Smart Growth On Long Island: 2016

A Year In Review...

What a year….  

We hope you will take a minute to take stock of what was truly meaningful for the LI Smart Growth movement in 2016.  

This year end review is simply a small selection of the 40 downtowns on Long Island that are approving Main Street projects and the more that have planning initiatives underway.  Some of the meaningful work of securing infrastructure projects for transportation and sewers is also included. 

We helped the doubling down of support for community based planning and redevelopment particularly for projects with tangible public benefits.  We also saw a dramatic drop in support for real or perceived efforts from off Long Island regional interests seeking to plan our communities.  That is in line with the anti-elitism message that has been resonating out here for many years. 

We have been planning in tough areas where many said consensus could never be achieved with progress in Hicksville, Kings Park, Baldwin and Mastic Beach. 
We helped with ground breakings on long standing and contentious large scale development projects in Hempstead and Glen Cove.  

We assisted an increased effort from our Federal and State officials to bring infrastructure dollars in the right locations with local public support.   We saw targeted project funding and two bills pass in Albany with the support of the 90 member LI Lobby Coalition and the first long term Federal Transportation bill.

We developed, continued and some cases stronger, partnerships with leadership from local chambers of commerce, civic associations, municipal officials, and groups advocating for bus service, complete streets, Sandy recovery, seniors and our local youth. 

Most importantly we saw Long Islanders continue to embrace our downtowns as hubs for events, the arts, music, food, cultural activities and other forms of recreation and commerce.  The product of our collective planning and advocacy brings the most joy and great experiences were had for young, old, families and folks of all races, backgrounds and cultures in Long Island downtowns this past year. 

We have been honored to work with the thousands of Long Islanders that are actively making changes in their local communities.  This year many folks on our team have been able to speak, participate in events, lobby with you and provide support in a myriad of ways.  

Thank you for the trust you have place in us as your locally based partner to help improve our downtowns and infrastructure and we wish you a healthy and prosperous 2017. 

Board & Staff of Vision Long Island

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Vision Visits Albany for State of the State Address

“In five years we have accomplished much for New York State. Yet with all that we’ve done, we are not immune to the problems vexing our nation. From crumbling infrastructure to climate change to the widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else, we too are faced with significant challenges. I know that New York can conquer these issues, however, because we have done it before,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo, delivering his 2016 State of the State and Executive Budget Address in Albany, which was attended by a large delegation of Vision’s Board and staff, as well as the Long Island Lobby Coalition.

The $145 billion proposed budget limits the annual growth in State Operating Funds spending below 2 percent, with an increase of 1.7 percent over last year. This year’s agenda theme was “Built to Lead”, highlighting New York’s heritage as a standard bearer throughout US history, the significant progress achieved in the state over the past five years, and New York’s inherent capacity to lead the nation in addressing some of today’s most pressing challenges. The ambitious proposed budget included scores of new proposals and multiple other holdovers and asks from previous years, including infrastructure improvements. The mention of downtown redevelopment and the increased references to Long Island from last year were hopeful, with the proposed tax cuts for small business and a number of the clean energy proposals also holding promise.

Some of the new and past proposals that are relevant and/or specific to Long include:

  • The state will be investing $388 million in sewer infrastructure in Suffolk County (including the building of a Mastic/Shirley sewage treatment facility), and providing $190 billion towards an ocean outfall pipe for the Bay Park sewage treatment plant, which was heavily damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Both were previous asks of the Long Island Lobby Coalition. The Governor is proposing an additional $10 million investment to support wastewater and stormwater projects in both Nassau and Suffolk.
  • A $3 billion investment in Penn Station’s reimaging and improvement. LIRR services would be relocated to a new train hall in the adjacent James A. Farley post office. The Governor had described the experience of commuting for LIRR passengers in one word: “Miserable”.
  • Adding a third track to the LIRR Main/Ronkonkoma Line (estimated cost to be $1 billion), which serves 120,000 or 41% of the daily LIRR ridership, alleviating congestion and service delays while increasing capacity. The Governor’s proposal significantly reduces the number of required property acquisitions from about 200 to 50, which was a significant problem with plans to move the project forward in the past. Vision was and still is a supporter of the project, but would like to see more local outreach to stakeholders, the economic benefits for the region and local communities outlined by independent sources, and transparency in financial costs and time delays.
  • $50 million investment in the transit-oriented Ronkonkoma Hub project, Long Island’s busiest train station. The investment will leverage at least $600 million in private investment and create more than 1,000 jobs while creating a vibrant new downtown of mixed-use buildings on the once blighted 50 acre plot, connecting major employers like Stony Brook University and Hospital, Suffolk County Community College, and MacArthur Airport.
  • A $6 million investment in MacArthur airport, bridging a funding gap to bring an Internation Customs inspection station to the airport. Adding international flights to MacArthur will improve convenience for Long Island travelers and create 1,200 new jobs from adding airlines, a new federal government presence, and increased regional tourism.
  • A $100 million investment in downtown revitalization through the Regional Economic Development Council, with Long Island being a recipient of one of the $10 million awards. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) would transform long-forgotten areas into vibrant neighborhoods where tomorrow’s companies in the United States are increasingly seeking to relocate and invest in walkable downtown locations in an effort to attract and retain talent, build brand identity and foster company culture.
  • Funding for feasibility studies for Long Island, including $5 million for a study for a tunnel to connect Long Island to either Westchester or Connecticut, and $1 million to study the potential for a deep water port at the former Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant.
  • $50 million to build a state-of-the-art BioElectronic research and development facility at the Nassau Hub, generating cutting-edge research that marries the disciplines of Neuroscience, Electronics with Computing and Molecular Medicine and commercialize the research into new medicines.
  • A total of $182.5 million in funding for Long Island parks, including $54.5 million in new investments. New investments would include $34.5 million at Hempstead Lake State Park and $18 million to build the Jones Beach Marketplace.

Other proposed state-wide plans that can bring funding to Long Island include:

  • $500 million to upgrade municipal bridges and $500 million to invest in state-owned bridges, with hopes that funding assists Long Island in an equitable fashion. Projects will be selected based on the bridge’s condition rating, economic impact, environmental benefits, and reduced risk of flooding.
  • $500 million to help pave municipal roads and $500 million to invest in state-owned roads.
  • $750 million in funding for the Regional Economic Development Council awards. The Long Island Region has been the top-performer over the past four years with several projects being funded through the competitive process.
  • $15 million in funding for a Clean Energy Workforce, training 10,000 workers for jobs in the clean energy sector at SUNY schools. Industry partners would be selected through the REDC.
  • $5 million towards the creation of an offshore Wind Master Plan that will serve as a blueprint for the future of offshore wind in NY. Offshore wind solutions was an ask of the Long Island Lobby Coalition in the past.
  • Heavy investments in clean energy, including solar, with the goal of having 50% of New York’s energy coming from renewable sources by the year 2030. Included would be $1.5 billion of clean energy projects across state-owned and municipal buildings by 2020. All SUNY campuses would install solar and other renewable energy sources on each of its 64 campuses by 2020. The Governor also proposes funding to help 150,000 new homes and businesses have solar installed by 2020. Increased solar funding was an ask of the Long Island Lobby Coalition in the past.

Long Island Lobby Coalition members met with several policy makers before and after the State of the State address, once again advocating for proper funding and policies to move Long Island forward. “For Long Island implementing many elements of this bold vision is going to require the support of local communities, small businesses and municipalities. I hope that true and respectful cooperation, coordination and planning with mutual benefit ensure in whatever steps move forward on these mega projects,” said Vision’s Director Eric Alexander.

More can read about the State of the State address in Newsday, and from the Governor’s press release. A full version of proposed plans can be found here.

Progress on Long-Awaited Mastic-Shirley Sewer Project

Vision joined over 100 residents, community and civic leaders, environmental advocates and electeds for a Public Scoping meeting for the proposed Forge River Watershed Sewer project. The public meeting is a required step for the NEPA and SEQRA environmental review for the project.

The plan’s initial phase, which is estimated to cost $168 million according to Suffolk County Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson, and will have the Montauk Highway corridor as well as over 2,000 homes in Mastic and Shirley connected to the treatment facility. The proposed treatment facility would be located on property at Brookhaven Calabro Airport, which would treat the sewage and discharge the denitrificated effluent locally. Currently the Mastic-Shirley peninsula only has cesspools available for residential and commercial use, less a few local sewer treatment facilities such as Fairfield in Mastic Beach. The lack of sewering contributes to excessive nitrogen loading into the groundwater, as well as runoffs into the Forge River and Narrows Bay. This nitrogen loading severely reduces resiliency of the wetlands, which increases flooding in low lying areas such as Mastic Beach.

Over half of the 20 plus persons who submitted public comment were supportive of expanding the project towards Mastic Beach Village’s downtown district, where the Village can connect to the plant to not only reduce nitrogen load into Pattersquash Creek and the bay, but give opportunities towards economic development and smart growth in their efforts to revitalize the area that was devastated during Superstorm Sandy. Mayor Maura Spery of Mastic Beach Village is supportive of the project including her Village, saying after she gave testimony, “While it is important to ensure that the Tri Hamlet area in whole has access to proper sanitation, it would be foolish to not spend NY Rising money that is earmarked for resiliency to help Mastic Beach Village move ahead with their sewage projects. We could connect to the proposed plant, with developers who want to come into the area having connectivity to develop smart growth initiatives while providing significant resiliency for the Village.” The Village is currently working on preparing a shovel-ready plan that would enable them to connect to the proposed plant, which is scalable in order to accommodate additional residences and businesses.

“The start of the environmental review process is another step in the right direction as we progress with the creation of a sewer district for the Forge River Watershed,” stated Legislator Browning. “Advanced wastewater treatment technology is critical to the remediation of the river and Great South Bay, and seeing the project  moving forward is extremely exciting. We will continue to work with the public to ensure that their input drives this process.” Additional public meetings will take place as the project moves ahead. Legislator Browning’s office noted that there will be tours available sometime in the Spring of this year of the Miller Place treatment facility so that residents can see similar treatment plants that currently are in operation.

The public is encouraged to submit comments regarding the plan before on or before February . The Draft Scope can be viewed/download here, and comments can be submitted here. To learn more, you can read an article provided by Newsday before the meeting.

Mineola Village Approves 192-Unit Complex

A $68 million development by Mill Creek Residential received unanimous thumbs up this year, with a 192-unit development given the green light to move ahead. This is the fourth transit-oriented apartment complex to be approved in the Village. The original plan was for 197 apartments.

The plan calls for the construction of two four-story apartment buildings at the 2-acre site of the former Corpus Christi Elementary School located less than a mile from the Mineola Long Island Rail Road station. Mill Creek is partnering in the plan with Corpus Christi Parish, which sold the property and needs to develop it to pay off a $400,000 debt to the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre according to Monsigneur Robert Batule. The new Searing area apartments, which are scheduled to begin to be built in the summer, will make a total of 1048  apartments approved by the Village Board as part of its master plan to revitalize the downtown. The first of the four projects, Modera Mineola, has leased about two-thirds of its units so far.

While some residents were concerned about traffic and parking at a past meeting regarding approval of the fourth project, a traffic study by VHB Engineering said that the new project would create about 40 percent less traffic than they would elsewhere in the Village. One parking spot will be available per apartment for the project on Searing Avenue. “This approval is a win-win-win for not just Mill Creek, Corpus Christi Church and the Diocese of Rockville Centre, but also for the residents of the Village of Mineola,” attorney Chris Coschignano, a partner of Sahn Ward Coschignano, who represented Mill Creek, said in the statement. “The project represents a redevelopment of an unutilized property that will help to attract people to the village who will have easy access to the LIRR. It is a smart-growth project that is helping communities like Mineola transform and revitalize their downtowns.”

Vision Long Island has testified in support of this project at public hearings and is happy to see it move forward.

The Village will now see how the developments work for the area before aggressively seeking other developments in the area. “We’ll entertain conversation (from developers), we’ll see what they have planned, but we are ready to take a slight breather,” said Mayor Scott Strauss. You can read more about the newest development to revitalize Mineola here.


NYSDOT Increases Pedestrian Safety in Lindenhurst

After completing a 5-year study, NYS DOT has decided to add two stop lights to a dangerous stretch of Montauk highway in Lindenhurst.  The first would be placed at Montauk Highway and 13th Street and the second at either 7th Street or 8th Street after further assessment.

Village officials welcomed the news as they have been looking to the DOT for some traffic-calming measures to slow down what they referred to as a “speedway” for nearly a decade.  Mayor Tom Brennan said, “It’s been long overdue... We’ve been trying to get them forever, so I’m glad they finally listened to us.”

The Village began a significant push for traffic calming measures nearly 2 years ago after a 10-year old boy was seriously injured while trying to cross near 13th Street and Montauk Highway.  This is one of the many accidents that have happened in that area.  Officials noted that the lack of stop lights have allowed motorist to reach speeds upward of 55 mph.  The DOT study found that on that segment of Montauk Highway there were seven pedestrian accidents within a five-year period.

Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey and Vision Long Island have joined the efforts to bring attention to provide traffic calming recommendations. “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. 

DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters said in an email that the new traffic signal sites will likely also include a countdown pedestrian signal, an audible countdown timer, high visibility crosswalk, and pedestrian warning signs for motorists. Each signal is expected to cost about $150,000.

Both village officials and residents are excited to hear of the response by the DOT and await determination of the second stop light as well as final installation.  

For more on this story, visit here.

Nassau Finds Funding to Restore NICE Bus Cuts

Weeks after service cuts left riders stranded and scrambling to find alternative means to get to work, school, doctors’ appointments and run errands, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves and Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams announced in Februrary that $3 million will be made available to restore some of the 11 bus lines eliminated by NICE earlier this year.

The Nassau Inter-County Express, a privately owned entity, announced the cuts early in 2016 amidst a $7.5 million budget shortfall. With the additional funding, County Executive Mangano hoped that NICE would be able to restore routes to those who need it after the County experienced an unexpected $45 million surplus at the end of the year. Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams said that “the restoration of these routes is so important. When it comes down to Nassau’s only mass transit option that ensures our working families get to work, school and important health care appointments, we must be taking steps forward, not backwards. “

There were talks over the following weeks on what routes would be restored. NICE CEO Michael Setzer said that there was a lot to be done before the eliminated service could come back; recertifying decommissioned buses, labor concerns and reprinting of schedules. “It can’t happen overnight,” said Setzer, who was then in favor of the restoration of the routes, despite previously saying that he thought any additional money that came to NICE would be best spent on the county’s busiest routes. “We like to put service out and carry passengers, rather than take it back in. So we’re pleased.”

Mangano said that lawmakers will need to continue to work towards ensuring that there is funding in 2017 to keep the restored routes, including alternative revenue sources such as bus shelter advertisements and Uber vehicle fees. At that time, NICE’s contract will be up for renewal in 2017 (NICE’s contract has since then been renewed until 2021).

The public had an opportunity to comment about the restored routes over the weeks after the announcement when NICE presented a revised operating plan. You can read more about the step towards restoration of the needed routes in Newsday and from CBS

Great Neck Plaza Village Moves Ahead on $1 Million Traffic Calming Project

The Village of Great Neck Plaza’s Shorewood Road and Welwyn Road will be undergoing an upgrade in 2017 as part of a $1 million transportation project. Although the Village has another four years to complete the project to be eligible to receive state funding for part of the project, they are wasting no time, with an expected completion date of November of 2017.

The award of $838,000 from the state Department of Transportation came last January, with the Village making up the remaining 20% of the funding. The village was only one of four Long Island municipalities to receive the funding. Outside consultants presented two preliminary plans to the board recently, both including road improvements while incorporating better pedestrian and bicycle availabilities for residents and visitors.

Mayor Jean Celender said replacing the deteriorating concrete sidewalks with brick to connect the project area with surrounding brick streets and putting in new trees and benches will give the business exteriors a more upscale feel. "This will make the area more attractive and give a sense of arrival to our upgraded business area," Celender said. "This will greatly assist our local efforts to strengthen the local and regional economies."

The first plan includes shared bicycle lane markings, a raised median, 5 additional parking stalls, a dedicated truck-loading zone and an improved raised crosswalk in the middle of the block. Mailboxes would be relocated, and a new circular intersection would be made by the post office plaza. This plan is the preferred plan of the consultants. The alternative plan would have increased landscaping in lieu of four additional parking spaces. Both plans also include increased landscaping, benches and LED street lighting.

The village accepted public comments on the proposed plan until February 17th of 2016. You can view both of the conceptual plans here

Latest Big Projects Need Full Input from Public

While folks have been recovering from the holidays and grappling with snow, proposals have come forward for a plethora of needed infrastructure projects and predictions for housing growth.

Manhattan based regional planners presented ideas for more housing development on Long Island. Their projected need over the next 15 years range from 115,000 to 158,000 new residential units. They believe that 64,000 units (roughly half of them single family homes) are already in the pipeline. None of the estimates account for the existing or future illegal housing stock which is near impossible to quantify. It will be interesting to see if the local market follows these predictions

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his priorities for some of the $550 million in economic development and infrastructure funds secured in last year’s budget cycle

The best news was the support for the Bay Park outfall pipe which is a priority of the LI Lobby Coalition and needs to happen for the environmental and economic benefit of Nassau’s South Shore.

Good news also on the reopening of the East Farmingdale station, expansion of Macarthur Airport, expanded parking at the Ronkonkoma HUB and study for a Cross Sound Tunnel.

One of the most challenging was the resuscitation of the needed MTA third track proposal which was defeated 8 years ago due to poor planning, presentation and massive community opposition all along the rail line.

Lastly, unknown to everyone out here, the Federal Rail Administration has proposed a high speed rail through Long Island.

Community reaction has been mixed as some proposals like Bay Park outfall pipes and locally guided transit oriented development are moving forward with wide support.

Plans like the Federal Rail Administration’s high speed rail proposal conducted without the input of local municipalities, residents, business owners — the true decision makers in our region — are a waste of money. Worse is that they decrease the public trust in other legitimate efforts advancing innovative projects.

What is a surprise to no one is that a movement to support local projects has created changes across Long Island. Currently there are over 11,000 units of approved Transit Oriented Development with roughly 20,000 units in the planning process. Strategic thinking is needed when you release these sorts of regional plans and predictions.

In nearly 20 years of working with communities on difficult projects here are some successful themes we have learned:

1. The project need should include the economic and environmental benefits for the region and the local communities impacted by the proposal.

2. Provide clear and tangible public benefits to the host communities who have to bear the burden

3. Outreach to municipalities, local businesses, residents and property owners needs to commence in a transparent fashion

4. For public infrastructure the economics of the lead agency needs to be more transparent so folks see the project moves efficiently without the wasted dollars and delays that may have plagued past efforts

5. Don’t try to take power away from local communities. It was good to see that there are no new attempts at weakening municipal home rule.

In essence we need to move from a “not in my backyard” reaction but instead to a “how does this project help my back yard, our community and the region?”

What will aide some of these proposals moving forward is the hard work over the past decade from local officials, business owners and civic organizations that have embraced many projects in downtowns across Long Island.  For the needed regional initiatives that are in the public interest we hope and trust that these true decision makers are partners in advancing them. There may not be much to talk about if they are not.

- Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander

Long Island Lobby Coalition Heads to Albany

The growing Long Island Lobby Coalition, with the support of over 90 organizations, made the annual journey to Albany this past February to support various needs of Long Island. Approximately 40 of the groups were in attendance this year.

Meetings were held with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, the Long Island State Senate delegation, as well as the Long Island Assembly delegation to remind policy makers why “Long Island Communities Matter”, which was the theme of the 8th annual lobby day. This year’s agenda covered six key issue areas: Critical infrastructure projects, small business, transportation, energy and environment, human services and housing, and post-Sandy recovery. The Lt. Governor was out on Long Island as this year’s keynote speaker at the Vision Long Island Smart Growth Summit so she was well aware of many of the issues raised. 

This year’s first meeting was with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, filling the Capitol Blue Room. Julie Marchesella, President of Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce suggested a “Shop Local” media campaign to assist the state’s small businesses while increasing the dwindling state sales tax revenue; partially due to the rise in online shopping. An advertising campaign geared towards raising awareness of the negatives of online shopping was proposed to combat the negative trends that hurt Long Island’s downtowns and state sales tax gains, which supports many projects in the state. Online shopping has increased over the past five years.  Sales tax revenue has decreased over the past five years,” said Marchesella.

The need for a five year Capital Plan to be funded for non-MTA transit was discussed with the Lt, Governor. "New York needs a transportation capital planning process that is done transparently, comprehensively and in a coordinated, long-term manner,” said Nadine Lemmon of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “Prior to passage of the NYS budget, we need a list of projects for the proposed $22.1 billion NYSDOT capital plan—Long Islanders deserve to know where their state tax dollars are going. We’re thrilled that the Long Island Lobby Coalition has taken up the baton for transparency and accountability in Albany." Although non-MTA transit across NY carries 6.1% of all transit riders, it only receives 3.43% of all transit capital funding in the Executive Budget with zero capital funding for NICE and Suffolk Transit. The Lt. Governor acknowledged the disparity, and pledged to bring the issue up with NYS Department of Transportation next week at a meeting this week.

The need for assistance with zombie homes was brought up to the Lt. Governor. Long Island was one of the hardest-hit areas in the country thanks to predatory lending mishaps in the 2000’s, and currently has the highest rate of new foreclosures in the state. Out of over $7 billion that New York has received so far in predatory loan fines from major banks, no monies from those fines have made it down to the communities and the municipalities that are struggling to deal with this untenable situation. It was asked that a least a quarter of these fines received are used to go directly back to the communities to help fix the problem; paying for administrative needs and to purchase properties for revitalization. Maps of vacant and blighted homes were displayed to the Lt. Governor by Mastic Beach Village Mayor Maura Spery, which made the issue of managing the problem on a municipal level more visible. Hochul acknowledged that the zombie home crisis is a big issue facing the state, and said she will assist however possible.

The reaction by the Lt. Governor to this year’s agenda was positive, with the Lt. Governor thanking the Long Island Lobby Coalition for “bringing together such an amazing disciplined group of people who are all on the same page. That’s the challenge,” she said. “All of you speak with one voice, and that’s impressive, because you represent so many diverse interests; labors, chambers, elected officials, that rarely come together in the state. I assure you that there’s far more clout when I say “this is what Long Island wants”, and take this to the different agencies. I will continue to be a strong advocate for you… help me stay engaged.”

The Lobby Coalition then made its way to the Capitol Room to meet with Long Island’s senate delegation, with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Senators Jack Martins, Phil Boyle, Kemp Hannon, and Carl Marcellino able to give their time this year.  The Senate delegation has been tremendously helpful with the 7 bills that have been passed over the past few years with the support of the Coalition.

Support for tax-deferred IRA accounts for small businesses was asked for by Bob Fonti of the Long Island Business Council. This would allow businesses to deposit part of their profits and be able to withdraw from the account tax-free during recession to help them when economic growth is low for several months, in the event of natural disaster, and for job growth. The Senate is very supportive of the measure, with Majority Leader Flanagan saying that the senate “has passed it before, and will pass it again,” and urged that discussions take place with the Governor’s office and Assembly to ensure passage and signing of the measure.

Adrienne Espositio of Citizens Campaign for the Environment spoke about the need for continued funding for the safe disposal of pharmaceutical drugs which protect the waterways and public health. Long term care facilities on Long Island had 52 boxes of unwanted drugs collected for disposal last year, and permanent drop off boxes were installed at five police precincts, two ambulance companies, and 11 King Kullen supermarkets with pharmacies. Senator Marcellino acknowledged that the programs were successful, citing an event that yielded “ten 60-gallon garbage cans of medications” collected.

Infrastructure projects were also discussed, with Deputy Mayor Jorge Martinez of Freeport asking for a $5 million feasibility for floodgates. “Superstorm Sandy devastated over 3000 homes and caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage in Freeport,” Martinez said.  We need help for municipalities to implement programs for grant funding, more importantly feasibility study for flood gates at Jones and East Rockaway Inlets. Gates of the sort have been in place in many areas in the world, and their presence would have made Sandy, and will make other future events like Sandy, nothing but a nuisance in the future.”

Superstorm Sandy recovery needs were also discussed, with Ron Beattie of Oakdale’s New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program citing concerns on the program not moving ahead with proposed projects quickly enough. The state needs to allocate the funding awarded to 22 Long Island CRP zones to subrecipients by next year for the projects to move ahead. Currently, only one project per region has been started. Senator Jack Martins had said that at this point, it is a problem with the administration (governor’s office) to ensure that funds are expedited, and “perhaps you need to get a microphone” to discuss the issues with the media and the Governor’s office. He said further that “the Long Island Lobby Coalition is well equipped” to handle this action to ensure that projects are moving forward.  

"The Long Island Lobby Coalition is calling for some of the very same issues we are as a Senate delegation; greater investment in Long Island's infrastructure, support for local small businesses, and protecting our environment. Their advocacy in Albany is a great benefit as we fight for these issues. I look forward to continuing to work with the Coalition for the benefit of Long Island throughout the legislative session," said Senator Jack M. Martins.

The last collective meeting of the day was with Long Island’s Assembly delegation. Those in attendance included Assemblymen and Assemblywomen Jean-Pierre, Chad Lupinacci, Michael Montesano, Ed Ra, Andrew Raia, Michaele Solages and Fred Thiele. 
Critical infrastructure projects were discussed, such as the need for funding for an outfall pipe for the Bay Park Sewage treatment plant. The Bay Park and Long Beach sewage treatment plants contribute 80% of the nitrogen to the Western Bays, resulting in seriously degraded water quality, degraded salt marshes, low oxygen levels and disappearing shellfish harvesting. ” With now having three quarters of the needed funding towards the Bay Park Ocean Outfall Pipe and only needing $150 million more from the State, we have never been closer to bringing back a huge economic boom in the Western Bay communities,” said Tommy Asher of Operation SPLASH. “All of Nassau County will benefit by bringing back our commercial shellfishing industry, recreational fishing and tourism by removing those highly volatile toxins out of Reynolds Channel”.  Other infrastructure items discussed included $40 million for connectivity of Mastic Beach Village to the upcoming Forge River Watershed sewer treatment facility. Currently there is no funding to expand sewering three and a half miles down to Neighborhood Road in Mastic Beach, which will provide resilience, environmental and economic development benefits to one of Long Island’s lowest lying shoreline communities. (Mastic Beach received $1.3 million from the Town of Brookhaven this week to develop their shovel ready plan in tandem with the nearby Mastic-Shirley plan). Kings Park also asked for $14 million for sewers for their downtown after self-funding a downtown revitalization plan. A total of $800 million in water infrastructure projects were asked for by the Long Island Lobby Coalition.

Funding needs for bicycle and pedestrian safety were also discussed, with Sylvia Silberger of Carless Long Island discussing some of the concerns. "There are many Long Islanders who are pedestrians or cyclists by necessity. For example almost all bus riders are also pedestrians. But there are many more still who choose to, or would like to choose to commute on foot or by bicycle for a variety of good reasons such as individual health, environmental concerns or a desire to help decrease traffic congestion.  However, presently it is incredibly dangerous to do so on Long Island.” It was asked that policymakers include in the proposed $22.1 Billion proposed for the NYSDOT Capital Plan an increase of $20 million per year for each of the five years of the plan to supplement federal funds already allocated to pedestrian and cycling safety infrastructure in Long Island.

Assembly members were quite receptive to the proposals, and pledged support for many of the agenda items.  Assemblyman Fred Thiele said, "Long Island Lobby Day was a tremendous success. I thank the many Long Islanders that came to Albany with their legislative and capital funding priorities. They presented a detailed plan for Long Island that will be critical to our efforts to insure that Long Island is treated fairly in Albany this session. In particular, the proposed sewer plan for Mastic Beach in my district is of critical concern."  The Lobby Day concluded with individual meetings with policy makers, including Charles Gasparino, Dean Murray and Joseph Saladino.

One outstanding issue in the meeting of the Assembly delegation was the inability of the majority caucus to pass the legislation for the Small Business Savings Accounts.  For the last two years the Senate has passed this bill and the Assembly has blocked it.   The coalition and the many local businesses and Chamber of Commerce representatives in the room reminded the Assemblymembers of the importance of the small businesses on Long Island and want to see successful passage of this legislation. 

Upcoming, there will be session tracking of these community-based issues, and may have a “scorecard” to help chart progress of Long Island Lobby Coalition agenda items over the past several years.

You can view the entire Lobby Day platform with all of the items discussed with the Lieutenant Governor, Senate and Assembly here. Some of the initial press coverage of the event can be seen at Long Island Business News,  Newsday and Verizon Fios1 News

Smithtown 13-Acre Parcel Shows Potential for Mixed-Use Development

Smithtown Central School District has hired Newman Grubb Knight Frank to sell a 13-acre parcel of property in the heart of Smithtown Village and within 500 feet of the Smithtown LIRR station, and some are already hailing it as prime target for transit-oriented development.

The site, located at 26 New York Ave, includes a former junior high school known as the Joseph M. Barton building, and is currently being used for administrative district offices and adult education.  The area is currently zoned for residential properties with a portion zoned for business.  “This is a great opportunity for a transit-oriented development with the right density,” said NGKF broker Jack O’Connor. “Most of the town board members I’ve spoken to are in support of a mixed-use development that would enhance the revitalization of downtown Smithtown.”

In order to help meet that right density, the district is also weighing the idea of selling an almost 11-acre wooded area on Browns Rd. in Nesconset.  That parce could either be preserved or used as athletic fields to help procure a transfer of development rights.

To read more about this, check out Long Island Business News page here.


Long Island Business Council Hosts Congressman Steve Israel on Infrastructure Investment

On Wednesday, March 9th, the Long Island Business Council held a meeting with over 100 members to hear from Congressman Steve Israel and tackle small business updates from around the region. 

The first speaker of the day was Richard Milne, Mayor of Honeoye Falls and President of the New York Conference of Mayors.  Mayor Milne spoke on the struggle that communities are going through in the state, but also struck a tone of unity by noting that NYCOM believes that we are “stronger together.”  As part of this philosophy they encourage communities and local organizations to be vocal, and to speak with one voice in order to let Albany know the needs of local municipalities that need to be addressed.  However, this can only come about if upstate and downstate New York stop competing with each other and instead come together to compete as a whole on a national level.

Next up, Congressman Steve Israel spoke to the group and began by reflecting on his time in congress and his upcoming retirement.  Mr. Israel spoke on a need to occasionally replace and replenish the leadership of our country and how he felt that time had come for his seat in particular.  Part of his decision was also due to a broken campaign system that he accused of squashing the voices of the common man in favor of narrow special interests.

He also lamented the toxicity and possibly dangerous political environment that have led to one of the more bizarre election cycles in recent memory.  He pointed out that what we are currently seeing is the result of a breakdown of faith in government, faith in institutions, and the most rapid economic change in recent memory.  All of this has combined to create a sense of insecurity and uncertainty in the future, especially in the face of a shrinking middle class.  “When you lose the middle class economically, you’ve lost it all,” he stated.

But in spite of all of this, Mr. Israel did note that there is still an “unquenchable thirst” for solutions on how to solve not just income equality, but power inequality.  As part of this search for solutions, he spoke on the need for America to get back to building big and bold projects as a country, noting that we were most confident in the 1950’s and 60’s, when America made a point of building new infrastructure.

Representative Israel held the transformation of the 110 corridor into a world class defense and aeronautic industrial sector as proof of this concept.  He noted that we can do this again by creating a bond specifically for infrastructure investment that will reinvigorate the shrinking middle class.  “We’re going to build our bridges and our tunnels and our streets and our roads and we’re going to rebuild the middle class because every billion dollars that you put into infrastructure creates 55,000 jobs,” said Mr. Israel.

Finally the Congressman spoke on a bill that he introduced in the house which had its origins from the LIBC.  Tax deferred IRA style savings accounts for small business has long been a goal of the organization on both the state and national level.  The accounts would allow businesses to deposit funds during times of economic boom which they can access during recession and withdraw tax free.  This will allow businesses that rely on credit to be able to continue operation during times when the banks are tightening their own strings.

The meeting also included updates from Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island on the recent LI Lobby Day; Freeport Trustee Jorge Martinez on efforts to help alleviate the cost of early child care; Gina Coletti regarding the next steps for the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers; Julie Marchesella on the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce’s efforts with the Long Island Lobby Coalition; Nassau’s Assistant Chef Fire Marshall Michael Uttaro on County’s new fire ordinance aimed at helping the public and business community; Kristen Jarnigan from the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau on the importance of the tourism industry to Long Island; Ryan Stanton of the Long Island Federation of Labor on the health and recovery of Roger Clayman; Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory on what the Legislature has been doing for the local economy; and Nassau Legislator Laura Curran on Grand Ave. Baldwin and assorted County issues.

Senator Schumer Funds First Brewery Incubator on Long Island

Senator Chuck Schumer is helping Long Island’s fledgling craft brewery industry by calling the US Economic Development Agency to provide $1 million in federal funding for the Babylon Brewery Incubator Project in Copiague. At least 20 local brewers have expressed interest in moving into the property.

The Town of Babylon IDA plans to transform and revitalize the former missile component factory in Copiague, which has been vacant for decades, into a multi-brewer production facility and a tasting room. According to the Town of Babylon IDA, the facility has remained blighted because of more than $900,000 in back taxes and more than $750,000 in DEC cleanup costs. The project is expected to cost approximately $12 million and the Town of Babylon IDA expects it will create 35-50 full-time jobs. The project has already received funds from the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

The Town of Babylon IDA recently submitted a preliminary application requesting $1 million in EDA funds to help jumpstart its proposed Babylon Brewery Incubator Project. Schumer explained that the EDA does this by providing grants to state and local governments as well as economic development councils, public and private non-profit organizations, universities and other institutions that support the development and implementation of economic development projects, typically in economically distressed communities. Schumer noted that EDA grant funding has been helpful in paving the way for new businesses or incubators to come into a community, by providing the federal funds needed to make an initial infrastructure investment that is required.

“The proposed Babylon Brewery Incubator Project will not only promote the brewing of great beer, it will transform a blighted warehouse within the community, create jobs and spur entrepreneurship. As the first project of its kind in New York, the Babylon Brewery Incubator Project would change the game for the craft beer industry and brand new beer companies along the way and that’s why it’s just the type of project that the U.S. Economic Development Administration should be investing in,” said Senator Schumer.

Patchogue’s Blue Point Brewery is one example of a local success story in the industry, as it began as a home-brewing operation before being sold to Anheuser-Busch in 2014 for $24 million dollars. This concept would allow for start-ups to move out of their homes and into shared tasting and production spaces. New York’s craft beer industry is currently ranked 3rd in the nation, with the amount of breweries more than doubling in 2014, and with an economic impact of $3.5 billion dollars.

You can read more about the developments for additional funding for the brewery incubator here

Manorhaven Village Reduces Speed Limit to 25 mph

In order to promote health, comfort, safety and welfare to residents, the Village of Manorhaven unanimously approved a local law to decrease the village speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour. The push to lower the village speed limit was initiated by a resident.

A resident’s dog was hit and killed, spurring conversation about speed limit reductions; Village Clerk Leslie Gross said that people had been speeding in school zones where nearby students walk to school. According to Manorhaven’s Village newsletter, many residents on Manhasset Isle in a few areas where there was a hill, blocking the view of drivers and potentially putting pedestrians at risk. Vision Long Island is working with the Village on updates to planning and capital improvements and the reduction of speed fits the character and walkability that the community seeks to sustain.

You can read more about the locations that were the focus of the speed limit reduction in the Village’s newsletter.

Main Streets Fare Well in Village Elections

The old adage that “decisions are made by those who show up” was evident last March in Village elections across Long Island. Of the 14 local villages with downtown revitalization plans, projects or local infrastructure projects underway all returned incumbent administrations to office and nearly all officials who ran on those platforms.

Highlights from the winning teams include: 

Village of Mineola incumbent trustees Paul Periera and Paul Cusato, winning re-election in a race about the development of the downtown.

Village of Northport incumbents Damon McMullen and Jerry Maline winning re-election to two trustee seats largely on the campaign of upgrading the Northport sewer plant and managing Main Street issues.

Village of Patchogue incumbent trustees Lori Beth Devlin, Thomas Ferb and Jack Krieger were returned and Mayor Paul Pontieri and trustee Susan Brinkman ran unopposed. This administration will continue their efforts at revitalizing their downtown.

In a closely watched race the Village of Lindenhurst Village incumbent Mayor Thomas Brennan and trustees Michael Lavorata and Joan Masterson who campaigned on the platform of upcoming downtown redevelopment were returned to office.

There was a split decision in the Village of Mastic Beach as incumbent trustee Betty Manzella was returned to her seat and challenger Joseph Johnson was elected to the second trustee seat. Despite the loss of the one trustee seat the downtown comprehensive plan is supported by both incumbents and challengers and will move forward.

Incumbent Village officials with downtown plans and projects in the Villages of Farmingdale, Great Neck Plaza, Lynbrook, Valley Stream, Cedarhurst, East Rockaway, Floral Park, Garden City and Island Park ran unopposed and will begin new terms to continue their work.

The near unanimous support for local elected officials that are successfully managing, planning and growing their downtown business districts reminds us that the conflicts and polarization that exists and are endlessly covered are largely driven from large scale national and regional issues and not about placemaking and our main streets. We can learn a lot from the style, temperament and progress that these local communities are demonstrating.

Congratulations to the winners and we look forward to the next phase of progress in our many local communities.

To check out the elections results, visit News12

Cedarhurst Village Creates New Parking System

The Village of Cedarhurst’s parking meters, many of which are decades old, are being replaced with the most technologically advanced and user –friendly meters anywhere, and will be the first community in New York to receive them, putting Cedarhurst at the forefront of modernizing parking management for downtown shopping districts. The Village says that there have been “almost zero complaints” with the new system after an 18 month pilot program on Central Avenue.
The Village has put together a fact sheet to dispel any rumors or concerns about the new technology.  Parking policies that were in place before have not changed, and the Village Board feels that the meters will make it easier and more convenient for parkers, help retail merchants, and guarantee fairness for everyone, with added security features.

Some of the features include credit card acceptance, video monitoring of the street and parked vehicles to thwart vandalism and assist with stolen vehicles, and automatic notification of meter failures for fast servicing. There will be a ten minute grace period for payment still, and if the meters have a technological issue, the meter goes into “free parking” mode to avoid confusion and invalid tickets. “Meter feeding” will also be discouraged by disallowing those parking from staying in a spot over the permitted length of stay (usually 1 or 2 hours), allowing chances for more equitable parking for shoppers.

The new system will also include a smartphone app that allow users to pay for parking from their car or from downtown shops to add time, remind you where you parked, and help you find parking spaces that are available by using real-time information. You can check out the fact sheet with a list of the new system’s features here. You can also read about the pilot program launch here

Suffolk Chambers Meet Congressman Zeldin on Small Business Needs

Vision Board and staff were out this past March supporting a packed meeting at the Suffolk Alliance of Chambers of Commerce.

NYS Michael Fitzpatrick tackled the need to address cost increases from government. His solutions included mandate relief, fixing the triborough amendment and addressing municipal labor costs including pension reform.

A key focus of the meeting and business survey from the chambers was opposition to the proposed $15 an hour minimum wage. The NYS Assembly is looking at providing a $200 million fund for not for profits to ease the transition to the higher minimum wage. There is no clarity whether or not there will be any support or incentives to the small business community. In addition the Small Business Savings Accounts legislation has passed the NYS Senate but not the Assembly over the last two years.

Congressman Lee Zeldin was the keynote and provided a robust update from Washington on infrastructure and matters related to small business. As a member of the House transportation committee he highlighted the first 5 year transportation bill in over a decade with a focus on repairing existing infrastructure such as bridges. As a contrast to the ongoing coverage of conflict in Washington there is little focus on the things that do get done.

He also pointed out levels of government that can slow down or stop redevelopment and small business growth from municipal zoning to the Suffolk County Health Department.

Nearly 100 small businesses and local chambers participated in a meeting with updates from Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and Economic Development and IDA staff; Governor Cuomo's office, joint lobbying efforts in Albany and Assemblyman Andrew Raia.

Sponsors of the event included: LI Business Council, Suffolk IDA, RMB Group, Sue Glenn and Vision Long Island.

Kudos to Suffolk Chambers Co-Chairs Gina Coletti and Robert Fonti for putting together a productive forum.

You can read more on the meeting at Long Island Business News here.

West Babylon Park Vision Unveiled

On Friday, March 18th, nearly 70 West Babylon community members came out to the unveiling of the vision for the Van Bourgendien Park.  The visioning process began just over a year ago as community members felt that the park currently being utilized for soccer, could have the potential for more.  This sentiment was reiterated by the first public meeting held last April where residents shared their ideas for things like more recreational space, waking trails, a better playground, and community garden. 

Since the public meeting, the steering committee consisting of nearly a dozen community groups, has continued to gather community input and guided Vision Long Island staff towards the plans that were presented Friday evening.

After introductions by Kim Skillen, Neighbors Supporting Neighbors, Legislator Kevin McCaffrey and Deputy Town Supervisor Tony Martinez, who were also a part of the steering committee, each took out time on Friday to explain their roles going forward.  Legislator McCaffrey explained to the group that while the park is a county park, it is leased to Town to utilize and maintain.  However, he is currently working with Deputy Supervisor Martinez to extend that agreement so there would be no delay in the project moving forward.  He also noted that he will continue to work with the committee to identify any funding by the county that could be applied to the program.  Deputy Supervisor Martinez briefly shared a history of the project and that he was glad to see the community come together around a vision for the park.  He talked about the next steps the town would take in reviewing the project and seeing where they can provide funding in their budget. He discussed how many of the aspects of the park improvements can be down in house by the town. He closed by giving residents his number and encouraged them to reach out to him with any further ideas or concerns.

Then the crowd heard a presentation from Vision Long Island staff unveiling the vision for the park.  Improvements included a new playground area for children up to age 12, a gated entrance way for pedestrians to enter the park, changes in the layout out of the parking to increase the number of spaces, walking trails with exercise stations, trees and planting, benches and table spacing, recreational space for uses like bocce courts, and a redesign of the entrance access to allow for traffic calming and increased pedestrian safety. Throughout the presentation, residents were able to see that these improvements would have very little impact to the soccer fields which is a main concern for many of the parents of the growing league. 

Kudos to Kim Skillen and Neighbors Supporting Neighbors who began this process.  Special thanks to all of those who participated in the steering committee and public meetings. 

Long Island Complete Streets Coalition's Summit Tackles Pedestrian Safety

The 4th Annual Long Island Complete Streets Summit was held at the end of March at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale, once again bringing together transportation experts, advocates, elected officials, engineers, and community leaders to the table to discuss projects in the works and what can be done to make safer streets for all who use them.

The Summit was kicked off by Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool, who discussed some of the ongoing needs of the region with a panel discussing Complete Streets Tools, Best Practices and Funding. The collective push to have dedicated funding for Complete Streets projects to the tune of $20 million in the state budget was explained, which is now closer to reality. Recently, the NY State Assembly was favorable towards including that in this year’s budget, which would give communities desperately needed funding to allow projects to come to fruition, and leverage other grant funding. Vanterpool explained that since the passing of Complete Streets by the state in 2011, no dedicated funding towards projects has been made available. Vanterpool also mentioned the upcoming Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report will be released next week.   The last report names Route 25 in Suffolk the most dangerous road for walking, with 20 deaths in a three-year period.

Alec Slatky, Legislative and Community Relations Representative at AAA Northeast, discussed his advocacy efforts, and is as committed as ever to working towards having safe streets for motorists as well as those who use the roads as pedestrians and bicyclists. Slatky was able to provide more of a perspective from the drivers’ point of view, which is valuable and needs to be taken in account with any Complete Streets projects since 86% of commuters use personal vehicles or carpools as their primary means of transportation. 

New York Bicycle Coalition’s Daniel Flanzig spoke about their numerous advocacy efforts. Recently, Flanzig presented at Suffolk County Police Department’s Bike and Pedestrian Law Enforcement Training, where he had the opportunity to not only witness the education of law enforcement on shared responsibility between pedestrians and drivers, but to share knowledge. In Suffolk, more than 40 percent of the 142 traffic fatalities last year involved pedestrians and bicyclists; the training aimed to reduce that number.  Flanzig also spoke of the hopes to adopt a common-sense 3 foot safe passing law, which would require every person who is driving a motor vehicle to pass those biking with a minimum of three feet of space. Currently, New York State does have a safe passing law with no distance requirements, making it hard to enforce and open to interpretation. In the Bike and Pedestrian Law Enforcement Training with Suffolk County, Flanzig noticed that officers were not aware of the current safe passing law that is on the books.

Closing out the session concerning Complete Streets Tools, Best Practices, and Funding was James Bazata of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., who introduced a revolutionary program to help design Complete Streets projects. The virtual reality simulation modeling tool models streets before a project, and allows people to visualize what a project may look like after development in real-time, like a video game.   These models also serve as a baseline to evaluate the effectiveness of recommended solutions, and can assist with public outreach in a cost-effective, unique way, giving perspective from the drivers’ point of view as well as pedestrians. 

The Keynote address was delivered by Ryan Russo, Deputy Commissioner of Transportation, Planning and Management for NY City’s Department of Transportation. Russo highlighted many of the successes of the 2 year program, with hopes that some of the best practices could be implemented as Long Island moves ahead with Complete Streets programs, saying that “we can design fatalities out of the system”.

Through engineer initiatives including lane narrowing, adding bicycle paths, shorting pedestrian crossing distances, and adding speed bumps, areas such as Queens Boulevard-  known by many as the “Boulevard of Death” have begun the transformation into a safe and livable corridor for walking, cycling, and driving. 

Enforcement has also been stepped up, with speed camera installation in key areas, enhanced enforcement of the “Right of Way” law, and a heavy focus on motorcycle safety, making 2015 the safest year for motorcycles in over a decade. Expansion of speed camera utilization will be advocated for this year, with the aim of reducing collisions and injuries even further. Although speed cameras can be unpopular to those who receive summonses, NYC does not charge administration fees on tickets, and points are not levied on licenses as they would be through more costly traditional enforcement measures. 

The City has also increased the education and public engagement of the causes of fatal crashes. By engaging the public through Street Teams, increasing education of TLC drivers, and executing successful media campaigns, the City continued to augment its efforts to make streets safer. In 2016, there will be increased focus on improving safety for older adults through targeted initiatives to combat.

The impacts of Vision Zero’s efforts have resulted in the fewest traffic deaths in any year since 2015, and the second year of decreases in fatalities since Vision Zero was launched, with about 20% fewer traffic-related fatalities in 2015 when compared to the past 15 year’s average. Those killed or severely injured is also significantly down, with over 500 fewer incidents in 2014 compared to pre-Vision Zero, cutting the amount of incidents nearly in half when compared to the year 2000. Additionally, the year 2015 was the safest year for New Yorkers while walking in the City’s history, with the City looking towards continuing the focus on reducing failure to yield crashes and deterring speeding to reduce the amount of incidents further. 

Case Examples and progress reports on Long Island were discussed, with elected officials speaking of progress and hopes for the future. Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran spoke about the Baldwin, Grand Avenue’s progress on a 1.4 mile stretch between Stanton Avenue and Merrick Road. Part of the plan includes signalized left-turn lanes at Seaman Avenue and St. Luke’s place to reduce bottlenecks, bump-outs at some crossings, enhanced crosswalks, and signal timing adjustments to make it safer to drive, walk, and shop. A road diet between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway is also planned, which is the most controversial aspect of the improvement, but has helped other areas with higher traffic volumes. The federal grants that were received to commission the study will catalyze, support, and compliment private investment, give safer access for all users of the roadway, and help stabilize the communities through smart growth.

The Village of Freeport’s Deputy Mayor Jorge Martinez spoke about revitalization efforts of North Main Street, aiming to streetscape the corridor north of the busy LIRR train station, bringing economic opportunity to the area. Freeport hosts multiple downtown areas, with North Main Street being targeted for revitalization by working with the township and county in a collaborative effort. 

The Village of Great Neck Plaza’s Mayor Jean Celender gave an overview of their past history of traffic calming projects, as well as the Shorewood Drive/Welwyn Road Pedestrian and Bicyclist Enhancements. The million dollar project, mostly funded through NYS Department of Transportation via federal funding, aims to alleviate congestion by the post office, a National Historic Register designated building. The high-density village, with a population of 7,000 in just 1/3 of a square mile, hopes to increase access for all modes of transportation in the area for users of all ages with sharrow bike lane markings, safer elevated crosswalks, an additional roundabout, and a safer zone for the NICE bus to drop off and pick up riders. 

Councilman Steve Flotteron of Islip Township discussed several projects in the area, highlighting the need to provide walkable and bicycle access from the Sayville LIRR station to the ferry service approximately 3000 feet away, which services several Fire Island destinations with tens of thousands of visitors annually, while giving access to the many parks south of Main Street. Always thinking outside of the box, Councilman Flotteron also spoke of the desire for additional bicycle access for along the parkways system, which could link destinations west to Long Beach and through Long Island’s mainland. 

Overviews of regional projects, such as Heartland Town Square and the Ronkonkoma Hub were presented by Patrick Lenihan of VHB, saying that form-based codes and zoning will help the projects move ahead in ways that will help promote Complete Streets policies. Representatives from Long Beach and North Hempstead also gave updates on grants received, speed reductions, and projects that will involve inter-municipal cooperation to move forward. 

Vision’s Director Eric Alexander pointed to the progress for Complete Streets highlighting the seven Towns that have passed legislation, two Counties and smaller villages and cities. “The good news is that over 40 traffic calming and pedestrian and bike projects are completed or underway along with robust community support. The bad news is that it is unclear the NYS DOT's implementation of the Complete Streets law and Nassau and Suffolk County have limited resources to advance these types of projects. Many local Town's and Villages desire these road design changes but the tax cap limits reinvestment in roadway infrastructure.”

Special thanks to Summit sponsors AARP, GPI, VHB, Wendel, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Sustainability Institute at Molloy for hosting. 

LaunchPad Opens in Great Neck Plaza

On Wednesday, March 30th, Vision Long Island was out in the Village of Great Neck Plaza for the ribbon cutting of Launchpad LI's newest downtown high tech incubator. To assist startup companies on Long Island LaunchPad provides a co-working space where businesses can share resources. The space will offer desks and offices for startups to rent, with the goal of building an entrepreneurial work environment that can nurture creativity and collaboration. The Great Neck Plaza site is their third Main Street location following successful (and Smart Growth Award winning) ventures in Mineola and Huntington.

Joining Andrew Hazen, Peter Goldsmith, Paul Trapani from the Launchpad team at the ribbon cutting were some of the partners that successfully worked to move things forward including Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Business Development Director Kim Kaiman.  

Following the ceremonial ribbon cutting, they began their Pitch Night for the start-ups with investors in the room. As seen in their other locations, this incubator will bring in new businesses and economic growth to their main street.


Long Island Still Among Most Dangerous Roadways

Route 25 in Suffolk and Route 24 in Nassau were tied this year for having the most pedestrian deaths in the Tri-State area according to the annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking study released by Tri-State Transportation Campaign.  The report comes out only days before two pedestrians were struck and killed in Suffolk County, within an hour of each other; one on 5th Avenue in Bay Shore, the other on Nesconset Highway in Nesconset. 

With 413 pedestrian deaths in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York, 2014 was less deadly than 2013 (445 deaths) and 2012 (440 deaths).  Four of the top five most dangerous roads for walking in the tri-state area were on Long Island, with   Route 25 ranking the highest (24 deaths), 25A ranking 3rd (18 deaths), Route 27 ranking 4th (16 deaths), and Route 24 ranking 5th (14 deaths). Both Routes 25 and 27’s fatality count did include some that occurred in Queens. Without the amount of fatalities for Queens included, Rote 25A would have been tied for 6th place. Route 25 — also known as Jericho Turnpike, Middle Country Road and Main Street at various stretches — had been ranked first last year and the year before, and Route 24, also known as Hempstead Turnpike, had been ranked second last year.

All of Long Island’s highest ranking roads for pedestrian fatalities are state roads. The state DOT said in response to the report that it was “making more bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements across the state than ever before. Pedestrian safety is a shared responsibility. Both motorists and pedestrians need to use good judgment and make smart decisions to protect themselves and others,” the statement said.

There were 116 deaths in Suffolk during the most recent period, and 94 in Nassau. In the previous period, between 2011 and 2013, there were 130 deaths in Suffolk and 90 in Nassau, according to Tri-State Transportation. Vision Long Island’s Director Eric Alexander said, “What needs to be made clear is that the numerous deaths along our roadways can be addressed through improved design and prioritizing DOT resources to make the streets safer. As Ryan Russo from NYC DOT stated clearly at last week’s Complete Streets Summit- "we can design fatalities out of the system". It is not a surprise that safety has improved in NYC streets while Long Island roadways creep up the list of the most dangerous”.

 “The drop in fatalities in Suffolk is a good sign, but more concentrated safety projects are needed throughout the county,” Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said in a statement. To curb the fatalities, which were up 6.8% for the downstate region over the last report, Tri-State Transportation made several recommendations that can help Long Island, including the dedication of a minimum of $100 million in state funds to pedestrian and bicycling projects over the next five years, giving localities the power to lower speed limits, and allowing localities greater flexibility in road design.

“New Yorkers 65 and older are more than three times likelier to be victims of pedestrian fatalities than younger New Yorkers,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York. “Once again Tri-State’s report shows we still have traffic safety issues in our state. AARP believes one way to address these pedestrian safety issues is to make our communities more livable by investing in complete streets, which takes into account all users of the roads, not just motor vehicles. In an AARP-commissioned 2014 survey large numbers of New York Voters age 50 and over cited traffic safety-related issues as problems in their communities. We must stop these trends.”

If these levels of fatalities occurred through some form of an allergy, food born illness, playground equipment or other social or environmental factor there would be widespread calls for action.  The good news is that over the last ten years there have been over 40 traffic calming projects across the Island.  Clearly more are needed. 

You can check out media coverage of the annual report in Fios1Newsday and News 12, as well as view the report, factsheets and maps by county, state and region here

Glen Cove Approves Villas Project

The City of Glen Cove’s planning board voted 6-1 in April to approve a modified site plan for a proposed 160-unit condominium development, The Villa. Dan Livingston, owner of Livingston Development Corporation hopes to begin construction this summer, saying that “this has been a long process, but the journey is well worth it considering the destination.”

“It is replacing an economically disenfranchised facility and blighted area with a whole new gateway for Glen Cove that will provide a strong tax base and rejuvenate an entire area for further improvements,” said Livingston. The number of units to be built has been significantly decreased, from a 251-unit complex to 160-units, since the plan was first proposed nearly a decade ago. Other conditions will apply in order to make the project a reality, including downsizing the height of the proposed buildings to a maximum of four floors. City officials feel that the plan will increase tax revenue and generate more customers for nearby business.

Some residents feel that views will be obscured, that alternative affordable housing options are not available nearby for the 23 occupied apartments to be razed, as well as other concerns. Ten percent of the units, totaling 16, will be made “affordable” for buyers, as required by city codes. Under current guidelines, the income cap to be eligible for those units is $87,200 for a family of four and $61,050 for a single person. Apartment resident Bertha Adams said Livingston is “a good landlord,” but, she said, “there’s only so much he can do” to assist residents with lower incomes who have few affordable-housing options in pricey Nassau County. Livingston has pledged to help residents find new homes and pay some of their relocation expenses.The builder was willing to build more affordable units but the City wanted to have more market rate units in the development.  

Additionally, Livingston is to provide a shuttle for Villa residents to travel downtown, the Long Island Railroad station, and to a ferry terminal that has the hopes of opening up this year.

Vision Long Island has been in support of this project at numerous public hearings through the years.  

You can read more about the planning board’s recent decision here 

Hundreds Help Shape Draft Revitalization Plan for Downtown Kings Park

This past April, over 200 people came to see the draft revitalization plan for downtown Kings Park. Over the previous seven months, Vision’s design team has worked with the Kings Park Civic Association and the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce to develop a revitalization plan based on input from the public meeting last October, as well as numerous civic and chamber meetings over the past several months. The design team, which included Dean Gowen of Wendel engineers, Vision board members Glen Cherveny of GRCH Architecture and David Berg of DB Consulting, and Vision Planning Director Elissa Kyle, looked at both long term and much shorter term strategies for revitalization.

While any new development in Kings Park, including new restaurants or housing would require sewers, there are many things that can be done in the shorter term to begin the revitalization process. Pedestrian safety and streetscape improvements, modifications to municipal parking lots, façade changes and reconfiguration of public park spaces can be done prior to the installation of a sewer line and can make significant improvements to the downtown. Even more immediately, downtown events and improvements to maintenance can begin to improve the appearance of downtown and encourage residents to visit and spend time there. There was support for most of the proposals in the plan, especially sewering the downtown which had almost unanimous support of those at the presentation.

There were different ideas on how to best improve pedestrian safety, and concern about a lack of parking at the western end of downtown, and a desire to bury the overhead utilities. Moving forward Vision will incorporate the comments and suggestions from the meeting as well as others that the civic and chamber may receive, into the plan to develop it into a document that the residents, businesses, property owners and town government can use as a guide to further revitalization.

Huntington Station Revitalization Underway

Last April, Vision Long Island joined Huntington Station residents in support of the Northridge mixed use development that was considered before the Town of Huntington ZBA.

The relatively modest proposal includes 6,200 sq ft of retail with 16 apartments. This project and the nearby the Gateway Plaza proposal which includes 66 apartments and 16,000 sq ft of retail are the first steps in bringing back a downtown that was lost due to misguided urban renewal policies from decades ago. Good to see the community out with over 2-1 support from Station residents including Huntington Matters.

Concerns that were raised included a desire to see the entirety of the plans for future development of the area, balancing the needs of parking for residents, shoppers and commuters and the dangerous roadway design from NYS Route 110. All speakers agreed that some form of traffic calming is needed on a wide four lane roadway to improve safety, enhance walkability and help bring back the town center that once was a focal point of the community.

After two years of local planning by Renaissance Downtowns and local input through Source the Station it is great to see progress.

In addition, the 7th Annual Huntington Station Spring Cleanup was held this weekend. Residents of all ages came together as they picked up litter and debris, and swept away the remnants of winter from sidewalks. The cleanup was sponsored by Huntington Matters, Friends of Huntington Station Latin Quarter, Huntington Station Business Improvement District, Huntington Station Happy Helpers, and 7-11.

Blighted Middle Island Site Razed for Development

After 10 years of sitting empty and known as a blight to the community, the former K-mart in Middle Island was torn down this past April by the owner of the property. “It’s sad when you’re excited about something being demolished,” Gail Lynch-Bailey, President of the Middle Island Civic Association said. “But we’re excited about something being demolished.”

At a Brookhaven town meeting, Town officials had threatened to raze the structure unless Garden City developer Wilbur Breslin agreed to demolish it. The town had scheduled a public hearing on the demolition plans but said the hearing would be canceled if Breslin began tearing down the building. Contractors hired by the developer began demolition, originally to be demolished by May 31st, as promised by Breslin. Brookhaven would have charged back the developer, who has been summonsed over 20 times for the site conditions, if they were to go ahead with the demolition as a township. “We have been working hard to rid our community of abandoned, unsafe houses and commercial properties all over the town, and removing this one will have a huge impact on the quality of life in the community,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said in a statement.

There are no definitive plans for the site; however, residents do support Breslin’s plans for the site, including stores, restaurants and ball fields. This site was part of a community charrette conducted by Vision Long Island more than 10 years ago.

You can read more about this story at Newsday.

7th Annual Long Island Youth Summit A Success

Over 300 high school students participated tackling topics of concern to them including: substance abuse, bullying, mental health, solid waste, renewable energy, climate change, economic development/jobs, housing and leadership. The Summit offers students a unique opportunity to represent their high school and the youth of Long Island.

Island Harvest's Randi Shubin Dresner was the keynote speaker covering tools for leadership as well as the importance of volunteerism. Young entrepreneur and former Youth Summit winner Eric Hu was the luncheon speaker and he outlined his multiple roles as student, photographer and businessman.

Special thanks to supporters including: Lead Sponsor - Northwell Health, Diamond Sponsors - Southwest Airlines, Dowling College, and sponsors National Grid, PSEG LI, H2M Architects and Engineers, Greenman Pedersen Inc. Richie Kessel, Joy Squires, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Vision Long Island.

For more on this story, visit Fios1.

Leasing Begins for Sun Valley, Valley Stream

Valley Stream’s Sun Valley Towers, a new 72-residence rental complex on the southeast corner of Rockaway Avenue and Sunrise Highway, began leasing this past spring.

The $16 million five-story mixed-use building, developed by Long Island City’s Alma Realty, replaced three vacant and blighted residential and commercial buildings, and is just two blocks away from the busy Valley Stream Long Island Railroad station. The building’s first tenant, Blink Fitness, opened up last month after some delays in construction. Originally the 15,000 square foot gym was designed for multiple retail locations, so the space was suitable for the tenant after floor plans changes and plumbing modifications were made for showers and bathrooms on the ground level. Modifications to the 4 stories of apartments above the ground floor were necessary also, with all of the interiors in the kitchen needing to be redone, setting the project back.

Other aesthetic modifications were made to the building, as well as a tennis court being added to the roof. Soon, landscaping will be added to the roof to create a mini-park, in addition to the patio area and rooftop garden where Manhattan’s skyline can be seen. Solar panels will generate 25 kilowatts of power, feeding the common areas as well as the elevators. Valet service will also serve gym members as well as residents. Sun Valley Towers will have one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments starting at about $2,200 a month, complete with granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and hardwood floors. 

Sun Valley Towers will be received a Long Island Smart Growth Award this year on June 10th.

You can read more about Sun Valley Towers here, and see their first tenant, Blink Fitness’ website here

Gateway Gardens, Huntington Station Improvements for Earth Day

Vision Board and staff joined dozens of residents and volunteers from National Grid and the Town of Huntington to help celebrate Earth Day in Huntington Station’s Gateway Gardens.  Vision Long Island also peeked in on their box at the organic garden, which does not allow chemical fertilizers or pesticides to be used. 

“Like anything else at National Grid,  we try to take things and make them a lot nicer than we find them, and is just one example on how we give back to the communities,” said Ken Daly, President of National Grid New York. The team planted, weeded, and removed litter, built a rain garden, and installed a drainage system to combat flooding at the site. Gateway Community Gardens was created in 2010 on about one acre of derelict parkland that had become a troublesome spot for the low income community around it. The garden, one of the largest on Long Island, has 115 garden beds for adults, children and those who are disabled. The upgrade will help a long waiting list of gardeners grow their own food in the urbanized, suburban area. 

Beyond giving local gardeners an area to grow their own food, the garden has created a dozen part-time jobs; provided an opportunity for recreation, exercise, and social contact; helped the community fight diet-related diseases like diabetes; reduced family food costs; and been a teaching laboratory for hundreds of local children. You can click here to learn more about Gateway Gardens, or here to see coverage on FIOS1 from the efforts.

Alexander: Time to start fixing LI’s dangerous roadways

In what was a shock to no one, the region’s “Most Dangerous Roadways” report was released and Long Island once again topped the list with the top-four most deadly roads. All of them are commercial corridors with many intersecting our downtown business districts.

This annual report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign documented 2012 to 2014, where 782 pedestrians were killed on roads in the 12 downstate New York counties. Route 25 in Suffolk County (Jericho Turnpike) and Nassau County’s Route 24 (Hempstead Turnpike) both saw 12 deaths between 2012 and 2014, the most deaths on a single road in an individual county. Other Long Island roads on the list include: Sunrise Highway in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Route 110 and Montauk Highway in Suffolk, Route 25A in Suffolk and Merrick Road in Nassau.

There is some hope as the public and local municipalities are starting to take action. Complete Streets laws have been passed in New York State, Suffolk County, Nassau County, the towns of North Hempstead, Hempstead, Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven, Southampton and a number of villages. These policies join the growing list of 850 across the country.

Other promising news is that pedestrian safety projects have been advanced or are proposed in: Great Neck Plaza, Rockville Centre, Garden City, Manhasset, Baldwin, Long Beach, Farmingdale, Baldwin, Freeport, New Hyde Park, Manorhaven, New Cassel, Greenvale, Lynbrook, Huntington, Smithtown, Patchogue, Greenlawn, Riverhead, Central Islip, Bayshore, Wyandanch, Gordon Heights, Lindenhurst, Sag Harbor, Northport and Kings Park. All told, 40 traffic calming projects have been approved in the last decade in Long Island communities. Clearly more are needed.

Walkability is critical in planning for our future with over 12,000 units of transit oriented development approved in the last decade with more on the way. The real benefits to this form of growth is to provide support for local businesses, housing options and a reduction of auto usage in the form of less vehicle miles travelled per household. If that promise is to be realized we need to take seriously the conditions for young people, seniors, disabled, families – everyone who seeks to walk and bike in a community.
Motor vehicle registrations are down nationally and on Long Island as the millennial generation sees the benefits and economic necessity of walking and using public transit. An aging population on Long Island also needs safe roadways. It would be wise public policy to provide what these and other voters are seeking.

In this year’s state budget, which included increases in transportation, not one penny of our tax dollars was dedicated to pedestrian infrastructure. Transportation dollars should be dedicated to focused, tangible improvements on our roadways including crosswalks, countdown timers, medians, street trees, bike lanes, roundabouts, lane narrowing and other traffic calming measures. Some of the improvements are as simple and cost efficient as paint. To be clear no one is proposing sidewalks to nowhere but prioritizing safety improvements where people are walking and biking and where the dangerous roadways persist.
One simple request to remedy these safety issues from our legislators in Albany is to dedicate at least 2 percent of the $1 billion increase in the NYSDOT Capital Program (a minimum of $100 million) to pedestrian and bicycling projects over the next five years.

These design and engineering solutions are achievable and we should resist the efforts to deflect blame on both drivers and pedestrians as simple scapegoats. As Ryan Russo, assistant director of New York City’s Department of Transportation, stated at a recent summit of pedestrian and bike safety advocates, “we can design fatalities out of the system.”
Not a surprise that safety has improved on New York City streets while Long Island roadways creep up the list of the most dangerous.

How many more reports need to be released to tell us the same thing? If these levels of fatalities occurred through some form of an allergy, food-borne illness, playground equipment, mind impairing substance or other social or environmental factor there would be widespread calls for action. Our friends, neighbors, family members and future residents traversing our roadways deserve tangible safety improvements as well.

Hempstead IDA Hearing Packed with Supporters for Renaissance Downtowns Project

Vision Long Island was out in the Village of Hempstead before the Hempstead IDA in support of the first phase of the Renaissance Downtowns downtown redevelopment. Over 100 local residents were out in force to support the $2.5 billion investment to the Village that has been promised for decades but has remained undelivered. The broader plan will provide a 28% increase in the Village's economic base.

Phase 1 will consist of 336 residential units on an existing Village parking lot and renovate an existing parking garage that is in disrepair while providing nearly 900 construction jobs. The project has site approval and it's necessary building permits.

The Downtown plan's GEIS was completed in 2008 and the Downtown Zoning Code in 2012 The Community Benefits Agreement under the SEQRA was approved in 2013 with 25% of construction jobs, permanent jobs and consulting contracts mandated to go to Village of Hempstead residents.

The public process for the overall plan has had over 200 meetings that have provided input to the 26 acre area covered by the new zoning.  Vision reached out to our many community contacts in the Village through the years, encouraged them to be part of the process and has heard nearly unanimous support for the redevelopment plan.

Residents and businesses in support at the meeting today included among others:
Mayor of Hempstead Wayne Hall, Hempstead Six, Hempstead Chamber of Commerce, Renew Hempstead, Rev. Benjamin Hempstead Jobs Program, local unions and many residents.

When asked how many folks in the room support the redevelopment nearly everyone raised their hands.

Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall, last year's winner of a Smart Growth Award for government leadership, summed it up: "Past projects that have been given (IDA) benefits did not have jobs for our residents. This one for our downtown area does and we need to move forward now. "

Now that the initial IDA presentation has been held a formal public hearing will commence in the coming weeks.

Starbucks Opens at Jefferson Plaza in Downtown Farmingdale

Vision was in downtown Farmingdale to celebrate the opening of a Starbucks in a mixed use building at Jefferson Plaza by the train station. Jefferson Plaza at Farmingdale Station is located diagonally across the street from the Farmingdale train station and is also one block away from Main Street in downtown Farmingdale.

Joining in the celebration was Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Eckstrand, Trustee Cheryl Parisi, developer Anthony Bartone, Starbucks principals and operators, the Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce, Nassau Legislator Rose Walker, Town of Oyster Bay Clerk Jim Altadonna and NYS Senator Michael Venditto along with many local residents.

This was not a housing story but a message that anchor tenants like Starbucks can help make the retail thrive on Main Street and in TOD redevelopments. The housing brings built in customers for independent and chain retail which adds to the vitality of the downtown. Folks who choose to live downtown are of all ages not simply millennials but GenXrs and baby boomers. What they all agree on is a healthy mix of restaurants, bars and places like Starbucks are an amenity and help rejuvenate the downtown.

For more on this story, visit LIBNNews12Newsday, and NBC News


Construction Begins for East Rockaway TOD Housing

The long-awaited construction of the new Marina Pointe East Rockaway began this year, replacing the now demolished Davison Boatyard marina complex that was significantly damaged by Sandy. Marina Pointe was awarded in June at the Long Island Smart Growth Awards.

“We are looking forward to Marina Pointe having a positive impact on the Village of East Rockaway,” said Beechwood’s Michael Dubb. “We are transforming an outdated and storm-ravaged boatyard and marina into waterfront homes. In addition to providing more housing options for Long Islanders of all ages, it benefits local businesses.” Six four-story buildings will go up by Jericho-based developer Beechwood Organization, offering 84 suites and villas within walking distance to the Long Island Railroad’s East Rockaway station. The units will be on the second floor up, allowing for parking on the ground level, which will also help make the development more resilient towards flooding, bringing the housing units above the flood plain.   The site will also be grated to help with potential flooding issues.

Owners will have the option towards having private boating slips, and be within walking distance of local shops, beaches, and restaurants, and the Best Market that will be opening soon to replace Pathmark. The starting price for the units will be in the mid $400,000 range, with owners having the benefit of a maintenance-free lifestyle. The project’s traffic study conducted by the developers concluded that the new development would not have a negative impact to the area.

You can read more about the progress of the new development on Atlantic Avenue here

Groundbreaking on TOD Project in Downtown Copiague

May 2015 marked the groundbreaking for a TOD project in downtown Copiague with developer Conifer Realty, the Town of Babylon, Suffolk County and the Copiague Chamber of Commerce.   Copiague Commons, a 90 unit project, will provide housing options for Main Street and bring customers to local businesses.

The development consists of apartments in two four story buildings that will rent for $1,193 to $1,850 and will be aiming to accomodate tenants earning between 60 and 100 percent of median income.

The development will be built on the site of a former commercial warehouse and is a short walk from the Copiague Long Island Rail Road station. This project is a direct result of Babylon's new zoning auimed at increasing density in downtowns. “Copiague needs an overhauling,” said Sharon Fattoruso, a resident for more than 30 years and president of the Copiague Chamber of Commerce, “This is a great day for Copiague.”

Vision Long Island was out in support of the groundbreaking and Conifer Realty and the Town of Babylon will be honored for Copiague Commons  at the LI Smart Growth Awards in June. 

You can read more on this development at Newsday.

Time to Shift from Regionalism to Localism

As a movement, folks who support smart growth and downtown redevelopment on Long Island have been shifting away from regionalism for some time largely because consensus can be and is achieved on a local level. The public trusts their neighbors, small businesses, local mayor or municipality at higher levels than the divisiveness and chaos on the national level or other big governments, entities and interests. Downtowns are best planned and managed locally - not from afar.

In addition to the support of local markets, autonomy, and placemaking, the writer unearthed a couple of great quotes from Jane Jacobs on what would be her 100th birthday this week:

"How is bigger administration, with labyrinths nobody can comprehend or navigate, an improvement over crazy-quilt township and suburban governments?"

She went on to ridicule the idea of regionalism as "escapism from intellectual helplessness" predicated on the delusion that the problems planners are unable to solve at the local level will somehow be more easily addressed on a larger-scale, concluding that "no other expertise can substitute for locality knowledge in planning."

You can read the article by Leonard Gilroy in the Wall Street Journal here

New Theater to Open In Downtown Babylon

A new performing arts theatre will be opening in an old moviehouse in Babylon Village, adding to the vitality of the community that is providing customers with local restaurant options and an arts attraction.

The former Bow Tie cinemas, purchased by father and son team Dylan and Mark Perlman, will undergo a $16 million renovation, using their backgrounds to make an innovative indoor entertainment venue, right on Main Street. The elder Perlman, with his education background, and his son Mark, who is an actor, will team up to create a venue that includes comedy shows, productions, and concerts, as well as a tuition-based education program. The educational opportunities will include training for actors and stagehands, as well as experience for those who want to study engineering, lighting, and production. 

The renovation plans are also aiming to increase seating from 549 to 700, and possibly a drop-in screen for movie nights as well as a bar. 15 to 18 full time jobs will be created, as well as part-time jobs. The IDA has made a property tax abatement available over 12 years, as well as mortgage tax recording and sales tax savings. Babylon IDA CEO Matthew McDonough was excited about the project coming online after about a year of planning. “The South Shore downtowns – Bay Shore, Patchogue – a large part of their success is because they have a theater,” he pointed out. “A packed show would mean people would be in the streets, visiting local restaurants.” You can read more about the improvement to Babylon’s downtown here

Reopening of Mineola Memorial Park

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss announced in May that the village will reopen Mineola Memorial Park Friday May 20 after completing a $2 Million restoration which includes the construction of a new, state-of-the-art concert amphitheater. To mark the occasion, there will be an opening ceremony at 7:00 pm followed by a free public concert featuring Cold Spring Harbor Band, one of the nation’s premier Billy Joel tribute bands.

“Our new amphitheater is meant to bring music and the arts to our suburban community,” stated Mayor Strauss. “Since this is one of the few new amphitheaters built on Long Island in decades, what better way to kick it off than by featuring the music of LI’s native son Billy Joel.”

Mineola Memorial Park’s restoration – at no cost to taxpayers –included the construction of a concert amphitheater, new tennis courts and playgrounds, and larger, more accessible space for public assemblies such as concerts. The Village of Mineola plans to host concerts, theatrical productions, and arts events featuring local talent in coming years. 

The cost of the restoration was funded entirely from non-tax revenue generated by Development Incentive Bonus funding. DIB is an innovative zoning code adopted by the Village in 2007 that allows real estate developers to fast –track zoning approvals for projects within a defined DIB zone in the village’s downtown area targeted for improvements. Projects meeting the goals of the Village’s Comprehensive Master Plan, specifically those designed as Transit Oriented Development, can be considered for DIB approval in exchange for the developer committing to funding public amenities. DIB funds are paid to the Village and held in a segregated fund account until the Village Board determines what public uses would be appropriate.

“Mineola has been leading the way in Smart Growth development on Long Island. It allows our residents to enjoy the benefits of sound development and planning while maintaining our traditional suburban community standards,” stated Mayor Strauss.

In addition to the $2M Memorial Park restoration, in recent years Mineola’s DIB payments have funded the creation of the first new park in 40 years, improvements to athletic fields for youth programs, and acquisition of emergency preparedness and first response equipment. 

You can read more about the Grand Opening here

New Apartments Under Construction in Farmingdale Village

A 60-unit affordable luxury-style apartment complex will be located in Farmingdale Village, transforming an abandoned vitamin store site into a useful development on the corner of Fulton Street and Conklin Street.

Robinelle Gardens, named after Zucaro Construction’s president Andrew’s family –his daughters Robin and Michelle, and wife Elena, will be a three story elevator property with a courtyard in between the two buildings, the west building “Robin” and the east building “Michelle”. There will be 39 one-bedroom and 21 two-bedroom, 2 bath units at the new complex. Farmingdale Village Mayor Ralph Ekstrand was excited about the new development, saying that “There will be plenty of parking and the location is ideal, walking distance to shops, restaurants and nearby the LIRR train station. With a dearth of affordable housing options on Long Island, Farmingdale Village is fortunate to have Zucaro Construction building apartments for all ages, including 10% of the units for workforce housing.”

“The layouts of the rental apartments are spacious, all units will have a washer and dryer, and the two bedroom units have two bathrooms and are set-up like two bedroom suites. This is Zucaro Construction’s first development project in Farmingdale Village and we are thrilled to be a part of the transformation and great momentum happening in the Village. Completion of Robinelle Gardens is expected by Spring 2017”, said Andrew Zucaro.

For more information, you can visit Zucaro’s website here

Amityville Village Proposes TOD Zoning

Amityville Village trustee Nick LaLota proposed a transit-oriented development district to help bring residential development to an area near the village’s LIRR station, which is mainly industrial, in order to grow the tax base and bring foot traffic to retail businesses to Broadway, which is one block east of the train station. 

Right now, there is no residential building allowed on industrial property in the village. If the proposed TOD district is approved, developers would be allowed to build higher and denser, with fewer parking requirements, while providing infrastructure improvements and open space preservation. Copiague underwent a similar zoning change last year near their LIRR station. “You’re trading industrial use for high-end residential use, and that is an upgrade for the village,” LaLota said. “I don’t know any residents who are begging to have a factory next to them.”

In a draft proposal of the zoning plan, the densest redevelopment would allow for buildings up to 4 stories high with 48 units per acre would be allowed for buildings 300 feet or less from the LIRR platform, with up to 80 percent of the lots being usable for the buildings. Currently, most of the village allow for only 12 units of housing per acre, and only 40 percent of the lot can be covered with buildings.  Redevelopment would be allowed on lots of 2 acres or more, and would have to be within 400 feet of the LIRR station. There are about 10 properties that fit that criteria, including general contractor LandTek, who have expressed interest in a high-end rental project of mostly studio and one bedroom apartments. The Village’s DPW site is also another property that may be considered. 

If the proposal is approved by the board and is able to pass state environmental reviews, Amityville will join the already 105 TOD projects that have taken place on Long Island in the last decade, which have provided 12,000 housing units. “There are people who want single-family homes, but there’s a significant minority that wants to live downtown, with close access to the train,” said Vision’s director Eric Alexander. “And they will pay for it.” You can read more about the village’s proposal in Newsday

Westbury Village Improves Pedestrian Safety

Recognizing that pedestrian safety is important for all roadway users, the Village of Westbury is continuing to implement crosswalk improvements with the installation of mid-block pedestrian crossing signs on Post Avenue. “Our intent is to make Westbury a pedestrian-friendly community by improving our crosswalks and making them more visible,” said Mayor Peter Cavallaro in an email blast to residents.

Although New York State has a law making it safer for pedestrians to use crosswalks, it is sometimes ignored by both pedestrians and drivers, as is awareness of their surroundings. The Village reminded all users that regardless of whether or not there is signage at any of the Village's crosswalks, to please remember to slow down or stop for pedestrians using any part of a crosswalk.

Working to raise awareness of pedestrian safety, the Village continues to implement safety improvements on Post Avenue including, resurfacing/ color stamping crosswalks and installing crosswalk signs. There are plans to create additional crosswalks on Post Avenue in the near future. The Village also included reminders for both drivers and pedestrians to make streets safer. For more on those safety tips, click here.

Infrastructure Week 2016 Highlights

Infrastructure weekwas this past May, with over 60 events nationwide, 150 business, labor, and civic organizations and 7 days to tell America why- and how- “Infrastructure Matters”. Vision Long Island is an affiliate of Infrastructure Week. 

Roundtable discussions, advocacy efforts, legislation days and workshops were attended throughout the country in order to elevate infrastructure as a critical issue impacting all Americans. The theme in 2016 – “Infrastructure Matters” – tells the story of what infrastructure means to Americans. It matters, in big ways and in small, to our country, our economy, our quality of life, our safety, and our communities. Roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports, pipes, the power grid, broadband… infrastructure matters to the goods we ship and the companies that make and sell them; it matters to our daily commutes and our summer vacations, to drinking water from our faucets, to the lights in our homes, and ultimately to every aspect of our daily lives. 

Infrastructure week kicked off in Washington D.C. at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hall of Flags during an invite-only event that was also available through a webcast to relay the important message of infrastructure needs to a wide audience. Topics at the kickoff event included remarks by leaders of private and public sectors, including Michael Ducker, President of FedEx Freight & Chairman of the Board of Directors, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “This is a hugely valuable effort to bring attention to one of the most pressing matters on our nation’s agenda.” Nearly 32% of US major roads are either in poor or mediocre condition, and over 100,000 U.S. bridges require improvements or replacement, resulting in longer commutes and congestion. Ducker pressed further though to explain that a lack of infrastructure only hurts the overall economy of the country, with poor infrastructure adding $49 billion to the costs of doing business to the transport industry, creating a ripple effect to other industries. He felt that investments have not kept up with the need, and was hopeful that the recently passed FAST Act will help kick-start infrastructure investment.

Bridging the divide between business and labor was discussed with Thomas Donohue (President US Chamber of Commerce) and Richard Trumka (President AFL-CIO) during a panel discussion. “We’ve got some success at the end of last year with the FAST Act,” said Donohue, saying that it has been the first time that a long-term highway spending bill had been passed since 2005. “We have gone 23 years without increasing the federal fuel tax, we have heard every excuse that man can structure. Everyone that I know is for doing it because it will improve our infrastructure.” Four action items to improve infrastructure were discussed: Convincing the public that the infrastructure needs are real and pressing (with the DC Metro system cited as an example); convince the public that tax dollars spent on infrastructure are tax dollars well spent and are user fees; More money, both public and private are needed, with barriers for investment of nearly $250 billion of private investment funds available for infrastructure improvement removed; and “beating back simplistic solutions” and a connective and integrated system for improvements. Training of workers for infrastructure improvement jobs both current and in the future were also discussed as an opportunity to create much needed jobs, reduce accidents, and increase productivity to “more than pay for” the improvements. 

Victor Mendez, Deputy Secretary U.S. Department of Transportation discussed  challenges that the country is not only facing now, but coming into the future.  In 2045, America is expected to have 70 million more people, and a 45-55% increase freight volume. Federal level alone cannot improve that, and Mendez is hoping that USDOT can continue to, and further help, support communities to improve infrastructure investments.  Public-private partnerships, as well as usage of growing technology and innovation were noted to move projects ahead, such as Denver Colorado’s commuter rail that was recently built through public=private partnerships. DOT’s Smart City Challenge was discussed also, awarding a city up to $40 million for infrastructure improvements. Wage and opportunity gaps throughout the country were discussed as well, with Mendez placing some of the blame for opportunity differences in the country on outdated infrastructure, hoping to encourage communities to consider the effects when considering rebuilding their infrastructure. “A few generations ago, we built a lot of our highways, railways, and airports through neighborhoods. If you look at the history, a lot of low-income and minority communities were in fact affected dramatically,” said Mendez.  

Panel discussion continued, with mayors from four regions throughout the country discussing achievements and lessons learned in America’s cities. City and local governments bear the most direct impacts of failing infrastructure, from congested and dangerous passenger and freight transportation systems to emerging risks to public health and safety. Yet in recent years, mayors and local leaders have emerged as some of the fiercest champions of innovation and investment to solve critical shortcoming to their communities’ infrastructure. The panel displayed how bold city leaders have been able to overcome hurdles, transform their communities, and provide lessons for peers and national policymakers. Mayor David Condon discussed Link Spokane, to bring together all of the different infrastructure aspects of the city (parks, roads, wastewater, utilities) to be one of the first cities in the country to treat their roadway as a utility. All of the mayors on the panel discussed the need to further educate the public on infrastructure needs and the need for more investment, as well as the unseen needs for infrastructure maintenance and improvements and job impacts. “They have to see the benefit in their everyday life; their expectation is that the toilet flushes and the water goes on,” said Mayor Condon.

The keynote address was delivered by Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, discussing some of the challenges facing safeguarding critical infrastructure, and praising the partnerships and advocacy of Infrastructure Week. Threats to buildings and airports were discussed, and how increases of those travelers joining TSA pre-check will make infrastructure safer. Johnson also discussed his efforts to further streamline DHS to strengthen cyber security to help the needs of the country’s infrastructure.

This was the first time that Infrastructure week featured Congressional Co-chairs to help raise awareness around why Infrastructure Matters. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (WV), and Ben Cardin (MD), as well as Representatives Garret Graves (LA) and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY) . were nominated by leadership in each party on the committees of jurisdiction in each Chamber. The Co-chairs, along with other dignitaries, elected leaders, and executives participated in an open press briefing this week.

You can view the kickoff event in Washington DC and see the ways to participate in Infrastructure week by clicking here.

Third Track Proposal Raises Questions

Vision board, staff and community partners were out in support at 5 of the public scoping sessions taking place in late May and 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.

Legislation Redirects MTA Payroll Tax to Fund Local Transportation

Vision joined various community organizations including SILO and FREE in Albany last May 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.

In addition to the MTA Payroll Tax, suburban taxpayers support the regional transit system by funding local transit operations which connect passengers to MTA bus, rail and subway stops. This is in addition to other surcharges which support the MTA system, including MTA Commuter Transportation, District Taxicab and Hail Vehicles Rides, MTA Auto Rentals, and MTA Corporate Surcharges in addition to bearing the costs of local transit systems that support the regional transit network.

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.

NYS Senate Passes Small Business Savings Accounts

The New York State Senate passed legislation this year to create Small Business Savings Accounts for companies that have 50 employees or less - true small businesses. The proposed bill, now in its third year of being passed through the Senate, has the support of local chambers of commerce and is a priority of the 90 member LI Lobby Coalition.

The bill (S4376A) titled Savings Accounts for a Variable Economy (SAVE), sponsored by Senator Jack Martins, would allow small businesses to make contributions into a small business tax-deferred savings account which can be withdrawn for limited purposes and usage. More than 170,000 small businesses were lost after the economic downturn of 2008 and many that survived are still having trouble obtaining loans and credit to help them stay open. This bill seeks to serve as a remedy for the challenges that small businesses face accessing credit to pay their bills by encouraging them to put money into a special savings account that can be used tax-free in times of economic hardship, for the purposes of job retention or creation, and

during natural disasters. Monies in such an account may be withdrawn tax free during those times to ease the burden to the businesses and their employees. “Small businesses provide jobs and services to local residents and revenue for our economy.  When they stop hiring, lay off employees or close down entirely, the affect is felt across the economy and throughout the community.  This legislation would help them save money so they can save jobs during the hard times.  The Assembly should join the Senate in passing this legislation to help small businesses save jobs,” said Senator Martins, Chairman of the Senate’s Labor Committee.  

Small businesses would be able to contribute ten percent of their gross profits annually to the savings account. In times of economic hardship, natural disaster or when there is a need to add or retain jobs, withdrawals could be made from the account. Withdrawals made under the provisions of the bill would not be taxed, whereas withdrawals that are not qualified or using funds in the account as security on a loan would be taxable.   “This milestone, passing the Small Business Savings Accounts, will help small business across the state, especially on Long Island, to have the same benefit individuals have on their personal IRA's,” said Robert Fonti, Suffolk Co-Chair, Long Island Business Council and Co-Chair, Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers of Commerce.

After Superstorm Sandy and the August urban floods that affected Long Island in 2014, many Long Island small businesses were unable to recover quickly- if at all- due to a lack of available funding, low insurance payouts, or not having proper insurance coverage. Allowing businesses to invest in their resilience, whether it is to recover from natural or economic disaster, can only help to prevent small businesses and their employees from the effects of unforeseen circumstances, and to invest in their growth. 

You can read the entire bill here.


15th Annual Long Island Smart Growth Awards Celebrates Progress, Leadership

Over 900 community, business and government leaders gather to celebrate Smart Growth individuals and projects through past 12 months

The 15th Annual LI Smart Growth Awards took place Friday, June 10th from 11:00am to 2:00pm at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, honoring individuals and organizations advancing successful downtown initiatives.   Of Long Island’s 100 downtown business districts 60 have revitalization plans and 40 are actively moving projects forward.   All told over 12,000 units of transit oriented development housing have been created over the last dozen years along with countless other downtown projects.

This year's event will highlight the efforts of leaders in government, private sector, and the community that exemplify Smart Growth principles in such areas as transit oriented development, mix of land uses, housing options, compact design revitalization, sense of place, walkability and citizen participation.

Over 900 of Long Island’s civic, development, and government leaders are expected at the event. The Awards will feature opening welcome by past Award winner Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.  The keynote address and economic message will come from past Award winner NYS Comptroller Tom Dinapoli.

We received over 40 deserving nominations and the winners start with a Regional Leadership Award to Scott Rechler, Chairman and CEO or RXR Realty for his progress in and longstanding support of creating mixed use, downtown destinations on Long Island. The groundbreaking for Garvies Point in Glen Cove just occurred and project approvals in Huntington Station and Hempstead, in coordination puts an exclamation point on his leadership.

The project and organizational honorees have just been awarded and include Hon. Don Barbieri for Walkability in New Hyde Park; Alma Realty Corp & the Village of Valley Stream for a Mixed Use Project in Valley Stream; Conifer Realty & Town of Babylon for Housing Choices in Copiague; Patchogue Chamber of Commerce for “Alive after Five” in Patchogue; Town of Islip & Greenview Properties for a Pedestrian Plaza in Bay Shore; LI Building Trades Council & LI Federation of Labor for Job DevelopmentLalezarian & Village of Mineola for Mineola Village Green & One Third Ave, two redevelopment projects in Mineola; Beechwood Organization & Village of East Rockaway for Marina Pointe, a waterfront TOD in East Rockaway; Bartone/Terwilliger & Village of Farmingdale for Cornerstone, a TOD in Farmingdale, the Gitto Group & Village of Port Jefferson for the Hills, a TOD in uptown Port Jefferson; and East End Arts and the Westbury Arts Council for creating a Sense of Place by providing arts, music and culture in our downtowns.

Our keynote speaker was NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. Comptroller DiNapoli works with local municipalities to keep them financially healthy while he has been a fiscal watchdog and steward of New York State funds. As a former Long Island Smart Growth Award winner and advocate for local communities up in Albany.

To open the program Senator Jack Martins highlighted how drastically the Smart Growth movement has grown over the past decade. “Ten, fifteen years ago, we didn’t even have half of the people in this room, and yet, these concepts were resonating around Long Island, and because of the efforts of everyone in this room, and most specifically, because of the efforts of Vision Long Island, Smart Growth, transit-oriented development is actually taking hold.” He specifically highlighted the success of Smart Growth developments in Mineola, Farmingdale, Glen Cove and Patchogue. The Senator move on to discuss projects that will be completed in the Senate in the near future, including the Small Business Savings Accounts and allowing local communities and counties to be able to hold back MTA payroll taxes and invest them in local transportation needs. The Senator specifically noted how nice it was to see labor being honored at the Awards, stating that, “as we go forward, and as we build, and as we build Smart Growth, it is important that we build it with our building trades.”

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory spoke as well, about how the Smart Growth mission is an important part of protecting all that we love on suburban Long Island. “Fifteen years ago, the concept of Smart Growth was largely unknown. But with Vision Long Island staff, the board of directors, and all of their diligent efforts, we are all familiar, if not fully understanding of the importance of Smart Growth here on Long Island, which is going to protect what we love, and the future of Long Island and our communities.” He then went on to discuss how important local government is in the progress of Smart Growth projects. Gregory concluded his speech with congratulations to all of this year’s impressive honorees and announcement of his upcoming Economic Summit.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano made a point right at the start of his remarks to mention how many amazing visionaries, leaders in industry, and people who make it happen here on Long Island were present at the Awards, specifically congratulating Scott Rechler on the impressive impact his work has had on Nassau County. Mangano also recognized NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli as a great asset who always makes himself available to help the county, and find ways in which they can work together to save taxpayer dollars as well as support the innovation that is occurring here on the island. He also discussed the growth Nassau County has seen in recent years, commenting that new developments, such as the ones which were honored at the Awards, were an important part of growing the economy. “In Nassau County we have a number of transformative projects going on. We have the Coliseum, a 260 million dollar private-sector development, well underway, should open up some time next year. We receive 85 million dollars from NYS which is working to advance a bioelectronics center, we have Memorial Sloan-Kettering building 140-million-dollar cancer center that will engage in clinical research as well. Our visions are becoming a reality in terms of transformative projects, transit-oriented development, and attracting companies back to our island to make a brick and mortar investment here. The seeds that we have planted are becoming a reality for future generations.”

Richard Kessel introduced Hon. Tom DiNapoli, the NYS Comptroller. He commented on how Tom is Long Island-bred and was the youngest person to be elected to the local school board and was a great Assemblyman from Great Neck for many years. “Tom is really the definition of a public servant,” he said. “There is no one in our state government who works harder, or more for the people than Tom Dinapoli.”

Comptroller DiNapoli began his keynote address by congratulating all of the honorees for their important work and Vision for serving as a tremendous community resource and a catalyst for smarter, more livable, revitalized communities across Long Island. “Long Island has a unique set of challenges,” he said. “A limited land base, vulnerable supply of drinking water, limited transportation options, and significant development pressure. That’s why the forward-thinking, Smart Growth initiatives being recognized today matter more here than in most other places. Smart Growth and sustainability go hand in hand. All around Long Island we see smart, sustainable approaches taking root and bearing fruit.” DiNapoli stressed, however, that if we want to create sustainable communities we cannot just be happy with our past successes. “We need to continue to address the issues that are out there, we need to address the concerns about chemicals, toxic plumes, and septic discharges that still threaten our water. We need to continue to make progress in addressing problems such as restoring brownfields. We need to improve mass transit options, and we need to create more affordable housing, which continues to be a challenge across Long Island. Yes, we have come far. But we have more work to do to create the smart, sustainable communities we all want.” DiNapoli also highlighted sustainable budgeting at the government level as a key underpinning to the success of Smart Growth communities. “It starts with transparency and accountability at all levels of government. When we empower our citizens with information, they can have thoughtful input on government decisions. We need to give the public the information they need in order to plan better for the future.”

DiNapoli next discussed the Fiscal Stress Monitoring System which will identify municipalities and school districts that are struggling, it is also an important transparency tool to tell taxpayers about the financial status of their community. In order to fix many of New York’s budgeting issues, DiNapoli put forward a Fiscal Reform Plan that focuses on four major areas: spending accountability, adequacy of reserves, appropriate use of debt, and the establishment of a long-term, state-wide, capital inventory and needs assessment. “If we want safe, modern roads and bridges, clean water, and walkable and bikeable communities accessible by transit, we must plan ahead and strategically target our capital resources.” Referencing the 8.5 billion dollars the state has gotten through a string of financial settlements from companies who have violated banking and insurance laws, DiNapoli said, “Any additional settlement money should be used for smart, sustainable infrastructure improvements, which can serve as a catalyst for economic growth in communities all across our state.” He also emphasized the need for Washington’s help in improving our infrastructure. DiNapoli concluded his speech by thanking Vision for serving as a catalyst for positive change. “For the past two years, Vision Long Island has helped to advance more livable, economically sustainable, and environmentally responsible growth and there is no doubt that your efforts, along with the innovative efforts of todays honorees, will continue to lead to more progress. In 2016 Smart Growth is not a radical concept, it is a social, environmental, and economic imperative.”

For our full write up on the Smart Growth Awards, including our esteemed honorees, you can go here.

Opening of Amityville Community Resource Center for the Homeless

Vision joined hundreds of people in June to support the LI Coalition for the Homeless for the grand opening of the Amityville Community Resource Center at Liberty Village in Amityville.

The Resource Center is the former home of the Armed Forces Recruitment and Training Center, which served as an operational military base and facility until it was closed in 2011. The 40,000 square foot building sits on nine acres of property and is now ready for its new purpose: serving homeless persons and veterans. 4 to 5 acres of the land is used to maintain 60 units of permanent, affordable housing for 60 veterans and their families. Concern for Independent Living was selected to maintain these properties by a local selection committee comprised of representatives from veteran agencies, the Departments of Social Services and Veteran Services, housing agencies and PHA’s. The units, which veterans were able to move into as of October, 2014, were made possible with the help of federal, state and local officials including Governor Cuomo, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, the Long Island Regional Economic Council, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, and Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer.

The Community Resource Center, located on a parcel of land in front of the 60 residential units, will allow 10 organizations who work to support Long Island’s homeless and veteran folks to be located in the same place. Participating groups include United Veterans Beacon House, Family Service League, Suffolk County United Veterans, and Concern for Independent Living. It was transferred to a subsidiary of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. The ultimate goal of the Resource Center is to provide people in need with a location where they can make an appointment and get housing assistance, case management employment training, counseling, and other necessary services in one visit from multiple agencies. The building will also contain a distribution center that will give out clothing, food, toiletries, and other essentials. Both the residential Liberty Village and the Resource Center have received Smart Growth Awards.

Speakers at the grand opening included Coalition President Charlie Russo, Executive Director Greta Guarton, Concern for Independent Living and Liberty Village Developer Ralph Fasano, Suffolk Veteran Services Tom Ronayne, HUD’s Vincent Hom, as well as veterans who work and live at the facility. The Coalition’s achievements are testament to the leadership and determination of Director Greta Guarton, who, for the last 20 years, has led the group with concrete results. The opening of this Community Resource Center represents another step towards eliminating homelessness on Long Island.

You can read more about the Amityville Community Resource Center on their website.

Planning Underway for Syosset Park Development

Vision board and staff attended a scoping hearing held by the Town of Oyster Bay for the proposed Syosset Park mixed use development this summer. This new proposal follows a contentious and unsuccessful suggestion to build a mall on the site. Preliminary public meetings for this project, which plans to redevelop approximately 93 acres of land that was previously zoned for industrial purposes (and was the location of the former Town landfill) and transform it into a planned town center, were held back in March 2015. The new community would include 625 residential units, 464,000 square feet of retail, entertainment, and restaurant space, 200,000 square feet of office space, over 30 acres of parking, and two hotels. All of the buildings would be restricted to four stories.

The site was acquired in two parcels; in May 2013 the Simon Property Group, a shopping mall developer that includes the Garden City-based Albanese Organization and Castagna Realty, purchased the first 54-acre plot from Oyster Bay’s Department of Public Works. The Group then bought the adjacent 39-acre site from a rival mall builder, Taubman Centers, the following January. Taubman Centers had previously spent over 160 million dollars and 18 years in its quest of building a mall on the site before eventually selling the land to the Simon Group.

Attendees of the meeting suggested an expanded traffic analysis and confirmation that soil be tested for contamination. Vision mentioned the need to examine the possibility of including additional workforce housing and rental units as well as expanded transit options (via bus or shuttle, for example) and walkability within the development.

The next steps for the development include a final scope for the Environmental Impact Statement on the project which will adhere to State Environmental Quality Review requirements, as well as some of the concerns that were mentioned at the meeting. Following will be a period to comment on the document with public hearings before the Town. The town board is allowing written comments from the public and other agencies on the project’s scoping draft until July 13. 

You can read more about the proposed development here.

10-20 Bus Routes to be Cut in Suffolk County

Officials say that between 10 and 20 bus routes will be cut in Suffolk County after the Fair Share Commuter Tax legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Ramos and Senator Martins did not pass during the New York State legislative session. These cuts are likely to have severe impacts on the 1500 working residents and students who rely on the bus routes to make it to school and work each day. Aaron Watkins-Lopez, an organizer for Long Island Bus Riders Union, said, “It’s abhorrent and disheartening to see them cut so many routes.”

Approximately 3 million dollars will be saved in the remainder of 2016 after the routes with low ridership are eliminated in September. The county is currently facing a projected $129.4 million budget deficit in the upcoming year. While service will not fully be suspended, a number of additional bus routes are still likely to see the frequency of service reduced. A list of Suffolk’s bus routes to be cut will be released later this week. Hearings will be organized for this summer in order to inform the public of the reduced transportation service.

County Executive Steve Bellone initially cut 10 million dollars in transportations services for the disabled, hoping that the county would consequently receive more state funding. Last March, Bellone suggested to lawmakers in Albany that they send back 32.5 million dollars of the 1.5 billion dollars in revenues from the unpopular MTA payroll tax to the county to help prevent cuts to local bus service. Many people viewed this as a gamble with the potential to negatively impact scores of low-income riders. Suffolk County will receive 26 million dollars in bus and disabled transportation funding from the state, just a portion of the 66 million dollars Nassau County is set to receive. Despite the fact that Nassau’s bus system carries over 4 times as many riders as Suffolk’s, officials insist that the number of lane miles, which are very similar in each county, is truly what drives up costs. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan called Suffolk’s attempt to receive more state funding by threatening to cut transportation services “highly inappropriate”. Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson said that the reduction in cuts from 10 million dollars to 3 million dollars is due to the decreasing prices of gasoline and diesel, as well as a federal grant for Suffolk County Accessible Transportation. At this point, no routes servicing disabled riders are expected to be cut.

DuWayne Gregory, Suffolk Presiding Officer, was disappointed by the county’s inability to receive more funding from the state, claiming, “These cuts will come on the backs of those who can least afford it.” However, county lawmakers insist that there are no other places to reduce costs in the budget. A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo pointed out that state transportation aid for Suffolk’s transportation systems had increased by 1.5 million dollars, or six percent, from last year. Vision’s director, Eric Alexander, contended that the bus cuts will hurt efforts to promote economic development in downtowns. “It clearly sends the wrong message,” he said.

You can read more about the bus route cuts in Suffolk County in Newsday.

Albany's Legislative Session: A Mix of Progress and Missed Opportunities.....

Not a year of overwhelming progress from Albany but there were some highlights. Here is a summary of Vision and LI Lobby Coalition priorities:

Small Business & Economic Development:
The Senate passed the Small Business Savings Accounts legislation for the third straight year. For the third straight year the Assembly failed to put it up for a vote, with the bill stalling in Ways and Means. Stay tuned for a more detailed update. On a positive front, NYS EDC put out an RFP for funding downtown areas. 20 municipalities responded on LI for what will be one grant $10 million award.

The Fair Share for LI Commuter Tax bill failed to advance resulting in continued flow of LI dollars away from our region. The hope was that this bill would shore up funding for Suffolk County Transit which will now see a reduction in routes. Some good news, NYS DOT announced a $110 million for pedestrian safety in upstate NY and on LI. Some of the funding may go to other priorities than the actual redesign of LI's dangerous roadways but it is an important first step towards reversing current conditions. 

Both the Assembly and Senate passed legislation mandating testing at LI school districts for lead in water systems. Other good news is that the safe disposal of pharmaceutical drugs is being addressed by the administration. 

Human Needs:

Legislation addressing Zombie houses passed both the Senate and Assembly and just received the signature of the Governor. 

Local Projects: 
The fate of a series of local infrastructure projects requested funding is unclear. The varying NYS agencies will release project lists and funding determinations so stay tuned.

While none of these were on our list, of course there were a series of entertainment and lifestyle issues that did move forward:
You can drink now at early Sunday brunches, Ticket bots are denied, so access to concerts should be fairer. Fantasy sports is now legal. MMA is not banned anymore. Who can forget last year's banning of taking a picture with a tiger?

Hopefully the many items left undone this session will move to the front of the line in the next session. Clearly it is worth reminding our elected officials the mixed results this year and the priorities for LI moving forward.

Lynbrook Village Releases RFP for Redevelopment

The Village of Lynbrook has released a Request for Proposals in order to find a developer willing to demolish the blighted Capri Lynbrook Motor Inn and build a new development in its place. Residents of the Village have complained for years about crimes and police activity that are drawn to the dilapidated building. The RFP states that the foal in redeveloping the 18,262 square foot site is “to enhance its taxable status, eliminate blight, and facilitate economic and community development.” Additionally, the Village of Lynbrook is encouraging the inclusion of accessory retail space and amenities made available to the public.

The Capri has been available for sale for a number of years, but has yet to sell. A number of people own different parts of the property through a tenancy-in-common. It was then leased to Harry Wagner, the head of Lynbrook Motel LP. The market value of the Capri is listed by the village as $4.35 million. However, a prospective developer would need to arrange their own deal to purchase property from the current owner.

A number of developers have expressed interest in the land thus far, including Steven Krieger from Engel-Burman located in Garden City. “As we own the property across the street, we would entertain looking at acquiring it,” Krieger said. “Lynbrook is a great village.” All responses to the RFP are due by August 31, and it is anticipated that a developer will be chosen by December 12.

You can read more about the Village of Lynbrook’s search for developers in this Long Island Business News article.

Westbury Businesses Tackle Downtown Redevelopment

Vision attended Westbury Business Improvement District’s Annual Meeting over the summer to present highlights of a downtown marketing and placemaking recommendations for the Village of Westbury. During the meeting Mayor Peter I. Cavallaro updated the group on the positive direction of Post Avenue, which is one of the busiest north-south arterials in the area, with traffic in excess of 22,000 cars per day. Bruce Michael, the Director of Space, spoke of new additions to the venues programming. The Greater Westbury Council for the Arts has a number of dance, music, and art events planned for the rest of the year and BID is planning a street fair again for the fall. Other events sponsored by BID include free concerts, movie nights, and restaurant week.

Vision has previously worked with the Village of Westbury to create new marketing and retail strategies as well as placemaking plans.

NYS Legislation Signed for “Zombie” Homes

Vision attended the signing of the NYS legislation to address “Zombie” homes. This bill focuses on abandoned and blighted homes concentrated in downtown areas that consequently drive down property values of surrounding areas. The new legislation will make banks accountable through the use of fines and create a state-monitored list of abandoned properties, while also including a bill of rights for consumers. A new statewide hotline has also been created so that citizens can call and report zombie homes in their neighborhoods. This legislation was a priority of the 90-member Long Island Lobby Coalition this year.

Zombie Homes are a legacy of the 2008 mortgage crisis; they are houses in the foreclosure process that are vacated by homeowners before banks take title to them. In addition to charging fines of up to 500 dollars a day per property on banks and mortgage servicers that fail to maintain vacant houses, the law also expedites foreclosure proceedings. Local municipalities spent more than 3.2 million dollars in 2014 to maintain vacant houses. It is estimated that the properties also cost Long Island more that 295 million dollars in depreciated home values. “This legislation will help eliminate the degradation that these properties now impose on our neighborhoods,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

“New York State has the largest problem of ‘Zombie’ homes, Suffolk County has the largest number in the state with 760, so we stand here at ground zero,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo at the signing of the new legislation. “The nightmare in New York is over when we sign this bill.” Officials who signed the legislation include Governor Cuomo, New York Senators Jeff Klein, Tom Croci, Jack Martins, Michael Venditto, Carl Marcellino and New York Assemblymen Charles Lavine and Joseph Saladino.  Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Village of Babylon Mayor Ralph Scordino, Village of Mastic Beach Mayor Maura Spery and former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman were also at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers headquarters in Hauppauge for the signing. The bill was also signed in Manhattan and Solvay to emphasize that zombie homes are a statewide issue.

You can call 1-800-342-3736 or visit to report vacant, ill-maintained homes. You can read more about this new legislation in this Newsday article about the legislation and this Newsday article about the new hotline.


Westbury Village Secures $10 Million from New York State

Governor Cuomo announced that Westbury will receive $10 million dollars in state funding in order to support its downtown revitalization efforts. This award is part of a $100 million dollar statewide grant program called the Downtown Revitalization Initiative that was announced in the governor’s 2016 State of the State address. Over 20 other downtowns on Long Island applied for the redevelopment grant, including Hempstead, Freeport, Glen Cove, Long Beach, Central Islip and Hicksville. In total, 10 towns in 10 different New York regions were granted this sought after award. The state received a total of 122 applications throughout the state with many excellent applications so clearly this must have been a difficult choice for NYS officials.

During the announcement of the winner, which took place at The Space at Westbury, Governor Cuomo said, “You hit all the touchpoints, you incorporated every strategy in your development plan – that we know works. You have a transit oriented development plan. I am even more excited about how it can work when we get the third track done for the LIRR, which we have to get done. And it is going to be right here. You used the diversity of the community as an asset. You have affordable housing. You have walking strategies. You have it all in your plan. So a job well done.”

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano joined in the announcement "This project follows downtown Farmingdale as a more livable, walkable and transit oriented development to keep young people in our region. We thank the Governor for making this investment"
NYS Senator Jack Martins who helped secure the funding decision "We will leverage the Village's existing resources building on the work that has been done for transit oriented development and incorporate traffic calming measures and job development"

Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro concluded, “On behalf of the residents of the Village and all of the stakeholders in our community, I thank the Governor for selecting Westbury for this grant. It is gratifying to know that, out of all of the deserving communities that could have been selected, our community, and the revitalization efforts we've made to date, are worthy of recognition. We've worked hard with all of our stakeholders to make Westbury the very best it can be and the additional resources will certainly assist us in taking the next step toward our goal of being one of New York's and Long Island's most attractive, sustainable and vibrant places to be. We look forward to working with the NYS Office of Planning and Development and the Regional Economic Development Council to develop the plans to move our community forward."

Also joining in the announcement were NYS Assemblymembers Chuck Lavine, Michael Montessano, Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe, Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Viviana Russell, Westbury Village trustees, staff and a range of local organizations including the Westbury Arts Council, BID, Library and Chamber of Commerce.

“Mayor Peter Cavallaro and the Village Board have been a true leaders in redeveloping their Post Ave business district for many years resulting in 800 units of housing, a new theatre and emerging restaurants and activities. Kudos to the Governor's office for bringing resources to one of LI's premier downtowns. Bringing economic development dollars directly to Long Island communities that are advancing mixed use development as well as arts, culture and numerous downtown events is a wise use of State funds.” Said Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander.

In addition Vision completed a downtown marketing, retail attraction and PlaceMaking plan for the Village and we just honored the Westbury Arts Council with a Smart Growth Award for their accomplishments on Post Ave. Westbury was also featured in a Smart Growth Saturday tour.

You can read more about Westbury’s new grant in Long Island Business News.

Patchogue Hosts Alive After Five

Vision attended the first Alive After Five event of the summer in July. Despite poor weather early on, over 7,500 people from across Long Island showed up to the free summer event hosted by Patchogue Chamber of Commerce. Attendees spent the evening enjoying live music on six different stages, eating at the 11 food trucks, and buying crafts and other goods from more than 90 local vendors. Special guest Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul attended the kick-off event as well.

The biweekly festival recently received a 2016 Smart Growth Award from Vision for Citizen Participation. Musical performers at the event included the Infamous Stringdusters, A’mericana, and the West Point Band. A Salute to our Armed Forces was the theme for Thursday’s festival, and the soldiers assigned to the US Army Recruiting Office in Patchogue called in some military vehicles for the event for attendees to check out. Alive After Five will continue on Main Street every other Thursday (July 21, August 4 and August 18) for the remainder of the summer.

You can read more about the upcoming Alive After Five events on their website.

Elmont Civics Tackle Belmont Redevelopment

Vision was invited to the Parkhurst and Tudor Manor Civic for a joint meeting in Elmont at which Engel Burman and Basser Kaufman presented their proposal for the redevelopment of the south lot of the racetrack, which sits on the edge of Elmont along the border of Queens and the Cross Island Parkway. Their vision for the project includes an anchor retailer, three restaurants, a supermarket, a bank, a public plaza, an organic community garden, a sports field with seats for 2,500, a playground, and a 7,000 squre foot community center.   Several green features will be incorporated into the design of the development, including solar rooftops, fuel cells, rain gardens, and native plant species.

Engel Burman would have to relinquish control of the development to either the state, Nassau County, or the Town of Hempstead, who would then be in charge of maintaining the green space and community center. However, the development group will contribute one million dollars over five years towards the maintenance of the park. Additionally, they will not seek a PILOT agreement from the IDA. Engel Burman has thus far received letters of interest from Costco, Michaels, ShopRite, Modell’s Sporting Goods, and Chick-fil-A. “We see this as a vibrant hub that can be enjoyed by local youth, seniors, families… everyone in the community,” said Steven Krieger, a partner in the development group. “It’s a sense of place, it’s a downtown for the community where people can gather, shop, dine on this side of Hempstead Turnpike.” This plan would create a total of 1,663 permanent jobs.

Several questions from the community were raised at the meeting on topics including buffers, maintaining older trees, noise, the potential impact on traffic, fire and emergency services, security, and garbage. The majority of these questions were answered to the community’s satisfaction, and the proposal was well received. The Engel Burman plan is in line with the Elmont Vision Plan, a 2006 resident-created proposal for the development of Hempstead Turnpike. Krieger has stressed the importance of community input and is planning on implementing other outreach initiatives to hear more thoughts on the project.

The Empire State Development Corporation has yet to choose a developer for the project, despite the fact that the first request for proposals was issued in 2012. Since the initial request, the north lot has been removed from consideration, forcing developers to submit updated proposals. “We are re-engaging respondents in order to obtain the best possible deal for the state,” said Empire State spokesman Jason Conwell.

Another proposal for the lot, put forward by the pro soccer team New York Cosmos, includes building a 25,000-seat stadium, a 175-room hotel, a restaurant, and retail space. The Blumenfeld Group has also submitted a proposal for a large retail space, a Costco Business Center, and a community center. The final proposal, submitted by Related Development, consists of a 327,000 square foot retail space, 21,000 square feet of restaurants, a junior soccer field, and a playground.

You can read more about the proposed plans for the south parcel in the LI Herald.

NYMTC's Regional Plan Funds Long Island Transportation Projects

Vision attended a New York Metropolitan Transportation Council public meeting this summer in order to testify on their Regional Plan 2040, which includes all of the federal and state funded transportation projects slated for Long Island in the upcoming years. The improvements cover a wide range of transportation modes and facilities, including roadways and bridges, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, transit equipment and services, safety improvements and demand management programs. $8 billion of the total $35 billion in the plan will be used solely for projects on Long Island.  

On the island, transit upgrades will affect a number of different services. Suffolk Transit and NICE Bus are scheduled for capital improvements and new bus shelters. The Long Island Railroad has a number of projects that will see state and federal funding, including the East Side Access and double track projects, a new parking garage, and a study to analyze the feasibility of reopening the Republic Station. Additionally Bus Rapid Transit will be added at the Nassau Hub, Route 110 and Nicholls Road. 

A number of critical road improvements are to be completed as a result of the Regional Plan 2040 as well. Specifically, Route 112, the Nassau Expressway, Middle Neck Road, NYS 25, North Country Road, Route 347, CR 97, and Sunrise Highway will receive a number of safety and maintenance enhancements. Additionally, a planning study for the Sagtikos Parkway will be conducted. Further projects to enhance the experience of Long Island’s bikers and pedestrians are scheduled for fifteen downtowns, the Shoreham Wading River Trail, and Ocean Parkway. 

Questions remain about the Pilgrim State Freight Rail facility due to the recent problem with some freight projects on Long Island and the status of the third track, which still requires a great deal more planning before it comes to fruition. Vision also raised concerns about the needless removal of trees for varying road projects, pointing out that careful design can radically reduce this pointless environmental destruction. 

The increase in funding for transit, bike, and pedestrian projects as well as Complete Streets designs is a marked improvement from past years. A number of these projects will result in economic development for Long Island’s local communities, while also providing additional mobility to their residents. While regional plans are oftentimes extraneous and unhelpful, Regional Plan 2040 has the potential to precipitate widespread change as it is tied to real projects with real resources. 

You can read more about Regional Plan 2040 on the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s website.

Farmingdale Village Opens Cornerstone Apartments

Vision staff attended the ribbon cutting ceremony that celebrated the grand opening of the Cornerstone, a transit-oriented development in downtown Farmingdale. The new apartment building was awarded a Smart Growth Award by Vision this past June. 

The 42-unit rental community is currently leasing, with four units designated as affordable housing. The Cornerstone allows residents to simply walk across the street to the busy Long Island Railroad Farmingdale station to commute to and from work. Furthermore, residents are able to benefit from the development’s proximity to the numerous shops, restaurants, and places of worship located on nearby Main Street. Developer Anthony Bartone gave high praise to the team of architects, engineers, and employees at the Cornerstone who worked together to complete the project in only 9 months. He also gave thanks to the Village of Farmingdale, which leads all other villages and hamlets on Long Island for the number of new Smart Growth developments. Bartone was joined by his partner Fran Terwilliger, who he credited with having the vision to create the apartment building. Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Eckstrand addressed the crowd as well, congratulating the developers for their continued efforts to bring Smart Growth to Farmingdale. Vision Director Eric Alexander discussed the immense amount of progress that has been made, not only in Farmingdale, but across Long Island. He informed the crowd that over 12,000 transit-oriented development units have been approved in Nassau and Suffolk Counties in the past decade. 

Bartone Properties also worked together with village officials to open a new Starbucks, part of one of their new Main Street developments. The coffee shop is the first of seven commercial spaces to open below the Jefferson at Farmingdale Plaza, a two-building, 154-unit apartment complex located across the railroad from the Cornerstone. The Jefferson at Farmingdale, a former Smart Growth Award winner as well, features a number of one- and two-bedroom apartments paired with retail space. To the credit of these projects, a major transformation has been seen in the Village of Farmingdale. Attracting new residents and adding to the appeal of Main Street has helped the Village fill many of its vacant store fronts. Congratulations to Terwilliger & Bartone Properties and the Village of Farmingdale on their latest effort to bring housing to their downtown. 

LI Smart Growth Working Group Tackles Infrastructure with Congresswoman Rice: $8 Billion Federal Assistance Slated

The LI Smart Growth Working Group met in July at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale to address recent plans for transportation investment for downtown projects, transit investments and complete streets road designs.  

After a welcoming message from Vision Long Island’s Director Eric Alexander and a round of introductions, the Working Group was kicked off by Mayor Ralph Ekstrand of Farmingdale, who discussed some of the ongoing projects within Farmingdale. The Mayor updated the group on the downtown’s success hosting their festival Live at Five on Main.  A combination of shopping, dining, and acoustic art, the biweekly summer celebration drew thousands of people on its opening night last Thursday. The village also just celebrated the grand opening of Vespa Italian Kitchen & Bar on Main Street. The Mayor went on to discuss the grand opening of the Cornerstone, a new transit-oriented development that was recognized at the 15th Annual Smart Growth Awards hosted by Vision in June. He stressed the importance of providing residents with a variety of transit-oriented units. The Cornerstone, which consists primarily of studio apartments, entices residents to live in the village and promotes further revitalization of their downtown area.

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney discussed her part in the revitalization occurring within the Town of Hempstead, specifically Baldwin.  She stated that the hamlet has progressed immensely as the intersection of Grand Avenue and Merrick Avenue that used to be full of empty storefronts is now home to a number of local mom and pop shops that are bringing economic vitality to the region.

Amityville Trustee Dennis Siry gave a brief update on his village’s progress as well, with new zoning by the LIRR station being looked at for transit-oriented development, as well as a traffic calming project with NYS DOT. Keith Lanning, the Assistant Vice President for the Livingston Development Corporation also spoke about progress in the City of Glen Cove with the Villa condo project, which was originally proposed almost ten years ago. Gina Coletti discussed the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers' progress in working with the local chambers of commerce, while she was flanked by Francesca Carlow of Nassau County Council of Chambers, who gave updates of their efforts and a reminder of their Annual Small Business Person of the Year and Legislative Breakfast coming up on October 21st. The Council is continuously working to encourage Nassau residents to shop local. Initiatives to teach the public about the benefits of frequenting local mom and pop shops as opposed to big chain stores or online are ongoing.

Neal Lewis, Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, spoke about the new wind farm that was slated to receive approval from the Long Island Power Authority – however that meeting was abruptly canceled on Wednesday. The wind farm, once approved, will consist of 15 turbines located over 30 miles off of the coast of Montauk. Responding to people who are worried about the presence of a wind farm ruining the view from the South Shore, Lewis stressed that it will not only be hard to see the turbines from land, it will be impossible. The project will provide the South Fork with 90 megawatts of energy, and combines the area’s need for energy with green energy, helping the state achieve its goal of generating 50% of its electricity from carbon-free renewable energy projects by 2030. Lewis also discussed a number of solar projects that are transpiring on Long Island, and stated that it is unfortunate that these ventures are often pitted as trees verses solar panels. While open fields do provide a lot of room for solar panels to collect energy, he advocated for more solar panels in the built environment, especially on new buildings and on carports that can be placed over parking lots. Information about the Long Island Green Homes initiative was also available, where residents can sign up for a free home energy audit which can save around $1,000 a year on energy costs.

Eric Alexander provided the group with an update regarding the progress of Hicksville’s downtown revitalization efforts on behalf of the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce. The Town of Oyster Bay recently proposed a number of zoning changes for the Central Business District that will allow new residential and mixed use buildings to be placed within the downtown corridor for the first time. Such changes are paramount to the economic success of the area, as new residents will bring new money to spend in local shops. The town will hold a public meeting to allow residents to share their thoughts on the zoning changes. He also discussed the Village of Westbury’s recent success in securing a $10-million-dollar Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant. The money is to be used to revitalize the local neighborhood and generate new opportunities for long-term growth.  Westbury successfully competed against 20 other downtowns on Long Island to win the grant.

Lois Howes, President of Friends of Freeport, spoke about the group’s continued efforts to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy recover. She also asked for volunteers to participate in the moving of sheds this Saturday, and in upcoming efforts. John Giordano from the Village of Lynbrook provided the group with an update about recent progress in his village, with $1.1 million being leveraged from county and DOT funds for revitalization efforts.  The former Regal movie theater will be replaced by a new 1,600 seat theater, and there is a letter of intent by Marriott to develop in close proximity to the train station.  Corey Bearak from the Queens Chamber of Commerce also provided the group with an update, and offered some caution on revenue models that call for tolling the varying bridges into Manhattan that are opposed by the Chamber and many other local Queens and Brooklyn organizations. Randi Dresner spoke next about the work being done by Island Harvest, a Long Island food bank. In a recent food drive, Letter Carriers for Food, Long Island residents could leave food in or by their mailbox for pickup. This raised over 400,000 pounds of food, but considering that there are over 3 million people in Suffolk and Nassau Counties, with over 316,000 facing food insecurity, the need persists.

Gerry Bogacz from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council discussed the “FAST Act”, or “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act”, which authorizes 305 billion dollars for highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, rail, and research, technology, and statistics programs. The funding in this Act is then allocated to the states, who have the responsibility of sub-allocating the money within the state. Much of this money is given to Metropolitan Transportation Organizations such as NYMTC, which serves Long Island, New York City, and the Lower Hudson region, and verifies that the federal funds get used. NYMTC will receive $8 billion dollars in this current 5-year transportation funding, and has held and will continue to hold a number of public outreach events to get input from local residents. Significantly, NYMTC has recently prioritized both downtowns and pedestrians. This plan is a radical improvement from past years plans that included less transit, less bike and pedestrian projects, and more road widenings with no growth at the end of the road.

Lisa Black from Governor Cuomo’s office touched briefly on the need to fix infrastructure in the region. John McCarthy from the MTA updated the group on the progress that has been made on the East Side Access Project and the work on the tracks located between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. Combined, McCarthy said, these two projects have the ability to double the number of people who can get into Manhattan. Equally important is the ability to have trains running towards Long Island during morning peak hours and trains running into Manhattan during evening peak hours, which the Double Track will permit.

The keynote address was delivered by Congresswoman Kathleen Rice. The congresswoman began her speech by talking about her time in Washington, mentioning that the House of Representatives and the Senate need to have more contact with each other in order for real progress to be made. She moved on to discuss the demand for improved infrastructure across the island, saying, “We need to invest our money in infrastructure.” She praised the recently passed FAST Act, the first long-term federal highway bill in a decade, for its ability to help bring Long Island’s infrastructure “into the 21st century”, with $16.3 billion going to NY State for infrastructure improvements, and $2.5 billion going directly to Long Island. The $2.5 billion will be augmented by local shares and public-private partnerships to create a total of around $8 billion for infrastructure improvements  Rice emphasized the importance of having a bill that dictates federal funding for multiple years. “Why is it important to know that that money is guaranteed? Because now you can plan,” Rice said. “Now we have money for at least the next five years. It should be more than that. But at least that’s something. We’re going in the right direction.” As other speakers did before her, Congresswoman Rice also discussed the importance of supporting local mom and pops shops over big box stores. “In order to get young kids to move and live on Long Island”, Rice added, “active downtowns need to be surrounded by effective and reliable transportation systems.” Rice used this as a transition to confirm that the Third Track Project is happening, much to the dismay of many mayors within Nassau County who feel that there could be concerns with the needs of their communities. “It’s not a question of ‘if.’ It’s ‘when.’ So try to extract whatever you can for your village,” Rice said. “Let’s try to see if we can look at this as a way to expand our infrastructure ... and also expand our economic base.” Finally, Rice discussed the need for increased voter turnouts in order to affect real change. She pointed out that recent elections in Suffolk County was decided by counting absentee ballots and that each vote truly does matter.

Following Congresswoman Rice’s keynote address, Roy Smitheimer from the Town of Hempstead told the Working Group about the recent opening of LaunchPad in Great Neck Plaza, a business incubator. A Business and Tourism Development Corporation’s Business Breakfast was held their last week to inform residents and prospective business owners about the benefits of collaborative work environments and to educate them on how to help young millennials and entrepreneurs with start-up businesses.

Neighbors Supporting Neighbors updated the group on their work with Superstorm Sandy victims. The organization has been working with families who were financially devastated after the storm. The majority of their work has revolved around helping those families make ends meet while they continue to recover, however other efforts have continued to take place for non-disaster related needs, such as 300 boxes of food being distributed with Feed the Children last weekend, leading a collaborative effort for a playground to be built in Babylon Township, and a program with Island Harvest to create a food pantry operated by students in the Deer Park school district.. Nora Sundin from the Brookhaven National Lab mentioned an exciting weekly event they are hosting during which families can come to the lab to learn about the science and research that is done there. The event runs like an open house every Sunday from 10am to 3pm. Dr. Nathalia Rogers from the Long Island Youth Summit spoke again about the importance of keeping youth on Long Island. She stressed that we need to get them excited about living here, and present them with opportunities that make staying on Long Island a viable option. The LI Youth Summit hosts about 25 schools annually, and is now working with Northwell Health as their main sponsor for the annual event. The last speaker at the event, Rene Fiechter from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, informed the group of a new program that gives jackets to various organizations including soup kitchens, shelters, veteran groups, and women empowerment groups. The jackets were confiscated since they were counterfeit, and instead of being destroyed, will be put to good use.  20,000 jackets have been distributed to date, and the project will have an additional 30,000 jackets available starting in September.

The LI Smart Growth Working Group was created in 2007 to plan and implement statewide policies that will affect Smart Growth development on Long Island. The group is organized by Vision Long Island, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, Neighborhood Network, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, LI Federation of Labor, LI Business Council, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, AARP and many others.   The group meets multiple times a year to tackle issues related to transportation, sewers, economic development, demographics, land use regulations and downtown redevelopment projects.  

Special thanks to Summit sponsors: National Grid, Harras, Bloom & Archer, the Long Island Youth Summit, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek Counselors at Law, Certilman Balin Attorneys, GRCH Architecture, Renaissance Downtowns, Zodiac Title Services, VHB, PSEG, Mill Creek Residential Trust, Greenman-Pederson, Inc., St. Joseph’s College, AARP, Engel Burman, D&F Development Group, Jobco, Noticia, Long Island Business Council, Southwest, H2M, Post Properties, Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers, Zucaro Construction, Posillico, Rivkin Radler Attorneys at Law, and the Sustainability Institute at Molloy for hosting.

You can see coverage of the event in Newsday. Congresswoman Rice's keynote address can also be seen here

End of Veteran Homelessness on Long Island

Vision board members and staff attended the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless team’s announcement about the eradication of veteran homelessness on Long Island. The group announced that all military veterans who are actively seeking a home on Long Island now have a place to live. Matthew Doherty, the executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, sent Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone a letter stating that the two counties “have effectively ended homelessness among veterans.”

A total of 1,000 units of housing and a number of support services have been provided by a host of different agencies on Long Island in the past few years. Liberty Village and the Coalition’s resource center, where the press conference was held in North Amityville, have served as a hub for this activity. The Community Resource Center, located on a parcel of land in front of the 60 residential units, allows 10 organizations who work to support Long Island’s homeless and veteran folks to be located in the same place.

Other projects include the 60-home Mitchel Field development in Garden City and the rehabilitation of five two-bedroom town houses in Hempstead for veterans, active-duty military and their families. Suffolk County has made recent strides as well, with the passing of the Housing our Homeless Heroes Act, which transferred abandoned properties seized by the county for unpaid taxes to nonprofit groups to be used to house veterans. Since the introduction of this legislation, ten homes have begun the redevelopment process.

When asked why there are still some homeless veterans on the streets, Greta Guarton, the Coalition Executive Director, said, “if the choice is not to receive services or not to accept services, we’re going to respect that.” Long Island is currently one of only twenty regions out of over five hundred that were recognized for providing full services for veterans.

Also in attendance at the press conference were a number of HUD officials, Nassau County Executive Mangano, Suffolk County Executive Bellone, Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, Suffolk Legislator Steve Stern, local agencies, veterans, and many others. While the inefficiency, waste and lack of coordination associated with Federal intervention are often discussed, this partnership between the HUD and the local communities in need is an example of true progress and effective public service

You can read more about the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless’ announcement on Newsday

Port Jefferson Village Opens the Hills TOD Apartments

Vision staff and board attended the grand opening of the Hills in Port Jefferson, a 74-unit transit-oriented development built by the Gitto Group on the site of an old car wash. The building consists of one and two bedroom units that range from 700 square feet to 1200 square feet. Amenities include a state-of-the-art fitness center, an outdoor courtyard with barbecue space, and large balconies with great views. Behind-the-building parking helps improve the walkable nature of the neighborhood, which sits right behind Main Street shops, and placing the buildings closer to the sidewalk helps to define the street and give a more comfortable feel of an outdoor room.  Vision honored this influential development, the first to be built in Port Jefferson under the Village’s new revitalization plan, with a Smart Growth Award this past June.

This project is proving that there is a demand for this type of housing; the entire first phase of the development was leased in only 3.5 weeks. A number of residents who attended the event and spoke to members of Vision’s staff enthusiastically detailed their positive experiences in the building since the beginning of their leases. Construction of the second half of the development has just broken ground, and is expected to be completed in June 2017.

Mayor Margot Garant congratulated Rob and Anthony Gitto on their success, thanking them for having the vision to invest in this form of housing and in the neighborhood of Upper Port. She expressed her optimism for the future of the area, and communicated to the group that unity is the key to revitalizing Upper Port and making it as successful as lower Port. Anthony Gitto also addressed the group, and emphasized the role that the Village of Port Jefferson had in the success of their project. Without the Village’s help, he said, the development would never have come to fruition.

The construction of these apartment units is hoped to inspire small businesses such as cafes and restaurants and other retailers to follow suit and to create a sense of community in Upper Port, as well as extend the downtown part of Port Jefferson which already has quite a vibrant nightlife and day community. Rob Gitto of the Gitto Group stated that this is the first project the company has taken on with little or no opposition from the community. The beginning of the renaissance of the Upper Port Jefferson area was also made possible in part by the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency’s assistance with incentives to facilitate redevelopment.

Congratulations to Gitto Group and the Village of Port Jefferson for their commitment towards moving transit-oriented development projects ahead in Upper Port Jefferson. You can view Vision Long Island's award video for the Hills here.

Riverhead Advances Main Street Food Court Project

The Town of Riverhead held a special board meeting last July to look into funding for a $2.5 million development on Riverhead’s budding Main Street. 

The proposed Downtown Riverhead Food Market and Production Center would be located at 103-105 East Main Street, which has been vacant for almost a decade. Developer Michael Butler, who purchased the former Woolworth’s building across the street in 2013, created 25,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor as well as 19 affordable apartments on the second floor. Riverhead’s Community Development Director Chris Kempner said that the project would complement the existing businesses and restaurants in the area, adding that “it would be a great balance with the other investments.” The proposed site is right across the street from the Suffolk Theater.

Some of the funding for the project could come from the New York State Main Street Program, which provides matching funds to local governments and non-profit organizations for projects that contribute to the revitalization of historic downtowns, mixed-use commercial districts and village centers. “The grants usually cover about 20 percent of the project cost and the rest would come from banks and private investors,” Butler said.  The Main Street Grant Program, through NY Homes and Community Renewal, can help fund building renovation for commercial units, and streetscape enhancements, with funding also available for residential units.

You can read more about the proposed project for Riverhead’s up and coming Main Street in Newsday,


Ronkonkoma Hub Sewage Pipe Approved

The Ronkonkoma Hub project will be able to break ground now that Islandia officials have passed a plan to allow a sewage pipe to be built through their village. An intermunicipal agreement with Suffolk County and a separate agreement with Tritec Real Estate, the project’s developer, was approved by the Village Board last Tuesday. The pipe is now set to be built beneath Johnson Avenue in Islandia.

The Ronkonkoma Hub project is intended to transform the area surrounding the Long Island Railroad Ronkonkoma station into a thriving commercial district, creating hundreds of jobs while providing millennials and seniors with new housing options. The development, expected to be completed in about ten years, will contain 1,450 apartments and 545,000 square feet of retail and office space on a site of 50 acres.

Construction has yet to start due to lawsuits that had been filed against Suffolk County and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The Town of Brookhaven refused to issue building permits until county health officials approved a wastewater-treatment plan for the Hub.   Village officials said, however, the lawsuits will now be dropped and construction will be allowed to proceed unhindered since the Village of Islandia and Suffolk County have come to an agreement.

“We are making progress in our conversations with municipal partners,” said Suffolk County spokesman Scott Martella. “Our local leaders recognize that the Ronkonkoma Hub is a regionally significant project that will have a positive economic impact on all neighboring communities.” He also added that this sewer agreement will help to get construction started faster. Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine also praised the agreement, saying, “Without a wastewater solution, this project cannot go forward.”

Suffolk County has agreed to repair all of the roads that are torn up due to the installation of the sewer pipe and has given Islandia the right to use the pipe for up to 200,000 gallons of wastewater per day. This agreement will save the village 1.3 million dollars. Tritec Real Estate has also agreed to pay the village 1 million dollars as a community benefit.

While some locals were originally wary of the Hub project, Long Island’s business and civic leaders largely support the project. Ronkonkoma Civic Association president Bruce Edwards said, “We originally weren’t very happy with the original plans.” After meetings with Tritec officials, however, Edwards said, “They’re trying to be good neighbors.”

You can read more about the new sewer approved for the Ronkonkoma Hub project in Newsday, and check out progress and proposals of the project here

Officials and Environmentalists Oppose EPA's Plan for Long Island Sound Dumping

Vision joined environmental organizations, County and State officials at Sunken Meadow State Park as Governor Cuomo called on the Environmental Protection Agency to halt their plan of dumping dredging spoils from Connecticut into the Long Island Sound off of Fishers Island.

The US Army Corps of Engineers plans to dump the dredged material in the eastern part of the Long Island sound after rejecting other means of disposal citing cost. The EPA has agreed with the Army Corps’ assumption that the dredged material is safe to dispose of in this manner, however soil and sediment taken from the bottoms of waterways can contain pesticides, lead and mercury, and can harm marine life. The Long Island Sound has undertaken a renaissance of sorts over the past few years with nitrogen reduction measures and dumping potential contaminates could stop the comeback. "It would be absurd that while we are cleaning up the Sound while another level of government is dumping in the Sound," said Governor Cuomo. "It is counterproductive, absurd and we will take action to stop the dumping which may include legal action."

Notice has been provided to President Obama and EPA Administrators, with support from over twenty five elected officials, stating that legal action will be taken against the EPA that will challenge any ruling that will make the eastern Long Island Sound permanent dumping spots for dredging. For about thirty years, dredged material has been dumped at four open-water disposal sites in the Sound, and with the blessing of the EPA, it will allow dumping to occur at two sites in the western and central sections of the sound for the next 30 years. However, the EPA says that those sites will be over capacity for the large volume of anticipated dredging to come- some 53 million cubic yards of sludge- and need to dump the spoils into the Eastern Sound. The NYS Department of State and DEC disagree with the conclusion of the EPA that additional dumping sites will be needed.

Elected officials and environmental leaders in support and present included Rep. Lee Zeldin, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, NYS Senators Jack Martins, Carl Marcellino, Todd Kaminsky and Ken Lavalle, NYS Assemblymembers, Steve Englebright, Michael Fitzpatrick, Chuck Lavine, Andrew Raia and Dean Murray, Joe Saladino and David McDonough. 

It’s expected that the EPA will issue a final decision regarding the location of the dumping of sludge this fall. You can read more about the bipartisan stand against the dumping in Newsday, and see the letter drafted by Governor Cuomo to the President and EPA Administrators here.

Huntington Station Mixed-Use Building Approved

The Huntington Town Planning Board has approved a conditional site-plan for the Northridge Project, a small mixed-use project that will be located on the corner of Northridge Street and New York Avenue, with in walking distance of the LIRR train station. The plans for the three-story building include commercial space on the first floor and a combined total of 16 apartments on the top two floors. Thomas Abbate, an attorney representing Renaissance, has stressed that the apartments will not have a “cookie-cutter appearance”.

“Our team is extremely excited that through our partnership with the community and the town we have crossed yet another hurdle towards revitalizing Huntington Station,” said Ryan Porter, Renaissance Downtowns’ vice president of planning and development.

The conditional approval depends upon the revision of a roof-drain line, the type and diameter of the pipe for the drain line, the location of a concrete wash-out station, and others. The Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals granted variances to Renaissance Downtowns in May, confirming that the project would not cause any undesirable changes to the character of the neighborhood or be a detriment to nearby properties. Porter expects construction on the building to begin in late 2016 or early 2017.

The focus of the variances appears to have been parking relief for 25 spaces that are not provided in the proposal. The plan, following town code, includes 55 parking spots.  These new apartments are hoped to provide housing for younger people who are looking to move to the area but are not willing to buy homes.

You can read more about the new mixed-use building in Newsday.

Small Transit-Oriented Developments on Long Island Find Success

A Long Island Business News article has highlighted the success of many new transit-oriented, downtown developments that are positively transforming their local communities. Four of the five of the projects, celebrated for their ability to help transform communities and improve the local economy, were awarded a Smart Growth Award by Vision this past June.

Marina Pointe in East Rockaway was constructed by the Beechwood Organization on a 2.72-acre site that overlooks the water and is ideally located in close proximity to the East Rockaway Long Island Railroad station. The storm-resilient, 84-unit buildings are designed to withstand the strong winds and surging waters brought by storms like Sandy that have caused significant destruction in the region. Beechwood principal Steven Dubb said that the project’s main goal was to redevelop in an intelligent way. “We’re going to bring full-time residents who are going to support, and hopefully grow, the retail base and do it in a smart way that doesn’t overload the infrastructure. Marina Pointe has all the bones you want for a Smart Growth development. It will be walkable to the train station and a short commute to the city.”

The second development mentioned, The Hills in Port Jefferson, has been constructed in an effort to jumpstart the revitalization of the Upper Port region. Developed by the Gitto Group, the 74-unit building has already helped to create a well-lit neighborhood street that positions residents near the LIRR station and local residents. The buildings contain amenities such as a state-of-the-art fitness center and a well-landscaped outdoor courtyard.  The entire first building was leased within one month, and the second building is set to be completed by next summer.

The Cornerstone has brought 42 new rental units to downtown Farmingdale. Built by Bartone & Terwilliger, the new building contains a fitness center, clubroom, and a rooftop patio. “Farmingdale is now the place to be,” said Mayor Eckstrand who is a large supporter of the numerous transit-oriented developments that have helped revitalize Farmingdale. Uniquely, the residents of the Cornerstone can wait in the lobby of their building to take the Long Island Railroad.

90 new rental units are being constructed in Copiague by Conifer Realty and the Community Development Corporation of Long Island. Called Copiague Commons, the building is located directly across the street from the Long Island Railroad station. “By taking a blighted industrial building and replacing it with empty-nesters and young professionals, they knew it would drive demand for their businesses and encourage more business and investment in their downtown,” said Marianne Garvin of CDCLI on all of the support the project has received from local businesses.

The Village Apartments at Floral Park will be constructed by Woodbury-based developer Questus Capital in order to create 36 rental apartments for residents who want to live near the downtown as well as the Floral Park LIRR station. The development will replace a large parking lot and will also create new units on top of existing retail and restaurant space. “A project like this, where you can walk to the train and shopping in Floral Park’s great downtown, will boost businesses and create a much-needed new housing opportunity,” said Robert DiNoto, a principal at Questus.

These small developments are being congratulated for actually being completed while many billion-dollar projects remain in the planning phase for years. “With a lot of these mega-projects and master-developer-type projects, the sheer volume of what’s involved can be overwhelming and the economy of scale doesn’t always work,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. “We can’t be Babe Ruth and swing for the fences. Instead, we keep hitting singles and were getting things done that way.”

You can read more about these new Smart Growth developments in LIBN.

You can also check out the videos of the four TOD projects Vision honored at the 2016 Smart Growth Awards: Marina PointeThe HillsCornerstone, and Copiague Commons.

Small Business Lending for Wyandanch Retail Space

The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development Corporation will be dedicating funds in order to help small businesses that would like to be located in mixed-use, transit-oriented development areas. The program was created to start a revolving loan program to help small businesses open up in new retail space in Wyandanch Village, as well as other similarly developed areas.

$300,000 has been set aside for the fund, with loans between $20,000-$75,000 being given for “character loans, mostly”, allowing first-generation businesses to up and coming transit-oriented developments. “I think it’s potentially a great program because there is a tremendous need in trying to bring local businesses that are non-national chains,” said Russell Albanese, the chairman of Garden City-based Albanese Organization, which developed Wyandanch Village, a mixed-income and mixed-use transit-oriented development.

The program’s goal is to fill in a funding gap for business owners that want to occupy retail space in new developments in those transit-oriented communities, while filling up vacant retail space. For example, the residential units at Wyandanch Village, less than two years occupied, are fully leased, while there is plenty of retail space available; 50% in one building, and 80% in the other.  The hope is to bring needed funding to smaller businesses, rather than big-box stores to fill out vacant rental space in order to create more of a sense of place in the new developments. Smaller businesses don’t have the purchasing power that larger franchises do, which can hurt their opportunity to locate in the areas. The loans are for up to ten years at  2 to 3% interest rate, and are subject to refinement.

There’s also a possibility for additional funding to come from the Empire State Development Corp, the SBA or private banks to supplement dollars with the need.  You can read more details about the was the small businesses are able to get assistance in LI Business News.

Nassau Approves $6 million for Busses

In a climate where politicians on the Federal and State level often find it challenging to work together and cross party lines for the good of their constituents, a breath of fresh air came from the Nassau County legislative chambers last week to benefit NICE bus riders.

Legislator Laura Curran broke ranks with her fellow Democrats, casting the deciding vote to approve $6 million in bonding for replacement of 28 NICE buses that have over a half of a million miles of travel and are over a dozen years old. For borrowing to be approved 13 votes are needed- there are 12 Republicans in the legislature. Without the $6 million in borrowing, NICE would be forced to cut service to those that rely on it to get to work, school, medical appointments, and to visit downtowns. “This is a very important issue in my district,” said Curran, who has and continues to work on improving bus service for her district and Nassau. “I just couldn’t say no.” The vote is proof that bipartisan agreements can be made to do what is best for constituents.

The funding will allow for 90% matching funding to the tune of around $48 million to flow to Nassau from the Federal and State governments to complete the project- Nassau pays $6 million, $48 million in grants are received. 

Freeport Village Breaks Ground in North Main Street

Vision Long Island joined Nassau County and Village of Freeport elected officials in August for the groundbreaking of the long-awaited $7.5 million North Main Street redevelopment project in Freeport. The project, a joint effort between Nassau County and the Village of Freeport, has been two years in the making.

With the goal of revitalizing the one-mile stretch of the road from the Freeport Long Island Rail Road station to the border of Roosevelt, the intention then was to create more safe places for kids, reflect more of the immediate neighborhood’s residential character, calm traffic, and increase parking. “This venture required two years of planning and development including design, specifications, review and awarding of contracts,” Mayor Kennedy said. “Today we are beginning a long awaited and needed development.”

The project will be split into two phases, with the first phase including the installation of 31 new light poles on both the east and west side of North Main Street, 32 decorative arms that will have a Village of Freeport sign and LED light fixtures. In addition, a total of 39 new benches, 70 trees with ornamental bases and 29 decorative trash receptacles will adorn the street. The second phase, expected to begin next spring, will include improved traffic signals and the construction of curb extensions and bulb outs on ten corners in order to make crossings safer and shorter for pedestrians, as well as improve visibility for vehicular safety.

To date, $1.5 million has already been spent of paving North Main Street, and $4.6 million worth of funding has been committed to the project by Nassau County, with federal money included in that pledge. “A major improvement project such as this one . . . will help bolster the local economy in a downtown that continues to serve as a model for revitalization and growth in Nassau County,” Mangano said at the groundbreaking, adding that the locally owned businesses that are often located in downtowns “can provide a tremendous boost to the local economy”.

Past efforts used Federal, County and Village funds to create a $300,000 visioning plan to create housing for seniors and young adults, spur economic development and bring jobs. However a SEQRA process was never advanced and alternate zoning was never created so investment from the private sector never materialized. 

You can read more about the project that brings hope to larger revitalization efforts north of Freeport’s LIRR station in Newsday and LIBN.

Nassau Approves Funding Plan for Garvies Point 

The Garvies Point project in Glen Cove cleared another hurdle in late summer as the Nassau County Legislature voted 13-5 in favor of an amended IDA agreement for the $1 billion waterfront redevelopment. The mixed-use development will now be able to contribute a smaller portion of payments in lieu of taxes to Nassau County. Vision and members of the Glen Cove community testified in support of this project at the Legislature and the vote carried 13-5 with all of the republicans led by Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves and two of the democrats Carrié Solages and Laura Curran in support. 

A total of $21.3 million will be allocated from the Garvies Point project to the county over 40 years, which is 6.4 percent of total payments in lieu of taxes from the development. Ordinarily, the county would receive 7.7 percent of the PILOT, however the 1110 unit development will still prove to be very beneficial when compared to the vacant site that exists now; around $400 million is expected in tax revenue, a creation of 540 permanent jobs, and an annual economic benefit of $50 million to the City of Glen Cove which will include $24 million in local spending by new residents. About 75,000 square feet of retail and office space and over 22 acres of publicly accessible waterfront esplanades and parks will occupy the 56-acre site that has now been decontaminated after years of heavy industrial use.

“The Nassau County Legislature’s vote is a major boost for the economic vibrancy of the Glen Cove community,” Scott Rechler, RXR Realty chairman and CEO, said in the statement. “We applaud the Nassau County Legislature for recognizing the opportunity this project represents for the Glen Cove community and for ultimately choosing to support our effort to restore the waterfront to productive use.”

Although the City of Glen Cove has given approval for phase one of the project, some Sea Cliff residents opposed the amended agreement, as well as the heights of the buildings, and also voiced concerns over potential environmental impacts and increased traffic. 

You can read more about the amended PILOT in Newsday and LIBN. You can also check out Garvies Point’s Facebook page four the latest updates about the project.

Islip Votes for Phase I of $4 Billion Heartland Town Square Development

After over a dozen years of delays and engineering and design changes, a portion of the 450-acre Heartland Town Square project in the Town of Islip has taken a step forward, with the Planning Board voting to recommend a portion of the project to the Town Board.

Four of seven Planning Board members, including Board Chair Edward Friendland, voted to recommend an amended portion of the project to the Town Board, who will then vote on approval; two Planning Board members were absent, and one abstained. The recommended 133-acre part of the project, about a third of the overall property obtained by developer Gerald Wolkoff, will help measure the impact of Heartland to the Town as it develops. The intended $4 billion mixed-use project would include 9,000 apartments, 1 million square feet of retail and and 3 million square feet of office space when built out.

Planning Board member Joseph DeVincent, who voted in favor of recommending the first phase to the Town Board,  said that he was pleased to see the changes that Wolkoff has made to the proposed plan over the years. Changed also was the amount of square footage proposed for the first phase by reducing the building height to five stories. “The Town Board would continue to have the discretion to prevent further development in the event of traffic issues,” DeVincent said. “The town board could continue to require additional infrastructure support ... or scale back the density. Where I couldn’t support this before, I’m very impressed by the changes.” The proposed plan for Heartland Town Square includes internal buses and shuttles would help bring residents and visitors to local mass transit, minimizing traffic impact and carbon footprint of the development on the former Pilgrim State Hospital grounds, which would be situated 52 minutes from New York City.

Special acknowledgement should be made to Planning Board chair Joe DeVincent for negotiating changes that make the project better for all parties. Vision was out to testify at many of the hearings through the years and the local community support for the project has been critical.

There is no date set for the Islip Town Board to vote on the Planning Board’s recommendations. You can read more about the progress with the project in Newsday, and check out some of the features of the Heartland Town Square project here

Valley Steam Upgrades Downtown Appearance

Five years after the Village of Valley Stream’s master plan was created, new standards are being proposed to further enhance the commercial district’s Renaissance. “This really sets the tone for the future,” says Vinny Ang, former Village Clerk.

Originally intended for just Rockaway Avenue, the new guidance would create uniform look for the all commercial areas in the Village.  The goal would be to have a uniform awning wrap from one end of the buildings to the other, keeping the integrity of the original façade’s design and give the corner importance to its location, and having it more look like other Long Island downtowns. Included also for new businesses would be signage made of wood, with old-fashioned gold carved lettering, more landscaping, and planters. Existing businesses would be grandfathered in, and would not be required to conform to the new regulations. 

When the master plan was drafted, the Connecticut-based planning firm that drafted it conducted a survey of area residents, with less than fifteen percent saying that they were happy with the varieties of stores available downtown, with smaller shops desired. Nail salons, insurance agencies and other like businesses could be replaced by a movie theater, bookstore or a grocery store, giving the downtown more of a unique identity and help it spring ahead. Also part of the master plan was to increase housing opportunities within walking distance in order to generate foot traffic for businesses in the downtown, which has begun, bringing people within walking distance to local shops. “That’s what Valley Stream needs,” Ang said, “and that’s what we’re striving for.”

The proposed guidelines, having been considered by the Building Department, Zoning Board and the Architectural Review Board, will now head to the Board of Trustees within the next two months. You can read more about the steps that Valley Stream is taking to implement their master plan and revitalize their downtown in the Herald.

New York State Funds $33 Million in Wastewater Infrastructure

Governor Cuomo announced $33 million in grants to support 15 critical municipal water infrastructure projects last week, including over $4.1 million for two Suffolk County projects. These grants are part of the third round of NYS Water Grants funded through the state’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. 

The $33 million allocated statewide will leverage $120.2 million in government and private water-quality investments, with 14 of the 15 projects also receiving partial funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a federal-state partnership that floats low-interest loans to help municipalities comply with federal and state water-quality requirements.

“Investing in water infrastructure today is key to growth and prosperity tomorrow,” Governor Cuomo said. "These grants will help local governments advance important projects that will protect natural resources, ease strain on budgets and property taxpayers, and help create stronger communities in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island.” The Village of Northport received $1,018,400 towards a $4,073,600 project, and the Village of Ocean Beach received $3,098,455 towards a $12,393,821 project.

The FY 2017 State Budget includes $100 million in grants for water infrastructure improvements. This additional funding allowed the Environmental Facilities Corporation to broaden eligibility for wastewater projects and provide a total of $175 million in grants for round two. In addition, the maximum grant amount for drinking water projects was increased from $2 million to $3 million, or 60 percent of eligible projects costs – whichever is less. 

You can see all of the awarded projects by reading the Governor’s press release. More information on how to apply for these loans is available here (for wastewater projects) and here (for drinking water projects).

LIRR Double Track Completion Announced

Vision Long Island’s Board and staff joined NY State officials as well as local elected officials in Hauppauge as Governor Cuomo announced the completion of Phase One of the long awaited MTA/LIRR Double Track project between Ronkonkoma and Farmingdale.

MTA Chairman Tom Pendergast provided an update on a series of MTA initiatives before outlining the progress on the second track. Essentially the MTA is on schedule as construction is complete on the line between Central Islip and Ronkonkoma and the remaining track to Farmingdale will open in 2018. The upgrade of a 13 miles parallel track, which has been “discussed for decades”, will enable a higher peak and off peak capacity on the Main Line while decreasing delays associated with malfunction. Often times, service will come to a halt when there is equipment of switch issues, as there is only one track in the stretch which has hourly train service to and from Penn Station.

"New York State is moving aggressively to bring our mass transit systems into the 21st century -- not just to meet the needs of our current population, but to foster smart, sensible and sustainable growth," Governor Cuomo said. "Adding a second track to the Ronkonkoma Branch is a project has been talked about for decades, but was never set into motion. By pairing innovative equipment with our strategy of design-build construction, we are accelerating the pace of these types of critical infrastructure projects to improve Long Island commutes and strengthen the region's economy. Put simply, we are building today for a better tomorrow." The Governor stated that by using the newest technology, rails were laid on the first phase of the project ten times faster than by using antiquated manual efforts, which reduced cost by $2.5 million, and kept the phases’ completion on time.

Phase II work is already underway, which primarily focuses on building the remaining track between Farmingdale and Central Islip, as well as signal installation the entire Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma distance. The MTA awarded design-build contracts for these components in June. In large part because design-build contracting holds private construction management firms accountable for achieving deadlines set by the MTA, the Double Track is on schedule to open as initially announced in 2018.

Improvements to LaGuardia Airport, updates on the 9.8 mile third track proposal from Floral Park and Hicksville, as well as other improvements within the MTA’s $27 billion capital plan were also touched upon. You can read more about the progress being made towards modernizing the country’s oldest commuter rail system in the Governor’s press release

Patchogue Village Receives $18 Million for Sewer Expansion

Patchogue Village will be receiving $18 million in state and federal grants that has been set aside for sewer hookups, enabling over 650 homes and other properties to be hooked up to a Village sewage plant at no cost to the residents.

“The money is to serve a dual purpose: to rebuild what was damaged during the storm and make water areas more resilient for future storms,” Suffolk Legislator and Deputy Presiding Officer Rob Calarco said at a meeting this week, where the Village adopted a resolution to accept the grant monies. “Our wetlands have been greatly degraded by the amount of nitrogen pollution going in the Patchogue Bay.” This project is part of a bigger $388 million plan to hook up sewer connections and develop a new sewage treatment facility, connecting 12,000 homes and properties in Shirley, Mastic, Oakdale, and Babylon. The funding comes from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation’s Revolving Fund, HUD’s CDBG-DR program, and the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, and will support the Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Project for the south shore.

The Intermunicipal Agreement with the county was the first step in the process in moving the project ahead, with the county already putting out a Request For Proposal for engineering. Originally, $3 million would have to be paid by Village residents for the project to come to fruition, however federal and state grants will cover the entire project.

You can read more about the first step being taken to move the Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Plan into action in the Long Island Advance.

Hundreds Pitch In to Clean Lake Ronkonkoma

Vision was out in Lake Ronkonkoma Saturday with over 200 community volunteers and elected officials cleaning up the lake. Brookhaven Councilmembers Neil Foley and Kevin LaValle sponsored the cleanup with support from Suffolk Legislator Leslie Kennedy and Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy. 

The newly formed Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group has stepped forward to join the ongoing work of the Lake Ronkonkoma Civic in this effort. Many pounds of trash, dead trees, and branches were cleaned in order to improve the appearance of the once pristine lake and park, as well as to improve the safety for visitors. "There's always a lot of glass bottles which makes me very nervous," says resident Mandi Marcello. "So I just wanted to make sure I was down here picking it all up."

Efforts to take care of the area around the historic property have been a challenge to undertake, with the property being owned by not only Suffolk County, but the townships of Smithtown, Brookhaven, and Islip; however progress is being made. For this cleanup, the Town of Brookhaven provided dumpsters and trash bags. Lake Ronkonkoma was once a tourist destination, drawing thousands in the summer to Long Island’s largest freshwater body. With multiple layers and entities of government controlling different portions of the lake, coordinating stewardship of the area has been quite a challenge.

Suffolk County is planning to clean up the site in September, moving the restoration efforts another step forward. You can check out news coverage of the effort here.


Residents, Riders Call to Halt Suffolk Bus Cuts

Vision was out in early September at the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead to testify in opposition to Suffolk County's proposed cuts to their bus system. The County is proposing elimination of 8 routes on October 3rd serving the downtowns of Copiague, Lindenhurst, Port Jefferson, Riverhead, Mastic/Shirley and Southampton. These communities have collectively approved over 1,000 units of downtown housing in recent years where transit is an important component, with additional housing on the horizon in the areas.

Other stops on the chopping block include Stony Brook University, Suffolk Community College in Selden, Parks, Beaches and Brookhaven Town Hall. Many of the routes have at least one connection to the Long Island Rail Road system, allowing riders to travel further east or west to work, go to doctor appointments, or for recreation.

Among those who testified against the cuts were Suffolk Legislator Al Krupski, Legislator Bridget Fleming, Legislator Sarah Anker, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Town of Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman members of the Sound Beach Civic Association, residents from Eastport, Medford, Mastic, North Shirley and Mastic Beach, Jobs with Justice LI, LI Bus Riders Union, Transit Workers Union, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and Vision Long Island, students from Stony Brook, Suffolk Community College, human service advocates from SILO, disabled riders, seniors and working people were all present. One elementary school student contributed some funds to the Suffolk County DPW hearing officers. Not one of the 100 in attendance spoke in defense of the cuts.

In short all agreed to stop the cuts. Many including Vision proposed offsets in the existing County budget in the short term as well as serious efforts to renegotiate with NYS officials for future funding. The county is trying to cut into a large deficit, with the proposed bus cuts saving $1 million for the year, and $4 million next year. A Request for Proposals for an onboard Origin to Destination and Demographic Survey for Suffolk County Transit is out, and due October 21st- 18 days after the proposed cuts. The cuts would amount to 131,580 rides per year, based on 2014 ridership numbers, leaving those who depend on service either scrambling to find alternative routes (if available), walking to other routes, paying higher taxi fees, potentially losing employment, unable to get to or from school, or paying extra child care costs due to extended travel times. There is also a possibility of job loss for drivers and mechanics as well, and no estimate on the impact to social services due to any job loss. 

There is an opportunity for those were not able to attend the meetings in Riverhead or Hauppauge to submit written testimony by mail by this coming Wednesday to have comments submitted as testimony. Written testimony may be submitted up to five (5) days following the hearing by mail to Suffolk County Transit 335 Yaphank Avenue, Yaphank NY 11980. You can read more about the proposed cuts in Newsday.

NYS Sustainability Conference for Project Funding

Vision Board, staff, members of the Long Island Smart Growth Working Group and the Long Island Business Council and were out this September at the New York State Conference on Sustainability in Melville. Over 400 regional leaders and staff of NYS agencies were out in force including NYS ESD, NYS Department of Transportation, NYS Environmental Facilities Corp, MTA, NYS Department of State, NYS Office of Housing, NY Power Authority and many others.

Members of the Smart Growth movement including Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro, David Gallo from Georgica Green, East End Arts Pat Snyder, Vision’s Director Eric Alexander and Sustainability Institute at Molloy’s Neal Lewis spoke on the panels throughout the day sharing what is being implemented in local communities. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone spoke to the need for regional planning to bring young people back to Suffolk County, and about the importance of Car Free Day. 

NYS Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who has visited Long Island 85 times, covered the numerous grants and support that NYS is investing in our communities. She covered the value and importance of local government and input in planning. The handbook for Local Governments and Nonprofits was explained as a one-stop-shop resource for state grants and programs, condensing all available information into one source for stakeholders. “Governor Cuomo has proven that strategic investment and collaboration across traditional borders can be a game-changer for a region, and this is exemplified everywhere you look here on Long Island,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. “We are investing more to create and protect jobs, jumpstart growth in new industries and strengthen our urban communities and the results today are undeniable. This region is now a model for the rest of the state and nation to follow.”

NRDC's Shelley Potitcha gave a refresher course on the principles of sustainability; many concepts of which have been established on LI for many years with local implementation. 

Her goal was to seek a shared vision to put people at the center of a reinvestment strategy, speaking of the limited earning potential of millennials and the need for placemaking. Expressing that the downtown redevelopment underway on Long Island are boutique projects and defining ways to get moving at a much larger scale, Potitcha gave recommending as towards how to proceed. This included building complete neighborhoods, connecting people to opportunity and involving everyone, and investing in Green Infrastructure, making existing not only efficient but healthy and resilient while incorporating arts and culture- all while “going big or go home”. While people are stressed and worried about their lives right now, projects that incorporate the recommendations will reduce their stress when the focus remains on having a people-centered strategy for planning, and moving on more than one or two downtowns.

To date, New York State has invested more than $4.2 billion in Long Island helping to advance the region’s economic and infrastructure goals. Since July 2010, Long Island has added 116,600 private sector jobs – an increase of 11.3 percent, bringing the total number of private sector jobs to 1,151,200, as of July 2016. Today, the unemployment rate in Long Island has dropped significantly – moving from 7.6 percent in July 2010 to 4.2 percent during the same time this year. 

The downtown redevelopment panel included Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro who covered the progress of improvements to their business district; David Kilmnick speaking of a planned LGBT community center in Patchogue; Doon Gibbs speaking on job growth at the Brookhaven National Laboratory; and lastly Pat Snyder from East End Arts Council, by citing many examples through her organizations decades of work, discussed how they have been making the connection between arts and economic development.

After MTA Chief Tom Pendergrast presented a thorough review of upcoming capital investments he then moderated a panel on Transportation, Vision's Director Eric Alexander reviewed the approved and planned TOD's while highlighting Complete Streets projects as well. Tom Burman from Suffolk County presented the Ronkonkoma HUB project, Jonathan Keyes gave an update on Wyandanch Rising, and Patti Bourne spoke to planning initiatives in Long Beach.

Additionally, Tom Wright from the RPA outlined their past and present regional plans through their 90 year history as a not-for-profit. He also provided aggressive growth projections that he said are needed for LI to survive, saying that LI communities have a history of being opposed to growth but shouldn't be.

You can click here to see the Handbook for Local Governments and Nonprofits.

Baldwin’s Grand Avenue Revitalization Moves Ahead

The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday approved a master developer to create plans for the development of apartments and shops in downtown Baldwin, unanimously approving Basser-Kaufman and Engel Burman Group for the Town’s urban renewal plan for Grand Avenue. Community members and local business out to testify in support included the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, Baldwin Civic Association, Baldwin Oaks Civic Association, Nassau Legislator Laura Curran, Vision Long Island, and individual residents. 

The project, sponsored by Councilwoman Erica King-Sweeney, gives the green light for developers to work with the town’s planning and economic development department to acquire vacant downtown properties for a mixed use of apartments, restaurants and shopping, after years of wait. Engel Burman’s partner Steven Krieger understands that the best way for the project to move ahead is to have public consensus. “We’re hoping with a boost in the economy, this proves to a viable option,” Krieger said. “We understand we need to meet with the community and the town to make sure we find something most of the community is in favor of. This is the first step in the process.”

Although plans are not yet in the works, there are hopes that the long neglected Grand Avenue in Baldwin will be transformed into a walkable mixed-use downtown with shopping and restaurants below apartments, drawing a mix of young professionals and “empty-nesters” to the area in proximity to the LIRR station.

Supervisor Anthony Santino said that he has been looking towards Baldwin’s redevelopment for more than a decade, and that the Town would offer resources that might be needed moving forward. “We hope at the end of the day, this will make Baldwin a better place to live,” said Santino.  “Not just today, but for generations to come, and it’s important get it done right.”

You can read more about the long-awaited move to revitalize Baldwin’s Grand Avenue in Newsday

Suffolk Chambers Host Lt. Governor & NYS Senate Majority Leader

The Suffolk Alliance of Chambers of Commerce met in September 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

You can read more about the meeting in LIBN, and learn more about the Suffolk County Alliance of Chamber of Commerce here.

Bay Park Sewage Plant Receives High Marks

The Western Bays Coalition gave Nassau County’s Suez Water its first report card this fall, 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.

You can read more about the upgrade to the scoring for Nassau County here, and view the entire report card here

Mastic Beach Residents Shape Comprehensive Plan

Vision Long Island joined Wendel 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


Long Island Business Council Holds Congressional Candidates Forum

Vision Long Island was out in October with over 100 small businesses at the LI Business Council Congressional Candidates Forum. 6 of the 8 major party candidates participated including Congressman Lee Zeldin, former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, running for Congressional District 1; Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory running in District 2; NYS Senator Jack M. Martinss facing off against former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi in District 3 and in District 4 former Marine David Gurfein.

The tone of the meeting was a serious focus on policy and regulations, quite the antithesis to the largely personal attacks and reality show themes exhibited in this year's Presidential contest. In fact, at the request of the moderators and the audience, Mr. Trump or Secretary Clinton were not mentioned once.

Concerns about the increased cost of the $15 an hour minimum wage were raised from a number of small businesses. Congressman Zeldin spoke in opposition to the wage increase; Anna Throne-Holst defended her support of the hike referencing studies that show broad based benefits to the economy and the workforce.

Another concern was increasingly high health care costs for employees and that the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable. Congressman Zeldin stated clearly that he would not have passed ObamaCare in the first place but will work to bring costs down. Anna Throne-Holst would look to amend ObamaCare to make it work better for small businesses.

Lack of Federal investment in infrastructure has plagued projects like the Nassau Coliseum Lighthouse project or upgrades to Nassau sewer plants in the past. Former County Executive Tom Suozzi stressed his part ability to get grants as Glen Cove Mayor reminding the group that this is not a new issue. NYS Senator Jack Martins spoke of the work he has done to bring resources from Albany to LI and will do the same in DC. All six candidates prioritized bringing our fair share of infrastructure funding back to Long Island by working across party lines as needed.

Small Business Savings Accounts legislation was supported or seriously looked at by all of the candidates. NYS Senator Jack Martins passed the legislation three times in the NYS Senate and then-Senator Lee Zeldin voted for it as well. Both would sponsor the Federal bill that will lose the initial sponsor, Representative Steve Israel, due to his pending retirement.

Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory tackled the "brain drain" and the need to connect local businesses to existing government services. He also spoke of the need for job development among the younger workforce.

David Gurfein spoke of his desire to limit government involvement in order to grow the local economy. He stressed his military service and ability to look through government programs for efficiencies. After the forum he spoke of a populist wave of frustrated voters who simply want Washington to work for the people.

Other questions included energy policy, minority business lending, tort reform, downtown redevelopment and improving educational quality to enhance the local workforce.

In closing, the contested races were asked to share a positive trait of their opponent. 

Anna Throne-Holst spoke of Lee Zeldin's military service, with Congressman Zeldin speaking to the former Town Supervisor's passion for public service. NYS Senator Jack Martins praised former County Executive Suozzi’s early marketing of what was then called "cool downtowns." In turn, Mr. Suozzi praised Senator Martins’ approvals of downtown apartments as a former Mayor of Mineola.

The mood of the participants was very positive and whoever wins these races will be called upon by local small businesses and our residents to act as a firewall against division, partisan gridlock, and interests in Washington negatively impacting our communities.

Special thanks to the LIBC Co-Chairs Rich Bivone and Bob Fonti along with additional moderators Gina Cafone Coletti from the Suffolk Chambers and Julie Marchesella from the Nassau Chambers.

Lastly special thanks to the candidates who participated and brought their intelligence, passion and concern for the issues facing our local communities. You can read Long Island Business News write up of the event here.

Against Heavy Opposition, Suffolk Cuts Ten Bus Routes

Ten Suffolk County bus routes were cut this fall, despite heavy opposition, in order to shave away at a large county deficit. Several downtowns, hospitals, LIRR stations, places of employment, schools, and municipal services are either no longer accessible, or will require additional travel time to get to.

Nearly 200 people attended earlier hearings in opposition, with about 300 signing an online petition over two days to try to stop the cuts, to no avail. Seniors, students, working people, disabled, and poor folks are now feeling the impacts in their travel to schools, workplaces, hospitals, downtowns and other institutions. This system truly connects Suffolk residents to a slew of communities and services.

While the Suffolk County budget has structural deficits, there are offsets in the current County budget that could be have been made at a recent Legislative meeting to stave off these cuts. Unfortunately the legislature couldn’t reopen the budget at this meeting; only the County Executive could have. Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider was present at the recent Legislative meeting, and did petition the Legislature to act on a completely unrelated item. Several Legislators did say to the Deputy County Executive they felt that there were more important budgetary matters to address that day, including the bus cuts, however bus cuts were not brought up by the Executive’s office at the meeting. The good news is that there are at least 8 Suffolk Legislators who are opposed to the cuts including Kate Browning, Al Krupski, Bridget Fleming​​, Leslie Kennedy, Kevin McCaffrey​​, Sarah Smith-Anker​​, Legislator William R. Spencer​​, and Tom Muratore​​. Hopefully this group can appeal to the administration to move forward a resolution to restore the cuts to the bus riders. There are hopes that the upcoming budget will be able to sustain existing service, and possibly restore these cuts.

While long range planning is important it shouldn't occur at the expense of critical transportation services. The irony is that in the eight downtowns that are serviced by the bus system, and whose routes are scheduled to be dropped, over 1,000 units of transit oriented development housing have been approved.

The Long Island Bus Riders’ Union is encouraging all Suffolk County residents, businesses, students, and chambers of commerce to contact County Executive Steve Bellone’s Office to ask that the bus cuts are restored, and that no additional cuts are proposed. The Office’s number is (631) 853-4000, or you can email There is also an online petition available here where stakeholders can voice their opinions, and sign on against the cuts.

Growth of Downtown Housing Benefits Restaurants and Bars

Transit-oriented developments adjoining the LIRR stations are booming, bolstering downtowns with new development and spurring the expansion of existing businesses in communities like Patchogue, Valley Stream, Westbury, Farmingdale, and Rockville Centre.

While there is still work to do to support certain categories of retail and provide more affordable units, there has been tremendous progress thanks to local property owners, small business, residents involved in the planning process, builders that invest in downtowns and of course the local villages and towns managing these changes. In the past decade, roughly 7,000 new housing units have been approved near train stations in Nassau County and 5,000 in Suffolk County, which has been a great benefit to local restaurants and bars.

The new apartments have been filling up with retirees and young professionals that are doing well financially, the first wave of these projects are market rate where the average rent averages around $3,000, which is substantially higher than those built before the year 2000, where rents average under $2,000.  Not all of the apartments’ rents are high, with about ten to fifteen percent of the apartments being set aside for affordable housing for those that have low to moderate incomes.

The developments have enabled transformations in downtowns that could not have been done without them; In Farmingdale, roughly 200 apartments have opened near the train station since 2014, and another 70 are under construction nearby. Five years ago, “we had 23 empty stores on Main Street,” said Mayor Ralph Ekstrand, who owns Moby Drugs on Main Street. “Now we have two . . . If you come to downtown Farmingdale, it’s just totally alive. Other areas such as Patchogue and Rockville Centre have seen similar results, with retail space occupied at near-capacity when it has lagged in the past.

Tourism has increased on Long Island over the past few years, with successes in the transit-oriented downtowns playing a role; In Patchogue, the village’s support for new rentals, town houses and affordable housing, its $1 million renovation of the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts — which brought in 150,000 visitors last year, up from 65,000 in 2004 — and events such as outdoor festivals have been a boon to local businesses, according to Village Mayor Paul Pontieri.

The support of the IDAs, particularly in Nassau, New York State, and in some cases Federal support for infrastructure has played a critical role in the revitalization of the downtowns. Although progress is never perfect, the last ten years with over 100 projects has made very positive impacts. You can read more about the lift to local businesses through transit-oriented development in Newsday.

$3.3 Million to Long Island to Combat Zombie Homes

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced grant awards totaling $12.6 million to help  76 cities, towns, and villages across the state address the problem of vacant properties and so-called “zombie homes” – vacant and abandoned homes that are not maintained during a prolonged foreclosure proceeding. $3.3 million will go directly to Long Island Cities, Towns and Villages to help combat this problem. The issue of funding municipalities to combat zombie homes was urged by the Long Island Lobby Coalition this year in Albany.

The grants were awarded under the Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative, which the Office of the Attorney General established in July with funds drawn from the $3.2 billion settlement agreement with Morgan Stanley that Schneiderman, as co-chair of the federal-state working group on residential-mortgage-based securities, negotiated in February.  That settlement generated $550 million in cash and consumer relief for New Yorkers.

“Too many homeowners across New York are still struggling to rebuild their communities in the wake of the housing crisis caused by major banks,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I’m proud that the funding obtained by my office’s settlement with Morgan Stanley will now help cities and towns across the state reverse the proliferation of zombie properties, which invite crime and threaten the value of surrounding homes. These grants will help rebuild, revitalize, and stabilize communities across the state.”

The local cost of fallout from zombie homes is steep. Municipalities may end up with not only delinquent taxes, unpaid water and sewer bills, but homes that become safety hazards and require demolition. Increased costs to the municipalities also include indirect costs to communities, including increased policing, fire prevention and effects of a criminal element that has increased with the higher rate of foreclosures. Neighboring houses also suffer in terms of property value loss, with an estimated $5,000 reduction in value for each neglected home on their block. “Our communities are paying a big price when people lose their homes,” DiNapoli said in a recent report regarding zombie homes. “We must continue efforts to help homeowners and implement solutions that support local governments’ economic recovery.”

A total of sixteen Long Island municipalities were awarded funding through the invite-only application process. You can read more about the assistance to help out the zombie home crisis on Long Island and see the award winners here

Island Park Housing and Remediation Moves Forward

An attempt to keep rental apartments out of a planned development in Island Park has been quashed by a State Appellate Court ruling. The court’s ruling is the highest form of appeal in the State on New York, affirming a previous Supreme Court ruling.

In 2007, Blue Island Development and Posillico Development Company at Harbor Island applied to the Hempstead town board to develop a $70 million, 172-unit residential waterfront project. The town approved the application a year later, but it was subject to restrictive covenants that included all the homes be sold as condominiums only. This covenant restriction is was what was deemed invalid and unenforceable.

The developers applied to the town to modify the restrictive covenant in 2010 and again in 2013, to allow for rental units as well as condo units, but the town refused.  Over the following three years, the Supreme Court and its Appellate Division both ruled against the town.

The developer had proposed to build 140 luxury rental units, 32 condominium units, and 31 boat slips on the site of a former oil distribution facility. Posillico paid $2.4 million for the 11.5-acre former Cibro oil storage and distribution facility at a bankruptcy auction in 1999.

Before construction of the development can proceed, the property must be remediated to the standard set forth in the project’s Remedial Action Work Plan as approved by the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The deadline to meet the cleanup obligations, estimated to cost Posillico $9 million, is December 31, 2017.

The latest court decision may finally move the project forward. The current plan calls for a reduction of 8 condo units.  A major aspect of the proposed $70 million project is remediation of the nearly 11-acre site, which was formerly a fuel oil terminal. That remediation has a Dec. 31, 2017, completion date set by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, Posillico said.

“The lengthy legal proceedings finally have come to a conclusion and now we can begin to work with the town officials and develop our property and boost the local economy,” Posillico Development Company President Michael Posillico said in a company statement. “Although the town’s legal actions have caused unnecessary delays, we’re ready to remediate and develop the site to the highest standards that will bring in new tax revenue and enhance the whole community.”

You can read more about the project that is now set to move forward in LIBN

Baldwin Mixed Use Building Approved

The Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals has given the go ahead to develop two retail stores with four apartments above at a long-vacant property on Merrick Road by the Grand Avenue intersection in Baldwin. The property is right across the street from 6 acres of blighted property that will be undergoing a massive redevelopment.

"It's no secret that Baldwin's downtown is up and coming, and developers and property owners are realizing the potential,” said Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran, who has been one of the people leading the way towards the revalorization of the Grand Avenue Area.  “This project will nicely complement the county's Complete Streets project to make a Grand Avenue more walkable, safe, and attractive."

The property served as a service station up to about 60 years ago when it was paved over to serve as a parking lot in 1962. A few businesses operated in the parking lot’s adjacent 2-story building over the years, the last being a print shop that closed in 2003, leaving both the parking lot and building empty on the heavily traveled intersection. Thereafter, the property at 800 Merrick Road was purchased by Dr. Dennis Rossi who is the principle of Baldwin Medical Realty, who has tried to sell it for 13 years after it was purchased for $735,000 with no one interested in purchasing it.  After plans to open a medical practice never came to fruition, Rossi’s attorney helped apply to the Town’s Board of Appeals, who approved the proposed mixed-use project earlier this month, as well as obtain parking variances for five parking spaces on the property. The building’s second story offices will be renovated into apartments, with the exterior undergoing major renovations.

“This area of Baldwin has been the site of a promising renaissance and renewal, and our client is a pioneer in that revitalization,” Rossi’s attorney said in a statement. “This will be the first new building of this type to be located in the heart of downtown Baldwin. We are taking a vacant structure and restoring it to good use.”

You can read more about the project that will help start the revitalization of Grand Avenue and Merrick Road in Long Island Business News

Middle Island Sandy Hills Project Moves Forward

Concern for Independent Living, Inc. is pleased to announce the planned opening of Concern Middle Island in December, 2016.  Concern Middle Island is a mixed-use Supportive Housing program designed to provide housing and services for individuals and families.  

It is located at 147 Rocky Point Road, Middle Island.  All residents will enjoy the project’s amenities, which include laundry facilities, a fitness room, a community room, off-street parking, and a computer room/library. Concern for Independent Living was awarded $7.5 million in capital funding through the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Homeless Housing and Assistance Program in 2014 in order to move the project ahead. “We are so pleased to partner with OTDA on this much needed Long Island project,” said Concern’s Executive Director, Ralph Fasano said of the funding.  “It will not only provide beautiful housing for those most in need, it will help to decrease Medicaid costs, create jobs and revitalize the community.”

The project has 20 one-bedroom, 47 two-bedroom and 5 three-bedroom apartments for low-income individuals and families.  Eligible applicants must be over eighteen years of age, meet income limits (units are available for households at 50%, 60% and 90% AMI). Full-time students are not available to participate in the lottery. Rental rates start at $767 for one-bedroom, $896 for 2-bedrooms, and $1351 for 3-bedrooms.

The postmark deadline for initial applications is November 11, 2016.  Applications can only be processed for the initial lottery if they are mailed to the PO listed on the Application. For income thresholds, rental prices, and to download an application, click here

Kings Park Downtown Revitalization Action Plan Released

Last October, Vision Board and staff held the final public meeting of the Kings Park Downtown Revitalization process with the Kings Park Civic Association and the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. We took input on the report from the nearly 300 residents and business owners who came out in the rain. The Action Plan covers sewers, walkability, downtown housing, destination marketing and management as well as many other components of successful downtowns.

The Action Plan was put together based on input from hundreds of Kings Park residents, business and property owners, the Town, Civic and Chamber of Commerce. In addition to an overall concept plan, it contains recommendation for improvements to walkability, enhancing character, zoning modifications, and public space improvements.  The recommendations include short, medium and long term strategies.

The design team who helped to translate all of the community input into a cohesive plan includes Elissa Kyle of Vision, David Berg​​ from DLB Consulting, Dean Gowen and Allan Giantemaso from Wendel and Glen Cherveny from GRCH Architects.

Vision would also like to thank Linda Henninger and Sean Lehmann from the Kings Park Civic Association, Tony Tanzi ​​and Adam Wood from the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, The Kings Park School District, Kings Park Fire Department, Fort Salonga Association, San Remo Civic Association, Kings Park Youth, Kings Park Soccer, St. Josephs CYO, American Legion, VFW, Discover Church, the Town of Smithtown and Suffolk County for their assistance and support.

Tour of Revitalized Farmingdale Village

Vision was out last October in downtown Farmingdale with Fios1News reporter Cecilia Dowd listening to small business owners talk about the revitalization of the Village. Lithology Brewing Company, Vespa Italian Kitchen and upcoming Flux Coffee House were interviewed.

If almost all  of the parking spots are taken in a downtown, it’s likely a sign of a successful downtown revitalization. Plans to begin working on the revitalization of downtown Farmingdale started in 2006. “There were 26 vacancies,” said Vision’s Director Eric Alexander, speaking of the commercial vacancies in the downtown. “Once the plan was approved, and the first project came forward, and the housing project came forward, twenty three of the twenty six were filled.”

New venues such as Lithology Brewing Company and Vespa Italian Kitchen are doing well, with others looking to open, but there is still a lot of work left to be done on Long Island. “There are 60 downtowns that have downtown revitalization plans, forty of them are actually approving projects… so there are still 20 or so that haven’t moved forward with approvals and projects yet,” said Alexander. Areas such as downtown Baldwin, Lindenhurst and Freeport have begun to move on projects, as well as many others.

Kudos to the Mayor and the Village board for all of their efforts - clearly it is working. You can check out the story on Farmingdale Village here


Ronkonkoma's Liberty Landing Opens

Concern for Independent Living held a Ribbon Cutting/Grand Opening Ceremony last week to celebrate the opening of Liberty Landing, a 59-unit supportive housing development for homeless veterans and families in need of affordable housing in Ronkonkoma. 30 units will be provided for homeless formally veterans, with the remainder available for low income families. 

Liberty Landing is one of several projects undertaken by Concern for Independent Living to address housing needs on Long Island. In 2014 Concern opened Liberty Village, a 60-unit supportive housing project for homeless veterans and their families in Amityville.  Concern is currently in the construction phase of 123 units of supportive and affordable housing in Middle Island and is in the development stage of 96 units of supportive and affordable housing in Hempstead. The grand opening of Liberty Landing builds on $21.6 million the Governor recently announced to create 265 supportive homes for homeless Veterans and their families. This is part of a $10 billion commitment to build affordable housing and combat homelessness. Last month, Governor Cuomo directed New York State Division of the Budget Director Robert Mujica to execute a memorandum of understanding to release $2 billion in funding to advance the creation of more than 100,000 units of affordable and supportive housing over the next five years. The executed agreement is now before the New York State Senate and Assembly for action.

“We have been very fortunate to have the support of Governor Cuomo and the three state agencies that helped make Liberty Landing a reality.  Together with Suffolk County, NEF, Bank of America and The Community Preservation Corporation we have created housing that matches the pride that we have for the Veterans who have served our country,” said Ralph Fasano, Executive Director of Concern for Independent Living, Inc.

Located on the site of a former nursing home on Portion Road, Liberty Landing includes one- and two-bedroom apartments and an on-site community building with exercise room, computer room and community room. Funding for this project was provided by NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH), NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), Suffolk County, Bank of America, National Equity Fund, The Community Preservation Corporation, and The Home Depot Foundation.

“It is important to give our veterans a hand up in times of trouble,” said Assemblyman Al Graf.  “These men and women who selflessly volunteered to protect the freedoms we hold dear, sometimes return with both physical and non-visible scars from their deployments.  This project is a step in the right direction in honoring a commitment to our returning veterans.”

You can learn more about Liberty Landing’s opening here, and see other housing opportunities from Concern for Independent living here

Huntington and County Officials Assist Small Business

Business owners and professionals in the Huntington attended a seminar this November, hosted by Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer and Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, to help local businesses gain access to the wide array of services available on the town, county and state levels.

Leg. William Spencer, a sponsor of the event, said he aimed to “open up dialogue on how to better address the challenges faced by our local businesses. We want the business community to know that they are important to the fabric of our community and that there are programs and services designed to help them start-up, grow and succeed,” he said.

Speakers included Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, Astoria Bank's Robert Moore, small business owner Patty Flores Romales, Renaissance Downtown's Ryan Porter, Robert Fonti from the Suffolk Alliance of Chambers and the host Phil Rugile from Launchpad Huntington. 

Vision's Director moderated a panel on small business resources with LI Business News's David Winzelberg, H2M Group Vice President and Huntington Chamber President Robert Schiener, NYS Department of Labor's Pam Bedford and Michael Cohen, NYS Minority and Business Development's Ibrahima Souare, Suffolk County Economic Development and IDA's Regina Zare and Kelly Morris, and Suffolk County Department of Health's Craig Knepper.

Resources for the small business community included grants, technical assistance on business operations, regulatory compliance and marketing assistance. A robust conversation emerged on the challenges face with the Suffolk County Health Department and the many fees and costs and regulations associated with owning/operating a small business.  Other issues addressed included traffic, parking, new technologies, energy costs and cyber crimes.  Direct contact and access to folks who can help guide businesses through tough processes was achieved with this session.

The first “Charting the Course” conference took place in June at Suffolk County Community College at the Selden Campus, featuring opportunities for local and regional businesses and County and State services to network. Local Chamber of Commerce members, Business Improvement Districts and representatives from local villages Northport, Asharoken, Huntington Bay and Lloyd Harbor were invited to attend.

Firewall needed from Washington divisiveness

The following op-ed was written by Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander and appears in Long Island Business News, which you can read here.

Folks are going to the polls in a few days reacting to a campaign defined by personal attacks and vitriol where it seems both candidates have written off large swaths of the electorate. Someone will win and the real work begins. We need our local Congressional delegation to work across party lines to provide a firewall from the divisiveness and post-election fallout that will distract the public from real issues where the federal government can actually help our local communities and business districts.

The LI Business Council and the Nassau & Suffolk Chambers of Commerce recently came together with six of the eight major party candidates to discuss this very topic. There was a serious focus on policy and regulations, quite the antithesis to the reality show themes exhibited in this year’s Presidential contest.

The LI economy is poised to grow with investments in the health care and tech sectors, growth in our downtowns, energy, transit and sewer projects.  Here is a sampling of needed actions in Washington from local small businesses and folks creating downtown redevelopment and infrastructure:

Lack of Federal investment in infrastructure has plagued past projects like the former Nassau Coliseum Lighthouse project or upgrades to Nassau sewer plants.  In 2015, as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the federal government created two new financing options for development near transit: Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans, through the U.S. DOT, and Railroad Rehabilitation Innovative Financing (RRIF) loans, through the Federal Railroad Administration.  Unlike TIGER grants that never make it to our region these programs should invest in LI.

There are not enough funds from the State or our counties, given their precarious finances, to invest in needed water and sewer projects.  The Water Resources Development Act should be in place to invest in our infrastructure and promote environmental restoration.

For Main Street businesses the Small Business Savings Accounts legislation should be passed and SBA reform would help provide better access to those loan programs.

For affordable housing access change the FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulations that deny loan guarantees for multi-family projects that are six stories or less – precisely the height that works in LI downtowns.  Ensuring that the Low Income Housing Tax Credit is a permanent part of the tax code will also bring affordable housing to more communities.

Other issues include energy tax credits, mandate relief, minority business lending, getting Sandy dollars to impacted communities and improving educational quality. Concerns about the $15-an-hour minimum wage came up repeatedly along with health care costs for employees as the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable.

Lastly local control is critical. When municipalities do receive funding they need authority to innovate and find flexible solutions to carry out their projects.  Also we have at least two dozen regional plans so limit investment in top-down planning efforts.

There is some hope.  Through the work of our Congressional delegation and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Sandy Relief Act and Transportation Fast Act have provided new resources for transit, water and sewer upgrades.  In addition the platforms of the current Congressional candidates have been in sync with these priorities.

If the partisanship and special interests force us to stay divided let’s keep the division in Washington and on the cable news networks, not here at home.  Long Island communities working collaboratively with our federal representatives might be able to provide some examples of how to navigate through the toxicity that exists on a national and regional level.   There’s an idea worth voting for.

Northport Village Receives Sewer Funding

In Northport, antiquated sewer lines that are in dire need of replacement will now be replaced, allowing for the potential of more homes to get connected into the wastewater treatment system, while ensuring that there are no catastrophic failures.

A total of $5 million in state funding was made available to replace the cast-iron, Depression-era pipelines that are running under Woodbine Avenue and the Northport Harbor bed. The new lines will be 12 inches in diameter, compared to 8 inches for the old pipes, which can increase daily flows and potentially connect more residents to sewers rather than cesspools, which leach nitrogen and other undesirables into the groundwater.  State Senators Flanagan and Marcellino were able to secure the funding from the New York State Municipal Facilities Program for the village to move ahead on the project, with reimbursement coming as the Village incurs expenses. “Sewers are the hidden impediment to economic revitalization and crucial to protecting our environment,” Marcellino said in a statement. “A break in this system would have resulted in roadway destabilization and runoff into Northport Harbor and the Long Island Sound.” $1,018,400 towards the project, which is running a million dollars over projection, was awarded recently by Governor Cuomo in a round of funding for Wastewater Infrastructure Grants.

The replacement of the sewer pipelines is another step in helping the Northport Harbor area, after the EPA cited the Village in 2011 for not having plans in place to manage storm water and other discharges into the harbor. Since then, upgrades to the treatment plant have taken place, as well as relining of sewer mains and manhole cover rehabilitation. The village has since reduced the plant’s nitrogen emissions from 18.5 pounds per day to 10 pounds or less daily.

You can read more about the funding to help Northport Village’s infrastructure in Newsday

Hicksville Downtown Revitalization Moves Forward with Proposed Rezoning

Last November the Town of Oyster Bay revealed their proposed zoning revision concepts for downtown Hicksville.  Easily twice as many residents attended the presentation as were expected, close to 500 filled the bleachers in the high school gym.  Vision Director Eric Alexander and Hicksville Chamber of Commerce President Lionel Chitty kicked of the event and gave some background  on what work has been done so far.  Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia and Councilman Tony Macagnone addressed the crowd stating their commitment to moving forward a revitalization that the residents wish to see and Legislator Rose Walker also showed support for revitalization and bringing back the downtown that so many remember.  John Ellsworth of Cashin Spinelli & Ferretti, the town’s planning consultant, presented the proposed zoning changes which were inspired by the zoning recommendations in the Downtown Hicksville Revitalization Action Plan.

The proposed zoning splits the current Central Business District zone into two zones, a mixed use downtown zone which allows for retail and restaurants as well as multi family housing, and a transit zone centered around the train station that allows for office and employment opportunities as well as a special permit for multi family residential development.  The mixed use zone would lower the allowable building height from 60 feet to 40 feet and allow three stories and the transit zone would allow 50 foot tall, four story buildings.

Feedback during the question and answer period showed support for the overall concept, but concerns about traffic, parking, school and tax impacts.  There was also a desire to include design guidelines or an architectural review board to ensure that any new development raised the aesthetic of the area to make it attractive to shoppers.  Some local businesses also showed concern that they would be forced out, so it was clarified that no eminent domain would be used to force anyone off of their property.   Finally some expressed a lack of trust in the Town to move the project forward based on past projects that did not move forward and also potential changes in leadership.

Moving forward the town will post the presentation on their website and continue to accept written comments.  They will review the many written comments that were submitted and  further refine the proposed zoning.  Before any changes to the zoning take place, a formal SEQRA review will analyze the potential traffic, infrastructure and other impacts of a change in zoning.  The Hicksville Downtown Revitalization committee will also meet to review the changes in more detail with new members who have expressed interest in helping out.

You can read Newsday's coverage of the event here.

You can also look at the plan in it's entirety on Oyster Bay's website here.

Baldwin Corridor Plan Takes Shape

This Fall, the first public meeting for the Baldwin Downtown and Commercial Corridor Resiliency study was held at the high school.  Close to 200 residents attended the open house style meeting to share their thoughts on the future of Baldwin.  The study, which funded through New York Rising Community Reconstruction and being conducted by Nassau County, focuses on improving the storm resiliency, economic resiliency and transportation options to help the community better weather future conditions.  Legislator Laura Curran and Nassau County Planning Division Supervisor Sean Sallie kicked off the meeting.  The planning team for the study is led by VHB and includes Kevin Dwarka Land Use & Economic Consulting, Fitzgerald & Halliday Inc., LiRo Engineers, Traffic Databank, and Vision Long Island.

Several nodes along the Grand Avenue corridor were the primary focus of the meeting, though all of the commercial corridors are included in the study including Sunrise Highway, Merrick Road, Milburn Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.  Residents were asked to vote on ideas for what they would or would not like to see in these locations.  Ideas included housing, diverse retail, green infrastructure and improved parking as well as others.  The focus areas included the northern gateway into Baldwin near the Fairway Shopping Center,  the commercial area close to the high school and the area surrounding the train station.  Votes are still being counted, but a variety of shops and restaurants seemed to be one of the most popular ideas proposed.

Residents were also asked to contribute any suggestions that may not have been covered in the focus areas.  Many residents expressed a need for a grocery store in the northern part of Baldwin since the Pathmark closed, there was also a desire for a community center and pool.  Many wanted tax positive development to offset their property taxes.

The next step for this study is review all of the input gathered from the public as well as the existing conditions data that has been collected and see what types of changes and improvements are feasible.  The planning team will identify a series of recommendation that can be implemented and analyze the potential impacts of those recommendations with regards to taxes, traffic and other factors.  The recommendations will be presented to the public in the spring of 2017.  For more information or to submit ideas, please visit the study website at:


2016 Long Island Smart Growth Summit: Nearly 1200 Join to Plan Downtown Infrastructure Projects

Thank you to the 1100 small business, civic, environmental, labor and governmental leaders who participated in the 15th Annual LI Smart Growth Summit.

The range of talent and experience that lent their voice to the day included 135 speakers covering 70 downtown, energy, transportation and sewer projects in 20 workshops. Over 70 elected officials joined from multiple levels of government.

The theme was how bottom up planning from local communities to the regional level is the antidote to the division in our politics today. Clearly we are seeing progress in the over 40 downtowns that have approved 110 transit-oriented developments and many infrastructure projects underway.

Nearly 100 youth joined the concurrent Youth Summit with participation from St. Joseph's College, Suffolk Community College, Hofstra University and Amityville HS among others.

The implementation of Smart Growth on Long Island ultimately comes down to municipal officials, 12 of whom gave local updates on the State of the Town’s and Village’s panel moderated by Joye Brown from Newsday: Town of Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer, Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Town of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, Town of Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, Town of Oyster Bay Councilman Anthony D. Macagnone, Town of Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, Glen Cove Mayor Reggie Spinello, Village of Westbury Mayor Peter I. Cavallaro and Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Eckstrand. Brandon Ray from AT&T also provided opening remarks focusing on connecting business to investments in local communities.

The luncheon was headlined by Charles Davis from Simon Properties speaking on Syosset Park formerly a disputed mall development now a planned mixed use center. Opening remarks from National Grid’s Ken Daly, PSEG LI’s Michael Voltz and NYS Senator Phil Boyle focused on infrastructure funding for our region towards local projects. Downtown redevelopment updates from historically difficult to plan and build communities included Hicksville Chamber of Commerce President Lionel Chitty, Kings Park Chamber of Commerce President Tony Tanzi, and Renaissance Downtowns Principal Don Monti speaking on upcoming groundbreakings in Hempstead Village.

The energy in the room all day was palpable with an overflow crowd of nearly 700 in the morning and 900 at lunch. Due to some efforts off-Long Island to weaken local zoning control we asked the crowd if anyone wants to see home rule curtailed or weakened in the communities that are approving downtown projects. No one at the breakfast or lunch session was aware of these off-island efforts to limit the power of municipalities and no one raised their hand to have larger entities control local zoning.

Special thanks to our workshop speakers who included:

Making Long Island More Resilient: Hon. Bob Kennedy, Mayor, Village of Freeport, Jack Schnirman, City of Long Beach, Sarah Oral, Cameron Engineering, Joe Donaghy, American Mobile Homes. Andrew Zucaro, Zucaro Construction, Gary Rozmus, GEI

Downtown Showcase – Nassau: Francesca Carlow, Nassau Council of Chambers, Hon. Laura Curran, Nassau County, Sean Sallie, Nassau County, Mindy Germain, Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, Kim Kaiman, Town of North Hempstead, Lionel Chitty, Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, Jaci Clement, Fair Media Council.

Downtown Showcase – Suffolk: Tony Tanzi, Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, Linda Henninger, Kings Park Civic Association, Hon. Lori Devlin, Village of Patchogue, John Murray, Kilwins Patchogue, Gina Coletti, Suffolk Alliance of Chambers.

Retaining Youth on Long Island: Emily Rooney, St. Josephs College, Jase Panebianco. St, Josephs College, Michael Kinane, SUNY Old Westbury, Jeff Guillot. Suburban Millennial Institute, Dr. Nathalia Rogers, Long Island Youth Summit.

Increasing Affordability & Reducing the
Barriers to Fair Housing: Kevin Crean, Nassau County Office of Housing, Sharon Mullen, LI Housing Partnership, Charlie Massimo, CJM Wealth Management, Mary Alice Ruppert, Long Island Board of Realtors, Richard Koubek, Huntington Housing Coalition.

Cutting the Red Tape for Mixed Use: Mitch Pally, LI Builders Institute: David Pennetta, Cushman & Wakefield, Keith Archer, Harras Bloom & Archer, Robert Fonti, Suff olk Alliance of Chambers of Commerce, Rich Bivone, Long Island Business Council.

Creating 21st Century Downtowns: Chris Fisher, NY Wireless Association: Brian Harty, Village of Farmingdale, Warren Tackenberg, Nassau County Village Officials Association, Scott Schoen, LI Business News.

Clean Energy: Solar, Geothermal & Electric Vehicles: Neal Lewis, Sustainability Institute at Molloy, Tara Bono, SunPower by EmPower Solar, Zach Fink, ZBF Geothermal, Ron Gulmi, Emerald Alternative Energy Solutions, David Schieren, SunPower by EmPower Solar.

Top Projects - Nassau: Anthony Bartone, Terwilliger & Bartone Properties, Steven Dubb, Th e Beechwood Organization, Nick Halstead, Mill Creek Residential, Chris Giovanis, Alma Realty Corp., Glen Chervany, GRCH Architects.

Top Projects – Suffolk: Robert Gitto, Gitto Group; Peter Florey, D&F Development; Allen Handelman, Conifer Realty; Ralph Fasano, Concern for Independent Living; Bruce Migatz, Albanese & Albanese.

Job & Small Business Development: Tim Williams, Nassau County IDA, Peter Goldsmith, LISTNET, Jaime Moore, LI Manufacturers Consortium, John Nader, President, SUNY Farmingdale, Elizabeth Custodio, Suffolk County National

Transportation Infrastructure – Getting Long Island’s Fair Share
Gerry Bogacz, NYMTC; Michael Setzer, NICE Bus, Elissa Picca, MTA/LIRR, David Kapell, Rauch Foundation, John Durso, LI Federation of Labor, Denise Carter, GPI, Moderator
Sustainable Waste Systems, Stanley Lomangino, Maggio Environmental, Patti Hamilton, TGL Recycling, Hon. Bridget Fleming, Suffolk County, and Connie Kepert.

Aging in Place: Bernard Macias, AARP, John Cochrane, NYS Department of the Aging, Bernadette Martin, LI Green Market, Lisa Rosenthal, Well Beyond 55, Ron Stein, the Coltrane Home.

Protecting Water & Sewer Investments: Mike Martino, Suez, Peter Scully, Suffolk County, David Berg, DB Consulting, Frank Russo, H2M Architects & Engineers, Brian Herrington, Scotts Miracle Grow, Adrienne Esposito, Citizens Campaign for the

Top Energy Projects: Christopher A. Cavanagh, National Grid, John Keating, PSEG Long Island, Clint Plummer, Deepwater Wind, Ross Ain, Caithness Long Island, Richard Kessel, Moderator

Major Redevelopment Projects: Frank Haftel, Garvies Point, Don Monti, Hempstead Renaissance, Bob Coughlan, Tritec - Ronkonkoma HUB; David Wolkoff , Heartland Town Square; Joe Dowd, LIBN.

Designing Great Places I: Syosset Park: Charles Davis, Simon Properties; John Gutlieber, Castagna Realty; Todd Fabricant, Cerro Wire Coalition; Rick Parisi, MPFP ; Jason Mikrut, VHB

Designing Great Places II: White Plains, NY & Storr’s Center, CT
Beth Zall, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Lou Marquet, Leyland Alliance, Sal Coco, BHC Architects.

Regional Partnerships: Larry Levy, Hofstra Center for Suburban Studies; Carolyn Grossman Meagher, NYC Department
of Planning, Corey Bearak, Queens Chamber of Commerce; Randi Dresner, Island Harvest; Kristen Jarnagan, Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, George Tsunis, Chartwell Hotels.

Special thanks to the Vision Board of Directors, volunteers, community partners and a record 80 sponsors that made the event possible.

Glen Cove's $1 Billion Waterfront Revitalization Breaks Ground

Vision Board and staff were out in December for the long-awaited groundbreaking of the Garvies Point waterfront revitalization project in Glen Cove. After 20 years of planning and 10 years with final developer RXR, this complex project finally moved forward, with Vision and local Glen Cove residents and businesses having supported the project at countless hearings through the years.

The redevelopment, situated upon nearly 60 acres, will include 555 rental apartments, 555 for-sale condos, an amphitheater, about 75,000 square feet of retail and office space almost 30 acres of waterfront esplanades and parks to the site formerly occupied by heavy industry and junkyards. The groundbreaking kicks off first phase, which includes six buildings of four, five and six stories on the eastern portion of the property that will contain the rental apartments and about 25,000 square feet of retail, and 28 acres of public open space and amenities. The first phase is expected to be complete in 2018.

At the groundbreaking Garvies Point Project Manager Frank Haftel outlined the next phase of the project along Hempstead Harbor, and Glen Cove Mayor Reggie Spinello thanked the many City staff that worked hard on processing the project and bringing it to fruition amidst several changes and the economic downturn of the late 2000’s that had many believing that the project would never move ahead. “How many times have we heard, ‘I won’t see it in my lifetime’?” he said. “Now we’re going to see it in our lifetime. It brings in people with disposable income that want to live, work, and play in the community. It’s a benefit that we’ve never had, and I expect that to really help our downtown businesses.”

Garvies Point's economic benefits will have a tremendous impact on Glen Cove. The $1 billion project is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, hundreds of millions in tax revenue to the City, School District, Library District and Nassau County, and create hundreds of jobs. 

RXR CEO Scott Rechler commented on the many Mayors, Governors, Presidents that have come and gone as well as the over 20 boards and layers of review the project went through. On a personal note, he thanked the Glen Cove community for the support but also the trust to truly improve the area, and vowed not to let them down. $121 million had been spent on remediating the site of environmental issues, and environmental agencies have approved moving forward on the project. The first housing units should be completed in about 2 years. "Today's groundbreaking is a milestone for the City of Glen Cove more than 40 years in the making," said Scott Rechler, chairman and chief executive officer of RXR Realty. "What long has been a hope of the Glen Cove community - a vibrant, publicly accessible waterfront - will soon become a reality."

You can learn more about the project from the Garvies Point and RXR websites.

Community of Kings Park Presents Downtown Visioning Plan to Smithtown

Vision Co-Chair and Kings Park resident Trudy Fitzsimmons joined the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, Kings Park Civic Association and over 50 stakeholders to present the Kings Park community’s Downtown Visioning Plan to the Smithtown Town Board last month, to move ahead efforts to revitalize the downtown of Kings Park.

While other nearby downtowns like Northport and Smithtown have become centers for dining and entertainment, Kings Park has remained quiet with numerous vacancies along Main Street. “We’d like to concentrate on local, and have local participation- that’s where you get the best results,” said Fitzsimmons.

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce and Kings Park Civic Association, with the assistance of Vision Long Island, have come together in an effort to bring vitality back to downtown Kings Park, in collaboration with Kings Park Central School District, Kings Park Fire Department, Fort Salonga Association, San Remo Civic Association, the local VFW and American Legion, Kings Park Youth, Kings Point Soccer, St. Joseph’s CYO, the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, as well as others.   “Our immediate goal is for the town to accept the plan and run with it,” said Linda Henninger of Kings Park Civic Association. “Turnout and participation was tremendous… We are confident in stating that the document that we are presenting tonight represents the participation of thousands of community residents. The process was transparent, engaging, and very positive.”

The commercial area, the ‘downtown,’ which includes parts of Main Street, Pulaski Road, Indian Head Road and Meadow West, is the focus of this revitalization visioning, targeting the portions of the commercial district that are walkable to the train station and historic Main Street buildings. Connections from the downtown to area attractions and recreations facilities, employment centers, and transportation nodes are also part of the study area.

Almost 300 residents took part in the visioning process, bringing in residents, business leaders and other stakeholders to define what they would like to see in Kings Park in terms of land use, transportation, and identity. "For a plan to be successful, it requires input from everyone," said Anthony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. "If everyone is vested in the process, it will garner a lot more community support." The breakout groups were tasked with defining their desires for land use, with some wanting mixed-use on in the business district with apartments above retail, with others suggesting repurposing the old Petro Oil storage site hosting apartments. The relocation of the Fire Department further east was also suggested by one group in order for a developer to allow for apartments at the present site. Parks were also suggested on Main Street, as well as revitalization near the train station, and bicycle paths being built to the nearby Sunken Meadow Park which hosts over a million people annually. Enhanced streetscapes and addressing aesthetic issues were suggested for the commercial core in order to improve appearance, as well as burying utilities.

Some of the items of most importance in the visioning for Kings Park’s future included things for teens to do, new apartments for the area, burying utilities, a new location for a theater, and better walkability/bikability for the downtown and to recreational activities, while maintaining green space in the area. It was noted in the visioning that changes in zoning as well as sewering would be key to make the revitalization of Kings Park take off. Sewering is possible by connecting Kings Park to the existing Suffolk County waste water treatment plant 6. Currently both Smithtown and Kings Park are looking to connect to the existing plant, however it was suggested that Kings Park connect to the existing plant first. Off-mainstreet parking was also suggested to enable a better pedestrian experience, with sidewalks being widened by removing a lane of parking.

“This was a grassroots effort,” said Tony Tanzi of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. “One of the things that this process has shown, without a shadow of a doubt, is that Kings Park has a lot of potential.” Tanzi went further to clearly state that the community is not asking for the Township to undertake the task of revitalization alone, but is willing to help with the backing of the community.

You can check out the Revitalizing Kings Park Action Plan here, the presentation to the Smithtown Town Board here, as well as media coverage from LIBN and FIOS1.

Nassau Bus Cuts Held at Bay

Vision testified at preliminary hearings in Mineola this December along with about 50 bus riders and advocates to stop Nassau’s NICE system from cutting 9 routes in January. Nassau Legislator Carrie Solages and Laura Curran spoke in full support of maintaining existing service.

Nassau County bus riders are able to take a breath, if at least for now, in knowing that proposed cuts to the NICE system slated for January are on hold, thanks to advocacy and a tie vote by the Nassau County Bus Transit Committee. Testimony from some of the 50 bus riders at the hearing included seniors, folks with varying disabilities, employees seeking to get to work and health appointments. In a 3-3 vote after 2 public meetings held on the same day, the committee effectively denied 9 proposed cuts to the NICE system that were to take effect in January.

Cuts to ridership will hurt a slew of present and future development projects in Nassau County. Unfortunately, NIFA won't let the County access some funds that could be used to plug the holes with a multimillion dollar budget deficit looming. The $3.8 million in cuts that were reflective of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s amended budget mirror the projected profit obtained by NICE last year. "Nassau County must to hold NICE Bus accountable for the service they have agreed to provide; since 2012 we have seen fares increase annually, routes have been cancelled and shortened, and ridership is down from 120,000 to 91,000 daily rides,” said Anita Halasz of Long Island Jobs with Justice. “NICE Bus needs to uphold their end of the bargain, which is to provide and expand bus service for working people on Long Island. A 25% loss in ridership is devastating and should not be overlooked." 
Decreasing Nassau County’s local share by $3.8 million annually would bring the county’s contribution down to about $2 million dollars a year, compared to around $30 million a year in Suffolk. With a large deficit from NICE upcoming, further cuts are possible beyond the 9 proposed routes, which could hinder transportation for workers on mega projects such as the Nassau Coliseum that will attract 1400 new employees, as well as existing establishments. Cuts to the Nassau bus system are nothing new, with proposed cuts dating back to 2005 under the former administration.

"For 5 straight years NICE Bus has not been unable to balance its budget without raising fares or cutting service, yet the county nor NICE has found additional revenue to prevent those fare increases or route cuts,” said Aaron Watkins-Lopez from the Long Island Bus riders Union. “Instead, every year we watch NICE Bus walk away with a profit while riders are either stranded at the side of the road or priced off the bus! It's high time NICE Bus picked up the tab and was held responsible for the state of our bus system." Vision testified for a three point plan towards remedying some of the issues with funding for the bus service; a full County contribution to maintain existing service, NYS legislation pulling in operational dollars from the MTA payroll tax to pass in Albany, and lastly, future growth that has smaller fleets and on-demand service.

NICE CEO Michael Setzer said that the cuts were in fact due to a substantial decrease in County funding towards the system, saying further that making cuts now could stave off larger cuts in the future. On the decision by the Nassau County Bus Transit Committee, Setzer said, “I hope they’re right, I really hope they’re right. We boxed ourselves in now, and we don’t have those $2 million in savings from the January cuts, so that’s a little more money that need to be found.” NICE’s contract, which was renewed until 2021, states that the budget must be balanced, so if funding is not found, there will be cuts upcoming.

You can check out media coverage on the halted bus cuts from News 12 and Newsday

Nassau Chambers Support Small Business for Holiday Shopping

Vision Long Island Co-Chair Trudy Fitzsimmons joined elected officials from Nassau County, the Town of Oyster Bay, and members of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce this December at Bayview Florist in Massapequa to remind shoppers to support small businesses by shopping in downtowns and on Main Streets for the holiday season.

With 96.3 percent of Long Island’s nearly 100,000 businesses being designated as small businesses that employ less than 50 people, supporting local businesses during the holiday season is crucial; retail experts say that holiday shopping accounts for 20 to 40 percent of retailers’ annual sales.  “Before you click on an internet sale, go out and see, hear, taste, smell your friends’ and neighborhood businesses right here in Nassau County,” said council president Francesca Carlow, also co-owner of Trio Hardware in Plainview.

Some of the benefits to shopping locally include a boost to the local economy, increasing sales tax revenue, supporting local schools and government and a personalized shopping experience for holiday shoppers.  Nationally, small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and have paid 44 percent of the total United States private payroll, according to the Small Business Administration.  Studies also show that locally owned businesses are linked to higher income growth and lower levels of poverty, while big-box retailers, particularly Walmart, depress wages and benefits for retail employees. Studies of wage and benefits and small businesses also quantify the costs of these big companies’ low wages to state healthcare programs and other forms of public assistance.

NCCC is an umbrella group of over 60,000 small businesses. You can check out Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce’s website with a link to your local Chambers of Commerce here.

Hempstead Village's $2.5 Billion Downtown Revitalization Breaks Ground

After seven years of planning with the Village of Hempstead and Renaissance Downtowns, and decades of prior planning, a groundbreaking occurred for their downtown redevelopment. Over 300 local residents, small business owners and government officials witnessed a statement of support and momentum for the $2.5 Billion project that starts with 1000 units of mixed use housing and commercial space.

Sean McLean, Renaissance Project Manager MC’d the program starting with a prayer from Antioch Baptist Church Pastor and Nassau County Deputy County Executive Phillip Eliot. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who secured $20 million in sewer infrastructure dollars for the project addressed the crowd in full support.

The ceremony marked the start of demolition of 178 Main St., the former home of the Mack Markowitz Oldsmobile dealership, which will be the site of a new mixed-use project that will bring 96 workforce apartments and 5,500 square feet of restaurants and retail shops. This site is one of four that has received site-plan approval by the Village of Hempstead, headed by Renaissance Downtowns and RXR Realty. “It is the ideal location in which to create a modern, mixed-use destination, combining residential, retail, hospitality, cultural and office space,” Scott Rechler, RXR’s CEO said. “What we are in the process of creating will once again make Hempstead Nassau County’s downtown for the next generation and generations to come.” The entire downtown revitalization initiative is projected to create 12,000 construction jobs and 6,000 full-time jobs, generating tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. More than $30 million in public infrastructure improvement have taken place in effort to transform Hempstead into a vibrant, mixed-use, walkable neighborhood. Renaissance Downtowns’ Don Monti said that at least a quarter of the jobs coming up will be dedicated to Village residents while discussing the passion he has to carry this vision out.

Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall spoke of the ten years’ worth of planning this initiative took and the results that will bring back Hempstead to its prior place as the true HUB of Nassau County. “After nine years of debate, an extensive RFP process, countless public hearings, volumes of legal and engineering reports, complicated zoning revisions, lawsuits, appraisals and contract negotiations, today we are proud to break ground on the future of the Village of Hempstead and its new downtown,” Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall said in a written statement. “This effort will provide much-needed, high-paying construction and permanent jobs to our residents, expand our tax base, enhance public safety and restore pride to the Village of Hempstead. This has been a long journey, and I want to thank my team, the master developer and the people of the village for their ongoing support to reach this milestone.” Vision's Director commented on the unity of all of the community overcoming regional naysayers who told them this project couldn't get done. Rev. Benjamin spoke of the jobs that are in store for the community including the first contracts for demolition and security awarded to local firms.

The village sold 14 vacant parcels to Renaissance last year for $8 million because the mostly vacant parking lots were off the tax rolls. Renaissance plans to develop 17 properties and build 1,000 apartments as well as shops, restaurants, a hotel, a movie theater and parking during the next eight years. You can check out media coverage of the long-awaited groundbreaking in Long Island Business News and Newsday.

Riverhead Downtown Mixed Use Development Advances

Downtown Riverhead is ready to host to another housing complex, with a plan to add a five-story, 170-unit apartment complex that would feature a mix of affordable and market-rate rentals.

After presenting to the Riverhead Town Landmarks Preservation Commission and Architectural Review Boards with mostly positive feedback, the developers hope to push the project ahead, and are currently under contract to purchase the former Sears property and three adjacent properties that were demolished earlier this year. The Sears building was built in 1949 and was one story. Tentatively called 203-213 East Main Street, the proposed building would be next to another building that is up and coming, which will have 117 units and a restaurant and retail space on the ground level. “These are the two most important developments in Riverhead,” said Gary Jacquemin, a member of both the Landmark’s Commission and the Architectural Review Board of those two proposals.

The 203-213 East Main Street development would feature a 120-space parking garage on the lower level, 4,000 square feet of retail, and three 60-foot wide green spaces between the buildings with a swimming pool for residents. Most recently, Riverhead has been host to two other complexes; the 52-unit Summerwind Square and the 19-unit Woolworth apartments, both of which are affordable rentals. Riverhead Township’s 2004 master plan calls for a cap of 500 new apartment units in the downtown, with this proposal giving the downtown a total of 403 units.

The project is expected to come back before the ARB and Landmarks commission at later dates. It will also need other approvals, such as site plan approval from the Town Board, before any work can start. You can read more about the proposal here.

Senator Schumer Plans Infrastructure Spending for Long Island

Vision was out in December with US Senator Chuck Schumer at the Ronkonkoma Long Island Railroad Station, joining labor, the LIRR Commuters Council, and other organizations to support a large scale infrastructure bill. Numerous sewer, transit, roadway and other infrastructure projects have been planned with the support of municipal officials, local residents and small businesses. 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, investing in infrastructure would positively impact the country, resulting in long-term economic growth and increasing GDP, employment, household income and exports. Schumer pledged to work with President-elect Donald Trump early next year to craft an infrastructure bill that he says will help modernize Long Island’s aging infrastructure. “I think we have a real potential to get things done,” Schumer said at the press conference. “We need the federal government to do what it’s always done and step up to the plate. We need real expenditures, direct federal investments, not just tax gimmicks to get it done.” The incoming Senate Minority leader said that he favored a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which is idea put on the table by the President-elect. Projects such as the LIRR second track, the East Side Access project to connect the LIRR to Grand Central Station and other projects were mentioned as examples of needed infrastructure improvements, as were wastewater treatment plants.  The Senator said one of every four wastewater treatment plants in New York State is operating beyond its useful life, and that almost one-third of the state’s 22,000 miles of sewers are more than 60 years old.

Although ways to fund such a robust undertaking are unclear, Schumer is committed toward forging ahead. “Though the devil is in the details, it is clear that Long Island is ready, willing and able to make these repairs. We just need the funding to get the job done,” Schumer said.

"Local civics, chambers and municipal officials have been planning key infrastructure investments for many years to help grow our local economy,"said Vision Long Island director Erioc Alexander, "Resources for transit and sewer projects from Washington will help jump start downtown redevelopments, clean our waterways and provide transportation access to seniors, young people, families and small businesses. Kudos to Senator Schumer for continuing to work in a bi-partisan fashion to connect the needs of Long Island communities with Washington priorities.”

You can check out media coverage of the press conference from Long Island Business NewsNewsday,and News 12.

A time to double down on community consensus

The following op-ed was written by Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander and appears in Long Island Business News, which you can read here.

With the presidential election thankfully finished, an elevated level of national and regional divisiveness was on full display and still permeates. A campaign full of elitism, demonization, shaming, fear, anger, greed, narcissism, and prejudice were center stage. While we can treat our national politics like a political version of the Walking Dead or other guilty pleasure entertainment, there are real consequences to letting these divisions bleed into our local communities.

I have had the opportunity to be a part and witness two decades of consensus building on a local level. Despite the division on Long Island economically, racially, culturally, North Shore/South Shore, Nassau/Suffolk, good-minded people work each day in our communities to resolve issues and coexist. Communities working together have helped recover from Sandy, advance major infrastructure projects like Bay Park and Rte. 347, work in opposition to casino’s and more noxious uses and are some of the most active zip codes in the nation for charitable giving.

In recent years, really tough areas in which to build consensus have moved forward with projects and plans. In Hicksville, a community that hasn’t substantively changed since 1969, five civic associations and the local chamber have petitioned the Town of Oyster Bay for a new zoning code for mixed-use development. In Baldwin’s Grand Avenue, where four developers passed at investing in the area over the last 12 years, the town, county, civic and chamber are working collaboratively with a new developer to move on a downtown corridor plan and project.

In Kings Park, where the community has kicked out numerous development proposals through the last 20 years, the civic and chamber have united on a downtown and sewer plan that needs to advance from the Town of Smithtown. In Hempstead, an area that was once a thriving HUB of Nassau County, the village, chamber, community organizations, churches and a local developer have come together in support of multiple redevelopment projects.

Far from being any sort of NIMBY situation, the only folks loudly complaining about these efforts are people who don’t live in those respective communities.

Other projects moving forward – the groundbreaking at Garvies Point, advancement of the MTA’s Third Track, the Ronkonkoma HUB, and Heartland Town Square – along with 35 other downtown areas.  One notable model with a revitalization program, downtown Farmingdale, has seen increased property values of 7 percent a year over the last two years, improved tax revenues, radically decreased retail vacancies with tons of new restaurants and bars and many new downtown events. All of this was planned from the bottom up with the local community.

This very message was the theme of the recent LI Smart Growth Summit, a gathering of 1,100 community, business and government leaders to present 70 pending or approved downtown, transportation, sewer and energy projects. None of these projects would be moving forward without collaborative support from the ground up.

So what makes these efforts noteworthy? The same time-tested methods used to build up trust in any situation: be honest and transparent, engage the public consistently, follow through on what you say you are going to do, collaborate and appeal to folks enlightened self-interest.  And yeah – lose any and all qualities on display in this year’s election campaign.

One positive take away from the election is that folks don’t want to be told what to do by elites. We see this a lot where very smart and accomplished people in their respected fields will come in and tell us what is wrong with our communities, our region or, really, us as people. Citizens trust the ones who roll up their sleeves and assist each day to solve problems. That is why most regional onslaughts on local officials, police, firefighters, school districts, nurses, social workers, and village and town officials almost always fall short.

We need to come together as a region but from the bottom up – through our local leadership – to help shape solutions to the broader goals we need to address. The side benefit of creating true regional partnerships from local leadership vs. top-down planning is having our communities truly shovel ready for needed infrastructure projects like sewers and transit with support that can come from state and federal resources.

The economic consequences of not coming together and building consensus on local projects and infrastructure is lost revenue, decreased property values, missed opportunities and stagnation. The social consequences are actually far more insidious.

So let’s lose the large scale division – shed it like blood stained clothes from a zombie movie – and double down on consensus building locally. It is sometimes long, messy and chaotic but the alternative of no resolution and endless conflict is scarier and more real than and show you could watch.

We lost several friends and colleagues in 2016...

New Hyde Park Chamber's Angela Powers

Angela Powers, a longtime New Hyde Park community leader and the first female president of the Chamber of Commerce there, passed away last February. Powers was “an institution in New Hyde Park” who always pursued her passions “vigorously,” New Hyde Park Deputy Mayor Lawrence Montreuil said. “I absolutely had a lot of admiration for her, and for the values that she pursued there,” he said. “It’s a shame to see her leave us, and she’ll be greatly missed.”

A resident of New Hyde Park since 1966, Powers joined the Greater New Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce in 1973, serving as the “Welcome Wagon Hostess.” She was elected president in the 1990s. Ms. Powers was also active in New Hyde Park’s Holy Spirit Church, the Order Sons of Italy’s Cellini Lodge and the Stewart Manor-New Hyde Park Republican Committee, a group she led for 18 years.

Ms. Powers was also a singer who would sing the National Anthem for many organizations and events, including Vision’s Smart Growth Summit and Smart Growth Awards. We will miss her voice and her local leadership.

Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs

11-term Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs passed unexpectedly this year from a fall in her home. “Judy often referred to good things in our county as jewels, so today may I say Nassau lost one of its precious jewels — Judy Jacobs,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano regarding her untimely death. “She truly was an example of all that is good in a public servant”.

Jacobs had served on the Legislature since its formation in 1996, was presiding officer for several years, was a former school teacher from Elmont, as well as a member of many  organizations including the Lions Club, the Rotary, the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, and the North Shore Synagogue.  She was a founding member of the Joint Civic Council of the Town of Oyster Bay, founder and past president of the Woodset Chapter of Women’s American Ort, and a long-term member of Hadassah. She helped lead the way with legislation to ban smoking in all restaurants, bars and workplaces in Nassau County and worked on island-wide issues concerning Medicaid reform, economic development, planning, and public health and safety concerns.

Having been ill but reluctant to make a fuss, Jacobs had kept her illness private and continued to serve the public. “She kept it very secret because she wanted to continue being the crazy working lady that she is,” her daughter said about her illness. “She was a tireless public servant who always led with ‘is this the right thing to do?’ and she made a tremendous and positive impact on everyone on whose behalf she worked,” said Chris Write of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. More can be read about her accomplishments here.

Amy Hagedorn

Amy Hagedorn, a philanthropist with a wide reach across Long Island and beyond, passed away this yearat home after a long illness, days before her 80th birthday.

A granddaughter of immigrants who came from humble beginnings knew the struggles of those with modest means, struggling as a single mother after her first marriage ended. After her marriage to Horace Hagedorn, founder of Miracle-Gro, they established the Horace and Amy Hagedorn Fund at the New York Community Trust. Upon her husband’s passing in 2005, the Hagedorn Foundation, under Amy’s direction, formed to support and promote social equity on Long Island. Since 1995, the fund that Horace and Amy Hagedorn started at the Long Island Community Foundation has given $65,403,917 in nearly 2,985 grants to more than 500 nonprofit organizations.

The foundation, which is scheduled to close next year after its assets are spent, has given $49,438,800 in 689 grants to more than 175 nonprofits whose work directly benefits Long Island.

In her mission to “find a need and fill it”, Hagedorn had written: “These words embody the business and philanthropic philosophy that my husband, Horace Hagedorn, and I have lived by. After years of working to solidify the success of his Miracle-Gro plant food, Horace believed his responsibility was to help others grow as well.  He was fond of saying ‘You can’t keep taking from the earth without giving back’”. You can read more about the many accomplishments through philanthropy of the Hagedorn Foundation here.

Scott Martella, NYS Office of Governor Cuomo

This past year saw the unexpected and tragic death of Scott Martella, a friend and colleague who spent his life in public service. Before the age of 30 Scott had already begun to assemble a list of accomplishments that included being the youngest member in the history of the Smithtown School Board, aide for NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.  Those were just the titles – his work product was a web of support, behind the scenes advocacy and dedication to tackling some of Long Island’s many difficult challenges. It is truly a setback to our community that we have lost someone as principled, dedicated and hard working as Scott Martella. Our prayers and well wishes are with his family and fiancée as they deal with this most difficult of times.

You can read about Scott's legacy here.


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 19 years Vision has counseled downtown Villages and Towns, and has been a resource for the County, State, and Federal governments, as well as the business and civic community on downtown revitalization, planning and infrastructure. Vision has made over 2,100 presentations, performed over 20 community visionings and advanced over 100 projects, including 12,000 units of transit oriented development towards implementing the goals of Smart Growth on Long Island.

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

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