'We cannot build New York City on Long Island'

Local state senators weigh in on Gov’s housing proposal

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Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed New York Housing Compact has been scrutinized by elected officials from both major parties in the Assembly and Legislature from suburban areas in the state.

The Suffolk County News spoke to township, county, and assembly leaders in March to address the concerns with the housing proposal and this article focuses on how state senators feel the passage of the housing compact would affect their constituents.

While all stakeholders interviewed have agreed that New York State does indeed face a housing crisis, the response to alleviate the situation has been met with fierce debate.

The New York Housing Compact, a part of Hochul’s FY 2024 Executive Budget, is described as “a multifaceted approach to address New York’s historic housing shortage and build 800,000 new homes over the next decade” and is promised to “encourage growth by removing barriers to housing production, incentivizing new construction, and setting local housing targets across every New York community.”

In the introduction to the plan on the state’s website, the goal is stated as to “make it easier for families to live and thrive in New York, for employers to accommodate the workers that they need to keep their businesses growing, and for our great state to expand fair access to quality housing.”

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.

In addition, upstate townships would be required to have 1 percent of annual growth every three years while downstate townships (i.e. Westchester and Long Island) would be required triple the rate, at 3 percent of annual growth every three years.

“Why is the Governor requiring us to grow at three times the rate of upstate New York?” questioned state Sen. Alexis Weik (R-8th district),

Weik, who is a strong opponent of the Housing Compact, said that her views had not changed from the governor’s initial proposal to now reflecting her constituents who had remained steadfast in opposition.

“This is a terrible plan and my constituents and local elected officials agreed. Local control is all a community has in order to not only preserve the history of a community but allow it to grow or change in a way that fits. Nothing has changed; disregarding local home rule and community input is a terrible policy and I do not support it. My question is, what motivating factor is driving the governor to demand this unprecedented growth?” said Weik.

State Sen. Monica Martinez (D-4th District) said she was initially “cautiously optimistic” given the housing and affordability crisis in New York State, citing that this was particularly acute on Long Island.

“After careful consideration, learning the details of the proposal, and consultation with local governments from across the state, I have serious reservations and concerns with the proposal as it’s written,” said Martinez.

The proposed housing plan by the governor would mandate local governments to build housing with a proposed target rate within a specific timeframe to be completed and if local jurisdictions do not meet the governor’s requirements, the state would reserve the right to revoke a local jurisdiction’s authority, which Martinez said, “I adamantly oppose.”

State Sen. Dean Murray (R,C 3rd District) also acknowledged the paucity of affordable housing on Long Island and said, “While I agree that we have an affordable housing problem that must be addressed, I do not agree with the governor’s heavy handed approach.”

Murray was adamant that instead of bypassing local elected officials, that the state work collaboratively with townships and municipalities.

All three senators cited that development similar to what is outlined in Hochul’s housing compact has already been built on Long Island, without state intervention or mandate.

“Patchogue Village officials have provided the blueprint for how to do it right by showing how important and how necessary proper planning is to the process,” said Murray.

“Long Island’s housing crisis will not be solved by the governor’s current proposal. I have heard from Long Islanders—they want to preserve the suburban way of life while creating housing,” said Martinez. “Transit-oriented developments are already happening across the island.  A prime example in my district, Wyandanch Rising; a transformation of a community around transit, creating a workforce and creating affordability and sustainability for families and young individuals to remain on Long Island.”

Weik referenced Bay Shore’s burgeoning downtown area and amenable housing developments.

“The Town of Oyster Bay did a poll and 92 percent of residents were against this proposal. 92 percent—do you know how hard it is to get even 50 percent of people to agree on an idea? This is an overwhelmingly unpopular proposal,” said Weik, and added, “New York State is not funding any part of this proposal, but feels Long Islanders can.”

Chief among the concerns of all three senators was the lack of infrastructure on Long Island to accommodate high-density apartments.

“New York City is built on bedrock. We are built on sand and aquifers. We cannot build New York City on Long Island,” said Weik.

With reliance on cesspools, Weik spoke at length about the need for sewers in her district and how the housing compact fails to address the necessity for shoring up waste management and road capacity for the additional housing.

“The existing infrastructure may not be able to handle the increased demand. I have spoken with local officials and community groups to confirm these concerns, and I plan to work with them to ensure any new development is accompanied by adequate top-down infrastructure funding from the state,” said Martinez.

While confirming that there were constituents in her district both for and against the proposal, Martinez said constituents were concerned about the impact on increased traffic and parking, the potential strain on local resources like schools and hospitals, and the impact it will have on our environment and the lack of sewer infrastructure.

“I plan to address these concerns by advocating for increased funding for infrastructure improvements and working with local officials to ensure new housing development is done in a sustainable way,” said Martinez.

Since Hochul announced her housing proposal in January, Murray said his office was inundated with emails and phone calls from constituents, with some even coming to speak to him in person, the majority voicing their opinions against the proposal.

“Most of the concerns center around the issue of increased density and the quality-of-life issues, such as environmental impacts (sewage, garbage, etc.), increased traffic, parking issues, the impact on schools/classroom sizes, and the overall change to the ‘suburban’ landscape,” said Murray.

“I’ve had conversations with many local elected officials, firefighters, EMT’s, environmental groups and planners—all of whom expressed concerns about the governor’s approach,” said Murray.

The proposal does not directly address the issue of affordability in either existing or anticipated housing.

“In the governor’s proposal, there was no mention of affordability,” said Martinez.

Weik said that the unaffordable housing, combined with the significant state and school district taxes, was a “burden on all Long Islanders.”

“We have to bring down the costs of living,” said Weik. “Not all areas of Long Island have sewers or roadways to support such growth, and our railroad would not provide relief of traffic… This is going to place a demand on services that will cost Long Islanders tremendously.”

“I believe the governor is thinking that by increasing the housing stock and density, it will drive housing and rental prices down,” said Murray. “In theory, that makes sense, but considering all of the ancillary issues involved, it’s not that simple. We live in a very diverse state with many different communities, so a cookie-cutter approach is not the way to go.”