A housing proposal to address the ongoing housing crisis in New York State, proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-New York) and her housing team, in late January of this year at the State of the State address, has met with opposition in suburban areas in the state, particularly with leaders and stakeholders in Westchester and Long Island.
The proposal has an aim of building 800,000 new homes over the next decade to meet what Hochul has described as a “historic shortage” meant to “support New York renters and homeowners.”
The New York Housing Compact was introduced by Hochul as a “comprehensive, multi-pronged strategy, [that] includes local participation requirements and incentives to achieve housing growth in every community so that every part of the state is a partner in solving this urgent crisis.”
Of particular note and concern to Long Island is that the municipalities in the state will be required to locally rezone for “higher density residential development” within a .5-mile radius from existing and functioning MTA rail stations.
Bob Draffin, who is the founder and served as president of the Bayport Civic Association for 20 years, said, “Unless I’ve read the proposal wrong, for the first time in 43 years, I’m glad that Bayport doesn’t have a train station—that goes for Blue Point, too!”
“Every community in New York must do their part to encourage housing growth to move our state forward and keep our economy strong… meet rising demand, and make our state a more equitable, stable, and affordable place to live,” said Hochul.
Town of Islip supervisor Angie Carpenter (R) and Patchogue Village mayor Paul Pontieri were both quick to point out that their respective jurisdictions had already done precisely what the governor called for, without government mandates.
Carpenter specifically spoke of the growing and well-received transportation/housing hub created in Bay Shore that allows residents walking distance to the Long Island Rail Road train station and the lively nightlife downtown.
Pontieri spoke of the hundreds of additional apartments built in the transformed downtown Patchogue area, including New Village.
In a separate, ongoing, investigative article, the Long Island Advance spoke with two residents of the Patchogue New Village complex who received lease renewals that proposed a 50 to 60 percent increase in their monthly rental fee, with one month-to-month renewal being a 130.99 percent increase to over $6,200 a month for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit.
Carpenter and Pontieri, who both met with the governor in person at the end of last week to discuss the housing proposal, said that the issue of rent increase stabilization was not expressly discussed as it involved matters of local school district taxes, utility affordability, and other cost factors that would influence developers and stakeholders in determining their rental fees.
Town of Brookhaven supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was concerned that the lack of affordable housing on Long Island would not be addressed, as the plan “does not specifically specify that the new housing would be “affordable.” Romaine said he believed Long Island’s housing problem was not due to the amount of housing available but rather the cost of housing and living.
During the time with Hochul, Carpenter said she was “pretty vocal” in expressing her refusal to support the housing plan as it stood, but was earnest in wanting to work with the governor and her team in developing solutions.
Suffolk County Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-8th District) was extremely vocal to his fellow elected officials in expressing his criticism of the housing plan, referring to it as an “unmitigated disaster” and quoted assemblyman Fred Thiele’s (D-District 1) characterization of the proposal as having an “extinction-level” impact on the suburban way of life.
Assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo (R-District 7) said, “If passed, the governor’s plan will dramatically change the character of our small communities on the South Shore for the worse. It would be the end of the suburban quality of life that makes Long Island a great place to live.”
Chief among the concerns of elected officials and community leaders was the lack of infrastructure capability to absorb the 3 percent population and housing growth proposed by the governor.
“Her [Hochul’s] housing plan would waive all environmental reviews, meaning new multi-family housing wouldn’t require sewers and that this would affect our groundwater,” Romaine added, expressing his disappointment about waiving SEQRA requirements without consulting local officials. “The problem is they are threatening to remove all our zoning power.”
The New York Housing Compact will require all cities, towns, and villages to achieve new home creation targets on a three-year cycle. Downstate municipalities (i.e., Nassau and Suffolk counties) served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, will have a 3 percent new homes target over three years.
While the official statement from the governor’s website states that “localities will decide how to best meet their new home construction targets, localities’ progress toward their goals,” it is also required in the proposal “that localities with rail stations run by the MTA undertake a local rezoning or higher density multifamily development within half a mile of the station unless they already meet the density level.”
Jason Borowski, president of the Blue Point Civic Association, who is also an architectural engineer said, “We do not have the infrastructure for this type of high-density housing; we are already oversaturated.”
He went on to discuss the already-limited development because of cesspools, and cited the lack of sewerage in the area as being great impediments.
Executive director of the Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, David Kennedy, had a more favorable view of Hochul’s plan and stressed the importance of providing housing for younger residents of Long Island to be able to stay in Suffolk County as well as for older residents looking to downsize.
Hochul’s plan does include a $250 million Infrastructure Fund to support new housing production. Should municipalities fail to provide the required building and growth after three years, or do not take steps to implement Preferred Actions, proposed housing developments that meet particular affordability criteria, but may not conform to existing zoning, may take advantage of a fast-track housing approval process if the locality denies the permit.
The appeal can be made to a new State Housing Approval Board or through the courts. Appealed projects will be approved unless a locality can demonstrate a valid health or safety reason for denying the application.
Homes and Community Renewal commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “New York’s acute housing shortage impacts all communities both large and small, rural and urban… These sweeping actions will ensure that our communities have the support they need to meet housing creation targets and implement smart growth strategies that will ultimately make our state an even better, more inclusive, and more affordable place to live.”