May 22nd - 28th, 2016
Ah, beach weather... at last.
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“The bottom line is it will help restore 10 miles of bay area in Nassau County between Jones Inlet and Rockaway Inlet. That’s critical to storm protection and our economy. We’re all for it. It would be a huge win for everyone on the island that uses the beaches and the bays.” - Rob Weltner of Operation SPLASH speaking on Bay Park outflow pipe moving one step closer to fruition
Nassau County’s Pipe Dream Closer to Becoming Reality
Nassau County’s “pipe dream” of diverting to the ocean rather than Reynold’s Channel continues to flow, with the possibility of pumping treated sewage from the newly reconstructed Bay Park sewage treatment plant through a six foot pipe in an aqueduct built in 1908. “This will save the Western Bays,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Unequivocally, without a doubt. It’s the best environmental news we’ve gotten in two decades.”
The Bay Park plant has been sending treated sewage out of a cement pipe since the 1940’s into Reynold’s Channel just north of the Long Beach fishing pier. Increased nitrogen in the bays has led to degradation of coastal wetlands which help protect against storm surge.
The new proposal is estimated to cost far less than the projected $450-600 million for an outfall pipe directly from Bay Park to stretch 2 ½ miles into the Atlantic Ocean by utilizing 10 miles of county-owned aqueduct that runs under Sunrise Highway. The aqueduct used to send water to Brooklyn from Hempstead Lake and manmade ponds along Sunrise Highway. Taken out of service in 1966, the pipe has not been inspected in 45 years; however requests for proposals are about to go out to hire a firm to check the structural integrity of the pipe. “A feasibility study will determine if existing infrastructure can support a connection to Cedar Creek ocean outfall pipe,” said County Executive Ed Mangano during a news conference in Mineola late last week. “To strengthen our shoreline, protect our marine life and improve our environment for decades to come, it’s critically important to connect Bay Park to an ocean outfall pipe.”
The new proposal would have a smaller pipe laid inside of the existing pipe, with two connecting pipes of about two miles each being built between the aqueduct and the two plants. The Bay Park plant, which will be undergoing further upgrades for denitrification of treated sewage, will continue to ship treated effluent through the pipes to Cedar Creek. Both Cedar Creek and Bay Park’s effluent would then be sent through the existing outfall pipe three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Two pumps, one at Bay Park and one at Cedar Creek, would push the treated wastewater through to Cedar Creek. The feasibility study will see if additional pump stations would be required.
Cedar Creek’s outfall pipe can handle a maximum flow of 200 million gallons per day. The Bay Park flow would bring the total at Cedar Creek’s outfall pipe to between 100 and 140 million gallons a day according to County Executive Mangano and Michael Martino of Suez Water, well below the capacity of the outfall pipe. “The bottom line is it will help restore 10 miles of bay area in Nassau County between Jones Inlet and Rockaway Inlet. That’s critical to storm protection and our economy,” said Rob Weltner of Operation SPLASH. “We’re all for it. It would be a huge win for everyone on the island that uses the beaches and the bays.”
Some were more cautiously optimistic of the plan, which has an estimated price tag of $200-$300 million. “I don’t think it should be done haphazardly,” said Claudia Borecky of North Merrick. “If [the pipe] leaks underneath Sunrise Highway, that could be disastrous.”
At the same time, Borecky wondered about Long Beach’s sewage treatment plant, which was included in earlier plans to construct an outflow from the Bay Park plant across the Long Beach barrier island. “I think you need to look at the whole picture when you do this,” she said, quickly adding that the county’s plan “looks like it’s going to cut the nitrogen.”
Third Track Proposal Raises Questions at Initial Public Meetings
Vision board, staff and community partners were out in support at 5 of the public scoping sessions over the last 2 days listening to the feedback on the proposed Third Track.
While there were largely local opponents and regional supporters of the concept the main issue that was raised was the lack of information to comment on. Local officials urged the MTA to delay the third track hearings until there is more information. Regardless there will need to be another round of scoping meetings for the public to weigh in on an actual proposal. Despite the lack of information local residents raised some excellent questions for study among them:
1) Questions related to the need for the project included: Is the expansion for freight, reverse commute, east side access, safety, or standard system improvements? What are the studies that assess the need? NYMTC, FTA and academic groups like RPA all have plans for expanded freight rail - where does this project fit in with the myriad of those regional plans?
2) Questions related to the economic, physical and environmental impact to the local communities included: Are they studying the economic impacts to the host communities along the line? What are the impacts from construction to the local business districts and residents? How long will construction take for each phase of the project? How are traffic patterns impacted throughout the duration of the project? What is the impact to existing rail service and for how many years? What are the noise, environmental and other physical impacts of the project?
3) Questions related to the benefits to local communities that bear the impact of this project included: What are economic benefits if any? What are the environmental benefits if any? What are the ridership improvements if any? Are there any public benefits to the host communities? Grade crossings have been proposed - are there others?
A coalition of Village Mayors from Bellerose, Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Garden City, Stewart Manor, Mineola and Westbury made a statement that praised the Governor for direct contact and follow up to their concerns but had questions and reservations on the project. Some of their recommendations included moving the grade crossings forward on their own merit, electrify the Port Jefferson branch, complete the Second Track to Ronkonkoma, upgrade switches, implement hi-speed signaling and switches and complete East Side Access before you move forward with the third track.
Labor unions were also out in force, including the Laborers and Carpenters and the LI Federation of Labor who clearly and understandably want the jobs associated with this proposal. Folks like the LI Railroad Commuters Council who want to see system improvements throughout the service territory spoke out.
Select outside regional interests also attended the sessions and championed the project as well: Planners from Suffolk County weighed in with ideas - farmers from the North Fork talked about freight rail improvements - the Rauch Foundation talked about brain drain etc. Some of the unfortunate marketing in the run up to the hearings included a claim that the folks opposed in the host communities will be "mildly inconvenienced" and encouraging leaders from non-impacted communities to turn out and essentially drown out, minimize and divide local voices. This strategy, where it was employed, is sad and ineffective at best and counterproductive to unity and a project approval at worst.
NYS Senator Jack M. Martins stated the process at this point: "Without facts, without details, without accurate data, how do we expect communities to be able to not only pose the questions, but provide the comments necessary to have a proper scoping review and environmental impact study?"
To be clear Vision Long Island testified in support of a Third Track but a plan that is negotiated with the communities most impacted from the construction project not the interests of folks outside (including Vision).
All told it appeared that close to 1000 people attended the six sessions with about 60% opposed and 40% in favor. The formal organized speakers may have been more in a 50-50 balance. The level of opposition is down from the past proposal in 2006-7 that had over 1000 people at some of the meetings.
Long Island Business Council tackles Storm Resiliency and Early Childhood Education
On Thursday, May 19th, the Long Island Business Council met to discuss disaster prevention in the form of ocean gates for Nassau County as well as the importance for business of early childhood education.
The meeting began with updates from Julie Marchesella of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce on the proposed parking fees in the Town of Hempstead. Next, Gina Colleti from the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers spoke on the topic of raising minimum wage in the County and local business’ opposition to it. Finally, Robert Fonti, Suffolk County Co-chair of the Long Island Business Council, spoke on an initiative being spearheaded by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, who will hold a small business summit to encourage communication with local government.
After the updates, the first presentation was by Freeport Village Mayor Robert Kennedy. Mayor Kennedy spoke on Freeport’s recent move to offer better resiliency against flooding and storm damage. The plan includes a $3 million feasibility study, which will be paid for with both local, state, and federal money, on the possibility of a rebuilding barrier islands and installing ocean gates. These gates, which would be installed at Jones and Debs inlets, would be closed for several hours during high tide each date to help eliminate nuisance flooding as well as during devastating storms. Mayor Kennedy pointed out that these gates have been in use with great success in places across America and in the Netherlands. He closed by emphasizing the need for the gates as a way to protect Nassau from future devastation and noting that modern gates have the potential for a 100 year lifespan.
Next up, Freeport Deputy Mayor Jorge Martinez introduced Bill Millet from Scope View Strategies to speak on the importance of quality early-age learning and how it can improve business. To begin, Mr. Millet drew a direct line from our education levels as a country to our ability to compete on a global level. Countries with lower education levels trend downwards with their ability to innovate and market. By providing support and early learning in both the home and childcare settings, we can improve the education levels of an entire generation. He noted that within the first five years of life, children’s capacity for learning and education grows exponentially, and that higher education both raises quality of life while lowering criminal activity in kids.
In order to help combat this, Mr. Millet spoke on the need for small business to get involved and engage the issue to provide adequate educational infrastructure for all children in our region. As a final point Mr. Millet spoke on how education improves business as a whole by providing more educated workforce who can provide greater resources for business and higher income for themselves. Numerous members of the Business Council signed up for a task force to assist working on this issue.Stay tuned for the next meeting of the Long Island Business Council in September.
Bills Direct MTA Payroll Tax Funds for Local Transportation Needs
Vision joined various community organizations including SILO and FREE in Albany this week in support of NYS Assemblyman Phil Ramos and NYS Senator Jack Martins’ bills to reallocated funds from the MTA Payroll Tax to reinvest in local transportation service.
Since 2009, the MTA Payroll Tax has imposed a 0.34% tax on employers within the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD). To date, the counties included in the district: New York (Manhattan), Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Richmond (Staten Island), Queens, Nassau, Orange, Suffolk, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, and Westchester have contributed nearly $1.5 billion dollars to the MTA. Thanks to the efforts of suburban delegation, the tax was dramatically reduced in 2011 to the benefit of suburban communities.
Communities outside New York City pay the MTA Payroll Tax, which results in far more money coming out of these counties than benefits received. Simultaneously, the needs of local residents have been increasing as the result of more intra-county travel and a regional shift towards transit oriented developments where downtowns are being redeveloped in an effort to spur economic development and much needed job growth. The systems also provide transportation to the most vulnerable members of our society who are wholly reliant on these systems for transportation to health care and other vital services.
Some quotes from the press conference include:
"The MTA Payroll tax is taxation without representation. It goes against our principles. This is not republican or democrat issue - this is an issue for the people of LI." - NYS Assemblyman, Phil Ramos
"We need more public transportation throughout LI. The MTA Payroll tax is one of the best no votes I made in the NYS legislature." - NYS Assemblyman, Fred Theile
"It's time for Albany to recognize that we have our own special needs and it's time to get our fair share of transportation dollars." - NYS Assemblyman, Andrew Raia
"The MTA tax is a injustice to LI. We give $350 million to the MTA and get very little back in the way of services." - Suffolk Legislator, Bridget Fleming
"Share the funds , share the money to help address the critical funds local communities need." - NYS Assemblyman, Nick Perry
"This bill will help create transportation infrastructure around our railroad stations." - NYS Assemblywoman, Kimberly Jean Perrie
"We all calling for road improvements. It's only right that we receive our fair share or transportation funding." - NYS Assemblywoman, Michaele Solages
The Assembly version of the bill to bring the resources from the tax to help the needs of local communities carries 8 co-sponsors, with both bills currently in their respective committees.
Two Neighboring Hamlets Work to Sewer Downtowns
With a large swath of Suffolk County not being connected to sewers, many homes and businesses have the desire but not the financial ability to receive the upgrades, including neighboring Kings Park and Smithtown, who both are in proximity of Suffolk County Sewer District 6.
An 8 year old engineering study conducted by Cameron Engineering had called for Kings Park and Smithtown to share one sewer system, Sewer District 6, by connecting to the already established wastewater treatment facility. The problem is that connecting both downtowns to the existing plant, which had a $17.1 million upgrade to improve the quality of its discharge in 2009, would limit sewer capacity for each downtown. “Under that plan Kings Park gets the short end of the stick,” said Linda Henninger, of Kings Park Civic Association and an active participant in the ongoing revitalization planning for Kings Park’s downtown. Henninger would like to see each hamlet have its own plant. “It would be better for Smithtown to have their own system so they could have more of Main Street sewered.” Smithtown ‘s Planning Director agrees with that idea; separate systems would enable a higher capacity for each downtown, with Smithtown’s business district being three times the size of King Park’s.
All options are still on the table, with designs being drawn up for independent systems for each downtown. Suffolk County will then have to decide which option would be the one to move ahead. “Once design is completed then we’ll have to make those decisions,” said Deputy County Executive for Administration Peter Scully, the county’s water quality czar. According to Scully, Sewer District 6 could handle the flows from a redeveloped Kings Park downtown and would not have to be expanded to do so.
The cost to build a system and connect it to properties along Kings Park’s Main Street would be between $17 million and $20 million, with those within the newly-created sewer district responsible for construction and maintenance costs. The more funding that would be made available through grants, the less the overall out of pocket and annual costs to those that utilize the new plant. It would cost an additional $35 million to $40 million to hook up the No. 6 plant to properties in downtown Smithtown, with the price to build a separate sewer plant there about $15 million more. Building a separate wastewater plan there would not take away from the capacity at Sewer District 6 away from Kings Park, and allow for more other the Smithtown area to be connected to sewers.
Some in Smithtown, including Cris Damianos, who’s firm owns about 250,000 square feet of office buildings in the downtown, would like to see the separate sewer system there. “The health department wastewater standards are more restrictive than the town’s zoning,” Damianos said. “Reliance on cesspools limits what you can build on a piece of property. If we don’t build sewers the downtowns are going to die.”
The hardest part, of course, is how to fund any of the potential projects, with a planned November referendum on a Water Quality Protection Fee that would add a surcharge of $1 per 1000 gallons of water used and raise nearly $75 million annually for various sewage treatment systems. The cost to sewer all of Suffolk County’s 360,000 properties currently using cesspools would be $6 billion. Kings Park’s sewer design is nearly complete, and does not want to have downtown revitalization plans postponed or scrapped if the referendum does not get passed. “The burden shouldn’t just be on the county,” said Eric Alexander, Director of Vision Long Island, which is wrapping up its visioning work on the Kings Park revitalization effort. “New York State has set aside infrastructure funding for Long Island in their most recent budgets and there’s a potential to bring those resources to Kings Park and Smithtown.”
You can read more about the work of two neighboring hamlet’s sewering needs in LIBN.
Town of Hempstead Proposes Parking Fees for New and Expanding Businesses
The Town of Hempstead held a public hearing this week, hoping to pass a new local law requiring new businesses and some expanding businesses to pay a fee for parking spaces.
The proposed change would have had new or expanding businesses that require additional parking spaces above what is allowable by code to be paid for with a fee, with $3,000 per additional space over 5 spaces that would be required by the town’s Board of Appeals. So, for example, if a new or expanding business sought a parking variance for 30 spaces, the property owner would be required to pay a $75,000 fee if the business was in the town’s Places of Public Assembly category, which would include restaurants, theaters, bars, and a variety of other uses. Councilman Edward Ambrosino felt that the new fees would be a benefit, with the money collected being used towards the town’s municipal parking needs, noting that if the town “had more parking we wouldn’t have to do this.” Ambrosino felt that since the property owners of the new or improved properties would know the cost of the additional parking needs upfront, that it could be rolled into the overall cost, saying that “it’s not that exorbitant.”
Many were opposed to the measure, including property owners, business groups, and advocates, who felt that the action will only create a ripple effect of higher rents which will be passed to consumers, while slowing down revitalization efforts underway and upcoming. “It’s not good for a commercial property owner who owns property in downtowns,” said Julie Marchesella, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce. “This is going to be a deal breaker for new development. It will severely hamper downtown areas that are undergoing revitalizations in the Town of Hempstead.”
Jeffrey Pliskin, a principal of Garden City-based Pliskin Realty & Development, which owns and manages 1.5 million square feet of retail real estate in the New York area, including some in Hempstead Town, said real estate taxes in Nassau County are already “crushing” business and he’s against the new fees. “What’s the logic behind it?” said Pliskin. “The town’s going to end up making less money because there will be less leasing and more blight. The consumer will end up paying for it.”
Vision is also opposed to the move as written. “In a Town as large as Hempstead impact fees of this type, no matter how well intended, have unintended consequences for the diverse business districts they seek to manage,” said Vision’s Director Eric Alexander. “Other strategies could include localized parking management plans, shared parking, signage, munimeters, and very selective impact fees. Many Villages and Main Streets across Long Island have employed some or all of these approaches; and while there is never an easy answer, the economic hit on local businesses is mitigated”.The proposed local law was postponed until an upcoming meeting. You can read more about the proposed ordinance in LIBN.
USDOT Announces 7 Finalists for $40 Smart Cities Grant
Seven finalists have been selected for the United States Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge for medium-cities.
The USDOT has pledged up to $40 million to one city to help it define what it means to be a “Smart City” and become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies- self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors- into their transportation network in order to showcase how the integration can improve safety, enhance mobility, and address climate change. USDOT’s Beyond Traffic 2045: Trends and Choices study examined the long-term and emerging trends in the nation’s transportation system and the implications of those trends, analyzing how people move, how we move things, how to move it better, and how to adapt. While USDOT acknowledged that cities of all sizes will be impacted by changing trends, the goal was to implement and fund a program in a medium-sized city as they have the newest and fastest-growing urban areas that will soon be facing the same challenges that large cities face, and to address the challenges now, before conditions get worse.
Twelve elements were judged regarding technology elements, innovative approaches to urban transportation, and underlying Smart City elements such as architecture standards and smart land use. To qualify for a chance to obtain the $40 million award, the population would be between 200,000 and 850,000 people with dense urban population, an existing public transportation system, and a commitment to integrating transportation services within the sharing economy- as well as other factors. Funding would be broken up over three years.
The cities of Pittsburgh (PA), Columbus (OH), Austin (TX), Denver (CO), San Francisco (CA), Portland (OR) and Kansas City (MO) all were visited by USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx last week to meet with mayors and other local leaders as they worked to complete their final proposals.” The creativity and determination of the applicants to envision a greener future represents the best of American ingenuity,” said Barbara Bennett, President and COO of Vulcan, Inc., Smart City Challenges philanthropic partner. The seven finalists came from 78 applications for the Smart Cities Challenge, and 300 companies have expressed interest in partnering.
The winner of the $40 million grant will be announced in June. You can read the seven finalists’ Vision Statements here, and also check out representatives of the City of Columbus talking about the grant process and some of their plans here.
Fair and Affordable Housing Land Use and Zoning Training
The Long Island Housing Partnership and St. Joseph’s College Institute for Attainable Homes will be presenting professional development training in Fair and Affordable Housing Land Use and Zoning of Friday, June 3rd from 9AM to 2PM. St, Joseph’s College is located at 155 West Roe Blvd. In Patchogue.
The Long Island Coalition for the Homeless Hosts Grand Opening Celebration
Long Island Coalition for the Homeless is pleased to announce their Grand Opening Celebration at their new facility in Amityville. Attendees can tour the newly renovated Community Resource Center and garden while learning about the different programs and services that are offered by organizations in the building. You can visit Long Island Coalition for the Homeless’ website by clicking here.
The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Awarding $1.5 million
The Aetna Foundation, American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties will be partnering in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, which will be administered by CEOs for Cities.
A total of $1.5 million in prizes will be awarded to cities, counties and federally recognized tribes that are most able to show measurable changes in health and wellness over the next several years. Applications are due by May 31st.
Intern with Vision Long Island!
Vision Long Island is looking for interns! Our staff likes to say we "wear many hats," and interns will have to do the same. Interns will assist with planning, design, outreach, event planning, writing, research, attending meetings, reporting, photography, video and more. Bring your unique skill set to the table! We are looking for energetic and conscientious individuals with an interest in urban/suburban planning from a bottom-up perspective. This is a valuable opportunity to work with great people and learn about the issues impacting Long Island. Strong writing skills a plus.
What's happening on your Main Street this weekend?
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Garvies Point Museum and Preserve
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Bow Tie Port Washington
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Cold Spring Harbor
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Port Jefferson Historical Society
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Good News: Support for Downtown and TOD Projects at an all time high!
There was a confusing Newsday article about one case study that painted gloom and doom about our region’s future. We are hopeful that what will soon get reported is what we are seeing at hearings across LI - that opposition to downtown projects is at an all-time low.
Challenges exist - there are still delays that occur with development on LI compared to other regions. We still need more rental units and downtown housing stock, which Vision has made part of our mission over the last 19 years to address. There are numerous regulatory hurdles and general anti-small business climate in NYS.
The good news is that numerous municipalities have approved downtown and Transit Oriented Development projects. In a review of the project hearings over the last four years, here are the results:
63 project hearings in 35 communities;
Vision board, staff and community partners have been represented at the above hearings and along with the public records, minutes and recorded votes can attest to the shift in support.
What should also be clear to critics of the pace of change and local land use control is that the bulk of the downtown redevelopment projects underway are initialized and advancing - at the request of the community. There are roughly 100 downtown business districts on LI - 60 have community driven downtown plans and 40 of those are actively approving projects. Granted there are still 40 business districts that have not shown any effort to revitalize and maybe that is why some folks are frustrated in some roundabout way.
Most folks now know not to call community and local business leaders, who appropriately question and influence their duly elected Villages and Town officials, names like NIMBYs. Dehumanizing real people does absolutely nothing to bridge the gap between pro redevelopment goals and real community concerns. In fact these types of approaches only widen a divide that still exists between regional interests and local communities.
What we have said for many years is the best way to advance change in local communities is to stop the regional critique and get off the sidelines, engage with a local civic, chamber or municipality which is happening in spades. So let’s take a moment to thank the folks that are making our downtowns better you know you are deeply appreciated and making a huge difference in communities across Long Island as the results speak for themselves.
So heading into Memorial Day weekend we hope folks enjoy time with their families and friends at barbecue’s, parks, parades and other local activities that remind us why we love Long Island.
Vision Long Island would also like to wish you and your family a Happy Memorial Day!
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