September 25th - October 1st, 2016
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"We must continue to work to ensure that those who rely on public transportation are not left stranded. I believe there are opportunities to adjust routes, work with local governments, and right-size the fleet, that will provide the cost savings that would prevent the need for wholesale route cuts." - Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming
Suffolk Bus Cuts Delayed One Week , Advocates Push for Extensions
Vision Long Island testified in front of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Public Works, Transportation and Energy Committee this week, asking for answers to questions regarding the ten Suffolk County Transit routes proposed to be cut in October, and to urge the Legislature and Public Works to take all aspects of the cuts into consideration before moving ahead.
With only days to go before the cuts were to go into effect on October 3rd, it was announced that cuts would be postponed until October 10th, allowing riders an additional week to determine what, if any, options might be available for them to attend school, work, medical appointments, run errands, and have leisure time. After over 200 people attended public hearings regarding the proposed cuts, explaining how it would be a hardship to the users that would be affected; 131,580 rides were taken on 2014 on the ten routes scheduled to be cut. While the County in recent years has been encouraging connecting Long Island, promoting transit service and economic development in the future this system presently serves existing downtowns and employment centers. What is ironic is the communities facing cuts have just collectively approved over 1,000 units of Main Street apartments where transit is an important component, with the impacts that these bus-line reductions would have on riders, the communities served by the eliminated lines, and the Suffolk economy has not being fully determined.
Mentioned at the session by Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson was a modification to route S66, where one bus would be added at 5AM heading east to accommodate riders that would be affected by the loss of the S71 route; a mid-day route would be cut from the S66 to make up for this. The S71 route takes approximately 160 riders daily to Stony Brook University and surrounding areas, Suffolk County Community College in Selden, Brookhaven Town Hall, Long Island State Veterans’ Home, Suffolk County probation, as well as other destinations. It was told to the Committee that those with transit scheduling concerns can call Suffolk Transit in order to learn what alternative routes can be taken, however, when they were called this week with that question, it was told that “they can call back in early October” because there is not alternative routing available to the public at this time.
When looking at alternative routes for students attending Stony Brook University and Suffolk County Community College in Selden, it was found that any alternative routes that riders could take would include one or two transfers, as well as longer wait times between buses for all alternative routes, and at least an hour added to each morning commute daily. The current routing would allow for one trip for students and employees of SBU and SCCC. Some alternative routes also demand that riders arrive at their transfer point at the same time as transferring bus leaves; anybody that has rode a Suffolk bus understands that arrivals do not always occur on time, and that scheduling a trip based on that could jeopardize timely arrival for their destination.
Other questions asked and answered included if “right-sized” buses for certain routes were looked at prior to the cuts; at this time they are not. Asked also if there would be layoffs, and if from DPW was "I can't answer that right, I don’t know," with mentions that those drivers that are the “low man” could be able to drive SCAT or school buses, but “there could definitely be some layoffs”. When asked if STOA funding, which is State Transit Operating Assistance, would be affected, it was “assumed” that there would be no cut in funding. Legislator Fleming, who asked this question, was concerned about the potential outfall from indiscriminate cuts, saying "if you are not certain of the costs, how can you move forward with this." STOA funding is directly linked to the amount of miles and passengers that are carried in the transit system; with mileage and route cuts, and over 131,000 riders affected some that will not be able to take alternative routes, it is hard to see how STOA funding will not decrease.
You can hear some of the audio from the meeting here.
Suffolk Alliance of Chambers Discuss Work Over Past Year
The Suffolk Alliance of Chambers of Commerce met last week at the H. Lee Denison Building in Hauppauge, with about 100 in attendance, to discuss a multitude of issues including over-regulation, the need for sewers and other challenges hampering economic development in Suffolk County’s downtowns and business districts.
Among the speakers were Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, State Senator Tom Croci, Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy, Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Legislator Leslie Kennedy opened the meeting with a special moment of silence for Scott Martella, John Byrne and Judy Jacobs, who have recently passed.
Lieutenant Governor Hochul mentioned the support for the state’s small business deferred tax legislation that was passed by the senate last session. The measure, which has been pushed by the Long Island Lobby Coalition in the past, will allow for tax-advantaged savings accounts that can be accessed during times of economic downturn, natural disaster, and for job creation, without penalty. 78 percent of the Suffolk Alliance of Chambers, which represents more than 40 community chambers of commerce in the county, support the tax-deferred bill. Hochul also spoke of the Governor’s Infrastructure and Downtown Revitalization efforts on Long Island, their important impact to the small businesses in Suffolk County, as well as her suggested follow-up meeting on ''Access to Capital" concerns for the SCAC chamber members.
Senator Flanagan stressed the need for a significant reduction in the government bureaucracy that hurts small businesses here and specifically advocated for easing health department and transportation department regulations, also assailing the coming $15-an-hour minimum wage mandate as particularly onerous for small business and mentioned the need for investment in expanding the county’s sewer system. A recent survey from the Suffolk Alliance showed that 67 percent of its members oppose the minimum wage mandate. Flanagan also said that there is a need to alleviate health department regulations for businesses at the State and local levels.
Vision Long Island’s Director Eric Alexander gave a legislative update on small business initiatives that are impacting Long Island’s downtowns. A “Spotlight on Chambers” was talked about, including the efforts of Riverhead, Patchogue and Huntington. Also discussed were upcoming events including the Suffolk County Marathon which goes through several south shore downtowns, and the creation of a “shop locally” campaign similar to one organized by the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce and the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency, and the Alliance’s first year was reviewed with co-chair’s Gina Coletti and Robert Fonti.
“We’ve been focusing on promoting economic development and working on the issues and concerns the local chambers struggle… access to funds, lack of infrastructure and the need for downtown revitalization,” said Coletti.
“We want to thank the Suffolk chambers, and stakeholders of Suffolk County for your support and hard work to keep businesses thriving in Suffolk and to “shop local”.” said Robert Fonti, Co-Chair of the Suffolk Alliance of Chambers of Commerce
Almost $17 Million in Funding Secured for Pedestrian-Friendly Projects for Long Island
Long Island communities are receiving $7.8 million in funding for sidewalks, crosswalk, and ramps to be ADA compliant, and almost $9 million towards Complete Streets and shared-use paths projects in Nassau County.
Last week, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer announced with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation have awarded $7,800,000 in federal and state funds. These funds will allow Long Island to make their sidewalks, crosswalks and ramps compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). “Individuals with disabilities have the right to live independent, fulfilling lives,” said Senator Schumer. “We have a responsibility to make that a reality. In part, that means ensuring that our sidewalks and crosswalks accommodate the needs of all Americans and all New Yorkers. This new federal funding will be an enormous resource in that effort and will allow Long Island communities to complete urgently needed upgrades.” Specifically, $3,800,000 in federal funds will be used for ADA compliance in Nassau and Suffolk counties; and $1,500,000 in federal funds will be used for NYS Route 24 ADA ramp reconstruction from Meadowbrook State Parkway to NY110 (East Meadow to East Farmingdale); and $2,500,000 for NY25A ADA Ramp Reconstruction to Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in Cold Spring.
Also this week, two Long Island projects were approved to receive funding that was originally earmarked for other projects in the state through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. The funding opportunity had been listed by Vision Long Island earlier this year in the Grants section of Smart Talk. The Act allows States to repurpose certain funds originally earmarked for specific projects over 10 years ago, that were either completed with other funding streams, or never completed. The two projects that were funded on Long Island were the Grand Avenue, Baldwin Complete streets project, which will receive $4.75 million, and the third phase of the 14-mile Ocean Parkway shared-use path from Tobay beach to Captree State Park which will receive $4.1 million. The Long Island Chapter of the New York Bicycle Coalition had submitted a list of Long Island bicycle and pedestrian related projects to NYSDOT for consideration for the competitive funding, which uses the old money that was already appropriated for other projects. : “With so little dedicated funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects throughout the state, we recognized this unprecedented opportunity to unlock millions of stale earmarks for Long Island projects that will directly affect people on bikes and pedestrians. I am excited to have steered our Chapter towards securing more than half of the available funds for these projects on Long Island,” said Allison Blanchette of the NYBC’s Long Island Chapter, who submitted the projects to the NYSDOT, along with C.L.I.M.B. president Michael Vitti for consideration.
You can read more about the NY Bicycling Coalition here,
Tax Breaks Granted for Mineola Redevelopment
A Mineola multi-family housing project moved forward this week with approval of tax breaks from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency. Vision Long Island testified in support of the project at the Village hearing late last year along with overwhelming support of the community. The development will be at the former Corpus Christi Elementary School site, which has been closed since 2010.
The $70 million project is among more than 100 transit-oriented housing developments that have won local government approval in the past 10 years, with about 12,000 apartments being authorized in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The 192-unit housing complex will be in proximity to Mineola’s busy Long Island Railroad Station. Housing near train stations boosts the economy by aiding commuters and maintaining a large pool of young workers, said Joseph J. Kearney, executive director of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency. “We are helping keep young people in the county who might otherwise leave,” he said.
The developer, Mill Creek Residential Trust, as granted up to $1.8 million worth of sales tax exemptions for purchase of construction materials , equipment, and fixtures for the complex, and almost $500,000 off the mortgage recording tax. There will also be a 20-year deal on property taxes, providing savings to the developer and gives local governments tax revenue that they wouldn’t have otherwise. The IDA’s executive director said that local governments would receive about $11 million in property taxes over 20 years. The properties have not been generating property tax revenue because they are owned by a Catholic church. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said that the development would bring “millions in economic benefits for downtown shops and restaurants,” as well.
You can read more about the move to bring additional transit-orient development to Mineola in Newsday
Bay Park Sewage Plant Receives Higher Grade on Report Card
The Western Bays Coalition gave Nassau County’s Suez Water its first report card this week, with a passing grade; a B+. The previous score given before Suez’ takeover was an F.
Three years ago, The Western Bays Coalition called on Nassau County to dramatically improve operations for the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. The coalition identified 10 objectives for the County to meet in order to protect the ecology of the Western Bays, improve the quality of life in surrounding communities and increase transparency. Those objectives included meeting the discharge standards for bacteria, heavy metals, VOCs, and phthalates set by the NYS DEC, reducing nitrogen pollution, reducing odor complaints, and meeting with the public – among others.
One of the improvements the Coalition included in the report card was a reduction of pollution violations. From 2010-2014 there was 127 water pollution violations at the Bay Park STP. In the 20 months that SUEZ managed the plant there were only a handful, considered by the DEC to be an anomalies, and had no DEC violations. Odor and noise complaints have gone down substantially, and denitrification technology is being installed to reduce nitrogen loading by 50%. Suez has committed to divert sewage effluent out of Reynold’s Channel, which has be degraded severely from the effects of effluent over the years.
“We are really happy with what we requested and what Suez has done,” Scott Bochner of Sludge Stoppers said. The coalition now wants Suez to begin an educational program to discourage residents and businesses from flushing pharmaceuticals down the toilet, which allows toxins to enter the county waterways.
Mastic Beach Village Residents Give Input Towards Comprehensive Planning
Vision Long Island joined Wendel this weekend in Mastic Beach Village to undergo the first public visioning workshop for the Village’s Comprehensive Plan. Dozens of residents were in attendance, giving input towards what direction they would like to see the area move forward in, in terms of land and waterfront usage, zoning, infrastructure improvements, needs of transportation, economic development, beautification and flood mitigation.
The plan is paid for in the majority by two separate state grants, and will bring previous including the Brookhaven Town Visioning, performed by Vision Long Island over a decade ago, the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan, aspects of the Fire Island to Montauk Point study, and existing sewering planning into one document. The public was invited to attend the workshop to give input, share ideas with one another and the comprehensive planning team, and ask questions about what kind of redevelopment has worked in the past in other areas that can be applied to the Village. The bottom-up approach will give feedback towards the goals of the community to the Steering Committee, which is comprised of over 40 members, including the various civic, faith-based and other community leaders.. Suffolk County COPE and Village Code Enforcement were on hand, along with the entire Village Board, to answer concerns from residents as the process moved ahead, but not to influence the decision-making process by residents.
Additional public input for those that were unable to attend the workshop can be submitted via email until October 14th by clicking here
Stony Brook University Presents Aging in Place in Suburbia Summit
Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare will be hosting the Aging in Place in Suburbia Summit on October 6th and 7th at the Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday, October 6th, and Friday, October 7th. The Summit is co-sponsored with Stony Brook University by the New York State Office on Aging, AARP, Nassau and Suffolk Counties Office on Aging, the National Aging in Place Council, and the Long Island Health and Welfare Council. Vision Long Island’s Director Eric Alexander will be speaking on one of the panels, Aging in Place on Long Island: Assessment of the State of Long Island
The program is packed with experts on aging, and will offer a “tasting menu” of ideas that support Aging in Place in Suburbia, convening local stakeholders to digest and consider their ideas more extensively at a later date. The Summit is a first step towards working on the issue of Aging in Place, identifying national, statewide, and local innovations in housing, transportation, personal finance, social engagement, and wellness, services, and care-giving that can be implemented in a pilot program on Long Island.
Due to the overwhelming response to the summit, there is currently a waiting list for those wishing to attend. For other information or to answer questions please call us at 631-444-2139
Huntington Hosts Long Island Fall Festival
The largest of its kind in the Northeast, the Long Island Fall Festival has become the premiere event for family fun. Presented by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Huntington, this event is held annually during Columbus Day weekend and attracts tens of thousands of families from all over the New York Tri-State area to the 25 acres of Heckscher Park in Huntington, NY.
Walk & Talk: Storrs Center and Willimantic Connecticut
Join the Congress for New Urbanism New York and the Congress for New Urbanism New England for a walking tour, lunch at Cafemantic, and happy hour in Northeastern Connecticut on Friday, October 7th from 10AM-4PM.
Long Island Business Council Hosts Candidates Forum
To date, the Candidate's Forum will include Hon. Lee Zeldin, US Congressman; Anna Throne-Holst, Former Southampton Town Supervisor; Hon. Jack Martins, New York State Senator; Tom Suozzi, Former Nassau County Executive; Hon. DuWayne Gregory, Suffolk County Presiding Officer.
This meeting will include candidates running for Congress speaking on their platforms and federal policies. Breakfast will be available for attendees. Members of the Long Island Business Council can pre-register at any time, at no cost. The fee for non-members is $45.00. Please RSVP to the meeting by firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-877-811-7471.
Connection Day 2016 Brings Together Long Island’s Leaders
The Fair Media Council has announced the Connection Day 2016 event on October 21st from 7:30AM-4:30PM, designed to make Long Island’s leaders stronger, and to represent Long Island to the media while bringing the next leaders out to attend.
Conveniently located at Briarcliffe College in Bethpage, the event brings together a breakfast panel discussion on the media coverage of the upcoming Presidential Election moderated by WCBS News & Programming Director Tim Scheld, more than 15 breakout sessions to choose through throughout the day, and luncheon speaker Bill Keller, former Executive Editor of The New York Times and now Editor in Chief of The Marshall Project, which is leading the national conversation on the state of criminal justice in America. In addition, Eric's Director Eric Alexander will be moderating a panel on "Pitching the Media."
With too many highlights of the upcoming event to mention, you’re urged to visit here and take a look at the lineup and order tickets while they are available.
Hercules on the Harbor Run Benefits Stony Brook Hospital Cancer Research
The Hercules on the Harbor 10k is a challenging course with many ups and downs that covers both on and off-road terrain which highlights many of Stony Brook's landmarks, including the beautiful village green, the scenic marina and harbor, the spectacular Avalon Park & Preserve, Harmony Vineyards, the Stony Brook Duck Pond, the Grist Mill, and the charming residential community. The course offers both novice and seasoned runners memorable moments that will keep them returning year after year.
The Hercules on the Harbor 10K is a timed event as well as a USA Track and Field Sanctioned course that will have live music along the course route to encourage runners to conquer some of the more challenging inclines. It is a rain or shine race.
Proceeds from this event will support the Stony Brook Hospital Cancer Research Center. Registration will be available between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on October 23rd, the morning of the 10K race, for $45 per participant. Awards go to the top 3 Male and Female Overall runners. There will also be awards for the Top 3 Male and Female runners in each 5 year age groups (Under 14 through 85+)
28th Annual Keys for the Homeless Conference
Long Island Coalition for the Homeless’ 28th Annual Keys for the Homeless Conference, In the Trenches of Homelessness: Many Faces Hopeful Solutions, will be taking place on October 28th at Touro Law Center in Central Islip. The Keys Conference is a unique opportunity to meet and network with corporate and non-profit housing developers, funding sources, service providers, government officials, representatives from government agencies, and vendors in various fields.
This year’s Keynote Speaker will be New York Times Best Selling author Regina Calcaterra. Over a dozen of workshops covering several of the most pressing issues facing Long Island will be taking place, with some of the workshops offering CEU credits. Several awards and scholarships will be given.
Early bird registration ends September 26th, and there are various discounts for students and sponsorships available. You can click here for a full list of workshops and awardees, and to purchase tickets.
Louisiana Needs Your Help
Louisiana suffered a devastating blow once again this month as twenty parishes were drenched with historical flooding, with over 7 trillion gallons of rain overfilling rivers and flooding homes. The unnamed storm is being called the worst US natural disaster since Sandy in 2012, dumping over 20 inches of rain in some areas, with other areas getting closer to three feet of rainfall.
Over 100,000 homes are estimated to be damaged by flooding with over 60,000 being so badly damaged that residents cannot return. 30,000 people were rescued, and thousands are still in shelters. One of the most frightening statistics is that 110,000 have registered for FEMA assistance, with less than a quarter of that amount filing a flood insurance claim- clearly outlining that there will be significant needs and gaps.
As Long Island creeps closer to the 4th Anniversary of Sandy, communities are once again coming together to provide assistance to Louisiana. Several initiatives to assist have started to be planned, with assistance planned in the future as well. Ways you can help:
ER 4 LA Pub Crawl Fund Drive- Sat October 1st 3pm-8pm
5 bars in East Rockaway will be participating, with 100% of proceeds (minus transaction fees) benefitting local efforts in Louisiana. Your $40 ticket includes five (5) up to $6 drink vouchers, one (1) for each of the participating locations, food specials, and an event T-shirt. Each voucher is also an entry to raffles for each location and one large prize. There will also be raffles and additional prizes. For more details and for early-bird registration, click here. For those who cannot attend and would like to donate to this fund, there is an option for that on the event page.
2016 Transportation Alternatives Program Solicitation Announced
The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has issued a Notice of Funding Availability for project proposals under the Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP. (https://www.dot.ny.gov/divisions/operating/opdm/local-programs-bureau/tap-cmaq )
TAP funding supports bicycle, pedestrian, multi-use path and transportation-related projects and programs as well as projects that reduce congestion and will help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Applications for this funding opportunity must be received by October 21, 2016. For additional information on TAP, including eligible project activities, contacts and other program requirements, please refer to the program guidance and application resource materials.
Down Payment Assistance Program Extended for Suffolk County
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was joined by Legislator Kara Hahn and Community Development officials to announce the extension of the Suffolk County Down Payment Assistance Program this week. The financial program assists first time homebuyers with down payment funds in order to obtain homeownership.
“Having access to homeownership can be critical to the long-term stability of families and helps strengthen communities,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Yet, for many first time homebuyers, coming up with down payment funds is an insurmountable obstacle that can deny them the chance to own a home. This program helps to address that issue.”
Assistance will provide up to $10,000 in grant funding to eligible first time home buyers – helping an additional 35 Suffolk County families. A first-time homebuyer is defined by HUD as a person or persons who have not owned a home in the past three years. Since the program’s inception, Suffolk County has helped more than 1,700 families with down payments on their first homes. The area, known as the consortium area, includes all of Suffolk County, with the exception of Babylon and Islip Townships.
“It is important that we have young people stay here in Suffolk County, to work here, to live and recreate,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn. ” I’d like to thank the folks from Community Development to make this a reality for individuals to stay. And it’s great to see that our residents are utilizing of this program.”
Some of the eligibility requirements outside of the “first-time homebuyer” provision include having an income of 80% or less than the area median income, having at least $3000 cash at the time of their application, a documented minimum income of at least $30,000 a year, and being able to qualify for a mortgage. The maximum purchase price for a single-family home, co-op or condominium for the program is $356,000.
Applications for the program are being accepted through November 30, 2016. Residents inside of the consortium area can download the application and view eligibility criteria and other information about the program through the Community Development tab on the County’s website, www.suffolkcountyny.gov. Applications will be accepted by mail only and can also be requested from the Community Development Office at (631) 853–5705. You can also check out News 12 for media coverage regarding the announcement.
$16 Million in Grant Money for Energy-Efficient Housing Construction
As a part of Governor Cuomo’s goal to reach 50% renewable energy by 2030, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is offering $16 million dollars for the design and construction of energy-efficient housing. It has been projected that buildings that take advantage of this support will see yearly savings of 9 million dollars.
"Ensuring New York's buildings are constructed to the highest standards of energy efficiency is crucial to both our long-term sustainability and prosperity of the state,” said Governor Cuomo. "Smart choices about efficiency can simultaneously save money and protect the environment. This investment promotes that principle in order to build healthy communities and save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars."
Half of the 16 million dollars will be offered to builders of low-rise buildings, including single family homes, and the other half is meant for builders of mid- and high-rise buildings that consist of apartment units. Applications for this grant money will be accepted through December 29, 2017, or until funding runs out.
More information about the grant and the application process can be found on NYSERDA’s website.
Young Volunteers Needed to Help Habitat Suffolk
Habitat Suffolk’s BUILD IT BRIGHTER is a program for students ages 11-15 who would like to get involved with Habitat Suffolk but who aren’t quite old enough to build on site yet. This workshop is intended to host 10 lucky volunteers ages 11-15 and parents or guardians who would like to stick around for the fun!
Intern with Vision Long Island!
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Federal Government Weighs in on Local Zoning, Gives Suggestions
The Obama administration is urging cities across the U.S. to update their antiquated zoning regulations to address the increasing scarcity of affordable housing locally and across the country.
The White House released a Housing Development Toolkit outlining a host of policy changes and other regulatory fixes it says will reverse decline and encourage developers to set aside more of their projects for affordable housing. The challenge the Obama administration faces is that those laws are created by local and state governments beyond the regulation of the federal government, and the administration has responded by seeking $300 million in the 2017 budget to help local governments update their zoning rules.
"Locally-constructed barriers to new housing development include beneficial environmental protections, but also laws plainly designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing," the report notes. Some of the suggestions in the toolkit include doing away with rules that discourage denser housing, eliminating parking minimums, enacting high-density and multi-family zoning, especially near frequent transit, and allowing “granny flats”- small accessory apartments on properties.
Although some of the suggestions in the toolkit could, and has worked, in areas across the country, some feel that the suggestions from the federal government are far reaching, and would impede efforts by localities. “Washington is now suggesting they should be involved in land use decisions. The 40 communities that are approving more density in their downtowns on Long Island aren't doing it because Washington or some other higher authority directed them,” said Vision’s Director Eric Alexander. “There is local public support, market viability and it is in the community's local self-interest to change their land use patterns”.