, and cultural destinations such as The Space at Westbury. The performing arts center has been the single most successful project they have done, paving the way for the creation of the Greater Westbury Council for the Arts and other ongoing arts-based community events.

Joe Scalero, clerk from the Village of Westbury, spoke on the need for community support in all aspects of downtown revitalizations. It’s no longer about fighting, he said, but about the question “does this fit our vision and the community’s needs?”  Individual projects add up, but it helps prevent people from feeling like they’re being trampled by redevelopment. They have been able to secure nearly half a billion dollars of private investment since the approval of Jack Martins’ master plan for the village almost a decade ago.

Jorge Martinez, trustee from the Village of Freeport, is also a small business owner and a member of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He noted it is crucial that leaders work together on all levels of government, without complaint, to get things done. As a trustee of one of the largest villages in New York State, Martinez also said he and his fellow board have to be active within the community.

Sal Coco from Beatty, Harvey, Coco Architects highlighted some of the projects they have developed around Long Island, including a “Superblock” of apartments, boardwalk retail, access to the LIRR, and parking in Long Beach; and a TOD in Valley Stream with apartments, mixed-use retail buildings, and parking.

View highlights of this panel here.

Public Safety

Former Suffolk County Police Chief Robert Moore, now the directory of Security with Astoria Bank, moderated a panel on Public Safety. Police can prevent crime, but so can communities, youth programs and private security companies. Greg Ohanessian, of I-Tech Security; Lionel Chitty, of the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce; and Dr. Elizabeth Isakson, of Docs for Tots, were part of the discussion.

The panel, which represented various organizations across Long Island, discussed the public safety needs of Long Island communities and how to implement proper strategies pertaining to downtown revitalization and smart growth.

Many of the panelists concluded that positive “curb appeal” not only helps with the economic impact of the area, but deters vandalism, burglary and other undesirable action. Panelists agreed that planning properly is important. If an area is not maintained, well lit and walkable, problems can emerge.

Technology has increased the public safety aspect dramatically in many business improvement districts. Use of surveillance cameras in downtowns, schools and faith-based organizations have not only aided in prosecution on crimes, but as a deterrent as well. Implementation of proper lighting, Wi-Fi access and cell booster systems continue to improve the general quality of life as well as assist with public safety concerns.

Education has been proven to be a formidable tool in combating crime. For example, the Nurse-Family Partnership program provides nurse home visits to pregnant women with no previous live births, most of whom are low-income, unmarried, and teenagers. The nurses visit the women approximately once per month during their pregnancy and the first two years of their children’s lives. These nurses teach positive health related behaviors, competent care of children and maternal personal development (family planning, educational achievement, and participation in the workforce). Studies have shown that this dramatically decreases crime for both the mother and the upcoming generation. More can be read about this program here.

The overall message and take back from the discussion was to increase collaborative efforts between the police department, local municipalities, businesses, nonprofit sector and community stakeholders. An example was given where a chamber of commerce had made a purchase of surveillance equipment that would be installed at a local business adjacent to a vacant, poorly-lit building. The “set up” ended up catching vandals in the act, and also sent a message that the area is being watched. There will never be enough funding to curb all public safety issues, but through a collaborative effort significant improvements are possible. By creating a “storefront omnipresence” of concerned stakeholders giving the illusion that all is being cared for, issues such as trash, loitering, vandalism and overall public safety can be dealt with more effectively. This will only help business districts and the community in general thrive.

Retail Opportunities

During the Retail Opportunities workshop, Gina Coletti of the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce; Molly McKay, of Willdan Financial Services; Julie Marchesella, of the Nassau Council Chambers of Commerce; and moderator Bob Feldman, of Basser-Kaufmandiscussed what makes a successful downtown, what attributes towns have to make it work, and how retail can be used to make the community a destination. Retailers who are thriving help to create a great active downtown. Huntington and Rockville Centre are some examples where a focus on retail helped in the making of a great downtown. Some of the components to this success include parking, entertainment, food and bars. Merrick has a higher occupancy rate after downtown revitalization. One of the tools they used to create a vibrant storefront is to have two retailers within one store front.

Panelists talked about some questions to ask before renting out a store front like getting an idea the business and what their long term goals are, and what makes their store different from five of their competitors. Successful downtowns need retailers driven to compete to be unique. Internet causes a lot of competition so as a retailer, awareness of online competition is important.  Encourage all retail stores to get on the internet and participate in social media. Successful independent merchants can offer things Wal-Mart can’t do. Activating people who put themselves out in a unique manner to reach out to others on the Internet. Nassau County’s advertising campaign is an example of a commercial.  Post-Sandy, it allowed for a focus on businesses affected by Superstorm Sandy as they came back online. The main idea of “shop locally” shows the importance of retail and Main Streets. The speakers in the commercial are all local merchants whom each offer a unique set of skills and area of expertise.

Coletti talked about the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Board where one of their projects focused on an old armory.  As part of the revitalization efforts, the armory projected looked at how that space can be used to fill the void in retail and community needs. The project now includes a new library, new gazebo, summer concert series, tennis courts, and created a hub of activity. Store fronts around area saw an increase in business, and a decrease in taxes and vacancies. Although they took years to achieve, it created something that completely changed the town. Eighty to ninety percent of downtown retail is not unique, however uniqueness is great but not necessary. Entertainment had become a real driver and replaced simple retail.

In regards to the the type of retail, Victor Dadras said “main street as retail in a 19th century old model.” Main streets cannot compete with big boxes. Big boxes serve a certain purpose however, small businesses and a vibrant downtown can do more to create a vibrant community.  In looking at what needs to be done to attract independent retailers and retain them, speakers mentioned, the need for a mall manager, downtown manager, or bid manger. This person can provide oversight to the types of business that are coming in. For instance, a local bakery as opposed to a Dunkin Donuts. Both are small business owners, but one is simply part of franchise.

Feldman added that as a human is it is our nature to “perceiver, reinvent and thrive.” Within vacant store front- downtown managers can host open houses to educate young prospective retailers/buyers . They can highlight the potential to prospective retailers of being in their downtown.

McKay encouraged retailers to look for density. When trying to distinguish a business, it’s all about the façade. Having clear answers and direction is also important. “When issues are out of our control as a developer you will walk away” said McKay. Developers prefer municipalities that want to work with them. A thriving downtown culture can be achieved by using social media as a promotional tool.

Youth Vision for LI’s Future

Those attending the Youth Vision for LI’s Future panel heard from four young professionals with advice to keep college graduates and Millennials on Long Island. The panelists included Jeff Guillot, founder of the Suburban Millenial Institute; Meghan Sullivan, a student at St. Joseph’s College; David Viana, president of the Baldwin Civic Association and a student at SUNY Stony Brook; and Elisabeth Muehlemann, the Americorps Community emergency preparedness coordinator for the Long Island Volunteer Center. Questions were posed to the panelists by moderator Dr. Nathalia Rogers from Dowling College. Questions included: What are some of the issues young people face? How can we keep young people on Long Island? How can we increase diversity and immigration on Long Island? Common themes included a discussion on affordable housing, increasing transportation options, making downtown areas with activities to do and incentivizing corporations to create jobs on Long Island so that our college graduates don’t move to other locations.

Each panelist was asked to draw on their own personal experiences to bring a unique perspective to the conversation. As Guillot spoke about the importance of incentivizing employers with tax benefits to employ millennials just as Baltimore incentivizes employers to employ immigrants. Guillot also discussed the importance of encouraging immigration and emigration to this area so increase the number of people paying into the tax base. Viana focused on the importance of young people becoming involved in local government so that their interests are represented. He also articulated the necessity of creating downtowns around colleges that are inexpensive and will cause college graduates to want to stay in the area. Sullivan has been studying Recreational Therapy at St. Joseph’s. She was able to explain the importance of creating unique recreational facilities on Long Island that make people want to visit for the one of a kind activities they can do and places they can go to. Sullivan also described cultural centers as a necessity to help make those with diverse backgrounds feel more welcome. Muehlemann was an environmental geography major and works very closely with communities on Long Island so her concerns were the public health issues related to the environmental degradation of our land and waterways. She said the lack of community spaces that facilitate collaboration between organizations and make people feel connected to the people around them.

It was clear from the opinions of these millennials that decision makers and developers need to listen to our young people because if the suggested changes aren’t made we will continue to lose bright young people to more affordable areas that provide the infrastructure for the lifestyle that young people are looking for.

View highlights of this panel here and here.

Economic Development & Infrastructure Nassau

The Economic Development & Infrastructure Nassau panel, moderated by Long Island Business Council Nassau Chair Rich Bivone, focused on increasing the appeal of Nassau County as a place for business. With New York City becoming increasingly unaffordable for most businesses, including film, manufacturing, and international companies’ world headquarters, it is crucial for the vitality of Long Island that we attract these businesses here. By bringing in good jobs, young professionals are more likely to work here, live here, and shop here. Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, Nassau County IDA’sNick Terzulli, Town of Hempstead Councilman Ed Ambrosino, Nassau County Planning Commission’s Jeff Greenfield andMike DeNicola of Hazen & Sawyer sat on the panel.

Gonsalves highlighted some of the recent movies and TV shows that have filmed in the area and how they provided a huge influx of cash into the local businesses. She also said a major impedance to further development is a lack of cohesive public transportation.

Terzulli gave some examples of the red tape that many businesses now face in trying to relocate to our region. He explained the IDA works with everyone, not just businesses themselves, and provides tax incentives, advice and resources. More than 1,200 units of transit-oriented development have received IDA financing in Nassau County.

Ambrosino talked about the broken zoning system that makes it increasingly difficult to build and accommodate the changing needs of businesses and residents in the area. Zoning codes, he said, need to be amended so that people can come in and infuse their money into the community. Having proactive zoning codes leads to positive developments such as the Courtesy Hotel becoming Mill Creek Residential, an adaptive re-use of existing property.

Greenfield touched on the Nassau Coliseum lease to Forest City Ratner. The next step in the Coliseum project will be approval from Nassau County, once negotiations are completed between the Town of Hempstead and Ratner.  They are attempting to work out the kinks before meeting with the county and the public, but said they will hold separate meetings with the public if demand is there to discuss the plans.

View highlights of this panel here.

Healthy Communities

The Healthy Communities was moderated by Bernadette Martin of Friends & Farmers, who began the panel by announcing that she is currently applying for six more community gardens across Long Island in the coming months. She then introduced the rest of the panelists: Nassau County Legislator Laura CurranKathy Munsch, of the American Heart Association, and Jenn O’Conner from Council for a Strong America.

Curran spoke first, saying Smart Growth can be a tool to keep young people on the island by encouraging activities such as walking and biking, activities which encourage healthy lifestyles. She also spoke about an organic supermarket set to open in Baldwin thanks to the efforts of its local civic association. She ended by reminding people that though legislation can be a tool for healthy communities, there are also simple responsibilities that community members have such as picking up litter and keeping neighborhoods clean.

Munsch spoke on how the American Heart Association has set a goal of improving the health of 20 percent of Americans by 2020. She presented several ideas for achieving this, including using gardens as a teaching tool, encouraging businesses to adopt “fit friendly” policies, encouraging friends to reduce sodium intake, raising health awareness by encouraging people to move and engage in physical activity, and more. Munsch also spoke about “food deserts” and the lack of choice in poor communities, causing people to eat more from chains and convenience stores.

Finally, O’Conner spoke on the need for a policy lens to leverage the voices of messengers for women and children in the country.  She spoke on the need for education as a tool for encouraging health. Children are often targeted in lower income communities in order to hook them on an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. They become used to the food desert landscape and are often at eye level for cigarette advertisements. This perpetuates a cycle where a sick child cannot be in school often enough to gain the education to encourage him or her to be healthier. She said we have to work to promote the lifestyle and encourage healthier living through local farms, preferably by helping to affray their tax burden or create venues to deliver fresh food to local residents while it’s at its peak healthiness. However, change won’t come unless people push for it, and it’s up to us to encourage our local elected officials to make changes that benefit and encourage our health.

View highlights of this panel here and here.

Tourism and Downtowns

The Tourism and Downtowns panel featured speakers Kim Kaiman from the Town of North Hempstead, Dr. Janice Scarinici, a hospitality and tourism professor at St. Joseph’s College; Karen Harding of THEM Media; and moderator Gregory Zeller, of the Long Island Business News.

Tourism is a topic that is very important to consider during the planning of downtown revitalizations. The panelists emphasized the need to capitalize on the unique experiences available on Long Island and market them both nationally and internationally to draw people in to our area.

Jobs in the hospitality industry are increasing and more education programs in tourism management and hospitality can create the knowledge base necessary to increase the amount of travel to Long Island. Kaiman and the Town of North Hempstead were able to create a marketing video to draw people to the amenities available in Port Washington. Knowledgeable members of the industry and effective marketing are all ways to begin to draw people to downtown areas. Harding has made over 10 promotional videos for areas such as Glen Cove, Wyandanch, Hempstead, and Patchogue to highlight the downtown revitalization work they are doing and make people aware of the benefits of visiting these towns and villages. Areas that want to attract visitors should find a way to create themes for the experiences they provide which will help draw people to try visiting a new place. Increased bus access both public and with private tours will also make people for more inclined to visit Long Island as it will make visiting both easier and more enjoyable.

Tourism dollars are very important for local businesses because they bring in outside revenue that doesn’t come from local shoppers. One of the panelists touched on the importance of attracting Chinese tourists to our downtown areas. Chinese tourists travel regularly to New York City and spend up to $7,000 per person per day on entertainment and shopping while they are in America.

Long Island needs to take advantage of the historical and water based amenities that can attract visitors and be ready to market the unique activities that are offered.

View highlights of this panel here.

Downtown Showcase Suffolk

In a panel moderated by Long Islander News’ Danny Schrafel, Village of Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, Mastic Beach Village Trustee Maura Spery and Zach Rapaport of Zucaro Construction and House Lifters discussed notable strengths in their downtowns.

Pontieri touched on Patchogue’s new housing and entertainment options, like the Emporium and Patchogue Theater for the Performing Arts. He said each community should build upon its assets to create vibrant downtowns. He said he was blessed with great infrastructure and design upon taking office, including a train station, plentiful parking, sewers, restaurants and a revitalized theater. The problem was bringing people into Patchogue to patronize those businesses. He solved it by welcoming new affordable housing developments like Copper Beach, ArtSpace and Tritec’s New Village.

Mastic Beach incorporated into a village only four years ago and Spery said it has a laundry list of projects to tackle for their downtown and the surrounding area. She believes her village’s greatest asset is its over 6 miles of walkable parkland waterfront which can be used for eco-tourism. The village recently resolved to do a comprehensive plan to revitalize downtown and connect it to the waterfront and is now working on a plan to sewer the downtown. Spery said she’d also like to see the development of a transportation hub to connect the downtown with the train station.

Many homes are vacant in Mastic Beach because of Hurricane Sandy damage and the village is working to have viable homes occupied. Many of the homes were salvaged with help from organizations like Zucaro House Lifters, which raised homes in flood-compromised areas free of charge. More than 160 homes have been raised since Sandy, said Rapaport.

Both Pontieri and Spery emphasized the importance of taking a long-term view when planning development in their communities. When asked about concerns over possible burdens to the school district with an influx of children should new housing developments be built, their responses differed.

Spery called an increased enrollment in schools as a result of well-planned development “part of having a healthy community,” but added that previous steep increases in school taxes have been a burden for the largely low- to moderate-income community.

Pontieri said that well-planned developments can bring in additional tax revenue to offset any increase in school enrollment over a period of time and used the Tritec and Copper Beach developments as examples. He said tax abatements were used to incentivize the Tritec development and that it brings much more revenue to the community than the property did in its previous state.

View highlights of this panel here.

Water

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, served as moderator for the Water panel. She was joined by H2M’s Dennis Kelleher, GEI’s Gary RozmusPeter Scully from the NYS DEC and Dr. Chris Gobler, from SUNY Stony Brook.

Ensuring that Long Island continues to move forward with improving water quality and conservation issues is not only important, but crucial for Smart Growth and sustainability. In some areas of the country, drought, contamination and lack of conservation have the potential to shutter towns and drastically affect the local economy. Water and its recreational value is also a compelling reason for families to move to and stay on Long Island. With a panel of experts, this thought and concern was posed to the standing room only workshop: Water is the new oil. How do we sustain?

The quality, usage and conservation of our water is an issue for all residents of Long Island and is a complex situation with many moving parts. In many parts of the island, there has been more progress towards the issues in the past two years than the past three decades. Over $1.3 billion has recently been allocated for improvements for the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, funding for alternative septic systems in Suffolk County and improvements in Babylon.

Nitrogen levels in our bays, due to 360,000 parcels in Suffolk using cesspools, overuse of fertilizers and other factors have significantly damaged our waterfront and ground water. In Suffolk, nitrogen levels have increased up to 200 percent from 1987 and continue to rise. This creates a higher rate of algal blooms, brown tide, rust tide and other undesirable conditions. Not only does this affect the quality of the drinking water – Long Island sits on its aquifers, but has a significant impact on retention of coastal wetlands and the resiliency of the area toward future natural disasters. The loss of wetlands since 1974 has ranged from 12-80 percent in some areas, more so in those areas that do not have proper disposal of nitrogen. The continual loss of wetlands, compounded with impending sea level rise over the next ten years puts residents and businesses in dangerous situations.

Since 1930 there has been a 90 percent loss of Long Island’s seagrass, which is imperative for shellfish and fin fish populations – extinction is slated for 2030. Beyond the ecological loss, the economic losses have been staggering.  Long Island fisheries have lost $6.3 billion in revenue since 1980.

Beyond sewage upgrades, increased preservation of open space, decrease in irrigation usage for lawns and golf courses – where 85-90 percent of water is used – and replacement of antiquated water infrastructure is imperative. As Long Island continues to develop and redevelop, proper usage of one of our most valuable resources cannot be looked at as a wish, it’s a necessity.

Transit Opportunities

Mass transit was the primary focus of the Transit Opportunities panel at the Summit among MTA’s Mitch Pally, Move NY’s Alex MatthiessenAnita Halasz from LI Jobs with Justice, Transit Solutions’ Rosemary Mascali, Energeia Partnership’s John McNally and moderator Denise Carter from Greenman Pedersen.

Pally talked about the MTA’s Double Track project on the Ronkonkoma branch of the LIRR. Two full tracks should be open between the Pinelawn and Ronkonkoma stations. That project may also pave the way for the reopening of the Republic Station in East Farmingdale, Pally said, while the Town of Babylon rezones the area for mixed use development. The MTA officials also touched on some LIRR improvements, including plans to replace diesel trains with electric counterparts and adding half-hour service on Port Washington lines.

The LIRR sees more than 300,000 commuters every day, McNally said. Despite the high demand for service, the MTA has not upgraded the tracks since the LIRR was originally built. McNally also looked into the East Side Access project, which eventually will connect the LIRR with Grand Central Station. He said that project will increase the value of 400,000 homes.

When solid transportation options are available, Mattheissan said, property values rise. Meanwhile, he said Long Island drivers fight through potholes and traffic jams. His Move NY plan calls for tolls at all New York City bridges and crossings as a source of revenue for transit; he also said the MTA should lower future fare hikes for LIRR riders.

Halasz has been an active advocate for bus riders across Long Island. Until very recently, riders have not had a representative on Nassau County’s Bus Transit Committee. Nassau Inter County Express (NICE) Bus riders have, however, had fare increases in the past two years. In Suffolk County, she called on continued improvements for the Suffolk County Transit system. Ridership skyrocketed after Sunday service was implemented on 10 routes last year; weekend and evening service is still heavily requested.

Many Long Islanders, Mascali said, are not familiar with the bus services available on the island. Meanwhile, 10 percent of LIRR ridership is actually reverse commuting. More Long Islanders will tap mass transit if pre-tax transit benefits are restored. Her organization also backed Car Free Day in September, an event designed to reduce the amount of commuters driving along in cars.

View highlights of this panel here and here.

Jobs, Taxes and Small Business

The Jobs, Taxes, and Small Business panel was moderated by Roger Clayman of the Long Island Federation of Labor, who spoke on the how Long Island is currently behind the eight ball to continue with job creation, with the need to find and implement good ideas on both a local and regional stage. Clayman was joined by five other panelists: Bob Curtis from LIST, Philip Rugileof eGifter and Launchpad Huntington, Tonya Lewter from New Millennium Development Services, Silvana Diaz from Noticia NY and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos.

Curtis spoke first on LIST’s ongoing efforts to support manufacturing in the region. Tthey have provided professional services, operational improvements, and industrial engineers, as well as a development center in Plainview. The big message was the need for facilities on the island to help keep local workers while working with New York State to continue pushing for more grants the support manufacturers.

Rugile spoke next on Launchpad Huntington and how they have worked to create space and training for local, hi-tech entrepreneurs. Born of a need to create a collaborative environment conducive to training and growing local small business, Launchpad has provided this while also providing a downtown environment that is desirable for young professionals. This has also helped to draw in the young talent that is usually so difficult to find on the island.

Next, Lewter spoke on her non-profit New Millennium Development Services and their annual expo, which has become a large procurement conference in the region. With over 150 small businesses slated to appear at the next event, it has grown exponentially in the two years of its existence, providing a way for minority-owned small business to speak directly to their customers and procure the contracts needed to help them thrive.

Diaz spoke on her small business as the owner of Noticia NY, a local Spanish-English newspaper that was formed in order to provide the news and happenings to local immigrants. She mentioned the newspaper’s struggle with the recession and the need to try to get their message less to the original audience of immigrants but to the newer “second generation” of immigrant’s children.  As a company they have been seeing advertisement on the rise as companies have bounced back.

Finally, Maragos spoke on his recent report to help improve Nassau County’s financial picture. He spoke on the need to focus on a particular industry and then provide resources to grow that industry. Health Care seemed like the most likely, with an existing infrastructure already in place and the industry itself trending towards high growth and profitability. He hoped to guide it’s growth in the county as well as attract smaller, orbital industries that can breed success and attract younger professionals who want to work in that industry.

View highlights of this panel here.

Education & Economic Development

Moderated by Mark Grossman of Suffolk Community College, the Education & Economic Development panel discussed the dynamics between schools and economic development. As the basis for the region’s tax base and a major employer, higher education and K-12 enrollments directly impact planning for future growth. Dr. Mary Kelly, of the Amityville School District, andDr. Patrick Harrigan, Half Hollow Hills School District, spoke about their district’s changing enrollments and populations’ needs.Steve Krieger, of Engel Burman, also discussed the relationship between demographics and development, particularly the frequent opposition from school boards to any development that generates school-age children. Constrained by unfunded mandates from the State and a 2 percent school tax cap, many schools are in a quandry when it comes to planning for the future.

Dr. Al Inserra, president of Dowling College, pointed out, the region will need teachers who can serve the growing population – multi-lingual, ESL trained – and places for them to live; it doesn’t behoove communities to oppose investing in their educational institutions. Broader demographic trends, such as birthrate declines and later births, compound the challenge of aging public facilities that do not respond to the cyclical nature of demography. More flexible financing structures and leasing of publicly owned spaces, may help alleviate the financial burdens, but the panel agreed that overall, the status quo must change in Albany so Long Island can be more responsive to change.

View highlights of this panel here and here.

Future of Energy on Long Island

The second energy panel of the day focused on how Long Island is going to meet it’s energy needs in the future. Neal Lewis of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College introduced the panel of industry experts. Michael Voltz of PSEG explained their Utility 2.0 plan which focuses on decentralizing supply resources through solar installations and other sources. The integrated plan looks at distributed resources and baseload generation when determining the economics of future energy generation.

Sean Mongan, of National Grid, explained how they are working to harden their infrastructure in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. They are also adding 10,000 new customers and 50 miles of new main line every year. Their challenge is how to plan to further expand the gas system on Long Island.

Ross Ain, of Caithness, gave a history of power plants on Long Island. After World War II, plants were built to first burn coal, then oil and then natural gas. During the 1980s and 1990s nothing was built leading to a shortage and the construction of several “peakers.” Caithness I was the first new baseload plant built on the Island in decades. It is a state of the art gas turbine plant that has saved millions in fuel costs. Caithness II as proposed would be even more efficient than Caithness I and more flexible and able to ramp up and down with the fluctuating power supply of renewable sources

Richie Kessel reminded the audience that we still have a lot to do. Though demand has been flat for the last few years with slow economic growth and mild summers, he said, it isn’t going to stay that way. Since major energy projects take many years from conception to completion, we need to start now to plan for the future. There are four areas that need to be addressed to meet our energy needs: demand side management to minimize peak loads; greater investment in renewable energy; modernizing the old power plants; and new generation and transmission.

Lunch

State Senator Jack Martins opened the lunch session with news that New York State advocating for infrastructure projects to be prioritized in the expenditure of this year’s New York State surplus.

Martins also pledged to continue supporting Small Business Savings legislation, supported by the Long Island Business Council, it passed in the state Senate but failed in the Assembly. If approved, it would create accounts for businesses to invest; they could then withdraw those earnings tax-free to create jobs or in times of economic downturns.

 

 

 

 

 

State Senator Phil Boyle also advocated for infrastructure projects, particularly in response to Superstorm Sandy, in this year’s surplus said, which come out to more than $5 million.

Meanwhile, Boyle said Smart Growth is taking hold across Long Island. A Bay Shore resident, he shared a story from his recent campaign for the 2014 elections. One individual had been particularly vocal and anti-Smart Growth a decade ago. When the senator knocked on his door now, he found the individual changed his mind after seeing his children leave.

“If we can change this guy’s mind, we can change anyone’s mind,” Boyle said.

 

 

 

 

State Senator Carl Marcellino highlighed Nassau Comptroller George Maragos’ study, especially the findings that Long Island is rapidly losing it’s young populations. A lack of affordable housing is chasing them away, the senator said, and the good jobs that are here will go with them. Keeping the young professionals older generations spent “fortunes” educating requires investing in infrastructure like sewage and mass transit.

“Working together we’re going to make a change. We’re going to bring our young people back,” Marcellino said.

 

 

 

 

 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reminded the crowd that young people leaving Long Island are the “canary in the coal mine.” Long Islanders cannot build an innovative economy where young people are leaving, he said, and that entails building places that young people want to live in with access to transportation. In order to get the private sector to invest, government has to lay the foundation with infrastructure. The Wyandanch redevelopment which is a part of the broader Connect LI plan is a public private partnership with Albanese.

Bellone also premiered a video highlighting the next phase of Wyandanch redevelopment.

 

 

 

 

Don Monti of Renaissance Downtowns spoke briefly on potential action items for 2015. First of all, there needs to be bipartisan support; both sides aren’t going to agree on everything, but should capitalize on the 25 percent that they do agree on. Second, there needs to be legislative reform in a sort of grading matrix that rewards municipalities for good development. Third, there should be Article 78 and SEQRA reform, a longer process doesn’t equal a better process. California has legislation for a 90-day review process for Smart Growth projects, why can’t New York do the same?

 

 

 

 

 

Keynote presenter Congresswoman-elect Kathleen Rice spoke about how her background as a “homegrown DA” will help her to fight for Long Island in Congress. She feels her experience working with both sides of the aisle to get things done will help with issues important to Long Island. She spoke about challenges that Long Island faces such as not feeling the economic recovery and infrastructure in need of repair and improvement, but also about the assets Long Island has such as our small businesses.

Funding for Complete Streets to aid with downtown redevelopment can help support these businesses and boost Long Island’s economy. Recovery from Superstorm Sandy was another important focus for Rice. There are still many that are not back in their homes and infrastructure needs to be hardened to resist the next storm when, not if, it comes. She finished by letting the room know to call her – jokingly saying she still has the same cell phone number she’s given to thousands of Nassau residents through the year – and is “here to serve you.” She looked forward to working with the Long Island delegation to bring resources back to the island.

 

Towards the end of the lunch program, Ken Daly of National Grid spoke about National Grid’s efforts to help small businesses affected by Sandy.  They gave out more than 20,000 grants for boilers and rebuilding businesses.  Daly announced Grid’s plans to spend $700 million in the next three years to help convert neighborhoods from oil to natural gas, which he said will help save over $200 million on energy bills, reduce oil consumption by 2 million barrels and provide 1000 jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

Town of Islip Councilman Steve Flotteron gave a quick update about the new playground Town of Islip, Vision Long and Kaboom helped plan and build in the new park in Central Islip. They needed 100 volunteers in order to build the playground and more than 500 showed up!

Vision Director Eric Alexander closed lunch, highlighting that across the island municipalities are getting things done, there is increased community support for projects and we are starting to get our fair share of state and federal funding for infrastructure. He reminded the room that we are all citizen leaders getting things done and despite the challenges, the best gift we have is each other. Lastly, we are not here to simply build the development, but create great places that are embraced by the community of communities that is Long Island.

Check out the full video of this panel here

Sandy Recovery

It’s been two years since Sandy devastated Long Island. Tens of thousands suffered damage to their houses and businesses, millions without power for extended periods of time, and thousands are still trying to recover in some aspect, ranging from housing repairs, replacement of property, economic and employment loss and health concerns. Sandy affected and continues to affect every Long Island resident and business owner. This panel discussed the effects post-Sandy, the ways that the areas have improved and what can be done to move forward as we continue the recovery process and look towards building back with smart growth principles in mind.

Jon Siebert, of Friends of Long Island, moderated the panel of Zachary Richner, from NYS Office of Storm Recovery; Paul Beyer, of NY Rising; Dan Berkovits, of NY Rising; Deborah Kirnon, from St. Anne’s Parish Outreach; and Kim Skillen, of Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Babylon.

To date, more than $750 million has been awarded to individual homeowners, $23 million to small businesses, as well as substantial sums to rental owners through the New York Rising program, which receives funding through CDBG-DR funding. Additionally, over $2 billion has already been allocated for infrastructure improvements including the Bay Park STP, improvements to the electrical grid, and work on 105 bridges. The substantial amount of funding being awarded is unprecedented and crucial, but also not the only aspect of recovery in our region.

The NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, which has 22 reconstruction zones across Long Island is a community driven process that will fund communities between $3-25 million each to focus on reconstruction and resilience. This program allowed community stakeholders to decide which projects are important to the area, have a plan written by engineers, and receive funding. The funding at this point needs to be spent by 2019 and ensures that the projects do not sit in the planning stage indefinitely. Additionally, having the plan for the individual regions written and in the funding stages allows the areas to apply for additional grant opportunities. One of the highlights of the program is how communities had a voice as toward how they would like their communities to redevelop.

Through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Community Risk and Resiliency Act, $250 million has been allotted to collaborative planning projects on Long Island, with $100 million of those projects currently moving forward. The approach is a participatory planning process which allows people to become resiliency leaders in their communities by forming citizen planning committees and supplying intimate knowledge of their community.

Representatives from NY Rising, a state agency formed to assist Sandy recovery and storm mitigation, are on the ground in Long Island to help these projects move forward. Projects underway using this funding include water quality projects, microgrids in Babylon, transit-oriented development in Island Park, projects that will protect shorelines such as north shore bulkheading projects in Long Beach and drainage projects throughout the South Shore.

Skillen said a collaborative effort is essential to proper resiliency planning. Her organization and many others like it, including St. Anne’s Parish Outreach, helped some of the larger national aid organizations and state agencies get help exactly where it needed to go. These grassroots organizations banded together to share resources and information after Sandy and have since led the charge in community disaster planning, many becoming designated as FEMA Community Organizations Active in Disaster.

Parking, Design & Codes

The Parking, Design & Codes panel brought diverse the diverse perspectives through Mark Gander, of AECOM/Green Parking Council; Robert Scheiner, president of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce; Victor Dadras, of the New York Main Street Alliance; Kathleen Deegan Dickson, of Forchelli Curto Deegan; Sean Sallie, of Nassau County Department of Public Works; and moderator Elissa Kyle, of Vision Long Island.

While a seemingly straightforward subject, parking codes and design are incredibly important for creating successful downtown spaces. Parking can contribute to climate change in a significant way, but the U.S. Green Building Council would not include parking lots in LEED certification. A new code has been created with a 12-step process for making “green” parking spaces that includes permeable pavement and creating lots under surface green spaces. More than 11,000 spots have been created under this new standard in the past three months, creating better parking.

Nassau County and the Town of Huntington have also been working very hard to address complicated parking. Representatives from Nassau County highlighted the role that town parking codes can play in limiting or facilitating parking. Codes often vary by location so it is important to understand what those are before any development occurs.

Dadras, an architect, pointed out that in many cases it is not that there is a parking problem but a management problem. He cited cases in Douglaston, Ossining, and Great Neck where once parking was managed better it increased downtown business and made it easier for pedestrians to navigate the town.

The Town of Huntington is currently beginning to implement management strategies including improving parking sites and considering the possibility of maintaining free valet parking on Friday and Saturday. Various strategies such as making parking more expensive near business districts, creating localized parking zones, preventing shop owners from parking in front of their business, and creating shared or structure parking are all ways to parking easier and less invasive in communities. The panelists emphasized the importance of this often overlooked issue and that managing parking well can really make or break a downtown district.

View highlights of this panel here.

Arts & Destinations

The Arts & Destinations panel touched on some of the many great places to eat, drink, shop, experience art and music and otherwise enjoy yourself on the island’s Main Streets. Theresa Statz-Smith from Long Island Arts Alliance, Diana Cherryholmes from the Huntington Arts Council, The Electric Dudes’ David Saul, LI Board of Realtor’s Frank Paruolo and moderator Heather Johnson from the Northport Historical Society also examined the role arts play in communities.

The arts and culture are integral to keep young people on Long Island, said Paruolo. The real estate expert said people want to live in vibrant downtowns like Huntington, Babylon and Rockville Centre. The Village of Westbury is an emerging downtown, with the median price to buy a home in Westbury at $356,000. The Village of Patchogue has been revitalized; the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce’s Alive After Five event continues to attract crowds on downtown weeknights for live music and entertainment for 13 years.

When he’s not performing with his rock band The Electric Dudes, Saul handles public relations for the Village of Farmingdale. The Smart Growth push in the village helped fill 26 vacant stores, leaving just two empty on Main Street. The challenge, he said, is getting everyone on the same page. Saul performed during the Farmingdale Music Fest in September, after pushing for its creation. Despite rain that Saturday, the inaugural event was a success, attracting 10,000 visitors.

Long Island often gets underestimated, Statz-Smith said, because it lies in the shadow of New York City. She said the region should be doing more to attract cultural tourists looking for a night out with dinner and entertainment. Her organization created a portal to find artsy activities at little-to-no-cost for the listing organizations.

Cherryholmes oversees the Huntington Arts Council, an organization promoting arts and culture created by Long Island artists. They teach children in schools and support community events. Every year they participate in the Huntington Summer Arts Festival, a week-long event in downtown Huntington with free concerts. They also oversee SPARKBOOM, a state-funded program that organizes musical gigs, art productions and even a Zombie Walk for the island’s emerging creative talent. The council also distributes three grants every year. Art is essential these days, Cherryholmes said, as young professionals ages 18-35 hire artists.

Smart Growth Around the Region

The Smart Growth around the Region panel was moderated by Charles Lane of NPR, who helped to guide the conversation concerning what sort of projects have been done in the area surrounding Long Island that we can take lessons from. The panel brought together Steven Jacobs of U3 Advisors, Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa from SOM:Architecture, and Matt Carmody of VHB, Jamie Stover of Mill Creek Financial and Vision Long Island founder Ron Stein from Good Harvest Financial.

Finally Jacobs, Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa and Carmody all spoke on their collaborative efforts on the progress of the Cornell NYC Tech campus currently slated to be built on Roosevelt Island. A product of a contest by the Bloomberg administration to grant land to a university looking to build a high-tech campus, Cornell has pursued an aggressive campaign to make the first phase net zero while also providing as little impact to the local residents as possible. The campus is located on the old site of the Goldwater Hospital and will provide an area for people seeking graduate degrees in technical fields.

The first phase involves creating a sense of place for the building and the community. As part of this process SOM : Architects went to great lengths to find painted over murals in the original hospital, scrape the paint off and restore them, and will place them on permanent display. There will also be a dedication to transit, ensuring that the island can accommodate extra traffic and people during university hours, with VHB conducting an in depth study to assure the residents will not be adversely affected.

All throughout the process U3 Advisors has worked closely with the university and local population to ensure that they can keep the new campus as low impact as possible, even agreeing to barge in materials in order to keep truck traffic to a minimal, even going so far as to building a pier to accommodate them. The new campus is slated to open in 2017 and has already been dubbed “Silicon Island” by “The New Yorker.”

Stover spoke on Mill Creek’s recent acquisition and construction on a building located at 350 Warren Street in Jersey City.  The building provides a sense of desirability thanks to its central location to three rail stations as well as being surrounded by a quickly growing retail and residential scene.  When purchased the building did not have much of an aesthetic quality, however Mill Creek has been working to improve that.  They have lengthened windows in order to bring in more light, sand blasted the original columns to reveal the original wood underneath, created long, railroad style apartments the provide a higher number of aesthetically functional units, and will provide public and retail space on the first floor.  The company is confident that these improvements will go a long way in reactivating the street life surrounding the building.

Stein focused on the need to rebrand Long Island as a version of itself that appeals towards a younger demographic.  He spoke about how Brooklyn has transformed itself from a perceived undesirable location in the 1970s into its current incarnation as a location that young, single professionals are flocking to. However, it doesn’t provide amenities for young families, and this presents an opportunity for Long Island. If we can rebrand ourselves and provide some of the more desirable amenities that Brooklyn can, we can attract those young families. It will, however, take a concerted effort on the part of our municipalities and can only be done if we can commit to lowering the high cost of living on Long Island while partnering with places like Brooklyn to create linkages.

View highlights of this panel here.

New Town Centers

There has been a lot of progress on the area’s mega-projects, as highlighted in the New Town Centers panel moderated by Long Island Business News’ David Winzelberg. Much of the red tape surrounding public support and zoning changes has been removed and things are moving forward.

TRITEC’s Robert Coughlin gave an update on the Ronkonkoma TOD project as an opportunity to keep a young, talented workforce and aging baby boomers with disposable income here. It will utitilize 55 acres of blighted property near road, rail, and air connections in an “18-hour community.”  They want to focus on Long Island-based amenities, such as breweries, vineyards, and iconic restaurants. He hopes that the project will use Long Island’s first approved form-based code.

Tom Graham from RXR provided details on the Garvies Point development on the Glen Cove Waterfront revitalization. Phase One received approval just last week and they hope to have phases two and three approved by the end of 2015. The project will bring in condos, apartments, a boardwalk, a revitalized marina, shops, restaurants and connections to transit.

David Wolkoff showed an updated video highlighting the latest plans for Heartland Town Square. Discussion revolved mainly around building smart and addressing the brain drain. If a shop is open but there isn’t anyone around to spend money, he said, the owner is going to miss out on a lot of valuable revenue. He said they would do none of the building until 250,000 square feet of retail were leased. It has to be exciting and urban to attract the changing face of Long Island. Concerns have been raised about traffic mitigation and will be addressed as the project develops. Another lane might have to be added to the Sagtikos Parkway to accommodate visitors, though he hopes that the community is mostly self-sustained. Since there is no more horizontal space, there is no choice but to build vertically.

Stephen Holley, of AKRF, provided an update on Wyandanch Rising. Winzelberg noted that Wyandanch is still dangerous and that in order for projects to be successful, there has to be cooperation with the police and other local entities. Holley noted that part of the reason that they built the residential elements of the project first was to get eyes on the streets.

Winzelberg also posed a question about stalled projects that take a backseat to politics. Many elected officials are wary to move controversial projects forward in a short election cycle. A lively discussion ensued about involving the public so that it no longer feels like projects are being forced on people and that everyone is an active part of the process that will improve the entire community. He said that if we don’t change the way we approve projects and make it more attractive, people are going to leave and the region will become a giant retirement community. The office park is a dying breed and New York City is becoming prohibitively expensive for businesses and residents. Long Island has great access to the city and its jobs. Even commuters who live here spend money here: they shop on nights and weekends, frequent the shops around the train stations, and eventually could own their own businesses here.

The recesssion, they said, re-focused a lot of attention on the need for affordable and multi-family housing. Communities with the most challenges are the ones who are most aggressively seeking ways to revitalize their downtowns. They want to bring people back into their communities by changing uses and getting money for infrastructure.

View highlights of this panel here.

LI REDI

LI REDI stands for Responsible Economic Development Initiative. It’s a campaign to invest in critical infrastructure and gain public support with the goal of reversing the unsustainable living environment prompting many to leave.  At the Summit, Brandon Palanker, of Renaissance Downtowns; Tara Bono, of Destination Long Island; Joe Montalbano, of the Greater New York Laborers Cooperative and Education Trust; Anthony Macagnone, of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters; Keith Archer, of Harras Bloom & Archer; Dr. William Spencer, Suffolk County Legislator; and moderator Bill Tuyn, of Forbes Homes, talked about the youth exodus and remedies.

The panel discussed the formation of Destination LI by a group of young professionals focused on the needs of the Millenial generation. They identified a need to change from “developer comes in and builds and community resists” towards ‘engaging community first and seeking input and ideas, and working together to get a positive and mutual benefit for all stakeholders.’ This can be done with crowdsourced place making, engaging stakeholders on social media, and using facts and data provided by other organizations and government to educate people who are unaware or misinformed.

On Long Island, the Smart Growth movement has expanded to involve community-level development with a major focus on infrastructure needs. Palanker and Archer attested to the importance of building important infrastructure to be able to handle responsible growth. Macagnone and Montalbano spoke about the support from the building trades in favor of infrastructure development as it puts Long Islanders to work with responsible ways to improve our communities.

Spencer touched on the need for infrastructure projects not only for economic development, but for public health. He referenced the success of Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee, which worked together to identify problems with sewage and secure funding sources. 2014 marked the first in recent years the red tide was not present in the harbor.

sponsors

Thank you to all of the attendees of the 2014 Smart Growth Summit!

This year featured our biggest trade show ever! Here are photos from this year’s participants:

Check out some of the press coverage for the 13th annual Summit!

 

 

Newsday

 

 

 

Long Island Business News

 

Vision’s Summit Message/LIBN OpEd

 

 

Long Islander News

 

Times of Huntington

Additional press coverage was provided by News 12, Herald Community Newspapers, WRHU Radio Hofstra University 88.7 FM and NPR.

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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 17 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 1,900 presentations, performed 20 community visionings and advanced nearly 100 public and private planning projects towards implementing the goals of Smart Growth on Long Island.

Vision Long Island

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Northport, NY 11768

Phone: 631-261-0242. Fax: 631-754-4452.

Email: info@visionlongisland.org

Website: www.visionlongisland.org

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11/7

Director: Lack Of Affordable Housing Cause Of LI Homeless

The number of homeless Americans is down across the country, but it’s up on Long Island.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released their annual homeless assessment report this week, which found a 2 percent drop.

According to the federal report, 578,424 Americans were homeless in 2014, with 69 percent in established residential programs and 31 percent living on the street. That’s down from 591,768 in 2013. About 10 percent fewer people are living on the street and about 2 percent more are using emergency shelters or transitional housing.

But Greta Guarton warned those numbers can be deceiving for some parts of the country, including Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Guarton is the executive director of Long Island Coalition for the Homeless and she said Long Island and New York City helped make New York one of the 14 states with an increase in homelessness from 2013. The list also includes California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

“The biggest cities and the states with the biggest urban areas and generally the highest cost of living all had increases. That’s not a shock. It’s not a surprise the areas where affordable housing is in the greatest demand has the most homeless people. They can’t afford this housing,” Guarton said.

Founded in 1985, the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless is an advocacy organization for other groups. They assumed responsibility of coordinating the continuum of care in 1996, which translates to coordinating homeless services offered by 125 agencies throughout Long Island and processing $12 million annually to those groups.

They also perform the homeless count – a one-day tally in January using HUD’s limited definition. On Jan. 22, 2014, the coalition found 3,207 homeless Long Islanders. That’s up almost 100 people from January 2013 and a significant increase from the 2,515 in 2007.

Long Island was actually seeing fewer homeless residents, Guarton said, before Superstorm Sandy ravaged the region. Affordable housing for both average residents and those with lower income was in short supply before Oct. 29, 2012, but Sandy swallowed up whatever apartments were available. Many were never rebuilt, including illegal apartments in private homes.

Prior to the storm, Guarton said Long Island had a 2.1 vacancy rate. After Sandy, thousands were forced to find new housing, even if it was just temporary. That sent prices skyrocketing and forcing out many just scraping by.

“Because there was a market for it, when landlords went to renew their leases, their increases were so severe because they knew someone could afford it,” the director said.

When the coalition conducted their 2013 count, many displaced by Sandy were not included. Although it was three months after the storm, a number of Long Islanders were sleeping in motels and hotels covered by FEMA or staying with friends and family – neither is included in the HUD definition. A lot of that temporary assistance ran out by the following year’s count.

At the same time, the federal government actually decreased housing subsidies in October 2012. Basing the move off a 2010 study that found lower homeless populations, HUD reduced their Fair Market Rent. The figure typically increases slightly every year – not enough to coincide with actual increases in rent; it has increased in October 2013 and October 2014.

Long Islanders facing higher rents and lower federal assistance were able to find some housing. But much of it, Guarton said, entails its own challenges. These units are typically far from transportation, older buildings and not in ideal locations.

“You have someone without a car, they need services and maybe they’re looking for work and they can’t even get to transportation for where they need to go. You can’t live there and sustain yourself,” she said.

Their 2015 count is two months away, and Guarton admitted she expects to see a decrease. Developers and community organizations have focused recently on unsheltered veterans. Liberty Village in Amityville opened its 60 apartment doors to veterans in need in September.

“That’s not the entire unsheltered population, but it’s the one area where there’s been more development,” Guarton said.

Dropping those numbers across the board, she added, will require more affordable housing in all shapes and sizes. Even if it’s not priced for lower-incomes, new housing for the working class will open up other options to those in need.

“Even if someone is designing housing for 80 percent of AMI (area median income), that means folks moving in there will be freeing up other apartments,” the director said.

For more coverage of this story, check out News 12 and Newsday (subscription required).

Port Washington Mixed-Use Project Gets Green Light

A mixed-use development in Port Washington was approved by the Town of North Hempstead last week, the first for an overlay district.

“The Main Event” received permission from the Town Board on Oct. 29. Developers Laurie and Marty Scheinman want to build a three-story mixed use building on the 0.56-acre vacant lot at 322-326 Main St. The plan includes 5,400 square feet of office space and 12 apartments.

The “Better Blocks” overlay district, which this project falls in, allows for flexibility in zoning.

The community response at the three-hour hearing was mixed, an improvement for a town with a history of not always supporting downtown changes. Main Event supporters wanted to revitalize Main Street and provide housing for young professionals. Opponents were concerned about traffic on lower Main Street and flooding issues, as well as disruption during construction.

Vision Long Island also testified in support of the project. Sustainability Director Elissa Kyle said connecting this housing with the nearby LIRR station can reduce the need for downtown parking, which is already at a premium. She also said mixed-use projects across Long Island have proven to reduce vacancy rates and generally improve the fiscal health of downtowns.

North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio also played an important role in approving the project.

For more coverage on this project, check out Newsday (subscription required). Check out Vision’s full testimony here.

Alexander: Local Progress Can Rebuilt Trust Around Region

This editorial by Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander was originally published in the Long Island Business News on Wednesday.

Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill once famously stated all “politics is local.” On Long Island, it seems a lot of our progress is local, too, and that may be a good thing.

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found 13 percent of the public trusts their federal government but struggles to have faith in big business and other large interests. On Long Island, the leadership people so desperately seek nationally is exhibited on the community level, and it’s not simply local land use in the purview of municipal governments in a home-rule state. Look no further than the post-Sandy relief effort to see the role municipal partners and community organizations can play.

Such leadership is sorely needed. AARP data suggests that much of our 50-plus population is looking to leave the region as well as our younger residents, which would have a damaging economic impact – a projected $22 billion in lost economic activity.

Another recent poll, this by the Suburban Millennial Institute, showed 30 percent of our younger workforce leaving Long Island due to lack of jobs affordability issues.

In Long Island’s downtowns, opportunities continue to exist to address this potential loss of wealth and talent. Cranes are out and construction is underway, or recently completed, in places like Mineola, Westbury, Farmingdale, Huntington, Wyandanch and Patchogue, to name just a few. Recent “Smart Growth Saturday” tours in Great Neck Plaza, Port Jefferson and elsewhere showed great places with functioning office, housing and retail sectors supported by local community – something for young and old alike.

At a recent meeting of the Nassau County Village Officials Organization, it was clear that smart-growth solutions are now planning practice. The folks closest to the public all tell us the same thing – they want well-managed, vibrant places that people care about.

The Village of Farmingdale has seen a transformation with four mixed-use projects underway, 21 new retail stores and a new park. A recent downtown music fest attracted about 10,000 people. The latest meeting of the local civic association saw widespread support and praise for these changes.

Since a revitalization process began over the last decade, the Village of Mineola has completed a master plan with broad public input, approved an intermodal bus and parking facility, expanded Winthrop-University Hospital, brought in a high-tech incubator, welcomed new restaurants and shops and developed a series of tax-positive senior and multifamily rental units that will bring minimal children into the school district. It’s our understanding that the bulk of these endeavors leveraged new private investment and state and federal grant assistance at no cost to the taxpayer.

It’s not just downtown redevelopment driving changes. Community initiatives are pulling together to address public safety, market vacant buildings, build parks and facilitate other improvements. The movement for these changes is gaining strength.

Once the silly season of elections is over, there will be a robust debate on the substance and prioritization of Long Island’s many needs. Some of the items we will need these local voices to tackle include:

1. Having real input on the MTA Capital Plan to get our fair share of transportation projects and supportive service.

2. Getting wastewater treatment capacity in Suffolk and an ocean outflow pipe in Nassau that will improve water quality and allow for downtown growth.

3. Fighting for a Federal Transportation Bill that includes Long Island projects and addressing our unsafe streets through an uptick in NYSDOT funding.

4. Reducing myriad regulations that impede downtown redevelopment for our small businesses.

5. Getting human needs addressed directly without layers and layers of post-Sandy bureaucracy and helping the working poor who continue to struggle five years after the recession bottomed out.

The common thread in rebuilding trust with our citizenry is strengthening the capacity of smaller governments, organizations and local businesses to succeed in solving our regions problems. Yeah, politics out here may be local – but even local politics can truly help our region.

11/14

Additional Resources Proposed For 2015 LI Bus Systems

Both Nassau and Suffolk Counties are fueling their bus systems for 2015 with a little something extra.

“A healthy functioning bus system means good things for our economy,” Long Island Bus Riders Union Organizer Aaron Watkins-Lopez said. “There are so many people who can’t drive a car for whatever reason, and the bus is their lifeline.”

In Nassau County, four new members will join the county’s Bus Transit Committee to oversee the Nassau Inter County Express (NICE) Bus system, expanding the group to nine members. That includes two members appointed by County Executive Ed Mangano, one by the Republican majority and another by the Democratic minority. Watkins-Lopez said the Democrats will work with Long Island Bus Riders Union on the selection. They expect to choose someone with experience on the bus; a former MTA bus driver is the only member of the existing five with experience.

“It’s important to have someone who rides the bus oversee the bus system,” he said.

Meanwhile, the county’s $2.98 billion 2015 budget approved last month also includes another $2 million for the NICE buses. That raises their contribution to $4.6 million towards the $113 million system. Advocates, however, are concerned those funds will be money previously promised. County officials promised $1.8 million in the summer to address a deficit, but they haven’t paid up yet. If it’s not the missing money, the union organizer hoped it could reduce late buses by having more on the street.

But even with the increased subsidy, NICE is still projected to face a $6 million deficit from now through 2015 based on Mangano’s budget. The county executive has promised not to raise fares outside of the MTA-controlled Metrocard, which leaves concerns about service cuts and funding.

Meanwhile, Watkins-Lopez said Nassau bus riders are already paying more in recent months and could very well open their wallets even further before long. Fares were all bumped up to $2.50 in September, led by a 25-cent increase for cash fares. The MTA is also expected to raise fares in 2015.

“The buses are becoming inaccessible to a lot of people who use them, mostly lower income families,” he said.

The Long Island Bus Riders Union, Tri-State Transportatin Campaign and Vision Long Island are calling on Nassau County to subsidize more of the NICE Bus system. As of this year, they were spending $2.6 million, with an additional $57 million from New York State. Back in 1999, Nassau County chipped in $10 million, a figure which was gradually reduced by county administrations and aggressively cut by Mangano’s team.

On the other hand, Jobs With Justice, Tri-State and Vision supported County Legislator Jay Schniederman (I-Montauk). Suffolk County Transit (ST) costs $57 million to operate each year, with the county paying $29 million and the state paying $22 million.

The proposed 2015 budget by County Executive Steve Bellone also includes an additional $500,000.

Both possible increases in funding would be used to continue recent expansions of the ST system. A pilot program on the East End first introduced Sunday service to Suffolk County buses. A county study found 24 routes would benefit from Sunday service; expanded evening service was also highly sought. Schniederman championed the cause and secured a $1 million federal grant to add nine more Sunday routes last year.

Every ST route does not need Sunday or evening hours, Schniederman said, but there are still many that do.

“We’re still only halfway there. We still have a lot more routes to get there on Sundays. I don’t want to go back to the riders anymore. I want to go to the state and federal governments for funding. It’s absolutely critical,” he said.

Bellone’s budget, which relies on an increase in projected sales tax revenue, would expand some Sunday and evening service. The Department of Public Works is tinkering with specifics now, but the legislator expects two or three weekend expansions. He was unable to elaborate on evening hours. Both are supposed to be developed based on need. Schneiderman said the S45 bus – connecting Patchogue to the South Shore Mall – desperately needs both evening and weekend hours as a critical connection to other routes. He also expects at least one of the S60, S61 and S62 with service between Patchogue and Stony Brook to be expanded.

If the budget is approved, the $500,000 would come from fare hikes. The cost to ride a bus in Suffolk County could jump by a quarter to $2.25, which is currently is on the East End where the summer service first began.

Vision Long Island testified at the Suffolk hearing in support of the measure.

For more on the Nassau changes and the Suffolk changes, check out Newsday (subscription required).

Schumer: Bring Back Commuter Tax Benefit

An expired tax break can save commuters using mass transit $1,300 a year.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) joined transportation advocates and commuters at the Mineola LIRR station Tuesday to call on Congress to reinstate the Commuter Tax Benefit.

“As the price of commuting continues to climb, this commuter tax break has become increasingly vital for Long Island residents, who already experience a very high cost of living,” Schumer said.

Before the tax break expired Dec. 31, 2013, commuters were allowed to use $245 in pre-tax income each month for mass transit. He estimated that saved 700,000 area commuters more than $330 million in 2012.

But when the break expired, that figure dropped to $130 of pre-tax income per month in 2014.

With the lame duck session of Congress returning this week, Schumer began pushing for the EXPIRE Act, which includes the mass transit tax benefit among a number of other expiring tax provisions. If the act is approved, it would bump the tax break up to $250 for 2015 and could cover some 2014 costs retroactively.

“The Commuter Pre Tax Benefit is a vital lifeline to commuters struggling to make ends meet in these difficult times and we are grateful for all of Senator Schumer’s efforts to restore and revive it,” said Mark Epstein, chair of the Long Island Railroad Commuter Council.

More than 300,000 commuters ride LIRR trains every week day, according to MTA estimates. Without the additional $120, the cheapest monthly ticket would remain $242 for a Long Island commuter coming from western Nassau communities like Mineola, Valley Stream and Hempstead. The most expensive monthly ticket – $363 in post-tax dollars – occurs for commuters in East End communities like Riverhead, Westhampton and Montauk.

That would mirror the existing IRS exemption for commuters who drive into work and park. This tax break did not fall over the past year.

“It makes absolutely no sense to provide those who drive to work with a tax break and make commuters who use mass transit pay more, and it must be a top priority before the end of this Congress to fix this inequality,” Schumer said.

The senator authored the bill that created this tax break, which was first passed as part of the economic stimulus package in 2008. He claims it’s saved mass transit riders more than $1,000 per year.

For more coverage of this story, check out CBS and News 12 (subscription required). Vision also covered Schumer’s efforts to save the tax break last November.

 

December

12/5

Grid Announces $700 Mil Natural Gas Investment

A proposed natural gas infrastructure investment should get a ruling from state officials in upcoming weeks.

Natural Grid filed a three-year, $700 million investment plan to the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) in June. National Grid said they anticipate the PSC decision by January, if not sooner. According to the petition submitted with the PSC, National Grid is seeking permission to defer costs associated with the capital expenses. No date has formally been announced by the PSC, although it could be heard at their Dec. 11 session next week.

“As the natural gas provider on Long Island, National Grid has a longstanding commitment to the communities and customers we serve. This investment plan will enable National Grid to continue to provide safe and reliable service to our gas customers in the most economical and environmentally friendly way, while supporting the growth and vitality of Long Island,” National Grid New York President Ken Daly said.

According to a National Grid fact sheet, the plan calls for KeySpan Energy Delivery Long Island (KEDLI) to invest in gas main replacements, gas connections, and storm hardening. KEDLI became a subsidiary of National Grid when the UK-based company acquired KeySpan Corporation in 2006.

National Grid’s bill has two parts: the supply charge and a delivery charge. The supply charge is the cost of the commodity which fluctuates with the market price of gas and the company said this charge is a pass-through without mark up. The delivery side, which has not increased since 2008, is National Grid’s cost to operate and maintain the distribution system and fluctuates with usage. National Grid currently spends $140 million annually on maintenance operation actually exceeds revenues.

If the PSC approves the full proposal, National Grid would spend $225-$250 million annually for three years. Specific projects have yet to be identified, although more than 250 miles of gas lines, 180 miles of new gas main and 570,000 storm-resilient automated meters would be installed, according to the fact sheet. National Grid said approval of this proposal will allow it to accelerate its existing leak-prone pipe program, replacing cast iron and unprotected steel pipe with plastic.

The investment would also allow the company to increase natural gas service to 33,000 new customers. Homeowners are still signing up despite falling oil prices. The company currently averages hooking up 10,000 new homes annually. National Grid has 570,000 natural gas customers, according to the fact sheet, along with 7,892 miles of distribution gas pipeline.

New York City partially supported National Grid’s proposal in a formal comment back in August. They agreed investments are necessary to provide reliable and resilient service. However, they also had concern about National Grid’s ability to defer $700 million and not file a rate case since 2006 – it was adopted in 2007. City officials requested PSC temporarily grant the utility the right to defer only for two years and require a rate case within a year to properly handle future expenses and delivery rates.

Check out the full copy of National Grid’s petition here.

Shopping On Small Business Saturday Across LI

The holiday season has begun again, and downtown Long Island is embracing their patrons

American Express’ Small Business Saturday was a popular draw over the Thanksgiving weekend, although local businesses prepared to offer sales and entertainment for customers throughout the holiday season.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) joined Northport Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin, Northport Chamber of Commerce Secretary Dorothy Walsh and Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander tour the Village of Northport on Saturday.

“With so many shoppers excited for the bargains found on Black Friday, initiatives like Small Business Saturday give our local businesses a chance to compete against big-box stores during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year,” Spencer said.

The traveling contingent met Holly Levis, owner of Petport; Tim Hess, owner of Tim’s Shipwreck Diner; Carlene Afetian, owner of Veronica Rayne Boutique; Kathy Kitts, owner of Artisan House; Northport Hardware Co.’s Bill Reichert, who was gearing up for Friday’s Annual Leg Lamp Lighting; Jones Drug Store staff; and Ruth Koroglian, of Cow Harbor Fine Gifts and Collectibles.

Bellone also visited Value Drugs, Community Pet Shop and Spa Adriana in Huntington village; Sea Creations, the East End Shirt Company, the Dusty Attic Shop and Earring Tabu with Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) in Port Jefferson; and Shock & Baby Shock, Lynne’s Cards & Gifts, Lynn Stroller Collection and Good Westhampton with Legislator Jay Schneiderman (D- in Montauk) Westhampton on Saturday.

“This past Saturday, I took the opportunity to support Small Business Saturday throughout Suffolk County. I had the distinct honor to travel to some of our downtowns and meet with store owners and proprietors as well as begin my holiday shopping. The small business community and business in general serves as the back bone of Suffolk County’s economic future. The county is committed to continuing to support small businesses through our economic development initiatives and programs,” Bellone said.

Small Business Saturday events were also held in: the Village of Westbury with a flea market and scavenger hunt; Village of Farmingdale with the grand opening of a boutique; the Village of Lynbrook; Huntington village with a street fair.

But as Greater Patchogue of Chamber of Commerce Executive David Kennedy said last month, Small Business Saturday is just the beginning.

“[It] is not the end-all, be-all. It’s what you do after,” he said.

For more on our previous Small Business Saturday coverage, visit our Nov. 14 newsletter.

Positive Feedback For Valley Stream Mixed-Use Project

Public comments were accepted by the Valley Stream Village Board this week about a proposed mixed-use development.

Applicant Kay Development Group of Manhattan would need a zoning change to build 36 two-bedroom apartments on the site.

As proposed, the Promenade would be located on North Central Avenue and house a 4,400 square-feet of retail on the ground floor and apartments on four stories above. If approved, it would occupy 11,350 square-feet, including an empty lot where the former Party Boutique closed after a fire in February; the developer has since purchased the property.

An attorney for the developer previously described the board as a luxury development with amenities like balconies with plantings, a lounge, gym and laundry room on each floor and a 5,000-square-foot roof garden. The building would also feature around-the-clock valet parking and an attended lobby, which Sullivan said would make the location safer for residents.

The development would also include 20 underground parking spaces and be within walking distance of the LIRR station.

The developer’s legal counsel also said Kay Development founder Bill Kefalas is a Valley Stream resident who has operated in the village for the past two decades.

According to published reports, Village Board assistant Vinny Ang said the Promenade would move Valley Stream in a positive direction. “You have to build high-density housing in your downtown areas,” Ang said, also citing Patchogue as an example of such success.

The board is slated to vote on recommending the zoning change to allow the mixed-use development on Dec. 15. If approved, the project’s next step would be a meeting with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

For more on this story, check out Herald Community Newspapers.

12/12

LI Wins $81.9 Mil From State For Econ Development

When Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the latest results of his Regional Economic Development Council initiative (REDC), there was positive news for many in Nassau and Suffolk.

Used to fund economic and community development across the state via 10 Regional Councils, Cuomo awarded $709.2 million; as much as $750 million was available. And on Long Island, the $81.9 million for 97 projects was the second most.

The major prizewinner was Albanese Development Corporation for winning $4.7 million towards their Wyandanch Rising project. The funds are slated for construction of a three-story commercial building adjacent to LIRR station, part of a $500 million Transit-Oriented District. The future mixed-income community is slated to feature 177 residential units and 37,500 square feet of retail space in two buildings plus another 77,000 square feet of commercial space in a third building.

Occupancy of 177 apartments in the future 40-acre Wyandanch Village development is expected to occur this fall. About 30 percent of the apartments will be rented at market price. More than 100 of the units will be restricted to those with an income of 50-60 percent of the area’s annual median income, with the final 18 going to those with a 90 percent income restriction.

Molloy College received $2,395,248 from round IV for their Complete Green Homes Project. The project is a community-scale collaborative venture between municipal governments, not-for-profit organizations, and a local college to promote residential energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout Long Island. This project will educate homeowners about utility and other programs that provide incentives, rebates, and financing for home energy audits; efficiency retrofits; solar PV; oil heat conversions; and home EV charging.

Another $675,000 was allocated to the Village of Great Neck Plaza for a sustainable parking lot on Maple Drive that will feature porous pavement.

The REDC grants also included several designed to help Long Island recover and rebuild after Superstorm Sandy. Suffolk County pulled in $4 million for design of wastewater infrastructure that provides treatment in high groundwater areas along the South Shore. The Nassau County Department of Public Works received $1.6 million for installation of 800 check valves along South Shore to mitigate flooding and another $1 million for a road drainage project in Long Beach.

Applications for the latest round opened to businesses, nonprofits, municipalities and the public on Thursday. The program is designed to create bottom-up regional economic growth by funding local projects designed to create jobs and support communities.

In round IV, $150 million in capital funds, $70 million in Excelsior Tax Credits and $530 million from state agency programs were on the table. To win the funding, participants had to focus on implementation of regional strategic economic development plans, encouraging economic growth through job creation and investment, and identifying global marketing and export strategies. The latter is part of Cuomo’s 2014 focus on international business.

More than $2 billion was invested via REDCs prior to Thursday’s announcement. The first three rounds funded more than 2,200 projects supporting more than 100,000 jobs statewide. Recipients of the third round were announced shortly before Christmas, with 98 Long Island projects receiving grants, tax credits and other funding totaling $83 million – the single most of all 10 regional economic development committees in the state that round.

Check out the full list of awards here and the governor’s announcement here.

Rights To New Cassel Workforce Housing Announced

Dozens with dreams of moving into a new housing development just outside the Village of Westbury gathered yesterday to hear just who will turn fantasy into reality.

The Long Island Housing Partnership, Town of North Hempstead Community Development Agency and town board held the Workforce Housing Lottery at the “Yes We Can” Community Center Thursday evening.

“The development of 15 affordable homes in downtown New Cassel is another significant step in the revitalization of the community,” Long Island Housing Partnership CEO Peter Elkowitz said.

Applicants entered for a chance to own one of 15 homes. That includes a trio of new, two-story, three-bedroom single-family homes, 11 new, two-story, three-bedroom townhouses and a renovated, existing home.

All of the single-family homes are being constructed by a CDA contractor while Cornerstone Properties of New York is the developer for the townhouses. All 15 units are expected to be finished next year, with occupancy set for the spring or summer.

Since the Long Island Housing Partnership began accepting applications in October, 39 have been submitted. While winners of yesterday’s lottery will have the first crack among those 39, each candidate must be reviewed to meet the financial requirements. Eventual homeowners must have a household income below 80 percent of the Nassau-Suffolk median – $84,100 for a family of four or $67,300 for a family of two, be first-time home buyers and possess a good credit history to obtain a mortgage. While it’s unlikely, new applicants can still be added to a waiting list in case there are not 15 eligible applicants among the 39 received.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth joined Nassau County Director of Housing and Community Development John Sarcone and Unified New Cassel Community Revitalization Corporation’s (UNCCRC) Bishop Lionel Harvey at the lottery.

“Home ownership transforms a person, giving him or her dignity and a safe place to raise a family.  It is only through the cooperative efforts of the Town, the CDA, the Long Island Housing Partnership, Inc., Nassau County and the State that we are able to produce such positive results that benefit our entire community. I wish all of our hopeful lottery participants the best of luck,” Bosworth said.

“I am very pleased to see the Town of North Hempstead and the Community Development Agency in continued partnership with UNCCRC to assist in the New Cassel Revitalization and with the Town’s North Hempstead Workforce Housing Program more families will have the opportunity to become homeowners,” Harvey said when the program was announced in September. “This Community continues to get the victory as we stay focused on the goals of revitalization and affordable housing. It’s a blessing what we can do when we all work together.”

For more about the housing available, check out the Long Island Housing Partnership online.

12/19

Mass Transit Tax Credit Passes

Senator Charles Schumer announced that the Mass Transit Benefit Tax Credit, among others, was passed by Congress Tuesday night in the Tax Increase Prevention Act (HR 5771), also known as the “tax extenders package’. The tax credit which expired January 1, 2014, passed with a one year extension allowing the benefits to be collected retroactively for 2014.

“This bill includes the extension of the mass transit benefit to keep more money in mass transit commuters’ pockets”, said Senator Schumer.“These critical tax breaks for teachers, commuters and others will help stretch every dollar earned by New Yorkers, and that’s why I pushed so hard to make sure they were extended for 2014″.

This benefit is available to commuters who receive employer offered transportation benefits and ride the bus, take the LIRR, take the subway or use another form of public transportation to commute to work. It will restore a tax benefit giving mass transit commuters the same tax break as those who commute by car receive for parking costs. Mass transit commuters will be able to receive up to $250 in tax benefits each month for the 2014 tax year. In the previous year, 2.7 million commuters nationwide took advantage of the benefit.

The bill consisting of almost 50 tax benefit is set to go to President’s desk this week for signature.

For more coverage of this story, check out Senatr Scumer’s press release.

LIPA Rejects Off-Shore Wind Farm, OKs Solar Arrays

The 11 solar arrays in Suffolk County got the green light from LIPA on Wednesday, but plans for an off-shore wind farm were sunk.

LIPA trustees voted on plans to create 280 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy promised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his LIPA reform legislation.

The approval for solar will let LIPA begin creating plans for 11 arrays in Calverton; Manorville; East Shoreham; Medford; Yaphank and Kings Park. Expected to be turned on by 2016, the solar panels should create 122.1 MW of green power.

The trustees, however, dismissed Deepwater Wind’s $1 billion Deepwater ONE project. Stationed 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, 6 MW turbines on platforms in 100-120 feet of water would generate more than 200 megawatts of power by 2018 and hook up to the LIPA electrical system on the East End. Deepwater Wind, who already has a federal lease for the project, believes it could eventually produce up to 1,200 MW.

Several trustees expressed concern about the expensive price tag and possible elimination of tax loopholes with Deepwater ONE.

Instead, LIPA will work with PSEG-LI to issue another bid for the remaining 160 megawatts in 2015.

More than a dozen environmental advocacy organizations, including Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Sierra Club, released a collective statement in response to LIPA’s decision.

“We’re disappointed that Governor Cuomo failed to keep his promise to bring 280 MW of new renewable energy to Long Island this year. Failing to fulfill this promise means we will continue to fall behind as other states embrace the economic and public health benefits of investing in offshore wind.

While we are happy to see more solar energy business opportunities for Long Island, the outcome is a missed opportunity to build a thriving new offshore wind industry in New York.

Governor Cuomo promised our families a modern utility with more renewable energy. He’s failed to follow through on that promise, costing us jobs and economic opportunities in the process. Now, we’re counting on PSEG-LI to work quickly toward building the modern utility we were promised and taking action to bring offshore wind power to our homes and businesses.”

In the leadup to LIPA’s decision, Deepwater One promoted a pair of Stony Brook University studies supporting their proposal.

The first study found a 250-megawatt offshore wind farm would have “essentially no impact” on ratepayers’ bills. The study’s authors called the potential impact “inconsequential” — possibly less than half a percent.

Accommodating the growing demand for electricity on East End was a major part of PSEG’s Utility 2.0 plan for LIPA. According to current trends, demand will outgrow supply by 2016, and local zoning would heavily restrict options. Utility 2.0 proposes building additional natural gas generating facilities to add 25 MW by 2019, although the study finds Deepwater One’s proposed 250 MW farm could provide the power amid the restrictions.

After running the numbers, the study’s authors believe building such a wind farm would increase residential customers’ monthly bill by 0.5 percent in 2019 and commercial customers’ bills by 0.6 percent. That does not account for any benefits from reduced transmission costs, improved reliability and reduced emissions.

The second study found a single offshore wind farm could create several hundred jobs on Long Island for several years, and that the development of a local offshore wind industry could, as demand for the technology grows, put thousands of Long Islanders to work.

Offshore wind can create jobs and economic benefits to the local economy. The study anticipated about 11 jobs per megawatt and a 250 MW farm could create at least $645 million in new economic development activity would be possible. Such a project would require construction and production of turbine components, both of which could present opportunities for Long Island’s skilled labor base in the aerospace and maritime industries.

Analyzing legislation, polices and restrictions about renewable energy by various state and federal governments, along with the market demand, the first study’s authors believe Long Island can have a wind farm producing 8,850 megawatts.

For more coverage of this story, check out Newsday (subscription required).

First Tenant Moves Into New Farmingdale Transit Housing

The first tenant of a downtown Farmingdale housing development neighboring the LIRR station moved in Monday.

Jefferson Plaza formally opened its doors earlier this week, with Village Mayor Ralph Ekstrand, Vision Long Island and developers TDI and Bartone Properties touring the building.

“The administration has been nothing but supportive and it’s a pleasure working with them. The community seems to be receiving this very well. We have nothing but positive feedback to report,” developer Anthony Bartone said.

Jefferson Plaza is the largest of several Smart Growth projects underway in Farmingdale, a transit-oriented development that broke ground by the train station in November 2013.

The building opened Monday replaced a parking lot with 39 apartments and 6,000 square feet of retail. Construction is underway across the street on a vacant warehouse that will be replaced with 115 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail. That building is likely to open in June.

Once complete, the two-building project will include a theater room, courtyards with barbecues, facilities to conduct conference calls, a brick walkway leading towards Main Street and an underground parking lot with a 172-vehicle capacity.

“Everything is progressing as planned,” the developer said.

Monthly rent is expected to start around $2,300 for each apartment, although 10 percent will be rented at cheaper rates for residents making less than the area’s median income. The price of the units will vary with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

As of Tuesday, Bartone said some of the 39 apartments were still available and the Long Island Housing Partnership has yet to hold the lottery for their four price-reduced units.

“We have several hundred people who expressed interest,” he added. “Since we just opened the building yesterday, we’re going to start having open houses.”

IDA Starts Countdown On Fourth LaunchPad Incubator

A business incubator will receive financial incentive to build a $4 million branch in the Village of Great Neck Plaza.

The Nassau County IDA approved LaunchPad Long Island for sales, mortgage and property tax breaks for their latest downtown location last week. Co-Founder Andrew Hazen said they had been waiting months for the IDA’s approval.

“We are choosing the contractors to build out the space and we hope to be in there by February,” Hazen said.

LaunchPad is expected to lease 7,200 square feet in a 22,500 square-foot building on Grace Avenue. Once complete, the new site will offer co-working spaces for at least 36 startup companies. The IDA believes it will create 50 permanent jobs, generate $12 million in economic impact and produce $90,000 in net tax benefits.

This location marks their fourth, following Stony Brook, Huntington and Mineola. While the Stony Brook location focuses on college kids, LaunchPad houses about 60 companies in the other two venues. None of the startups have left quite yet, Hazen said, although many are expanding in terms of staffing, resources and finances. Mineola is the oldest location and will celebrate its second anniversary this winter.

Meanwhile, Hazen confirmed he’s also exploring other parts of the island for future LaunchPads. Long Beach and Patchogue are both current possibilities.

The recession, Superstorm Sandy and brain drain have left many Long Islanders underwhelmed and concerned about the economic future of their home. But the co-founder said LaunchPad provides hope, as well as resources and expertise, which leads to startups that ultimately lead to jobs and prosperity.

“I think LaunchPad gives people that hope, that belief,” he said.

The group touring Great Neck Plaza during Smart Growth Saturday back in September visited the Grace Avenue site as a potential home for the incubator.

For more on this story, check out the Long Island Business News (subscription required).

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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 17 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 1,900 presentations, performed 20 community visionings and advanced over 60 public and private planning projects towards implementing the goals of Smart Growth on Long Island.

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Northport, NY 11768

Phone: 631-261-0242. Fax: 631-754-4452.

Email: info@visionlongisland.org

Website: www.visionlongisland.org

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