Most dangerous roads report released
A new report from Tri-State Transportation Campaign finds that more than 1,200 pedestrians were
killed on roads in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York in the three years from 2009
According to a new analysis by Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, Route 24 (Hempstead Turnpike) in Nassau County is the region’s most dangerous road for pedestrians for the fifth consecutive year since the Campaign’s first analysis in 2008.
Between 2009 and 2011, 14 pedestrians were killed along the 16-mile stretch of roadway. In 2012, after years of advocacy from the Campaign, New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald announced that Hempstead Turnpike would receive significant pedestrian safety treatments. Beginning in March 2012, NYSDOT began to make the road safer by redesigning the road to include, among other things, eight raised medians and five new crosswalks, as well as relocating six bus stops closer to crosswalks and altering traffic signals to calm traffic.
“We have seen again and again that relatively low-cost improvements such as the improvements being done to Hempstead Turnpike can save lives,” said Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s executive director.
“We applaud NYSDOT’s attention to Hempstead Turnpike and look forward to working with agencies across the region to make other deadly roads safer,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director with the Campaign.
The analysis found that arterial roads – roads with two or more lanes in each direction that are designed to accommodate vehicle speeds of 40 mph or higher – are the most deadly for pedestrians, with almost 60 percent of pedestrian deaths in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York occurring on this type of road.
“Arterials were traditionally designed to move vehicles from one destination to the next without regard for other road users like pedestrians and bicyclists. We continue to see that designing roads like this results in needless loss of life,” said Renata Silberblatt, report author and staff analyst with the Campaign.
Following Route 24 (Hempstead Turnpike), Broadway in Manhattan, Route 25 (Jericho Turnpike) in Suffolk County and Route 27 (Sunrise Highway) in Nassau County were the region’s most dangerous roads.
The analysis found the region’s most dangerous roads for walking over the three-year period were:
SR-24 (HEMPSTEAD TPKE, FULTON AVE), Nassau County, NY
BROADWAY, Manhattan, SR-25 (JERICHO TPKE, MIDDLE COUNTRY RD), Suffolk County, NY
SR-27 (SUNRISE HWY), Nassau County, NY
SR-110 (NEW YORK AVE, BROADHOLLOW RD, BROADWAY), Suffolk County, NY
US‐322/40 (Blackhorse Pike), Atlantic County, NJ
US-130 (BURLINGTON PIKE), Burlington County, NJ
ROUTE 1, Middlesex County, NJ
SR-27 (SUNRISE HWY, MONTAUK POINT STATE HWY, CR 39), Suffolk County, NY
US-30 (WHITE HORSE PIKE), Camden County, NJ
ROUTE 9, Middlesex County, NJ
Some of the key findings in the analysis were:
• More than 1,200 pedestrians have been killed in collisions with cars in our region between 2009 and 2011.
• Based on total pedestrian fatalities, the most dangerous roads for walking in the entire region are SR-24 (Hempstead Turnpike) in Nassau County, Upper Broadway in Manhattan and SR-25 (Jericho Turnpike) in Suffolk County.
• Almost 60 percent of pedestrian deaths in our region occur on multi-lane thoroughfares classified as arterials.
• Pedestrian fatalities decreased in 2011 in New York and Connecticut but increased slightly in New Jersey.
• Nassau County’s SR-24 (Hempstead Turnpike) is the most dangerous road for pedestrians for the fifth consecutive year since the Campaign’s first analysis.
• Traffic calming infrastructure and camera technology are inexpensive ways to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries.
"It's alarming that New York City's major arterial streets are so dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. New Yorkers need safe and convenient access to the businesses that populate these major streets to keep the wheels of our economy turning. It's imperative that the candidates who seek to lead our city as Mayor offer a vision for New York that will keep New Yorkers safe on our streets with proven solutions like bike lanes, pedestrian refuges and other necessary safety improvements," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
The Campaign praised municipal, county and state government as well as state agencies for taking significant steps in recent years to make roads safer for all users. State complete streets laws exist in New York and Connecticut and the New Jersey DOT endorsed a complete streets policy in 2009. In addition, over 40 municipal and county governments in the tri-state region have adopted complete streets policies. These local policies will help ensure that the roadways under local and county jurisdiction are designed and redesigned with all users – pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in mind.
“Recent improvements to New York’s most dangerous roadways are very encouraging and AARP is hopeful that this report will instill a sense of urgency to make even more improvements where necessary,” said Will Stoner, associate state director for AARP in New York. "Designing our roadways with pedestrians in mind, today and in the future, is paramount considering the aging population we have on Long Island.”
However, with 1,242 needless pedestrian deaths from 2009 through 2011, more can, and should, be done to protect pedestrians in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York. The report offers region-wide recommendations that can be implemented on a state or city level. These recommendations include increased spending on Safe Routes to School, Safe Routes to Transit and Safe Routes for Seniors programs, and tracking and monitoring complete streets laws and policies to ensure their implementation. The report also offers specific recommendations for each state. In addition, to help municipalities on Long Island towards faster implementation of safe pedestrian infrastructure, Vision Long Island in partnership with Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Wendel Companies, AARP NY, and Greenman Pedersen, Inc will host a Complete Streets Summit on April 11, 2013. For more details, please contact Vision Long Island at 631-261-0242.
“We are saddened that our region continues to be plagued by many dangerous roadways that are unsafe for residents of all ages, customers and workers in our local communities. This report once again points to the need to move quickly to fund complete streets projects and enhance pedestrian safety,” said Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island.
The report uses the most up-to-date data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) to determine which routes within each county had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities from 2009 to 2011. The analysis excludes Interstates and other roads where pedestrians are prohibited. County fact sheets showing the most dangerous routes for walking are also available and include an interactive map showing the locations of each pedestrian fatality, with descriptive details for each victim killed.
The full report, as well as county fact sheets and maps can be found here.
The Long Island Business Council hears from County Executive Bellone on helping our economy grow Post-Sandy
On Tuesday, February 26th, the Long Island Business Council held a work session with over 100 local business leaders in attendence at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was the featured speaker along with other invited guests, including Executive Director Anthony Manetta of the Suffolk County IDA, Deputy Commissioner Brian Foley of the NYS Parks Department, and Vice President of Long Island Press and author, Felice Cantatore.
Steve Bellone, discussed some of the challenges the region is facing and how we can help grow our economy in a post-Sandy world. He stressed the importance of being prepared and accepting realities, especially with recent the changes in weather patterns, and understand that we are all subject to the disasters that come with them.
“I remember growing up and I never ever heard of a tornado. I thought this could never happen here on the Island. But up until recently we’ve seen all sorts of weather. For those who have not been able to accept of the scientific evidence, I think that all these weather events are not coincidences.”
Bellone stated that he wants people, communities and elected officials to focus on what really matters and use this as an opportunity to learn from previous mistakes and rebuild better and smarter.
Bellone discussed his Connect Long Island initiative that could help slow trends like the number of long-term planning challenges, an exodus of young people, a lack of affordable housing and a high volume of road traffic, while also improving the local economy.
Connect Long Island as a comprehensive regional transportation and development plan that compliments Suffolk County’s assets: world-class educational and research facilities and major infrastructure improvements in the pipeline including the Long Island Railroad’s Double Track project.
It calls for new transportation infrastructure that connects these assets with vibrant downtown developments, improved North-South transit connections and innovation zones designed to attract, retain and grow clusters of businesses around existing and enhanced transportation corridors, research institutions and municipal land.
Among the North-South mass transit connections, Bellone’s plan calls for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). BRT is an innovative, high capacity, public transit solution that can significantly improve mobility as an extension of the LIRR service. As part of this Bellone recommended expanding electrification of the LIRR lines eastward. There is currently a study underway analyzing BRT along the Route 110 corridor, which is home to 135,000 jobs. In the future BRT lanes on the Sagtikos Parkway can provide a connection to the Deer Park Train Station, the Heartland Development, Kings Park Train Station and existing downtowns.
“We want this to be a place where young people are flocking to.”
Anthony Manetta of the Suffolk County IDA discussed the importance of providing business with grants, not more loans, because of the jobs and revenue they provide to local economies.
“We have to give them the help they need, they provide jobs and bring business to our local communities and it’s important to keep them open.”
Brian Foley from New York State Parks, discussed the great challenge of trying to rebuild parks across the state.
“Sandy has affected all our state parks, we lost a lot of trees and a lot of infrastructure. It also impacted the ocean frontier parks. Parks are important to communities and we need to create something for the people.”
Felice Cantatore, Vice President of Long Island Press, ended the meeting with an anecdote about his favorite movie, Rocky. When delivering newspapers as a child, he overheard these adults talking and they told him to see Rocky. What he loved most was when Rocky was in 14th round and he was down, almost ready to give up but pushed himself to finish the fight.
“We want to join all the businesses together and just try to build a better community. “[LI Press] failed at first but that didn’t mean we gave up. We changed the program and I started building that program, it is now the biggest business awards program in the region and the country. We need to keep fighting and keep making things better.”
Long Island Business Council is a group of small business leaders who are dedicated to regulatory relief, tax and utility stabilization for the average business owner in addition to infrastructure investments towards our downtowns. We take our message to Albany and Washington as part of the Long Island Lobby Coalition and other regional initiatives.
Pictured (L-R): Dr. Nathalia Rogers - Dowling College, Lionel Chitty - Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, Eric Rosenbulm, Craig Rizzo - Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, Rich Bivone - Long Island Business Council, Bill Bonnesso - Forchelli Curto Deegan, Bob Fonti - Long Island Business Council, Caroline Tyree, Steven Rosetti - Suffolk County IDA
Pictured (L-R): Dennis Grossman - DMI Advisors, Sylvia Chertown - Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, James Pavone - Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, Mayer Horn - Greenman Pedersen, Inc., Suffolk County Executive, Brian X. Foley - NYS Deputy Commissioner of Parks, Magnus Walsh
Pictured (L-R): Angela Zimmerman - Hagedorn Foundation, Brian Sokoloff - Sokoloff Stern, Steven Stern - Sokoloff Stern, Peter Florey - D&F Development, Bill Bonesso - Forchelli Curto Deegan, Bob Fonti - Liong Island Business Council, Steven Spucces - Greater Huntington Civic
Pictured (L-R): Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Bob Scheiner - H2M Architects + Engineers, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, Julie Marchesella - Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce
Increased state funding for Suffolk County transit in Governor Cuomo's budget
Last September, various nonprofits, advocacy groups, and other organizations signed on to a letter requesting that state elected officials do more to ensure Sunday bus service in Suffolk County. In his 2013 budget, Governor Cuomo has included an additional $2.01 million in the state operating assistance for Suffolk County.
This great news speaks to the impact that joint advocacy for increased funding for bus service in Suffolk County has made. It is important to ensure that this money stays in the Legislature’s version of the budget and is dedicated to expanding and Sunday bus service in Suffolk County.
Now, a new letter is being circulated which calls upon state officials to ensure this money stays in their version of the budget and calls upon them to urge Suffolk County to use this new funding for the permanent expansion of Sunday service to core transit routes.
Organizations include Vision Long Island, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Empire State Future, Long Island Federation of Labor, American Communities at Dowling College, Regional Plan Association, Long Island Bus Riders’ Union, many Chambers of commerce and more.
This additional $2.01 million in 2013 funding can be used by Suffolk County to finally build the seven day a week bus system that riders, businesses and all Suffolk County residents deserve.
Mangano and State officials hold meeting with local residents concerning Sandy Recovery Task Force
A meeting was held at Molloy College on Thursday, with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and State officials and over 60 residents and businesses on the State's role in implementing the Federal Sandy Aid package.
In attendance in was City Manager Jack Schnirman of Long Beach, President and CEO Matt Driscoll of Environmental Facilities Corporation, and Kenneth Adams President & CEO and Commissioner of New York State Department of Economic Development. There were no federal representatives.
The meeting was an extenision of the state-created Storm Recovery Task Force and Plan that will be seeking to direct some of the Federal funding referred to as "NY Rising."
Of the many residents and businesses that attended the meeting the primary concern was the lack of resources from any level of government and issues with the insurance industry. State representatives were urged to crack down on insurance companies in order to facilitate rebuilding.
Thousands of homeowners across New York have been directly impacted by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee. The devastation wrought by these storms was unlike anything New York has seen in recent history. While FEMA, the State of New York and other disaster relief agencies stepped in immediately following the storm to provide public and private recovery assistance to homeowners in need of help, the State worked to secure Congressional approval of additional federal aid to meet the substantial need. The program outlined here is subject to federal approval.
The State of New York, local governments and its partners are now accepting registrations for housing and small business assistance for residents located in disaster-declared counties. These registrations will be used to determine potential program eligibility for each registrant.
Following your registration, a member of the NYS Sandy Help Team will contact you to review your eligibility and assist in the application process.
Please check the calendar on the website to find out dates and times when the NYS Sandy Help Team may be in your area.
Bellone delivers his State of the County address
This past Tuesday evening, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone delivered his second State of the County Address. Bellone praised first responders and local lawmakers for their response to Hurricane Sandy and talked about the need to reform local government to make it more efficient for Suffolk County residents.
During the speech, Bellone addressed the county’s fiscal crisis, saying money was running out for county operations. He also outlined his administration’s accomplishments in his first three months in office, and his plans to deal with the county’s financial crisis in the future. Bellone pledged to grow the county’s economy and to make government work to protect taxpayers and strengthen families.
His address comes as Long Island waits for billions in federal Sandy aid dollars to begin flowing nearly four months after the historic storm that seriously strained government resources across the tri-state area.
Tough economic times, government clean up and restructuring, and storms Sandy and Nemo have painted a tough backdrop for Mr. Bellone's first year. Bellone discussed the $400 million deficit he inherited. In one year he accomplished 700 less employees, $65 million in savings, saving OTB, County Traffic Bureau, less overtime, and a balanced budget under 2% tax cap.
“Despite all of the changes that we have made to make our government smaller and more efficient, we still have a significant structural deficit,” Bellone said, meaning Suffolk still has more annual bills than recurring revenues after cutting 700 county workers. “While we’ve made great progress, we still have a long way to go.”
The county executive also focused largely on storm recovery, the economy and public safety. He spoke about the need to assist homeowners in making their property more flood-resistant for future storms, and said how he plans to create an interagency partnership focused on attacking recidivism.
Suffolk County faces a number of long-term planning challenges, including an exodus of young people, a lack of affordable housing and a high volume of road traffic.
The County Executive also took the opportunity to outline his regional economic development and transportation plan, Connect Long Island, an initiative that could help slow the aforementioned trends, while also improving the local economy.
It is a comprehensive regional transportation and development plan that compliments Suffolk County’s assets: world-class educational and research facilities and major infrastructure improvements in the pipeline including the Long Island Railroad’s Double Track project.
Connect Long Island calls for new transportation infrastructure that connects these assets with vibrant downtown developments, improved North-South transit connections and innovation zones designed to attract, retain and grow clusters of businesses around existing and enhanced transportation corridors, research institutions and municipal land.
The problems inherited are not solved in one year, but the continued priority is encouraging especially for the Connect LI program as well as support for rebuilding from Sandy.
“The state of our county is that we are rebuilding,” Bellone, the former Babylon Town Supervisor, said before a packed legislative chamber in Hauppauge. “This is a county that has faced challenges before and always emerged stronger.”
For video of the full speech, please visit News 12 Long Island.
After Sandy, Northport sewage plant to get upgrade
The aftermath of Sandy exposed vulnerabilities in communities across the Northeast. Northport Village Officials have modified designs for a $4 million plant upgrade, already planned before the storm, to accommodate for post-Sandy changes.
Hours before superstorm Sandy smashed into Long Island, Northport Village officials were frantically securing their sewage treatment plant to make sure untreated waste water wouldn't get pumped into the abutting harbor. The water was so high near the plant that several people were placed in the bucket of a loader and brought over during the storm. Officials secured the plant's influent tank by building a wall from plywood.
The makeshift wall prevented salt water from entering the tank, village administrator Gene Guido said, ultimately preventing about 300,000 gallons per day of untreated waste water from being dumped into the harbor and bay bordering Northport, Centerport, Asharoken and Eatons Neck.
The plans initially called for raising the foundations 6 inches; now, they will be elevated 30 inches. Northport's project, slated to start this spring, is one of 11 that has been or is being upgraded on Long Island.
Environmental experts and local officials say, this will help keep the harbor clean and potentially mitigate red tide there, a harmful algae bloom that has caused numerous shellfish closures in Northport Bay, Huntington Bay and surrounding waters since it was discovered in 2006.
Village officials are now vetting the bids and plan to award one of the bids Friday. Northport must reduce its nitrogen emissions from the plant from 18.5 pounds per day to 10 by August 2014, a mandate being overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Village officials have asked for more time because of the plan's modifications.
This work will include two additions, housing denitrification and pH equipment. The plant is about 8,400 square feet. The two additions total about 2,150 square feet. The village has a loan, but also is hoping for a county grant. The first phase, completed in 2004, reduced nitrogen to its current levels.
Chris Gobler, professor of marine and atmospheric sciences at Stony Brook University, said "there has never been a better link between red tide and nitrogen."
Gobler, who has been studying red tide in Northport since 2006, said his work has shown if more nitrogen is added to the water, toxin levels increase.
Red tide contains an algal toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, a potentially fatal disease that affects the nervous system of people who have eaten shellfish. Nitrogen also can cause "multiple impairments," said Mark Tedesco, director of EPA's Long Island Sound office.
He said it can also result in low dissolved oxygen levels and the loss of eel grass beds, a vital habitat that serves as a nursery ground and feeding area for many fish species and that the plant upgrades are an "important milestone.” However, there are other sources of nitrogen, like fertilizers, stormwater discharge, cesspools and septic systems.
"It is also important that we not just clap our hands and think we are all done . . . there are other sources and there are other challenges that need to be faced," he said.
Upgrades to the Northport Sewage Plant have been a priority for Vision Long Island as well as the Long Island Lobby Coalition. We are glad to see this project moving forward.
For further reading, please visit Newsday.
Revamped theater key to Westbury revival
The Westbury Theatre, which was once a great center for film and theater, could be the key for the revival of the downtown Westbury.
James Mollitor, a local restaurateur, recalls seeing plenty of films at the once-majestic venue as a boy, he said. Now the area is mostly a “ghost town.”
The theater, once the site of elaborate vaudeville productions, deteriorated so much that the courts ordered it kept closed while the village and owner battled over its future. In 2004, Roslyn developer Cyrus Hakakian paid about $1.7 million for the site at a bankruptcy auction.
While pursuing the sale, Hakakian said, he was content to raze the theater and replace it with retail stores and apartments. Then he stepped inside one day.
"It was just majestic," he said. "The skylight, the brick walls, it was just beautiful."
Hakakian says he's poured nearly $10 million into the new theater. He's kept its brick-and-steel shell, along with some of the building's original woodwork. The rest has been gutted and repurposed, with a new Tudor-style facade, tall columns and eight chandeliers. The theater, which can hold 1,500, has six bars and lounge-style banquettes along the balcony and it is expected to create at least 30 full-time jobs, Hakakian added.
When it opens sometime in late March, it will be reborn as The Space at Westbury, a state-of-the-art performance center.
"We took a very old, aesthetically ugly, displeasing piece of property that hasn't been used at all," Mayor Peter Cavallaro said. "It's being redeveloped for use that could change the whole dynamic of the village."
Mollitor is in, but attracting other business owners has proved tough, village leaders said. Some have balked at moving to Post Avenue, fearing the promise of a revitalized downtown will not be realized.
The village has tried wooing new retail to downtown, with mixed results. In the early 1990s, the village started the business improvement district. It imposed an 18.5 percent tax on property owners, reduced three years ago to 15 percent, to fund a face-lift for the downtown corridor. Combined with state and local grants, the village invested $3.5 million into the upgrades. In 1999, the improvement district began offering store owners $500 to adopt new signage.
The approach has proved successful. In the 1990s, some 30 of 120 storefronts on Post Avenue stood vacant. Today, according to the village, 92 percent are filled.
The business district, the majority of which spans Post Avenue from Old Country Road to the Northern State Parkway, recently began soliciting specialty shops and national chains with grants. Large chains are eligible for $10,000 to $20,000, specialty and mom-and-pop shops $5,000 to $7,500. So far, the approach has not paid off and is being relaunched, this time for more property owners. Again, the tactic hinges on the theater's opening, business leaders said.
In recent years, the village, looking to draw young professionals and empty-nesters, approved mixed-use zoning laws that led to more than 400 multifamily units being built around the train station over the last 10 years. Most of them, Cavallaro said, are filled. Revitalizing the downtown corridor, he said, is "a decision to be successful."
The theater is the capstone, and it’s staging a comeback after more than a decade since going dark, courtesy of the multimillion-dollar makeover.
Westbury isn't the first community to host a new performing arts center. Bay Shore, Northport, Patchogue, Huntington and, most recently, Riverhead are among those that have invested in such facilities, seeing them as vital to their downtowns.
Experts say it's an experiment that bears watching.
"For Central Nassau County, this is groundbreaking," said Eric Alexander, Executive Director of Vision Long Island. "It may serve as a model for other Nassau downtowns to use the arts as a centerpiece for their communities."
Each is in Suffolk, and their largely successful centers, like the one in Westbury, have something in common, Alexander said: "Right in the heart of a centrally located downtown, with an excellent train station."
If Westbury is successful, Alexander said, the approach could take off in other Nassau communities.
For further reading, please visit Newsday.
LaunchPad Long Island to give startups a boost in downtown Mineola
LaunchPad Long Island, started by venture capitalists Andrew Hazen and Richard Foster, a space for independent startups and small firms, is announcing that it will soon be up and running.
The facility spans three floors and all 12,000 square feet of a Mineola building that most recently housed a law firm and deli. The pair has invested $100,000 in the space, adding such technology gotta-haves as chalkboard walls and glass desks.
In addition to conference and meeting rooms, there’s also a lounge with plasma-screen TV, plus pingpong, foosball and pool tables. The former deli has morphed into the LaunchPad Café. “We want it to be a place they don’t want to leave,” Foster said.
The building’s owner, Hicksville-based L&L Painting Co., plans to raze the building to make way for a three-tower multi-use development that would sport office and retail space, plus a hotel and restaurant.
“It’s a lot of money, but it’s our dollars,” Hazen said of the partners’ investment. “But we believe in this project so much, we didn’t want to wait. Plus we don’t know the timeline; it could be one year, it could be four years.”
Future knockdown though it may be, the center is generating plenty of buzz in the startup community, including inquiries from more than two dozen local companies. There’s even been a call from a Georgia startup called Liquidtext.net.
“We expect the space to be filled up by May,” Hazen said.
Space at LaunchPad will range from $250 a month for a first-floor work space to up to $1,500 for one of the second floor offices, although Hazen said those spots will be primarily reserved for startups the pair invests in.
To that end, Hazen and Foster have committed $250,000 for a seed fund that will help grow LaunchPad startups. The investors are willing to wave the monthly check in exchange for a larger stake of your company for those who cannot make the rent.
“We’re not looking to make money as landlords from this thing, it’s more about making money by investing in companies,” Hazen said. “Everything’s flexible.”
Hazen said six other investors have approached him and his partner about adding to the fund, potentially putting $1 million in the till. That would put LaunchPad on almost even keel with other new investment funds, including the Accelerate Long Island partnership with CanRock Ventures and Jove Equity Partners.
Peter Goldsmith, president of the Long Island Software and Technology Network, has already committed to taking space at LaunchPad, although he said he would also maintain his office at the Long Island Tech Mall in Hauppauge. But having both locations means more space for LISTnet to grow its own incubator program, Long Island Tech COMETS, which began earlier this month.
And, building razed or not, Hazen remains committed to Mineola.
“What we’ve discussed is they would build Tower One and Tower Two of the complex first and leave us alone,” he said. “We would then get our own 22,000-square-foot floor in one of the new buildings and they would demolish our building to create Tower Three.”
For further reading, please visit Long Island Business News.
NYSDOT making pedestrian safety progress along Hempstead Turnpike; Concerns arise on pedestrian access in East Meadow
After years of consistently being named the most deadly road for pedestrians in the region, Hempstead Turnpike has finally been getting the treatment it deserves from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT).
Last year, NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald announced both short and long-term solutions to make the lethal roadway safer for all users, and implementation of some safety measures began in September. While there have been some Sandy-related delays, many of the safety improvements are close to implementation, including the installation of raised medians at eight locations, relocation of six NICE bus stops closer to crosswalks, the addition of five new crosswalks and altering traffic signals to calm traffic
While the DOT deserves applause for addressing pedestrian safety along the 16 mile corridor, one idea that should go back to the drawing board is the installation of fencing along a 1000-foot median near the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.
However, fencing doesn’t just limit pedestrian access, it also reinforces the notion that the road is too deadly to cross. A smarter way to address pedestrian safety for this stretch of Hempstead Turnpike would be to implement raised landscaped medians instead of fencing, and install additional mid-block crossings in areas with particularly long distances between signalized intersections. Doing so will not only help calm traffic and increase safety for all users of the road, but enhance pedestrian mobility as opposed to limiting it.
For further reading, please visit Mobilizing the Region.
Outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says ‘America is one big pothole’
On Wednesday, Outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood lamented the amount of infrastructure spending that was approved by Congress during his tenure at the Department of Transportation (DOT).
"America is one big pothole right now," LaHood said in an interview on "The Diane Rehm Show" on National Public Radio.
"At one time ... we were the leader in infrastructure," LaHood continued. "We built the interstate system. It's the best road system in the world, and we're proud of it. But we're falling way behind other countries, because we have not made the investments."
He noted that Congress passed a $105 billion surface transportation bill last year, but was disappointed with the fact that the measure only provided appropriations for road and transit projects until 2014.
"Congress passed a two-year bill. Ordinarily they would pass a five year bill," he said. "It was only a two-year bill because they couldn't find enough money to fund a five-year bill."
Speculation on LaHood's replacement at the DOT has centered on National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairwoman Deborah Hersman since LaHood announced his retirement last week.
LaHood believes that whoever ends up replacing him will have to think outside the box to find more transportation funding.
Funding for previous transportation bills had traditionally come from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon taxes on gasoline purchases that goes to the federal government. However, the gas tax now only brings in about $35 billion per year.
Lawmakers used a package of fee increases and closing tax loopholes to make the difference between the gas tax revenue and the more than $50 billion that is spent annually under the 2012 transportation bill.
A House Republican effort to tie transportation funding to increased offshore oil drilling was blocked by Democrats in the Senate.
In his interview, LaHood said that it will not be as easy to come up with a temporary solution when the next transportation bill comes up.
"The next decisions that will be made by this Congress, by this administration will have to be bold if we're going to continue our efforts to fix up our roads, keep our highways in a state of good repair, to fix up unsafe bridges," he said. "We need a bold plan, and a bold way to fund it."
For further reading, please visit The Hill.
Schumer holds rally in Island Park for the passage of Sandy aid bill
On Monday, Schumer led a rally of dozens of Long Islanders that have been affected by Superstorm Sandy, calling for the final passage of Sandy aid bill.
About 80 people joined U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and former Senator Alfonse D'Amato at an Island Park rally on Monday to urge immediate Senate passage of a proposed $50.5 billion relief fund for victims of superstorm Sandy. Schumer stood in front of a damaged business that requires federal assistance and joined by dozens of Long Island residents and elected officials, calling for the passage of the legislation.
Many of the rally participants were from Island Park, which was heavily damaged by the disaster and has not completely recovered. The public library and many schools and churches remain closed, as well as 60 percent of the businesses on the village's main street, Schumer said.
"So far nobody has helped us at all," said John Weber, owner of the Island Park Laundromat on Long Beach Road, the site of the rally. The business was flooded by seawater and sewage, and Weber said he doesn't have the money to reopen. Next door is Jack's Pizzeria, which only reopened Jan. 14.
"The storm almost destroyed us, and we're still struggling hard," said owner Josephine Natalello. "One federal agency told us we could borrow money at six percent interest, but we can't afford that. We just bought this place a year-and-a-half ago and are deep in debt. We need help now."
Following the rally, Schumer left for Washington, D.C. for the Senate vote which was scheduled for later that day, hoping that Monday's bad weather did not keep any of the senators on his side of the vote from participating.
D'Amato, a Republican and an Island Park native, also urged passage of the Senate bill, which the House of Representatives has approved.
"We need 60 votes, Democrats and Republicans," said Schumer. "We voted for their aid [around the country] when they needed help. The New York taxpayer has been there for them. We don't want the rules changing now that we've had a major disaster. But it's going to be close."
After four weeks, the Senate bill was approved on Monday with a vote of 62-36. Before approving the relief bill, senators voted 62-35 to reject an amendment by Senator Mike Lee of Utah that would have required Congress to pay for storm relief with other cuts.
For further reading, please visit Newsday and the Long Island Herald.
Town of Brookhaven hearings focus on zoning, housing plan
Vision testified at a Town of Brookhaven hearing earlier this week in support of the proposed Next Generation housing ordinance. This code will serve as one tool to produce a range of housing options such as townhomes, apartments over stores, and artist lofts that are needed beyond single family homes.
The proposed Next Generation Housing zoning code would allow developers to build 12-14 units per acre of land, with higher density possible by using Pine Barrens credits. While the proposed code mandates a minimum of 20 percent of the residential units be affordable, she noted the idea is not designed to develop low-cost housing.
The code is structured to simply be on the books as an option in the event local communities choose to see this form of development in their neighborhood. The zoning code in Brookhaven currently is structured to facilitate sprawling development projects.
Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, said he was in favor of the Next Generation Housing idea as recent studies conducted by the non-profit organization show 43 percent of Suffolk residents would prefer to live in a walkable, downtown community.
Gladly more supporters testified than opponents while there are some folks who have concerns. Some of the questions at the hearing could have been answered by the Town's planning department had they chosen to properly participate in the meeting.
The plan will revitalize town centers, neighborhoods and the environment by encouraging environmentally friendly development near transportation centers such as train stations, while attracting young professionals.
Given the level of public interest in the proposal, the Town Board will be accepting public comments until Feb. 1. The board may vote on the zoning code as early as its Feb. 5 meeting.
Vision is looking forward to the housing and mixed use development that could arise from this proposal.
For further reading, please visit the Port Jefferson Patch.
Senate passes $50B Sandy aid package
The Senate approved more than $50 billion in aid to states battered by Superstorm Sandy on Monday, four weeks after a delay that sparked bipartisan fury from Northeastern lawmakers.
The money includes grant funding for owners of homes and businesses, as well as funding for public improvement projects on the electrical grid, hospitals and transit systems to prevent damage from future storms.
The vote, which was 62-36, came after senators turned back an attempt to require budget cuts elsewhere to offset the cost of storm relief, a proposal that further upset several members of Congress.
When the Senate passed the long-delayed relief package, many of the no-votes came from Senators who had previously supported emergency aid efforts following disasters in their own states. While many complained that the bill contained too much unrelated “pork,” the same members had voted no on the much smaller $9 billion Sandy relief Senate bill.
Among the no voters were Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Both members had not only backed disaster aid in the past, but actually sought disaster aid for their own states for relief from Hurricane Sandy. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas endorsed disaster relief for snow storms damages in his state just four days before casting his “nay” vote. A more shocking no-vote came from Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who, during a recent drought in August, demanded the Senate be called back from recess to pass disaster aid. His office later released a statement: “When a disaster surpasses the ability of states and communities to rebuild, Senator Blunt believes the federal government should prioritize spending to help the people whose lives and livelihoods are impacted. During his time in the Senate, he has fought tirelessly to ensure that Missouri gets its fair share of those federal resources specifically dedicated to disaster recovery.”
"For decades, taxpayers from New York have sent their money when disasters occurred, with fires on the West Coast or floods in the Missouri and Mississippi valleys or hurricanes in Louisiana and Florida," said Senator Chuck Schumer. "We've sent our tax dollars, billions of them -- and now, all of a sudden, some are suggesting we should change the rules when we are hit by the first major disaster to hit the New York City region in a very long time. That's not fair. That's not right."
Sandy killed about 113 people in the United States, bringing flooding and destruction to much of lower Manhattan, Long Island, and New Jersey seaside towns when it struck back in October. Tens of thousands of families are still displaced or lack adequate heat to deal with the frigid winter weather.
New York has estimated its storm-related costs at nearly $42 billion, while New Jersey's estimated losses totaled about $37 billion. In a joint statement, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy praised the Senate for approving the funds "despite the difficult path in getting to this moment."
"To all Americans, we are grateful for their willingness to come to our aid as we take on the monumental task of rebuilding, and we pledge to do the same should our fellow citizens find themselves facing unexpected and harsh devastation," they said.
Before approving the relief bill, senators voted 62-35 to reject an amendment by Senator Mike Lee of Utah that would have required Congress to pay for storm relief with other cuts.
"My heart goes out" to residents of the stricken area, said Lee, and then added, "We have to stop and consider the fact that we are more than $16 trillion in debt and that we're adding to that debt at a rate of more than $1 trillion every year."
In 2005, it took Congress just 11 days to approve $60 billion in aid for the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, while Monday marked 91 days since Sandy hit.
The Senate approved a $60 billion aid package for the hard-hit region in late December and also passed the flood insurance bill, which Obama signed in early January. After Monday's vote, Obama said that for people struggling to rebuild, "every day without relief is one day too many."
"So while I had hoped Congress would provide this aid sooner, I applaud the lawmakers from both parties who helped shepherd this important package though," he said.
For further reading, please visit CNN.
First Baptist Church of Riverhead holds 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast
On Monday, January 21st the First Baptist Church of Riverhead had their 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast held at the Hyatt Regency Wind Watch Hotel ballroom in Hauppauge, which this year coincided with the second inaugural of President Barack Obama.
The annual breakfast event is coordinated each year by First Baptist Church Associate Pastor the Rev. Cynthia Liggon and chaired by the Rev. Charles Coverdale, First Baptist Church pastor. It is a fundraiser for the Family Community Life Center, a proposal to build a community center and workforce housing on land adjacent to the church on Northville Turnpike.
Reverend Charles Coverdale, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, said Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is especially meaningful this year.
"This year is particularly fitting with Dr King's dream -- this is the exact day of celebration when President Barack Obama is being sworn in, as an African American president of the United States. It just happened to fall on the same day, but it's major," he said.
Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, an accomplished pastor, a credentialed theologian and a renowned author, gave an opening speech which related the work of MLK Jr. to the prophet Moses and recalled his own personal experiences with segregation.
Honored at the event were the 2013 MLK Jr. Meritorious Award recipients, individuals who are chosen "by the way they embody Dr. King's ideals, and work tirelessly to make his dream a reality for all humanity," Coverdale said. Among those honored with the award were James Banks, College-wide Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs at Suffolk County Community College, Bishop Harrison Hale, Pastor of the Cornerstone Church of God in Christ, Thaddeus Hill, executive director of Timothy Hill Children's Ranch, Debrah Garcia, director and CEO of Long Island Head Start, and Belinda Alvarez-Groneman, president of Pronto of Long Island, Inc.
The MLK Jr. Freedom Choir performed under the direction of Rosa Palmore, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Riverhead Town Board members James Wooten and Jodi Giglio, along with Highway Superintendent George Woodson and Police Chief David Hegermiller attended the breakfast. Eric Alexander the Executive Director of Vision Long Island, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, along with Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert, also attended. Representatives showed in place of Congressman Tim Bishop and County Executive Steve Bellone, who were in the nation's capital for the inauguration. Corporate sponsors of this year's breakfast were Stony Brook University's School of Social Welfare, Brookhaven National Lab, Peconic Bay Medical Center, Riverhead Building Supply and Suffolk County National Bank.
The goal, Coverdale said, is to create a community, not church event, bringing together all walks of life including businesses, universities, government officials, and representatives from all houses of worship.
For further reading, please visit the Riverhead Patch.
Governor Cuomo releases proposed 2013-2014 Executive Budget
On Tuesday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled the proposed 2013-14 Executive Budget and Management Plan that builds on two years of balanced, fiscally responsible budgeting and invests in economic development, education reform, rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy, provides support to local governments and school districts, and includes no new taxes or fees.
The budget covers issues such as education, health care, mental hygiene, energy, transportation, and Hurricane Sandy initiatives. Some of the highlights of the Executive Budget includes the elimination of the $1.3 billion budget gap with no new taxes or fees (the expected gap for 2013-14 was projected to be $17.4 billion prior to the last two responsible budgets), holding spending increases below 2 percent for third consecutive year, increases in education aid by $889 million (or 4.4 percent), raising the minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $8.75/hour, and reforming the Workers’ Compensation system to save employers, local governments and school districts more than $900 million.
The Governor’s proposed budget targets economic development spending to accelerate the commercialization of new technology, launches a third round of the Regional Economic Development Councils, and markets the state’s tourism assets to bolster economic growth. The Executive Budget includes $150 million for a third round of the Regional Council process.
The Executive Budget includes $300 million of new transportation capital funding under the NY Works program. In addition, the Budget provides operating support totaling $4.7 billion to mass transit systems. The MTA will receive over $4.2 billion, an increase of more than $358 million from 2012-13, and other transit systems will receive over $454 million, which reflects an increase of $23.5 million. The Budget includes $307 million in General Fund support for the MTA to fully offset the revenue impact of the reform of the MTA payroll tax that the Governor signed into law in 2011. The Executive Budget includes approximately $85 million in funding assistance for the Thruway Authority, including the state takeover of costs of the Division of State Police Troop T, that helped eliminate the need for a substantial commercial toll increase. For transit systems hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, the Governor has provided a modest boost in operating support. Other downstate transit systems, like Nassau County’s NICE bus, will share a combined $23.5 million increase over last year. And, keeping to his promise, Cuomo allocated $307 million in General Funds to the MTA to offset the cuts to the Payroll Mobility Tax that Albany orchestrated two years ago. The Governor also proposes to extend a key MTA business tax surcharge for five years.
Unlike the recent draft of NYSDOT’s Capital Plan (or the pre-draft plan), the budget actually mentions “pedestrian” and “bicycling” programs. Although advocates were hoping for a dedicated line that assured a certain amount of money would go to these life-saving, economy-building projects, there is still hope. Of the $300 million in new funding for the New York Works program, $100 million is designated “for all modes of transportation infrastructure” to help “encourage regional economic development and to help leverage private investment.” If language is included to make sure these funds are specifically used to strengthen downtowns (pedestrian, bicycle, equitable transit-oriented development come to mind), that would be a win. The last disbursement of NY Works money went almost completely toward road repaving and bridge replacements, so there is a good argument for this round of funding to flow toward pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure.
Environment and Energy
It also outlines increases support for critical environmental protection and energy programs. The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) will be increased by $19 million to $153 million. The Cleaner, Greener Communities program, administered by NYSERDA to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, will be supplemented by a net $10 million in new state funding. To address a backlog of environmental capital needs, the Budget includes $135 million of new funding for DEC, OPRHP, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the Olympic Regional Development Authority under the NY Works program. In addition, the Budget provides the financial platform to implement the Moreland Commission recommendations that will strengthen the oversight and enforcement mechanisms of the Public Service Commission.
Hurricane Sandy Relief
The Executive Budget provides support for Superstorm Sandy recovery and rebuilding projects, programs, and other initiatives. Specifically, the Budget includes appropriations of $21 billion for disaster-related recovery, rebuilding and mitigation. An estimated $30 billion of Federal aid will flow through these appropriations or be directly administered by the Federal government, local governments and other entities. Communities that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, Superstorm Irene and Tropical Storm Lee will be eligible for rebuilding and mitigation grants. Part of the budget also outlines the Recreate NY Smart Home and Recreate NY Home Buy-Out Programs which will ensure that New York rebuilds to modern building standards and, in locations where rebuilding is impractical, provide a voluntary home buyout alternative.
The Executive Budget includes all funds spending of $136.5 billion in the fiscal year that begins April 1, 2013, an increase of $2.5 billion or 1.9% from 2012-13. All Funds include federal funds. It also includes State Operating Funds spending of $90.8 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion, or 1.6 percent. State Operating Funds exclude federal funds and long-term capital spending.
Brownfields programs are on the fence and pending legislative approval, the Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) program will receive $10 million, and the Environmental Remediation Program (ERP) will be reactivated with a $10 - $12 million appropriation. Question marks remain as to the effectiveness of these initiatives on Long Island.
Human and health services take a big hit with large scale reductions of approximately $350 million. Questions remain from many local municipalities on deeply needed mandate relief but the biggest question is the future of LIPA but for now the lights are on. Stay tuned.
"By making difficult decisions over the past two years we have brought stability, predictability, and common sense to the state's budget process," Governor Cuomo said. "For the third consecutive year we are closing the deficit with no new taxes or fees and putting forward a budget that holds spending growth under two percent. Two consecutive fiscally responsible budgets have drastically reduced the deficit we face in this fiscal year and those we will face in years to come. As a result, we are able to make critical investments to build a world-class education system, support job creating projects in all corners of the state, provide assistance to local governments, and rebuild communities that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy."
A new website has been launched to provide New Yorkers with unprecedented access to information and resources regarding the state budget. To view the briefing book or other information on the proposed budget, please visit the Governor’s website.
Suffolk moves closer to starting $48M sewer project
A Suffolk committee has recommended a final screening process for those seeking to tap nearly $48 million to begin building new sewers and repair failing ones.
Legislator Wayne Horsley of Babylon said he hopes the selection process, more than a year in the making, can get quick approval from the county legislature and that applications for funding can go out in the next month.
"We're the only game in town at this point," said Horsley, though he said he hoped the new county funding could be leveraged to spur grants and loans from the state or federal governments to kick-start a new growth in sewers."
About a dozen projects could be helped by the new county funding, according to officials. Among those projects include the Ronkonkoma Hub, planned to have 880 housing units and up to 200,000 square feet of retail space. The project has received a $1 million state grant to help with sewers, and the county has authorized $21 million in borrowing to build a sewage treatment plant.
Existing facilities that could potentially receive funding include the Northport and Riverhead sewer systems.
The $48 million will come from the sewer assessment stabilization fund, which is financed from a portion of the county sales tax and was created to limit tax increases to 3 percent in the Southwest Sewer District.
Two years ago, then County Executive Steve Levy proposed using money from the fund's surplus to help pay for new sewers to spur economic growth. Lawmakers scaled back his request after budget analysts warned the surplus was far less than the $300 million Levy had projected.
Surpluses available for immediate use total $33.3 million, and another $14.5 million will come in this year, according to budget analysts.
Those seeking funds will be rated based on a number of factors including the public health need, economic development potential and regional impact. Applicants will be graded higher if they have other funding sources.
"This program is more about those looking for a partner rather than seeking a handout," said Jon Schneider, a committee member and an aide to County Executive Steve Bellone. The legislature will have final funding approval. The committee includes representatives of the legislature, the departments of planning and health and the county executive's office.
For further reading, please visit Newsday.
Sandy aid bill approved by House of Representatives
More than 10 weeks after Superstorm Sandy destroyed communities all along Northeast, the House approved $50.7 billion in emergency relief for the victims Tuesday night as Republican leaders struggled to close out an episode that exposed Congressional party divisions.
The vote was 241-180, and officials said the Senate was likely to accept the measure early next week and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature. Democrats supported the aid in large numbers, however, there was substantial Republican backing, too, in the GOP-controlled House.
The Senate approved a $60 billion measure in the final days of the Congress that expired on Jan. 3, and a House vote had been expected quickly.
But House Speaker John Boehner unexpectedly postponed the vote in the final hours of the expiring Congress as he struggled to calm conservatives unhappy that the House had just approved a separate measure raising tax rates on the wealthy. The delay drew a torrent of criticism, much of it from other Republicans.
"There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims, the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on the day after the delay was announced. Rep. Peter King of New York added that campaign donors in the Northeast who give to Republicans "should have their head examined."
Democrats were more politically pointed as they brushed back Southern conservatives who sought either to reduce the measure or offset part of its cost through spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
"I just plead with my colleagues not to have a double standard," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York. "Not to vote tornado relief to Alabama, to Louisiana, to Mississippi, Missouri – with Ike, Gustav, Katrina, Rita – but when it comes to the Northeast, with the second worst storm in the history of our country, to delay, delay, delay."
Earlier, conservatives failed in an attempt to offset a part of the bill's cost with across-the-board federal budget cuts. The vote was 258-162.
Critics of the bill said the proposed cuts would crimp Pentagon spending as well as domestic accounts and said the aid should be approved without reductions elsewhere.
"There are times when a disaster simply goes beyond our ability to budget. Hurricane Sandy is one of those times," said Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Sandy swept through several states in late October and resulted in 140 deaths and billions of dollars in residential and business property damage, much of it in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The storm caused power outages and interruptions to public transportation that made life difficult for millions, and the clamor for federal relief began almost immediately. As part of the effort to see the bill passed Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone made the trip down to Washington D.C., along with over 50 hurricane victims from across the island, in order to lobby congress to pass the bill.
“I want to thank Congressman Peter King and Congressman Steve Israel for leading the charge in rallying the votes necessary to approve disaster relief funds that will assist residents in recovering and rebuilding from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy,” said Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano. “It was important that I along with a bus full of Hurricane Sandy victims put a face to our voice for support of the bill.”
The emerging House measure includes about $16 billion to repair transit systems in New York and New Jersey and a similar amount for housing and other needs in the affected area. An additional $5.4 billion would go to the Federal Emergency and Management Agency for disaster relief, and $2 billion is ticketed for restoration of highways damaged or destroyed in the storm.
The leadership brought legislation to the floor, less than two weeks later, under ground rules designed to satisfy as many Republicans as possible while retaining support from Democrats eager to approve as much in disaster aid as possible.
Across the capitol, majority Democrats indicated they would probably not seek changes. "While the House bill is not quite as good as the Senate bill, it is certainly close enough," Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said. "We will be urging the Senate to speedily pass the House bill and send it to the president's desk."
Congress has already approved a $9.7 billion increase in a fund to pay federal flood insurance claims, much of it expected to benefit victims of Sandy.
In the weeks since the storm hit, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent about $3.1 billion for construction of shelters, restoration of power and other immediate needs after the late-October storm pounded the Atlantic Coast with hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding.
Officials say Sandy is the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm damaged or destroyed 305,000 housing units in New York, and more than 265,000 businesses were disrupted there, officials have said. In New Jersey, more than 346,000 households were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 families remain living out of their homes, according to officials.
For further reading, please visit Politico.
'Long Island Medium' star Theresa Caputo donates $10G to Lindenhurst Sandy charity Camp Bulldog
Camp Bulldog, a grassroots effort in Lindenhurst to help those affected by the storm, has been working tirelessly to hand out hot meals and emergency supplies to victims of Hurricane Sandy in the Lindenhurst area, as well as those in need in the weeks following the storm. This past Monday, Camp Bulldog received a special $10,000 donation from Theresa Caputo, star of TLC’s “Long Island Medium.”
One of the founders of Camp Bulldog, Robin DiGiacomo, said it was the largest single donation received by the group.
“She was wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” DiGiacomo said of Caputo, who visited Camp Bulldog Monday afternoon along with her husband, Larry, observing the operation and talking with the people served. “It was a pleasure to have her here.”
She said Caputo, who films “Long Island Medium” at and around her home in Hicksville, did a live spiritual reading at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury in November and pledged to donate a portion of the proceeds to Sandy relief.
Caputo was impressed with the quick action of Camp Bulldog, which began shortly after the storm, and the group’s ability to meet the growing demand. The organization began with two folding tables serving hot food in a parking lot on Camp Bulldog began with two folding tables serving hot food in a parking lot on South Wellwood Avenue at SOMO @ 722 and Surfside 3, and now serves hundreds of people per day at Shore Road Park, offering hands-on assistance and other emergency supplies, offers hands-on assistance and other emergency supplies.
“She had several groups that she was considering” as recipients, DiGiacomo said. “She chose Camp Bulldog.”
The situation in south Lindenhurst is always changing. Even as some lives return to normalcy, they continue to wait for insurance checks to rebuild their homes. Others are simultaneously making mortgage payments on unlivable homes while also paying for temporary shelter.
DiGiacomo said that for the time being, Camp Bulldog is continuing its operation as usual and holding on to the donation until founders decide on the most pressing need of the people they’re serving.
“We’re working with the village hand in hand to assess people’s needs,” she said. “We’re looking to help those most in need.”
For further reading, please visit Newsday.
Representative Steve Israel calls on FEMA to help co-op owners
Current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy is leaving owners of co-ops damaged by Hurricane Sandy without money for repairs. Representative Steve Israel, along with other local officials and presidents of co-op boards in Queens, is calling on FEMA to revise their policy to allow co-ops to apply for grants, not just loans.
Co-ops are housing communities made up of individual apartment owners who help manage and maintain housing, common areas, and residential infrastructure. Currently, FEMA offers grants for recovery efforts through the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) as well as the Public Assistance (PA) Program. FEMA classifies co-ops as “business associations,” meaning they are eligible to apply for loans through the Small Business Administration, but not for FEMA grants.
Israel lent his voice to co-op officials in Queens on Tuesday, asking FEMA to change its rules.
“It seems clear that FEMA’s policy is the result of not understanding the role of co-ops in our community. But that bureaucratic error in Washington is having real consequences for co-op owners here in New York. Calling them ‘business associations’ means that co-ops cannot apply for the same type of aid available to other homeowners. It’s time for FEMA to right this wrong so co-ops in Queens can rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.”
Without FEMA assistance, residents of housing co-ops will be forced to bear the cost of repairing damages caused by Hurricane Sandy and any future disasters. The current policy will come with excessive maintenance increases and huge assessments, imposing a huge financial burden on co-op residents. Many shareholders who are already experiencing financial difficulties will not be able to absorb the additional charges. It is important that FEMA reviews and revises existing policy.
For further reading, please visit Fios1 News.
Study shows that East Side Access could help boost Long Island home values
A study done by the Regional Plan Association shows that homes on Long Island and in Queens could benefit from the East Side Access project, which is slated for 2019. Homes in these areas will likely see an increase in value once the Metropolitan Transportation Authority completes its ambitious plan to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal.
The study, conducted by the Regional Plan Association, has found that the plan for East Side Access, which will shorten travel times by an average of 18 minutes per day for some 560,000 commuters, will drive an increase in home values for properties within two miles of most Long Island Rail Road stations.
According to the study, “Rail Rewards: How LIRR’s Grand Central Connection Will Boost Home Values,” homes within a half-mile of most stations will gain roughly $3,000 in value for every minute of commute time saved. Homes between a half-mile and two miles from railroad stations will gain between $900 and $2,000 for each commute minute saved. The study projects that nearly 600,000 homeowners, 400,000 in Nassau and Suffolk, will appreciate $7,300, and cumulatively, home values in the region will rise by $4.7 billion.
Homes within two miles of LIRR stations should see increases as far as Babylon, Huntington and Deer Park, with places in eastern Suffolk seeing increases dependent on their distance. Homes that are closer to a station would increase by a larger amount. Within a half mile of a station, for example, homes are likely to increase by an average of $11,000. Homes will be more valuable because the improved service will provide incentives for people to want to live close to a station.
It served rapidly growing communities, brought produce from farms in Queens, Nassau and
Suffolk to a city that was spilling over from Manhattan, and brought well-heeled New Yorkers to summer homes and hotels in resorts along the island’s famed beachfront. These values could increase in the future if the LIRR uses the new capacity to add even more service, or if travel times are shortened even more by improving connections to streets and subways in Manhattan.
Additional improvements to the railroad and the area around stations could raise home values even further, the study suggested.
For further reading, please visit Long Island Business News. For the full report please visit the Regional Plan Association or the Rauch Foundation.
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivers Annual State of the State Address; LI Lobby Coalition Visits the State Capitol
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, rewriting his agenda in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre, proposed measures in his State of the State address on Wednesday intended to limit the damage from future storms and to reduce the scourge of gun violence, among other issues.
Governor Cuomo delivered his third State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, NY. He discussed education and campaign finance reform, as well as his call for a New York State assault weapons ban, which he announced on Monday, in light of the elementary school shootings in nearby Newtown, CT.
This year’s agenda centered around a few core elements: attracting good jobs, creating a world class education system for the next generation, establishing fiscal integrity and discipline, and restoring New York as a progressive capital. Part of address centered on economic and regional development and finding new ways to keep that engine going.
One of the things he touched upon was New York universities rank 2nd nationally in total dollars spent, but only attracts 4% of the nation’s venture capital. Meanwhile, California attracts 47%. In order to fill the gap, the Governor proposes new innovation hotspots. These hotspots are high-tech incubators between the higher-ed and the private sector for startup companies. They will be tax-free zones, that includes business, real property, and sales tax, and they will serve as “one-stop” funding and services, including legal services, accounting services, and all the services they need to expand their business. This plan will also include the Innovation NY Network, a network based on the Connect Model from San Diego, which will generate and support business deals. The network will be a collaboration between venture capitalists and higher education institutions to foster commercialization.
The Governor also stressed the importance of a clean tech economy. To begin, he proposes the creation of the New York Greenbank, a $1 billion bank to leverage public dollars with private sector matched money in order to spur the clean economy. He also calls for the extension of the New York Sun Solar Jobs Program to $150 million for 10 years to increase solar panel installations for homes and businesses across the state. To add to his green agenda, Cuomo wants to create the Charge New York program which would invest in an electric car network to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by installing a statewide network of charging stations. Finally, to streamline these energy programs and create a more efficient system between the energy department, Cuomo appointed a cabinet level “energy czar,” Richard Kauffman to lead his green efforts.
The workforce training in New York is outdated; our workforce is not being trained to match the jobs of today and the future and those jobs end up outsourced. Generic job training programs will not suffice, and it is important that we change the way SUNY and CUNY community colleges work. There are 210,000 unfilled jobs in New York because the companies can't find workers with the skills we need. Cuomo proposes a next generation New York job linkage program in order to change the paradigm. A program which would help employers identify the jobs, define the skill set that they requires and getting the workers they need to get the job done. It will also provide the training for those jobs for the future.
He also wants to base the state funding of colleges on a pay for performance model, that is pay for the placement of students in jobs as opposed to just the training of students. Successful models such as Monroe and Finger Lakes are evidence of the efficiency of this kind of system. Upstate job growth lags behind – 5% upstate, 11%NYS, 16% NYC, 9% US, this must change. In terms of education, Cuomo placed emphasis on not just putting more time but better, more efficient class time. Other countries are doing that. He is proposing recommendations in early education by expanding full day pre-K classes. Studies have shown that children who receive early education perform 25% better on math by the second grade, 20% better on English, 30% are more likely to graduate from high school, 32% are less likely to be arrested as a juvenile. We should be providing real, beneficial early education. The universal pre-K that is currently available is only provided by 67% of the school districts and on average, they only offer two and a half hours per day.
He also stresses the importance of teachers and attracting and incentivizing the best to become teachers. He wants to overhaul the teacher training and certification process, increase admission standards, and we should implement a bar exam type test that every teacher takes and must pass before we put them in a classroom to teach our students. This along with the teacher evaluation system, will help identify the best teachers for our children.
But this year’s agenda, and his major concerns, centered on two realities the state must deal with, the impacts of Hurricane Sandy and issue of gun safety.
Hurricane Sandy was the biggest storm only to Hurricane Katrina. It’s hard to believe that a storm of this size could have ever hit New York. But it did and brought with it destruction and grief. Now more than ever, we need to seriously look at how we are building our infrastructure and how we are investing our funds, we have to take this as a learning experience; what and how did we go wrong.
We must understand the needs of coastal communities. Because they pose special challenges and many of them are manmade. These areas are vulnerable to storm surges. And it isn’t just the way they were filled, but the way they were constructed. The Governor proposes the Recreate NY-Smart Home Program, where rather than just rebuilding a home today - that we may very well rebuild two years from now, three years from now, four years from now - we build it back once but we build it back once right and we mitigate for the environmental damage and disaster.
When it comes to the Long Island Power Authority, the Governor could not have been more disappointed. To quote Cuomo, “[LIPA] has never worked, it never will, the time has come to abolish LIPA, period.” He wants to privatize the Long Island service, which will be regulated by a new and empowered PSC that will happen simultaneously and he wants to do it in a way that protects the ratepayers, and freezes the rate for a period of years. This way, it will ensure that there will be no increase to the rate payer, there will be a better regulator and there will be a better provider.
In light of the recent Superstorm that hit our state, Governor Cuomo also spoke on the need to establish a world class emergency response system network for the state with a focus on using the SUNY and CUNY systems to help establish the network. This would include a statewide army of volunteers who would mobilize and organize based on their various skills, interests and resources. The network would also help by providing training to prepare citizens as "in-home first responders." Finally he called on Congress to pass rest of the $60 billion bill for relief aid for our battered region.
The Governor also spoke on the need for us to establish a safe and fair gun policy that will not infringe on the rights of the numerous Americans who use guns safely and for sport. This policy would include enacting the toughest assault weapons ban in the nation, promoting an efficient state lic system, and would promote safe usage and efficient background checks. Governro Cuomo also proposed clasing the private sale loophole, banning high capacity magazines, enacting tougher penalties for those who use guns illegaly, keeping guns from the mentally ill, banning direct internet sales of ammunition in NYS, and creating a state NICS check on all ammunition purchases.
To emphasize his point Cuomo talked on how NYS once led the way for gun safety with Sullivan's Law, a 1911 statute requiring permits for the posession of a handgun. This law is still on the books.
Finally Governor Cuomo spoke on what he referred to as the progressive agenda for the state. This included such points as raising the minimum wage to $8.75 in order to better keep up with the varied costs that a family has to put up with, including cost of housing, auto insurance, child care, gas, electricity and groceries. He also called for the decriminilization of marijuana, noting that these laws hit low-income and minority families more than most others in the state. He also called for the implementation of HOUSE NY, a program aimed at providing affordable housing.
Cuomo also called for the passage of the Women's Equality Act and the Reproductive Health Act. Both are aimed at helping lower income women with the equality act providing a path for women to better argue for pay equality and the reproductive act aiming to ensure that women's health services, including abortions, would be available for those who needed it in NYS.
Vision Long Island was up in Albany with the LI Lobby Coalition for the State of the State address tomorrow - including representatives from the LI Business Council, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, LI Federation of Labor, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Sustainability Institute at Molloy, Dowling College, Workforce Development Institute, the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and others.
NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones presents Governor’s State of the State Address at Dowling College
Thursday morning, Vision Long Island and nearly 100 business and community leaders held a briefing with Gil C. Quiniones, President and CEO of the New York Power Authority, as he presented the Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address at the Dowling College Ballroom.
The Governor’s speech included a series of 300 plus slides, however, Quinones focused on the main points of his address. Topics included establishing an emergency response network, bolstering education, creating jobs, and public safety concerning gun violence.
The briefing was followed by a Q&A session and many who attended voiced their concerns about the future of LIPA. It was agreed that there needs to be a lengthy discussion about how to handle the issues surrounding the power company. During his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo blasted LIPA, stating that the system has been unsuccessful from the beginning; that it is mismanaged and disjointed.
There has been talk that NYPA will be talking over LIPA but Quiniones ensured that this is not the case. He did, however, discuss the possible plans for the privatization of the company and a more effective regulator for LIPA. Some expressed concerns over increases in rates and what will happen in terms of receiving FEMA aid if the company went private. He stated that nothing is a done deal, but that the administration is looking into the matter.
“Whatever happens with LIPA,” Quiniones stated, “it will require legislation.”
Cuomo’s administration has worked to make sure that Albany can perform at its best. Just last year, the Governor took a new approach by creating the Regional Economic Development Councils. These Councils shift the focus of the state’s economic development efforts away from the bureaucracy to a performance-driven model that uses the leadership in each region to design plans to invest in each area’s economic future. Quinones emphasized the need for Albany, and government in general, to show performance and efficiency.
Last year, the Governor deployed members of his cabinet and disbursed them across the region to get the message out to the people and communities, not just within the radius of Albany. Quiniones stressed the importance of coming out to each region individually and having an open dialogue with areas most affected by the storm and the policies outlined in the State of the State.
“It’s really the tug on the jacket in the supermarket that makes legislators support initiatives and have these sessions,” said Quiniones.
Read more on this event over at Long Island Business News.
Pictured (L-R): Dr. Nathalia Rogers - American Communities Institute, Jaci Clement - Fair Media Council, Elizabeth Krolik-Alexander - Office of Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert, Katie Laible - Leadership Huntington, Trudy Fitzsimmons - Leadership Huntington / Vision Long Island
Pictured (L-R): Lisa Ott - North Shore Land Alliance, Jim McCaffrey - Town of Oyster Bay, Linda Bianculli - Town of Oyster Bay, Michael Levine - Town of North Hempstead Planning Director, Larry McAullife - NYMTC
Pictured (L-R): Michael Puorro - Chairman of Dowling College, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, Dr. Clyde Payne - Dowling College Dean of Students, Dr. Nathalia Rogers - American Communities Institute
Pictured (L-R): Scott Martella - Office of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, Bob Scheiner - H2M Arcbhitects + Engineers, Dr. Elana Zolfo - Dowling College President, Gene Stern, Fran Koehler - Glen Cove BID, Lucille Wesnofske - Small Business Development
Affordable housing available in Great Neck
The Village of Great Neck Plaza is taking applications for 19 affordable homes at 255 Great Neck Road. There are 9 one-bedroom units and 10 two-bedroom units. Rent will be set at 30% of the gross household income, and leases will be for one or two years. The combined current annual gross income of all members of the household must fall within the following limits:
One Person: $37,650 to $75,300
Two Persons: $43,000 to $86,000
Three Persons: $48,400 to $96,800
Four Persons: $53,750 to $107,500
Priority will be given to persons who have been members of the Vigilant Engine & Hook and Ladder Company or the Manhasset- Lakeville Fire Department for at least five consecutive years, combat veterans1 who are residents of the Village, current Village employees employed for at least five consecutive years, persons under 30 years old who have resided in the Village at least ten years, and persons 65 years old who have resided in the Village at least 15 consecutive years.
Applications are due Feb. 28 and there is a nonrefundable $125 application fee. To receive an application, visit the Great Neck Plaza website or Village Hall at 2 Gussack Plaza. For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 516-482-4500.
Pictured (L-R): Gil C. Quiniones - NYPA President & CEO, Sal Ferrera - Electrical Training Center, Gina M. Pellettieri, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island
House GOP pull Sandy aid bill from the House floor
On Tuesday, House Republicans pulled the emergency supplemental disaster aid bill for Northeast states damaged by Hurricane Sandy from consideration on the House floor. Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has indicated he will adjourn the House for this Congress, allowing the Senate Sandy supplemental spending bill to expire. The entire Congressional delegations, both Republicans and Democrats, from NY, NJ, CT, are angrily objecting and urging the Speaker to reconsider.
The decision is a stunning reversal since just hours before New Jersey lawmakers were preparing for floor debate Wednesday as outlined under a strategy promoted by Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. New York-area lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, erupted in anger after learning that the House Republican leadership decided to allow the current term of Congress to end without holding a vote on aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
New York Representative Peter King, said late Tuesday he was told by the offices of both Cantor and Boehner that they had decided to abandon a vote this session. In remarks on the House floor, King called the decision “absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities.”
The Senate approved a $60.4 billion measure on Friday to help with recovery from the October storm that devastated parts of New York, New Jersey and nearby states. The bill includes $11.5 billion for the FEMA’s chief disaster relief fund and $17 billion for community development block grants, much of which would help homeowners repair or replace their homes, another $11.7 billion would help repair New York City’s subways and other mass transit damage and protect them from future storms. Some $9.7 billion would go toward the government’s flood insurance program and $13 billion for infrastructure projects to protect against future storms, including fortifying mass transit systems in the Northeast. Republicans said that however worthy such projects may be, they are not urgently needed and should be considered by Congress in the usual appropriations process next year; that such drawn out spending undercuts the urgency of the aid package.
Most importantly, the majority of the money in the $60.4 billion bill — $47.4 billion — is for immediate help for victims and other recovery and rebuilding efforts. The aid is intended to help states rebuild public infrastructure like roads and tunnels, and help thousands of people displaced from their homes.
After criticism from Northeast Republicans, the House of Representatives is expected to take up an aid package on Friday meant to address those still reeling in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Lawmakers will consider $9 billion in immediate assistance for flood insurance and will weigh another $51 billion in broader aid on January 15. The Senate, which had already approved the larger Sandy plan that the House refused to consider, is expected to sign off on the scaled-back version on Friday as well.
Sandy was blamed for at least 120 deaths and battered coastline areas from North Carolina to Maine. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit states and suffered high winds, flooding and storm surges. The storm damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected. The victims of the storms need this aid, the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people are relying on the passage of the bill. Dropping the bill would not only be a great disappointment, but irresponsible.
For further reading, please visit Long Island Business News.
Victory for Long Island Lobby Coalition: Schumer announces critical extension of commuter mass transit benefit
On Thursday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced a major victory in his efforts to extend the Commuter Mass Transit benefit through 2013. The provision will allow riders of mass transit to use up to $240 a month, tax free to pay for their commutes. Schumer fought for this extension to be included in the final fiscal cliff package, which was backed by bipartisan support. This extension will help put money back in the pockets of hard-pressed commuters.
The $240 per month mass transit benefit will fully cover the monthly cost of riding all major mass transit systems in New York City, including subway, bus, and express bus, and will cover most of Metro North and Long Island Railroad commuting costs. According to TransitCenter, in the New York metro area, commuters saved over $200 million in 2010 because of the transit benefit and employers have saved over $45 million since the benefit went into effect in the New York area. Approximately 15,000 companies in New York offer the transit benefit covering more than a half a million employees. And in 2010, employers nationwide saved about $300 million in payroll taxes, money that can be reinvested to create jobs.
“With commuting costs on the rise, many New Yorkers pay hundreds of dollars a month traveling to work alone,” said Schumer. “The last thing the people of New York needed was an extra burden on top of their monthly commuting fares. In a package that has some major flaws, the extension of the transit benefit – used by New Yorkers more than anyone else in the country –is a real victory that keeps more money in commuters’ pockets and give them some much-needed relief as they work to make ends meet.
Mark Epstein, Chair of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter’s Council said “With the extension of parity between transit and parking pre-tax benefits, Congress has now recognized that transit commuters deserve treatment equal to those who drive to work. We thank Senator Schumer for continuing to fight for tax benefit fairness for those who use mass transit to commute to work here in New York whether it be by the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North, or New York City buses and subways.”
In 2011, employees whose monthly mass transit fees were less than $230 were able to deduct the full amount of their commuting costs from their paychecks, tax free, through an employer benefit program. Until 2009, commuters who drove to work received a greater tax break than those who took mass transit. In 2009 the mass transit benefit was almost doubled from $120 per month to $230 per month, creating a savings of over $1000 per year for commuters. Currently, 500,000 commuters in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area, and 2.7 million commuters nationwide take advantage of the benefit. Schumer was able to have the benefit extended in 2011, but in year-end negotiations, Congressional Republicans failed to include tax extenders in a year-end payroll tax cut deal.
Schumer authored the original legislation that passed as part of the economic stimulus package in 2009, that allowed employers to offer their employees up to $230 per month in transit benefits tax free, equal to what they were offering tax-free for parking costs. The transit benefit reduces a commuter’s transportation costs by a third or more.
This shift is a victory for the Long Island Lobby Coalition which pushed to keep the tax credit. We thank Senator Schumer for his success in keeping public transportation benefits available to help local commuters.
Neighbors step up to make recovery after Hurricane Sandy possible
The volunteers and first responders of Hurricane Sandy are nothing short of heroic. Months after the storm hit, local communities and their residents are still stepping up and helping out anyway they can. For these reasons and more the LI Herald chosen them as 2012 People of the Year.
West Fulton Street resident Doug O’Grady has made the two-hour drive to Long Beach from Shelter Island, where he has been staying with his wife and two children since Hurricane Sandy, each morning for nearly two months. He drops his kids off at Lindell School, then heads over to the Waldbaum’s parking lot, where he waits by the Geico trailer and organizes a group of volunteers to help residents gut their homes. Just days after the storm, O’Grady, a burly 44-year-old trustee of New York City Carpenters Local Union 45, put the word out that he was assembling teams to help residents gut their flooded homes, and was surprised by the number of responses. Since then, he and hundreds of volunteers, which include fellow carpenters, Mormon missionaries, members of Hofstra University’s equestrian team, have helped roughly 100 residents.
Bryan Murphy from Lafayette Terrace, a real estate broker at Remax Innovations, who was displaced when his home was damaged, said that when he saw his neighbors gutting their homes on their own, he created a Facebook page, Sandy Help LB, to match volunteers with people who needed help. Since then, Murphy has expanded his efforts, creating a not-for-profit, Sandy Help Home Recovery Fund Corp., to help homeowners who are under-insured rebuild their homes.
“Doug and Bryan have, since the Tuesday after the storm, stepped up and helped people muck out and gut their homes,” said Michigan Street resident John McNally, an environmental program and communications officer for the Rauch Foundation, who called for more resources to assist the city’s cleanup effort at Vision Long Island’s Smart growth summit in November.
“When [O’Grady and Murphy] realized how great the need was, they reached out and started organizing others to help with this work. Their good deeds continue to this day … if ever there were symbols of selflessness and compassion for others, these two men are it.”
The first responders, firefighters, police officers, sanitation workers and city officials, are also commended. If it weren’t for the bravery of the Long Beach Fire Department, officials said, the city could have suffered the fate of Breezy Point. A fire raged in the Canals and destroyed eight homes, and even when it is was not safe to do so, fire officials made a decision to respond.
In the days after the storm, as residents’ patience with the Long Island Power Authority’s restoration efforts grew thin, City Manager Jack Schnirman explained, “We focused on problem solving, not finger pointing and blame. Rather than running around, screaming that LIPA was the worst, we acknowledged their problems and got a team of LIPA managers in our Building Department. They stayed there for over 10 days, and they worked around the clock with our staff to get Long Beach up and running as fast as possible.”
The Long Beach Police Department, meanwhile, with help from the National Guard, state and county police, worked to maintain public safety, which included instituting a curfew as fears of looting increased. “The efforts of the Police Department to maintain public safety and social order will stand as one of the city’s biggest accomplishments following the storm,” Schnirman said. “Long Beach had all of the potential ingredients for a breakdown in social order. It’s also important to note that at that time we didn’t know how many fatalities the city was going to have.”
And while urban search-and-rescue teams were deployed, there were, incredibly, no fatalities. With Long Beach Medical Center out of commission, the city, in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, launched a temporary hospital where more than 1,000 patients were treated for storm-related injuries and illnesses.
The heroes of Hurricane Sandy brought trays of food, cleaning supplies and blankets to tenants, many of them elderly, who were trapped in homes and high-rises with no power. They risked their own lives and set aside their own disasters in order to help the people of their community. It is their passion and generosity that has given members of their community hope and a chance at recovery.
For more stories and further reading, please visit LI Herald website.
Town officials and business owners of Riverhead optimistic about downtown revitalization
Ever since the opening of the Long Island Expressway over 30 years ago, the Main Street shopping district in Downtown Riverhead has been in a steady decline. Customers were learning that they could easily travel elsewhere to shop and overtime, stores began closing down.
While the opening of the aquarium and the hotel on East Main Street were small successes and optimistic signs of more progress to come, it was not enough to reverse years of stagnation.
However, an infusion of grant money along with the construction of new stores, restaurants, and housing are giving the redevelopment effort in Downtown Riverhead a much needed boost.
By spring, the newly renovated Suffolk Theater is set to reopen on East Main Street as well as SummerWind Square, a four story mixed use building with 52 units of workforce housing, a restaurant and 5,700 square feet of retail/commercial space. That will finally put enough people in the downtown area every day to ensure it will continue to grow, Town Supervisor Sean Walter said.
A $250,000 state Main Street community renewal grant, which Walter said will fund up to 45 new rental units above stores and at least six commercial renovations, has helped Riverhead’s downtown redevelopment efforts gain some traction.
“You have to reach a critical mass,” he said. “We’ve got it now. We’re following the Patchogue model.”
Patchogue, like Riverhead, had a stagnant downtown. But a wave of new development, including new condominiums and the reopening of a movie theater, kick started the local economy.
Some of the problems may have rooted from the opening of the Long Island Expressway in the 1970s, which provided shoppers an easy way to get to malls and avoid parking problems. Some have cited the growth of major chain stores a few miles away on the Route 58 corridor, a busy shopping area that looks more like Centereach or Huntington than rural Riverhead. Others said the small mom and pop stores simply cannot meet the demands of a changing market and group of shoppers.
Town planners point out that Riverhead doesn’t have shoppers regularly walking in the downtown area. But the area is booming, it’s not the same place it was just a few years ago and the situation is expected to change when 600 people come out after attending a movie in the Suffolk Theater, and hundreds of others are living in apartments above the stores.
For further reading, please visit the Newsday website.
Welfare to Work commission releases comprehensive report on "Struggling in Suburbia"
On Thursday, December 20th, the Suffolk County Welfare to Work Commission held a press conference releasing their most recent report entitled “Struggling in Suburbia: Meeting the Challenges of Poverty in Suffolk County”.
Commission Chairman and Vision Long Island board member Richard Koubek gave an overview of the report’s findings and recommendations. The Welfare to Work Commission of the Suffolk County Legislature received testimony on what it means to be poor in Suffolk from 102 government officials, academic experts, agency representatives, and the public. Between May and October of 2012, they held four hearing and two focus groups only to uncover some surprising and disappointing facts about poverty in Suffolk County.
The Federal Government’s definition of poverty for a family of four is $23,050, which only places 6% of Suffolk residents at or below this Federal Poverty Level (FPL). However, the findings in the Commission’s report found that the actual poverty level for Suffolk is 200% of the FPL. Many are the so-called near poor or working poor who earn too much for government supportive programs and too little to make ends meet, especially in a high-cost county where the poverty line is $46,100 and $75,000 is the base line for a family of four to pay for necessities. Ultimately these numbers put 20% of Suffolk households at the poverty baseline.
Specific recommendations such as extended bus service and increased child care funding will reduce restrictions of work shifts due to lack of transportation or child care coverage. Although some recommendations will require funding, the commission suggested that Suffolk County request a quarter-cent sales tax increase from the state and consider increasing its general fund tax rate in 2014.
Empire Justice Center’s Don Freedman stated to the need for a regional poverty threshold citing that the current federal calculation is outdated based on a time when cost of living was based on how much a family spent on food however now there needs to be an inclusion of childcare, transportation and housing costs.
Leigh Scozzai addressed some of the challenges she faces as a mother of 3 year old twins due to the recent cuts in child care funding which have caused her to limit the promotions and raises she can accept out of fear of losing her child care benefits.
In the midst of their struggle, many in poverty have turned to other sources for assistance. Father Briscotti of Our Lady the Miraculous Medal, Wyandanch, touched on his experiences in which previous donors to the pantry are now themselves coming for assistance. This has been a challenge because there has been a decrease in donors while the number of those in need is rising.
Legislator Gregory took particular interest in this report because it affects so many of those in his district. He explained that he looked forward to working with the commission to begin implementing some of their recommendation and hearing their presentation before the panel this upcoming year.
Also in attendance were Presiding Officer William Lindsay, Human Services Committee Chair Legislator DuWayne Gregory, Social Services Commissioner Gregory Blass, Welfare to Work Commission Vice-Chair Kathy Ligouri, and Setauket resident Wendy Miller.
Vision Long Island is pleased to now see a thorough report released and happy that there is regional leadership on these issues. The Commission had public hearings, took testimonies, interviewed folks, researched and analyzed what the needs and solutions are for working families in our region. Vision and other organizations are looking forward to supporting many of the initiatives in this report.
You can read the full text of the report here.
New York State projects $89 Billion shortfall for infrastructure projects
Local governments across the state are looking at a shortfall for infrastructure projects over the next 20 years according to a report by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. The shortfall, which is estimated at around $89 Billion, originates with faster than expected rising costs of materials and fuel.
In DiNapoli's report he notes that over the past 10 years fuel costs have increased at a whopping 190 percent. This includes asphalt, which is up 206 percent, and materials for highway and road construction, which has increased 57 percent. However, during that same time period spending by local governments has only increased by roughly 30 percent. This includes local government's 2010 spending levels, which were around $1.3 billion combined on highway, water and sewer capital needs.
Several estimates project New York will need to spend $250 Billion on its capital needs over the next 20 years with only around $161 billion being available. In order to help offset this shortfall, the Comptroller included a number of recommendations for state policymakers in the report, including:
Advocate for increased funding from the federal government – In the current economic climate, only the federal government has the financial resources to significantly close the infrastructure funding gap facing local governments. Ideally, federal investment should meet or exceed the peak levels achieved through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Consider other pooled financing vehicles – Certain pooled financing vehicles, similar to the revolving loan fund operated by the Environmental Facilities Corporation, could offer low- or no-cost access to capital.
Strengthen municipal capital planning – To ensure the effective and efficient use of additional funds, requirements for local governments to engage in long-term capital planning should accompany any additional aid.
Create regional structures for municipal cooperation on infrastructure investment – Such an approach could provide a number of important implementation benefits, such as savings generated through economies of scale, expanded capacity to manage complex building projects and avoiding duplication of effort.
You can read a full copy of the Comptroller's report here.
Check out Long Island Business News' full article on this subject here.
Environmental groups call for a new plan for Bay Park Sewage Plant
This past Wednesday a coalition of environmental groups put out a 10-point plan for the Bay Park Sewage plant including a public review of wastewater discharge, modernizing equipment, raising treamtent levels, and bringing in outside contractoes to operate the facility.
This call was spurred vy the October 9th Superstorm Sandy disaster that resulted in the plant flooding and releasing raw sewage directly into streets, homes and waterways. In spite of nearly a month of solid waste removal and chlorine treatments, the sewage was not fully treated before being released into the Reynolds Channel, a 9-mile waterway north of Long Beach and part of the South Shore Estuary reserve.
"This is a turning point in the history of Long Island's waters so we have to make the most of this situation here," said Rob Weltner, president of Freeport-based Operation Stop Polluting Littering and Save Harbors, or Splash.
The plan calls for installation of equipment to allow the public to monitor discharge amounts online, obtain quarterly progress reports, and for the creation of a public oversight committee. The plan also calls on Nassau County to seek private contractors to consider treating wastewater so that it can be reused.
"We should be looking at the water as a raw material instead of a waste product," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
According to Nassau Department of Public Works spokesman Mike Martino, the county is in agreement with the plan and has actually been working towards implementing many of the goals suggested. This includes wanting to privatize plant operations which was rejected by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which oversees the county's finances.
Obama proposes $60 Billion in Aid for Tri-state areas hit by Superstorm Sandy
In a move that would bring billions of dollars in federal aid to our region President Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders late last Friday requesting over $60 billion in aid for areas in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
The plan was applauded by Long Island's federal delegation who is pushing for a quick affirmation by both the senate and the house. The aid is aimed at helping states rebuild public infrastructure such as roads and tunnels and providing relief for residents who have been displaced from their homes. The proposal is a blend of aid for homeowners, businesses, and state and local governments hit hardest by Sandy. $47.4 billion would be used for immediate aid while another $13 billion would go towards efforts to lower future flooding damage.
The proposal will provide $11.5 billion for FEMA's disaster relief fund as well as $17 billion in Community Development grants with a priority for heping homeowners repair or replace severely damaged homes. $11.7 billion would go towards repairing New York City's mass transit infrastructure as well as strengthening it in the case of future disasters. Another $9.7 billion would be allocated to a governmental flood insurance program along with an additional $5.3 billion in aid to the Army Corps of Engineers to help lower the risk of flooding in the future. The proposal also includes numerous smaller items and an official justification that clocks in at 73 pages long. Though an initial amount of $80 billion had been requested, elected officials were happy to see the White House
moving forward with an aid package for the storm ravaged area.
"While more may be needed in the long term, this robust package is a major first step that we will work to pass as quickly as possible in Congress to help devastated communities, families and businesses," said U.S. Representatives Peter King and Nita Lowey in a joint statement.
The proposal faces an uphill climb in congress however with many Republicans rumbling on the need to off set disaster relief with spending cuts. Senator Schumer has promised to aggressively pursue legislation in the Senate, hoping to have it passed before the end of the week in order to put pressure on the House.
Read more on this developing story at Newsday.
The Long Island Business Council hears from County Executive Mangano on helping Small Businesses in a Post-Sandy
Pictured (L-R): Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Rich Bivone - Long Island Business Council, Bob Fonti - Long Island Business Council, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island
Pictured (L-R): NYS Assemblyman-Elect Ed Hennessy, NYS Assemblyman-Elect Chad Lupinacci, NYS Assemblyman Andrew Raia
Pictured (L-R): Dr. Nathalia Rogers - American Communities Institute at Dowling College, Scott Martella - Office of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, Neal Lewis - Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, Bill Schoolman - Classic Coach
On Tuesday, December 10th, the Long Island Business Council held a work session at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College. County Executive Ed Mangano was the featured speaker along with updates from other invited guests, including new Assemblypersons Edward Hennessey and Chad Lupinacci, on new ways to help small businesses recover post-Sandy.
Ed Mangano discussed some of the challenges the region is facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; Long Island, not just Nassau, are suffering from severe damages. He stressed the importance of regional efforts and solutions to help small businesses restore their commercial bases and the communities they serve. He called for federal grants to help businesses recover from superstorm Sandy. Now more than ever, businesses need grants since most companies cannot afford to take on more loans, which is what is currently being offered, after having to borrow in order to reopen in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.
“Post-Hurricane Irene, many businesses did suffer but Sandy was a serious blow to communities,” said Mangano.”
He stated that the county has asked for out and out grants in order to assist recovery in the area. The money for these grants are coming from $4 billion in federal funding, funds that were requested by Nassau County, and it is part of the $60 billion sought by President Barack Obama from Congress for Hurricane Sandy recovery. Mangano was hopeful that congressional leaders would recognize Nassau's need and past contributions to the federal treasury.
“We continue to pursue a grant through the federal government,” Mangano stated, “...these are the first steps we are taking in the recovery process, not the last.” He also urged small businesses that are currently suffering to contact an IDA if they are in need of assistance and there are direct programs where businesses can apply for aid and sales tax exemption.
Mangano also applauded the efforts of the first response teams who were on the scene helping those in need and the volunteers and workers who are helping the region move forward to a smooth recovery. “We are subject to all weather patterns that occur, we read about it and think it would never happen here in this county or in this state.” He ensured that a recovery plan is the works and that government officials are working as quickly and effectively as possible.
New York State Assemblyman-Elect Ed Hennessey of the Town of Brookhaven echoed Mangano’s call for region, state, and federal collaboration. He also stressed the importance of rethinking the way we design communities, “our infrastructure is not equipped to handle and deal with the weather patterns.”
Also in attendance, New York State Assemblyman-Elect Chad Lupinacci, who discussed the impact that Sandy had on schools and local businesses.
Dr. Nathalia Rogers from the American Communities Institute at Dowling College spoke in order to give an update on legislation proposed to provide aid for businesses in the form of incentives encouraging growth. This is based around removing existing complications to getting loans or grants and providing a streamlined way for them to enter into the program without a cost. The proposed legislation would create an investment pool allowing businesses to draw funds during tough economic times without penalty or taxation. This recommendation was among many that were presented in a recently completed Small Business Study.
Long Island Business Council is a group of small business leaders who are dedicated to regulatory relief, tax and utility stabilization for the average business owner in addition to infrastructure investments towards our downtowns. We take our message to Albany and Washington as part of the Long Island Lobby Coalition and other regional initiatives.
Pictured (L-R): Tony Mastriani, Greg Fasano - MBI Group, Frank Stubbolo - MBI Group, Julie Marchasella - Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, Barbara Kent - The Corridor Magazine
Pictured (L-R): Michael Harrison - Workforce Development Institute, John Durso - LI Federation of Labor, Vita Scaturro - Community National Bank, Trudy Fitzsimmons - Leadership Huntington / Vision Long Island, Dennis Grossman - DMI Group, Keith Archer - Harras, Bloom and Archer
Pictured (L-R): Deborah Fox - Deborah Fox Insurance, Joseph Monticciono, Craig Rizzo - Bartlett, McDonough & Monoghan, Carolyne Tyree, Gabor Karsai - Landmark Realtors
Pictured (L-R): Peter Florey - D & F Development, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, Neal Lewis - Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, Bob Fonti - Long Island Business Council
Pictured (L-R): NYS Assemblyman-Elect Ed Hennessy, Tawaun Weber - Vision Long Island, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, NYS Assemblyman-Elect Chad Lupinacci, NYS Assemblyman Andrew Raia
Hempstead voters overwhelming affirm Sanitation District
In a special election held to determine the future of Sanitation District 2 a majority of Hempstead voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots in approval of the district.
Earlier this year a grassroots effort had emerged to collect signatures in a petition to have the Hempstead sanitation district dissolved. The effort was spearheaded by several local groups who were hoping to lower property taxes by several hundred dollars. However, of the more than 6,500 residents who voted, over 4,500 were opposed to dissolution.
“As we expected, the people came out and expressed overwhelmingly that they are very happy with the service they have,” said Doug Wiedmann, secretary to the board of commissioners in Sanitation District 2. “It was definitely a surprising turnout. It impressed the guys and we were happy. It wasn’t a close race.”
The special election was made possible due to a 2009 law called the Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act that allows local residents to put a referendum of special district dissolution to a vote if they collect more than 5,000 signatures.
For more on this subject check out the Long Island Press.
Long Island in need of a regional disaster strategy
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the greater community of Long Island continues to pull together to help distressed neighborhoods and and displaced residents who have yet to make their way home. In the Town of Huntington seen some heavy equipment to Amityville to help clear village streets, the Town of North Hempstead and the Village of Hempstead, along with other municipalities, funneled equipment and manpower south to help Long beach, while they themselves dealt with downed trees and other issues.
However, as the region considers the improvements in the Long Island Power Authority and other physical infrastructure, it would do the region well to turn a critical eye back on upon itself. Despite the region’s enviable resources--volunteer rescuers to 13 towns, two cities, and 96 villages worth of equipment and manpower--there was no way to make concerted use of them during or after the crisis. There was a severe lack of coordination or plans between municipalities during the storm, could those less hard hit have moved faster to help neighborhoods in other communities?
While it is the responsibility of a municipality to deal with its own communities first and a cost to sending resources to other neighborhoods, cooperation is an important way for the region, and the residents, to regain footing quicker after a natural disaster. Currently, there is no regional infrastructure to put such a plan into play.
Jack Schnirman, the Long Beach city manager, made a pitch for help during Vision Long Island’s 11th Annual Smart Growth Summit on one of the discussion panels. Some municipalities had already sent aid, while others sent later on. Island Park, Inwood, parts of Seaford and Lindenhurst are among the many communities that could have benefited from a regional coordinated approach to debris removal, inspections, and other tasks.
On Monday, groups began laying some groundwork for considering where the region should go next post-Sandy. They are focusing on issues such as restoration, housing, water, sewage, utilities, transportation, and other essential services.
Meanwhile, a joint committee of Suffolk County lawmakers has slated a hearing for this past Thursday at the legislative building at 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown, to gather public comment as part of its “Post Sandy Response Assessment.”
It would be beneficial to the region to begin plans on a more coordinated municipal response in the event of future disasters or emergencies.
You can read about the recent Suffolk County Legislature hearing at Newsday.
Suffolk County Legislature approves County-wide Complete Streets Bill
A bill was Tuesday by Suffolk County Legislature that will require pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit users to have prominent consideration in any road improvement plan.
The proposal, drawn up and supported by Legislators Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) and Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is based on the transportation design model Complete Streets. It emphasizes planning for more sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bus pullouts, and pedestrian curb ramps. The proposal supports design features which are “more conducive to the public life and efficient movement of people than streets designed primarily to move automobiles and trucks,” according to the proposal.
It would require Suffolk County public works officials, who now use Complete Streets designs on an informal basis, to evaluate its feasibility during every new roadwork project. New York State and several Long Island towns have already adopted similar plans.
“The region’s growth in population and its dependence on cars has led to an ever-worsening grid lock on our roadways, which are some of the most dangerous roads in New York State," Calarco said. "This bill sets the tone for Suffolk County when it designs its roadways. Now we must look to accommodate all users. Complete Streets is a smart program that should enhance the quality of life for everyone."
Following press and media highlights on pedestrian safety and roads such as Hempstead Turnpike, a 16 mile stretch running from the Queens border to Suffolk, state officials have adopted many changes similar to those of the Complete Streets bill. Ryan Lynch associate director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit aiming to reduce car dependency, said Suffolk roads are also among the region’s most dangerous for walkers and cyclists.
“This institutionalizes the idea that pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit users have an equal right to use our roadways in a safe way,” Lynch said.
“This bill, passed in a 16-0 vote, sends a powerful public message. Now we must design our roadways
for everyone, not just cars and trucks,” said Eric Alexander, Executive Director of Vision Long Island. He
added that the program will offer the opportunity for Suffolk County to take a good look at some of the county
roads that are the hardest for the disabled, bicyclists, seniors and walkers to navigate.
The state Complete Streets law, which passed last year, applies only to roads receiving state and federal funds. Lynch said Suffolk’s proposal fills in a gap between the state and towns.
Mike Martino, a Nassau County Public Works spokesman, said all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and people of all ages, are considered in all “new road construction projects.” He would not elaborate but did add that there is a plan in the works in Nassau to rent bicycles in county parks.
Many streets and roads in Suffolk County were developed with a heavy car culture in mind. But the population is changing, and as a new generation emerges, so are their needs. Roads are becoming congested and dangerous; it is important to plan better infrastructure which provides people with safe transportation alternatives and options and to keep in mind pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit users and it can only begin with the redesigning of roads.
The Suffolk Theater’s long awaited opening has a major significance to the prosperity of the region
The Suffolk Theater, described as the most beautiful theater in all of Long Island, will host an anniversary party that marks another milestone for the region.
The historic theater will open its doors on December 30th, 2012 for what event organizers are calling the sneak preview anniversary party. The Suffolk Theater will be celebrating its grand re-opening on February 2, 2013. This long awaited event is expected to have a major impact on the continuing revitalization of downtown Riverhead and will dramatically affect the prosperity of the eastern Long Island region.
“Encore!” the “Sneak Preview” Party features “Footlight Parade,” which was the first film ever shown at The Suffolk Theater on December 30, 1933, with live music of the time by Barbara Rosene and her New Yorkers. The party will take place from 4pm-7pm and tickets are affordably priced at $33 per person with a cash bar. The mood will be set with classic cars parked in front of the theater and newspaper boys greeting entering guests. attendees are being encouraged to “dress in their 30’s best” and the evening will include themed food & drink, costumed revelers & special guests.
When asked about the importance of the opening, Executive Director, Bob Spiotto makes the claim, “this is going to make a difference mentally, spiritually, emotionally and economically in the energizing of this area.”
The revitalization of Riverhead’s Main Street has been stalled as the future of its centerpiece and The Suffolk Theater had remained cloudy, but now hope is restored with the theater’s reopening. Even though, the Town of Riverhead has long been established as the economic engine of Long Island’s East End, its downtown has remained distressed.
Long Island has a history of innovative and entrepreneurial energy, our region is made up of thousands of smaller businesses from high- tech manufacturers to low-tech tourism and a host of service sector concerns in between. The strength of Long Island’s economy is its diverse base of businesses, with a coveted labor force trained in first-rate schools and colleges. Eighty percent of Long Island’s 2.8 million residents now work on Long Island, depending on the health of its economy for their livelihood. This is the Suffolk Theater’s customer base. Market studies have shown that the area is in need of a cultural venue for live performance and film. as a matter of fact there has been a consistent public outcry since the Suffolk Theater was shuttered nearly 30 years ago.
The theater, originally opened on December 30, 1933, was described as, “Long Island’s prettiest and most complete playhouse”. This tradition will live on in this newly restored performing arts center, providing diverse programming for all ages, from live entertainment, music and plays to movies and catered affairs. The Suffolk Theater’s owners, Bob and Dianne Castaldi have lovingly refurbished every facet of the facility to its original concept and beyond and soon everyone will get a peek at this restoration to greatness.
The party starts at 4pm. Tickets are available online or by calling the theater Box Office. For additional information please contact Susan Hackett, 631-727-4343.
Call to Action was heard and delivered
Long Island communities have come together to cleanup and rebuild after Sandy. We witnessed this firsthand when at the 2012 Smart Growth Summit our Towns and Villages pulled together to assist the City of Long Beach with clean up. We have seen firsthand many of the contractors in attendance take their time to volunteer and help. We have seen firsthand the number of volunteers across LI that are cleaning and gutting people’s homes. We have seen firsthand on Main Streets the number of small businesses donating services, supplies and serving as a critical hub of activity to help their fellow Long Islanders.
This is the real story after Sandy - municipalities, community groups, small business and individual residents helping each other. This was critical particularly when many of the traditional systems of aid broke down. We will need to work together not just in the cleanup phase but securing needed infrastructure dollars for our region moving forward and in rebuilding our local communities.
Vision is very thankful to continue to work with local communities and small business to assist in these efforts moving forward. If you want to assist in cleanups, lobbying for critical infrastructure needs or to assist planning and design of your local community please contact our office at 631-261-0242 or email@example.com.
Vision Long Island would like to extend a special thank you to the over 150 folks who volunteered last weekend for clean ups around Long Island. We had groups in Long Beach, Lindenhurst, Mastic Beach, Sayville, Island Park and Freeport. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and did what was needed whether it be cleaning yards, ripping out sheetrock, gutting homes, cleaning mold - you name it folks did it and it was extremely impressive.
Special thanks to the following groups who had volunteers out: Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Sustainability Institute at Molloy, Camp Bulldog in Lindenhurst, Leadership Huntington, Young Professionals Group of the Melville Chamber of Commerce, Sayville Chamber of Commerce, Freeport Chamber of Commerce, the Long Islander, LI Business Council, Ethical Humanist Society of LI, YES. Thanks to two anonymous donors who helped pay for supplies, donations from Northport Hardware and Starbucks in Northport.
Stay tuned as we will do this again next Saturday - call, text, e-mail of Facebook for more info or to sign up again.
Long Island Municipalities, Communities and Small Buinesses provide unified storm relief response
Newsday listed many of the municipalities that have been working closely together in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy:
Lindenhurst recieved a dump truck, payloader, and 10 workers from the Village of Patchogue and donations organized by Brightwaters and delivered on a flatbed truck, along with dumpsters and equipment from the Town of Babylon to remove large debris and burn it in their incinerator.
Long Beach recieved help from many different communities to remove more than 135,000 cubic yards of debris as of last week. Huntington sent a dozen garbage trucks, North Hempstead sent 18-wheelers, dump trucks, and payloaders and had volunteer crews working through the Thanksgiving weekend to remove debris. Glen Cove sent 18 trucks adn over 30 public works employees. Hempstead Village was sent 8 garbage trucks over the weekend with crews. Hempstead Town set up a moble command unit and allowed access to a town building in Point Lookout for showers and communications needs for the displaced police department.
East Rockaway received sanitation services and a loaned military vehicle for evacuations from the Town of Hempstead. Bayville had access to Town of Oyster Bay crews, equipment, and trucks.
The spirit of intermunicipality cooperation is inspiring, to say the least. Let's hope that it continues past storm recovery efforts.
Read more on what municipalities are doing at Newsday.
Bolt Bus launches non-stop service between Long Island and Manhattan
BoltBus, a bus line which runs on both the East and West coast providing a cost effective way to travel, announced this week that it will launch non-stop service between Long Island and New York City on Dec. 10, with 14 daily round trips. Tickets are now available for purchase at BoltBus.com. To celebrate the launch, all seats on this route are priced at $1 for travel Dec. 10-17.
“We are pleased to offer commuters this express route between Long Island and the east side of midtown Manhattan” said David Hall, general manager, BoltBus. “With the support of local government leaders, we’re excited to provide the Long Island community a convenient, hassle-free travel option that is unmatched in value, luxury and safety while further expanding our service in New York.”
BoltBus will operate from three locations on Long Island including Ronkonkoma at the Courtyard Marriott, the Long Island Expressway Park and Ride at Exit 49, and the Hilton Garden Inn at Riverhead. The Ronkonkoma location includes a heated waiting room steps away from the boarding area, a welcome amenity to keep commuters warm and dry during inclement weather. In Manhattan, service will arrive at 40th Street and 3rd Avenue, and at 59th Street and 3rd Avenue. Service will depart in Manhattan from 40th Street and Lexington Avenue, and at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue.
BoltBus tickets are available for purchase in advance either online or via smartphone at BoltBus.com or from a driver before boarding. One-way fares start at $1, plus a booking fee. The highest fare will adjust based on market demand. The earlier passengers purchase their tickets, the lower the fare will cost. A ticket purchase guarantees a seat on the selected schedule and walkup tickets will be purchased at full price. All tickets are nonrefundable. A loyalty program, Bolt Rewards, is also available to reward frequent riders with free travel. Riders who take eight trips on BoltBus are eligible for a free one-way ticket trip.
Vision’s Director Eric Alexander said “Vision encourages folks to use this new transportation service. Our region needs as many public and private transportation options as possible and this operation is a positive step.”
At its launch in March 2008, BoltBus revolutionized curbside bus service by being the first to offer on-board amenities such as comfortable leather seats, extra legroom, free Wi-Fi and power outlets. Millions of passengers have experienced BoltBus between New York City, Baltimore, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and most recently on the West Coast between Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and more. For fare and schedule information, or to purchase tickets, visit BoltBus.com.
NYS Dept. of Transportation's Draft Capital Plan misses 1/4 of traffic deaths and injuries and Complete Streets Law mandates in Capital Plan
After a careful review of the recently released New York State Department of Transportation's (NYSDOT) Two-year Capital Plan, the New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC), an organization which promotes the safe use of the bicycle and walking reports, to much dismay and confusion, that this critical planning document excludes walkers and bicyclists entirely. In fact, while all other transportation modes, including automobile, transit, plane, etc., are accounted for throughout the draft Plan, bicycling and walking are never mentioned.
NYBC Board President Paul Winkeller stated, "To say we are puzzled that New York's Transportation Department could develop a capital program omitting bicycling and walking, two critical and increasingly popular modes of travel, would be a huge understatement. Bicycling and walking are primary transportation modes for many state residents - including the young, the elderly, people with disabilities, and low-income populations. Official statistics show that citizens biking and walking are involved in a quarter or more of traffic related injuries and fatalities. These accidents are tragic and collectively represent a tremendous, ongoing societal expense in terms of health care and legal costs."
Brian Kehoe, NYBC Executive Director, added, "NYSDOT's Draft Capital Plan is frightening in its complete neglect of critical transportation modes and NYBC has expressed these concerns to the Governor's Office. Many citizens, including children and the elderly, rely solely upon walking and bicycling. People around the state consistently cite safety concerns as the biggest reason they don't walk and bicycle more often. NYSDOT has a responsibility to at least attempt to address the serious safety concerns these citizens face every day. DOT should amend the draft Plan to explicitly address walking and bicycling safety concerns."
These infrastructure enhancements are critical for the health of New York's citizens and in creating a 21st century work and lifestyle environment that are key to fostering economic development throughout the state. Bicycle and walking are both modes of transportation, sport, recreation, health, environmental protection, energy conservation, tourism and economic development and maintaining and creating infrastructure for them is crucial component to a healthy, livable environment.
Vision Long Island is hoping that this omission is an accident. And that there is a section being drafted to address the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.
There is a brief description of the NY Bicycling Coalition web page of the very high return-on-investment of providing equal safety and access to bicyclists and pedestrians. Click here to view the Capital Plan.
1,000 Long Islanders join together to rebuild
The 11th Annual Smart Growth Summit focused on "Rebuilding Long Island: Climate Change, Infrastructure and Our Downtowns" in response to Sandy. The world has changed and the Summit drew together a thousand representatives from across Long Island and the region to move forward together.
Breakfast Plenary Session
500 people attended the breakfast plenary session. Ken Daly, of National Grid, was originally slated to speak at the Summit about partnership. The focus now is on helping those in the hardest hit areas and restoring and rebuilding communities. Mr. Daly explained his employees are working 16-hour days, some of whom are also living in the impacted areas. He explained that in an 8-hour window during the worst of the storm, there was more damage than in the previous century combined. There were crews out during the storm to mitigate damage and there were only limited issues to a very small percent of the gas system.
Restoration, he explained, is far more complex in this storm, as homes were severely damaged and need to be repaired before it is safe to do so. Now that power and gas has been restored to all of their customers, the problem now lies in serving gas to customers with extensive basement and salt water damage. There are a number of programs in place to assist in damage assessment and restoration. Inspectors and plumbers have been funded and boilers, electric heaters, and furnaces are being donated. National Grid wants to collaborate with organizations like Vision in rebuilding our communities.
Following Mr. Daly's opening remarks, Rauch Foundation's John McNally made an empassioned and emotional plea for Long Islanders to come together to help in long-term restoration efforts. McNally, a resident of Long Beach, was one of the many who were directly affected by the storm. The City is overwhelmed by clothing, food, and water donations and are now facing more immediate issues of removing trash and debris, demolition, renovation, and electrical inspections. Anyone who could offer help was encouraged to reach out to John.
Vision Long Island announced that they would be organizing a volunteer cleanup the following day.
Current State of the Towns and Villages
Newsday's Joye Brown led a lively breakfast panel, Current State of the Towns and Villages, featuring Hon. Jon Kaiman, Supervisor from the Town of North Hempstead; Hon. Frank Petrone, Supervisor of the Town of Huntington; Hon. Ed Romaine, Supervisor-elect from the Town of Brookhaven; Hon. Scott Russell, Supervisor from the Town of Southold; Hon. Steve Flotteron, Councilman from the Town of Islip; Hon. Jim Dunleavy, Councilman from the Town of Riverhead; Hon. Paul Pontieri, Mayor of the Village of Patchogue; Hon. Ralph Suozzi, Mayor of the City of Glen Cove; Hon. Wayne Hall, Mayor of the Village of Westbury; Jack Schnirman, City Manager of Long Beach; and Warren Tackenberg, Nassau County Village Offficials Association.
Brown first thanked the elected officials for being the first line of communication and the glue for us. Everyone on the panel had been extremely attentive to their communities.
When questioned about who should be the next head of LIPA, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said that there needs to be a complete reconsideration of how we do utilities and that we should focus on smart re-growth. The whole notion of what we do as a community has changed and time will tell how we handle it.
The panel was asked about the current state of their municipalities.
Hon. Paul Pontieri, Mayor of the Village of Patchogue, said that his community was very lucky. They escaped the storm with some flooding, but an in-tact substation that restored power to most residents within 48 hours. Once the infrastructure was secured, they went through the neighborhood to help those residents paralysed by the damage and trauma of the storm. He encouraged everyone who could help to do so.
Jack Schnirman, City Manager from Long Beach, said that his community was in ruins, having lost all of their critical infrastructure - the beach, bay, and boardwalk. The power was out. The ocean met the bay in the middle of the city and there is catastrophic destruction. Today, they have clean water, sewage systems are pumping again, the power is on, trains are running, and schools are open. There has been an incredible amount of progress but so much more still needs to be done: there is so-called Mt. Sandy, a huge pile of sand that was removed from the streets and piles of trash and remains of gutted homes lining the streets that sanitation works just cannot keep up with. Cleanup efforts are expected to cost $100 million. Schnirman thanked everyone for the overwhelming support they have showed Long Beach and the surrounding communities. They are going to rebulid "smarter, safter, stronger" than before, with everyone's help. There is a huge opportunity to redo downtown along the waterfront with master developers and the army corp of engineers and FEMA. It's now uplifiting to think about rebuilding and supporting local businesses again.
Schnirman went on to admit lessons learned from the storm: people shouldn't have generators on their first floors. LIPA shouldn't have substations or critical infrastructure on the waterfront. We need to invest in elevtating those things; FEMA regulations about putting homes on stilts helped, though the ruling was controversial.
Councilman John Dunleavy explained that in Riverhead, residents were also lucky. The storm left them discomforted, most without power for 1-6 days but sustaining minimal damage. The worst damage was from storm surge at the mouth of the Peconic River, where all waterfront homes sustained water damage. 15 feet of cliffs washed away and cannot be restored, leaving houses closer to the edge.
Warren Tackenberg, of the Nassau County Village Officials Association which represents 64 villages in Nassau County, said that some villages were decimated and it will take a long time to recover. Emergency management organizations were spectacular in the wake of the storm. He worked for 2 days in the Bethpage emergency management office and could walk across the room to talk to all agencies and involved parties.
Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi said that his city got off easy and were more inconvenienced than devestated. There were some people who were without power for two weeks and there were spots with significant water damage, but he and his city are thankful for the assistance they got. They were proactive and reinforced some of their power grid ahead of the storm and those lines are still standing. Grid maintenence needs to be more aggressive moving forward.
Islip Town Councilman Steve Flotteron spoke on the destruction seen both on the mainland and Great South Bay, particularly on Fire Island, where major services such as electric, water, and septic were all destroyed. The fear was that after washoever, septic tanks without covers pose a risk for people walking on them. Within 3 days of the storm, all homes were quickly inspected with safety ratings. LIPA had trouble restoring power. Tides are higher now and there are bigger storms. People's complaints about blocking views because of tall houses are moot now.
Rich Schaffer, Supervisor of the Town of Southold, said that his community really dodged a bullet, considering they are surrounded by water on three sides. They had some damage, but what came out of it was an open dialogue on wind code allocations for farms and talk on renewable energy. Once our neighbors are all safe, we need to have a serious discussion on infrastructure on Long Island. Some houses that were washed away cannot be rebulit due to water zoning codes and there are ecosystem hazards with fuel tanks having been swept away into the water during the storm.
Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall said the worst of the damage in his community came from downed trees on houses and roadways. He and his residents were frustrated by LIPA's lack of communication following the storm - contact numbers led nowhere and residents started calling his personal cell phone trying to get information. Everyone now has power and trees are finally being removed. He does not think that people should be charged right now for rebuilding permits. Now that the Village is up and running, he is offering their resources, such as sanitation trucks, to places like Long Beach.
Brookhaven Supervisor-elect Ed Romaine said that the majority of Fire Island lies in the Town of Brookhaven and along with that, Mastic Beach was devestated. The North Shore has flooding in Port Jeff and there is coastal erosion and many trees down. Most of the oil tanks were not buried and floated during the storm, spilling oil everywhere. The smell from that and overflowing cesspools was overwhelming. The highway department and LIPA did not properly coordinate on downed lines and he felt that the wires could have been cleared sooner if they knew if they were live or not. It was obvious that infrastructure played a major role in the storm's aftermath - those who lived in condos with buried power lines did not lose power. “There will never be a development built in Brookhaven Town without a requirement to bury utilities.” Major concerns right now are treatment plants, coastal erosion, and drainage system with pollutants into the bays.
Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said that it would cost several billions of dollars to bury power lines, which is a minimal impact compared to neighbors. Right now, debris is a big concern. There are many lessons learned after Sandy that we should have learned in storms past: did we really have a coordinated emergency plan? Were all of our resources together, including local, state, federal, National Grid and LIPA, schools, and hospitals? In storms past, no one could imagine 'the big one,' a storm where communication would break down and plans would not work. Social media was the best and most effective way of reaching residents following the storm. As a former regional director of FEMA, Petrone managed the aftermath of Hurricane Gloria. There was talk then about mitigation and not rebuilding in an area that you know will get hit again. $30 billion has been spent on this storm already. LIPA estimated that it would cost $33 billion to bury the wires. We have to change, especially after millions more dollars were spent after Irene to repair poles and lines that came down again. If we believe in Smart Growth and the strategies that we talk about, he said that we need to take care of the basics, especially in terms of infrastructure. Most Long Islanders would gladly contribute $100-200 additionally a year to bury the lines and avoid another situation like the one from which we're finally emerging. We have to keep the momentum going before people get lost in the holidays and forget that this happened.
Supervisor Kaiman added that there are consequences to everything we do. When we require people to build underground wires, increase building costs, and density, it increases opposition and there runs the risk of getting nothing done. There were a lot of power outages in North Hempstead, but he thought there was good intragovernmental communication, though there was a definite disconnect with residents. There needs to be an investment in a better regional approach; we cannot just put it all into the private sector. We still need to approve building permits and the like, but we can't say 'don't rebuild along the coast anymore' or 'don't chop down any more trees.' The aftermath of this storm is full of contradictions and there's no one outlet on which to place all the blame and responsibility. We need a master plan and organizations such as Vision Long Island and the decision makers on Long Island to stay ahead of the curve, working with unions and all levels of government. There is great potential to see major improvements over the next few years.
Supervisor Petrone added that both county executives showed that they are capable of leading. They can be a gateway to begin to rebuild. Let them be the "canopy of the region," as he put it by helping and working with them.
Councilman Flotteron said that before the storm, we were talking about sewering and this gives us a great opportunity to push sewer problems along with electric issues to the forefront. We have the attention of the President and the NYS Governor. Let's show them why we need the investment in infrastructure improvements beyond the immediate needs of the marinas and ferry terminals.
Supervisor Kaiman added that transportation is a key problem. When they shut down bridges and tunnels, we really were an island. No one could come and help. When it came to transportation, sewering, sheltering the displaced, and water, Nassau's resources broke down on the South Shore.
When questioned about doing an infrastructure bond, many of the officials were hesitant because of roadblocks and questions about where the funding is actually going or how much red tape would be involved. In all, there needs to be better communication and coordination between municipalities, state, and federal governments, along with utilities and other service providers.
The storm is leaving almost everyone with a crippling deficit. Suggested solutions include shifting the way tax dollars are distributed, revamping budgets, asking FEMA for further assistance, and rebuilding infrastructure to ensure that this kind of disaster is more preventable in the future, without overburdening residents.
There were 17 workshops that took place throughout the day. Stay tuned for a full write-up in the coming days.
During the plenary lunch session, things kicked off with Angela Powers singing the Star Spangled Banner and Reverend Shirley Saunders blessing the food.
Randi Dresner of Long Island Harvest spoke first, explaining her organization's efforts after the storm. They have been on the ground every day since the hurricane, even though all of their staff was also affected by the storm and have seen incredibly inspirational people from across the country coming to help Long Island. Right now, they are distributing food door-to-door to those in need and to first responders, many of whom were long-time donors to the organization. 1.5 million pounds of food has been moved so far. For more information on the company, Ms. Dresner directed attendees to Island Harvest's website and to the new text-to-donate program by having people text "hunger" to 266266. They were also accepting donations at the Summit.
Vision Long Island, in coordination with Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Neighborhood Network, organized the first in a series of cleanup efforts the day after the Summit in four locations: Mastic Beach, Long Beach, Island Park, and Lindenhurst.
Eric Alexander, Vision's Executive Director, announced the results of a new poll done in conjuction with Stony Brook. 43% of Long Islanders now would prefer to live in some kind of mixed-use area over sprawl. Baby boomers and liberals are more likely to want this kind of development as well. Looking at these results as compared to the same poll conducted five years ago, the desire to live in mixed-use is growing.
Speaking on behalf of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Hempstead Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino apologized for not being able to make it, as he and the rest of county officials have been working day and night on storm restoration. It's hard to believe the destruction out there. He echoed something Ms. Dresner had said, that out of the ashes rises the phoenix. He commended Long Islanders for coming together, donating time and money to help each other, but reminded them that we are looking at full recovery in as long as 3 to 5 years. There is an opportunity, he said, to reinvent Long Island to make it stronger and more durable. Smart Growth ideas are needed. Businesses that need help were encouraged to visit nassaubackinbusiness.org, set up in conjunction with the IDA. So far, over 1,100 businesses have reached out for assistance.
Councilman Ambrosino also revealed that the Master Developer for the Nassau Hub would be revealed the following Tuesday at noon.
Mr. Alexander spoke next on local officials coming together to make a unified decision about infrastructure and how to work together for funding. The market wants change.
Don Monti, of Renaissance Downtowns, made his featured presentation about bringing Smart Growth development decisions down to the local level to real people and communities. He began by thanking our county executives for getting going when the going got tough in an unprecidented situation. Mr. Monti said that he was there to address climate change and infrastructure. Downtowns are a great part of the solution. Before we move forward, we must look back at our roots, such as the Village of Hempstead from 100 years ago and 50 years of disinvestment leading to the run-down situation in which we find many of our downtowns.
Long Island's problems are multifaceted. Sprawl was a 'great idea' when William Levitt proposed it, he said, but today it is out of balance. We are not happy sitting in traffic and congestion every day. Adding to the problems are the changing weather patterns. The storm of the century has now become the storm of the year. Beyond that, our young people are continuing to leave the Island in droves. Unemployment and housing prices are not keeping pace nationally. He said we must preserve the suburban dream, but added that we must bring it back into balance.
As, what Mr. Monti called himself, a "recovered developer,"he admitted that he contributed to some of these problems. During the Glen Isle project, he had an epiphany and realized that development had to be about open space, transit-oriented development, mixed-use, and market development. "This is what people want today. It is the new norm. We have to get used to that. It's OK," he said. His company is now working on projects of regional significance in Glen Cove and Hempstead, with the hopes of Huntington Station soon joining those ranks. There needs to be bipartisan support, along with form-based codes, public-private partnerships, and community stakeholders who want to get things done.
He spoke of smart transit-oriented development design, noting that simply because someone builds apartments near a train station does not mean that young people are going to want to live there. We must entice businesses to come back and set up shop in our downtowns, Everyone needs to get on board in a unified development approach. Process has to be put before the plan to engage people early on by using tools like crowdsourcing and grassroots social media campaigns.
As the country grows, suburban downtowns stand to gain. Rentals are going to become more prevalent, as the average in the region is nearly double what it is on Long Island today, which is more populated than 16 states. Look to places like Great Neck, Garden City, and Rockville Centre, where there are higher concentrations of rentals established before NIMBYism took hold. We are also making progress, he said, thanks to projects started in the Village of Patchogue, Glen Cove, Hempstead, Ronkonkoma, and Huntington Station.
A single downtown can create 3,500 permanent jobs, 10,000 construction jobs, millions of dollars in state and federal infrastructure grants, millions of dollars in positive tax impacts, and a billion dollars in revenue.
He concluded by saying that the Summit should be a call to action to stop blaming political leaders and to start working with them, using the power of the private sector to convert apathy to energy and activate the silent majority. He wants everyone to take charge after the Summit and continue it, kicking off a regional effort instead of letting it fizzle out that is more of a co-opetition rather than a competition. Change is an opportunity to do things better and we need to embrace that.
After Don Monti's empassioned presentation, John Cameron of Cameron Engineering, Long Island Regional Planning Council, and NY Works spoke briefly on New York Works, where he is the sole Long Island appointee. He works to ensure Long Island gets its fair share, as the Island is a major economic engine for the entire state. He then said that the Governor looked at how the state spent infrastructure dollars. There were 47 agencies and authorities involved at various levels and Gov. Cuomo was concerned that the money was not being spent optimally or entirely wisely. NY Works is working with consultants to find best management practices on spending money and coordination between entities. Agencies do not talk to each other and there needs to be a plan to coordinate spending or else we will never reach a goal.
With growing needs across the state, we need to look at alternate financing structures. New York currently has a 4% cap on debt and a statutory limit on borrowing and we are rapidly approaching that limit. The infrastructure bank did not pass at the federal level. We must optimize how the state does capital planning and how local municipalities do it. With FEMA dollars coming in, NY Works hopes to coordinate those funds between agencies and localities to focus on infrastructure.
Mark Nikita, member of the CNU and Mayor of Birmingham, MI spoke briefly about his experiences in the Detroit area working with placemaking initiatives, the built environment, mixed-use and pedestrian development as a path to prosperity. He came at all of this from his background as an urban designer and architect.
The luncheon ended with a rally cry to work together to get focused on smart infrastructure improvements.
A full post-event write-up regarding the Smart Growth Summit will follow.
Press coverage is still coming in, but read more about the Summit in Newsday here.
Photos Donated by Bill Moseley/bbaphotography.com
Disaster Relief & Community Update
Many downtowns have power and are slowly back in business
Vision has heard from residents and businesses in downtowns across Long Island that have power and are slowly recovering from the storm. To date we have heard from about 45 downtown business districts that are at least partially up and running, which include:
NASSAU: Bellmore, Baldwin, Bethpage, Carle Place, Farmingdale, Freeport, Garden City, Glen Cove, Great Neck, Hempstead, Hewlett, Hicksville, Manhasset, Massapequa, Massapequa Park, Merrick, Mineola, Oyster Bay, Port Washington, Rockville Centre, Roslyn, Seacliff, Seaford, Syosset, Valley Stream, Wantaugh and Westbury
SUFFOLK: Amityville, Babylon, Bayshore, Bellport, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, East Northport, Greenlawn, Greenport, Huntington, Huntington Station, Kings Park, Lake Ronkonkoma, Lindenhurst, Mastic Beach, Northport, Patchogue, Port Jefferson, Riverhead, Sag Harbor, Sayville, Setauket, Smithtown and Southampton.
Vision Long Island is collecting data on the infrastructure needs of your downtown. Please forward any and all information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are emergency links in case anyone was still looking for a place to charge phones or even just a place with heat so you can warm up for a little while. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and only what we were able to find out via word-of-mouth. Please contact us if your downtown business district is back online.
Disaster Relief Updates
Governor Cuomo has also created a Digital Storm Watch page on his homepage, which you can view here.
LIPA's full Storm update below, as of 2:00 pm November 5th:
Storm Progress - November 5, 2012 - 2PM
As we committed, power has been restored to over 700,000 customers as of last night. Our efforts remain focused on restoring power to all customers.
Restoration work continues around the clock, seven days a week, with over11,000 workers dedicated to this effort. This includes more than 7,000linemen and tree trim crews from all over the country, some of whom have been airlifted in by the National Guard. Additional assistance continues to arrive.
Power to tens of thousands of customers is being restored daily and we are on schedule to reach our next major milestone of restoring power for90% of all customers by this Wednesday, November 7th.
As we restore service across Long Island, top priorities include:
In severely flooded areas, many homes and businesses currently may be unable to receive power. LIPA is working with local authorities to determine when they will be fit to safely receive electric service.
the most severely damaged areas in and around Brookville, St. James and Port Jefferson. While we continue to restore service in these areas, we urge customers to plan for the potential that power restoration could extend a week or more beyond November 7th.
Critical health facilities, areas of public safety, schools, and key components of the electric system.
Other restoration priorities remain critical health facilities, areas of public safety, schools, and key components of the electric system.
Please stay clear of crews working in your neighborhood. Power restoration work requires well-established safety procedures, including clearance zones around work sites.
If you see ANY downed wire, treat it as if it is a live electric wire, stay away from it, and report it to LIPA immediately at 1-800-490-0075 or 631-755-6900. Keep in mind that wires can become entangled in and hidden from view by storm debris.
Stay tuned to local media for information and we will continue to update information on this site.
The Rockaways, the South Shore, and Fire Island
These communities were hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy and they remain a restoration priority. Safety remains a big concern as many homes and businesses have been flooded severely. This raises a potential safety risk due to possible water intrusion into electric panels, wiring, and appliances.
In the Rockaways: LIPA has mobilized more than 100 restoration crews and established an operation center in Rockaway Beach. Teams made up of LIPA and National Grid employees, Fire Marshalls, NYPD, electricians, and plumbers are performing door-to-door electrical and plumbing inspections to determine if power can be restored or if repairs are needed first. We are also working closely with the NYPD, FDNY, and NYCHA to provide power for traffic safety and streetlights.
On the south shore and Fire Island: LIPA has restored power to most of the main lines that supply electricity along a west to east boundary across the south shore of Long Island established by Atlantic Avenue, Merrick Road and Montauk Highway. We are developing a plan and working with the local communities to identify and implement a process to safely restore power. In Long Beach, we are developing plans with the City to identify and implement a process to safely restore power.
We offer these tips for our customers:
To find a shelter near you, text SHELTER and your zip code to #43362 (4FEMA). Or, you can reach the American Red Cross at 1.877.733.2767.
Working around potentially live electric wires is extremely dangerous. Please do not take it upon yourself to clear blocked roads and remove downed trees. We ask you to be patient and wait for experienced crews to arrive.
All LIPA and National Grid employees carry identification badges, and almost all restoration work can be completed without entering your home. For your own safety, please check the ID of anyone asking to enter your home.
Stay out of flooded basements, even if the power is out. Stay clear of the breaker box if it’s in a flooded basement.
You should only operate a backup generator outdoors away from windows and vents. Disconnect from the electric system by shutting off the main breaker located in the electric service panel. Failure to do this could jeopardize the safety of crews working to restore power.
Open on Long Island
Vision Long Island has been gathering information on open gas stations, which you can see below. We would remind people that if you are not in immediate need of gas then please do not try to fill up. If you do need gas, but not until tomorrow, then perhaps you might want to wait til later in the evening before venturing out. You can also view information on an updating basis at GasBuddy.com (which also gives prices). We've also discovered this Facebook page where an intrepid Long Islander is posting consant updates on who is open and what the gas situation in general is.
Gulf Gas on the corner of Merrick Ave and Jerusalem Ave, Merrick (right off of Southern State pkwy exit 24N)
OK Petroleum on Rt. 109 at Feustal St.
BP Gas Station on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown next to the Wantagh Parkay
SUNOCO on Hempstead Turnpike and 106 takes credit
Exxon on Old Country Road in Westbury near the Wantagh parkway.
Hess in Plainview
Hess on Jericho Tpke in Syosset
Getty on Babylon Tpke in Merrick
BP, Old Country Rd and Route 106/107, Hicksville
Mobil, Route 106/107, by Northern Pkwy, Hicksville
Shell, 3365 Jerusalem Ave. & Wantagh Ave, Wantagh, NY. Phone: 516-221-1184
BP on Route 107 in between Jericho and Hicksville
Hess Station on Jericho Turnpike in Westbury
BP on Hempstead Turnpike in Westbury
Hess on Hempstead Tpke at Wantagh Pkwy
Mobile on Merrick Ave in Merrick
VALERO ON MERRITS RAOD FARMINGDALE NEXT TO BEST YET MKT
BP on Broadway, exit 30s, Massapequa
Farmingdale: 7 11 on Main
Citgo - corner of 107 and 135..
Sunergy 107 and Jerusalem ave..
USA...107 and Boundary ave..
Gulf on New Hyde park rd and Marcus ave
Bellmore ave and north Jerusalem rd in East Meadow.
Gulf station on Old Country Rd and Merchants concourse in Westbury
Sunoco station on Broadway in Massapequa
Valero, Jericho Turnpike, Huntington Station
CITGO on Rt. 109 at Sunrise
Gulf, Middle Country Road, Centereach (Next to McDonald's)
Shell Station, Route 112, Patchogue (North of Sunrise Highway)
Hess – Route 25A – Wading River
Gas at 25A and Hawkins Ave by the Good Steer in Lake Grove
Getty – Terry Rd & Smithtown Blvd – Smithtown
Shell – Smithtown Blvd – Smithtown
Hess – Union Blvd – W. Islip
Citgo – Medford Ave & Horseblock Rd – Farmingville
76 Gas Station on Carlton Ave in East Islip
Hess Gas Station, Vets Highway, Hauppauge
SHELL, HESS & GULF on Vets Highway in Commack
Millennium Gas on Middle Country Road in Wading River
BJ's on Rt 110 in Farmingdale
Hess on Rt 112 in Patchogue
Hess at Sunrise Exit 59 in Manorville
Hess on 347 in Setauket
Pit Stop in Smithtown
Hess on Deer Park Ave in Deer Park
Sunoco on 347 in Port Jeff
Hess in Miller Place
Citgo on Vets Highway in Bohemia
Citgo on Hoffman Ave in Lindenhurst
Hess, Stony Brook Rd, Stony Brook
Lukoil on Wellwood Ave in Lindenhurst
VALERO on Hoffman Ave in Lindenhurst
Gulf, Middle Country Road, Centereach
Hess - Commack Road, Commack
Valero - Rt 51 in Eastport, north of Sunrise
Mobil station on Larkfield and Clay Pitts, East Northport
Hess Station on Suffolk Avenue in Central Islip
Citgo Station Strong Ave, Copiague
Hess station on Route 111 (Islip Road) in Islip. Just south of Sunrise Highway
Nesconsett Hess Station only taking cars. No walk up gas cans.
Hess on Vets Highway in Ronkonkoma
BP on Portion Road in Farmingville
Valero Gas Station in Copiague on Oak Street
Citgo – Horseblock Road – Medford
Hess – 112 - Medford
Hess – Kings Park Rd and Jericho Tpk – Commack
Xtra fuels – 83 at 112 – Coram
BP - Ronkonkoma Ave – Ronkonkoma
Hess – Islip Ave – Islip
Hess – Wading River Road – Center Moriches.
Valero in Seldon on Rt. 25 near the Taco Bell
Valero and Shamrock in Bohemia - Vets Highway near Sunrise Highway
BP station 1 mile east East of the Sunken Meadow.
Gulf just east of the Sunken Meadow
Gulf station on the corner of Main Street and Edgewood Road Smithtown
Valero - Higbie Lane in West Islip
Gulf - Middle County Road in Centereach
BP - 386 Commack Road, Deer Park, Phone: (631) 940-9107
American Gas - 380 Commack Road, Deer Park
Citgo on 231 in N Babylon. The one next to Hess and Walbuams
76 ON cARLETON IN eAST iSLIP.
BP on 347 in Port Jeff Station
Valero on Rte 24 in Flanders
Citgo in Selden on Middle Country Rd
711 in Manorville
Hess on Montauk Hwy in Lindenhurst
Sunoco in Ronkonkoma on the corner of Ocean and Johnson
Gulf on Sunrise Hwy in East Islip, between Carleton and Connetiquot Ave
Hess on 112 in Medford
Mobil gas station on 347 in Mount Sinai
BP on Fifth Ave. Bay Shore
Hess on 111 and 347 in the Smithtown
Costal 112 and Montauk Highway, Patchogue
Hess 112 and Oak St Patchogue
Usa 112 across from Dairy Barn, Patchogue
Shell 112 and Everette in Medford
US gas. Route 112 south of LIE in Medford
Valero in Montauk Highway in Oakdale
Hess on Montauk Highway in West Babylon
Citgo on Commack Road / Wick’s Road
Shell station at Jericho Turnpike / Ellwood in Northport
Performance Fuel on 347 by Wyandanch Blvd in Commack
Shamrock gas station on Main Street in Islip
BP on Terryville Road and 347 in Port Jeff Station
76 Gas Station Carleton Avenue East Islip
Gulf station on Andrews Avenue just north of Sunrise Highway in East Islip
CITGO... Waverly Ave and Montauk Hwy Patchogue
Shamrock on Montauk Hwy Islip. Just east of Saxon Ave
Hess Lake Grove Middle Country Rd Stonybrook Rd
BJ's on 110 in Farmingdale.
American gas station in Jamesport
Citgo on 109 in West Babylon across from Stop and Shop
Hess on 111 and 347 in the Smithtown area
Hess on 112 in Patchouge.
Hess in Medford between Woodside and the LIE
Pats Farms - Merrick Ave, Merrick
Uncle Giuseppe's in Massapequa, and East Meadow are open and stocked with canned goods, hot meals, Ice, etc.
STOP N SHOP, 55 Motor Avenue, South Farmingdale
STOP N SHOP, Old Country Road, Hicksville
Shoprite in Plainview
Whole Foods – Jericho
Francesco's Bakery 546 Stewart Ave, Bethpage
Uncle Giuseppe's in Port Jeff, Smithtown are open and stocked with canned goods, hot meals, Ice, etc.
WALDBAUMS, 67 Newtown Lane, East Hampton
WALDBAUMS, Route. 25 and Factory Avenue, Mattituck
WALDBAUMS, 4054 Nesconset Highway, East Setauket
WALDBAUMS, 211 Miiddle Country Road, Selden
WALDBAUMS, 1960 Deer Park Avenue, Deer Park
PATHMARK, 2060 Sunrise Highway, Bay Shore
PATHMARK, 399 Route 112, Patchogue
PATHMARK, 1251 Deer Park Avenue, North Babylon
KING KULLEN, 153 Ronkonkoma Avenue, Lake Ronkonkoma
KING KULLEN, 552 Montauk Highway, Center Moriches
KING KULLEN, 5507-200 Nesconset Highway, Mt. Sinai
KING KULLEN, Snake Hollow Road, Bridgehampton
KING KULLEN, 499-64 Sunrise Highway, Patchogue
KING KULLEN, 460 Country Road #111, Manorville
KING KULLEN , 405 William Floyd Parkway, Shirley
KING KULLEN, 1235 Middle Country Road, Middle Island
KING KULLEN, 307 Middle Country Road, Selden
KING KULLEN, 795 Old Country Road, Riverhead
KING KULLEN, 25 Eastport Manor Road, Eastport
KING KULLEN, 1170 Deer Park Avenue, North Babylon
KING KULLEN, 52 East Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays
KING KULLEN, 6233 Route 25A, Wading River
KING KULLEN, Jericho Tpke, Huntington
STOP N SHOP, Main St in Bayshore - fully stocked
STOP N SHOP, 365 Route 109 (88 Golding Avenue), West Babylon
STOP N SHOP, 191 Montauk Highway, Sayville
STOP N SHOP, 260 Pond Path, South Setauket
STOP N SHOP, 385 Route 25 A, Miller Place
STOP N SHOP, 2350 N. Ocean Avenue, Farmingville
STOP N SHOP, 57-01 Sunrise Highway, Holbrook
STOP N SHOP, 275 Middle Country Road, Coram
STOP N SHOP, 700-60 Patchogue-Yaphank Road, Medford
STOP N SHOP, 1615 Old Country Road, Riverhead
STOP N SHOP, 999 Montauk Highway, Shirley
STOP N SHOP, 190 W. Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays
STOP N SHOP, 533 Montauk Highway (Route 27A), Bay Shore
STOP N SHOP, 421 Commack Road, Deer Park
STOP N SHOP, 1730 Veteran's Memorial Highway, Islandia
STOP N SHOP, Jericho Tpke, Dix Hills
Francesco’s in Babylon - 29 John St, Babylon
Long Island Seafood - Route 112 - Medford - ice, hot cider and dinner to go, free wi-fi and charging stations
BJ’s Wholesale Club in Setauket
BJ’s Wholesale Club in Islandia
Great East Neck Farms, 185 Great East Neck Rd, West Babylon
Giunta’s Meat Farms - Ronkonkoma, Commack, Farmingdale, Port Jeff, Medford
Buttercups Dairy Store - Old Town Road and Boyle Road in Port Jefferson Station
Chachama Grill - Swan Common Shopping Center, 655-08 Montauk Highway. East Patchogue. Sunday 11:00am-1:00pm, November 4th, Serving hot food and beverages for all the needy families who have lost power and possesions during this devastating Hurricane. It will be served in front of the restaurant by our staff
Important County links
As of 4:15 pm on November 5th, Suffolk County has released a Storm Update that provides information regarding warming and charging centers for all residents who need it.
Important Town links
Hempstead is also running a continuously updating list of openings, closings and general municipal functions on their homepage located here.
They've also released information on their homepage regarding distribution of clothing and blankets for those affected by Sandy.
North Hempstead has opened a number of warming stations which you can find here.
Oyster Bay has created a special web page for Town-related updates in the aftermath of Sandy. You can view the page here.
The Town is also opening a number of distribution centers for the week, which you can find out about here.
A message for Farmingdale Village Residents:
Farmingdale fire dept will be accepting clothing and supplies as donations to people who lost everything. Please bring down anything you can to fire headquarters at 361 Main St. (Next to village hall). Any questions feel free to call dispatch at 516-249-3710.
The most recent updates involving Huntington Town Hall and Services are located here.
Babylon has set up an emergency information webpage , which can be viewed here.
Islip has posted FEMA's disaster assistance PDF as well as new local emergency information, which you can find here.
Smithtown is providing emergency updates to local citizens on their website located here.
The Town of Riverhead has created an updating webpage here to give residents news on Sandy-related information.
A message from Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter:
A few reports from the home front...
-LIPA has deployed across Riverhead. Restoration of service never goes as fast as one would like but it is moving forward. A good number of residents now have power. In some cases whole infrastructures have to be rebuilt before the current can flow and that is taking time. I get the anger and frustration. I am personally without power too. I can only ask patience and can reassure you we are being served.
-A rumor is going around that LIPA has run out of poles and that is why a return to full service is slow. I have spoken with LIPA directly and that is absolutely not true. LIPA has a more than adequate supply.
-I recognize that if you are in a car for hours waiting for a pittance of high priced gasoline this is of little comfort... but it does appear that gas supply is returning to normal. Tankers made deliveries overnight Saturday and I think we can expect some sort of norm come Monday. We will find out together.
-It has been particularly cold this weekend. Take time to assist or check in on a neighbor and especially our seniors.
We suffered a crippling storm and we cannot expect to remedy that overnight but with your patience and perseverance, by being good neighbors and with the help of countless workers and volunteers. We will get through this together.
Southampton is also currently offering an emergency notification system for residents, either on their phones or on Facebook or Twitter, located here.
East Hampton is currently offering updates for residents on their homepage here.
Shelter Island is also offering emergency information on their homepage, linked above.
Glen Cove is updating their website with new information conerning the storm. Check it out here for the most recent announcements.
The City of Long Beach is also continually updating Storm-related information for residents here.
Updates for individual villages have been harder to come by, but here is what Vision has been able to identify so far:
The Village of Mineola
Most Recent update from November 2nd
The Sanitation Department concluded emergency garbage collections on Wednesday October 31 and began making regular collections on Thursday November 1.
Regular garbage route collections will continue on Monday November 5. Residents are advised to observe normal garbage regulations. Please place only the appropriate collections to the curb on your regular days. Sanitation customers are also reminded that garbage, papers, and recycling should only be placed on the curb the day of pick-up and not left out over the weekend.
CHARGING STATION TO REMAIN OPEN - The Village of Mineola opened a charging station for residents’ use on Thursday. Residents who are relying on cellular phones and other portable devices for communications during the hurricane can charge their devices at the Village Hall Community Center at 155 Washington Avenue, 8:30 am-4:30 pm every day. The charging station WILL be open this weekend November 3-4. Residents must bring their device’s charging cables.
WATER SAFE - Mineola water has been safe for all uses throughout the hurricane. Contrary to misunderstandings that have been circulating throughout the hurricane, THERE IS NO DANGER OF SEWAGE BACKUP IN MINEOLA. The county asked all residents to conserve water use to ease the sewage backups on the south shore. Sewage would not backup to Mineola. Also, the problems causing sewage backups on the south shore have since been fixed.
CLEANUP COMPLETE - All major public cleanup efforts are complete. Trees have been removed from streets and homes, debris has been cleared, and we have begun secondary cleanup efforts. Leaf removal and street sweeping will commence shortly.
Street repairs and other infrastructure repairs will be addressed as post-emergency operations allow.
Although Village Hall has been closed since Monday, phones have been staffed throughout and since the storm. Phones will continue to be staffed 8:30 am – 4:30 pm Mon.-Fri. regardless of whether Village Hall is open.
The Village of Babylon
STORM RECOVERY INFORMATION
There will be a dusk to dawn curfew, beginning November 2nd. Please see the bottom of our home page for the signed Order by Mayor Scordino .
There are surge strips and outlets for any Village Residents who would like to come to the Board Room- 1st floor in Village Hall (153 W. Main St) to charge cell phones, laptops etc. Village Hall is open from 9am-5pm Mon-Fri. (Unfortunately we will not be able to offer this on Tuesday November 6th- Election Day) We do ask that you stay with your equipment while charging.
If you do not have electricity, it is very important that you shut off the main incoming power to your home, so that when the electric is restored, it will prevent any further damage from a surge.
Storage Containers and Residential Trailers, for storm mitigation, will be allowed on residential properties after notification/application to the Building Department (no fee will be charged)
The Building Department will make every effort to expedite any and all permits related to storm damage and restoration. Residents are urged to make certain that any contractor working on their property is licensed and insured.
Residents who wish to make applications for FEMA assistance may do so by calling 1-800-621-3362, or online at www.fema.gov. Residents must first contact their homeowners insurance carrier.
Household garbage is being collected on its regularly scheduled dates
COMMUNITY RELIEF FOR
VICTIMS OF HURRICANE SANDY
IN BABYLON VILLAGE
UPDATE NOVEMBER 5, 2012
Hot food and beverages are being served at the Babylon American Legion Hall today and tonight until approximately 7:30pm. Please let your friends and neighbors know this is available.
DONATIONS ARE BEING ACCEPTED TODAY (11/3/12), SUNDAY (11/4/12), MONDAY (11/5/12) AND TUESDAY (11/6/12) FROM 9 AM TO 5PM
VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED AS WELL:
THE AMERICAN LEGION, POST 94
22 GROVE PLACE
BABYLON, NY 11702
Thank you for more information call Dominic Bencivegna at 646-732-3374
The Village of Port Jefferson
The Village Center is Open to the Community – Come warm up & charge your phone.
For all those who are affected by the storm, we’d like to reach out and offer a place to warm up & charge your cell phone. We have electric & WIFI to connect to your families and loved ones. A place to warm up, hang out and get away from the gas lines. We have a TV and some Scrabble games available.
Free Hot Meals:
Friday’s at 5:45 PM
Hot Food Join your Neighbors
1st Presbyterian Church
Main Street – Port Jefferson, NY
Other Locations/ Days:
St Paul’s Luthern Church – Rt 112 PJS SUNDAY 1:00 pm
Christ Church Episicopal – Barnum Ave Monday – 5:45pm
Christ Church Methodist - Old Town Rd. Tuesday - 5:45pm
St Paul’s Luthern Church – Rt 112 PJS Wednesday – 5:45 pm
The Village of Rockville Centre
Rockville Centre’s State of Emergency is still in effect
The following is updated emergency information:
By Monday night, virtually all of our residential customers should have their electric service restored. If your electricity is not working and you neighbors have power, the problem is likely with the service line to your individual house. Call 766-5800 to have the Electric Department inspect your service line to determine what the problem is.
Looking for Generators
If you have an electric generator you would be willing to lend temporarily, please call the Sandel Senior Center at 678-9350.
Village Offices / Services / Events
• The Recreation Center on North Oceanside Road and the Sandel Senior Center at South Park and Lincoln avenues remain open for heat and electricity, some modified programming, and charging your electronic devices.
• The Recreation Center is also a drop-off location for donations to hurricane victims. Items needed include: non-perishable food, clothing, diapers, toiletries, towels, paper towels, toilet paper, blankets, batteries, and cleaning items.
Updates are being posted on the Village website.
The Village of Freeport
Monday, November 5, 2012, from 11:30AM - 10PM, the Freeport Recreation Center will be open for residents who need hot showers and other recovery outreach services. Pools, sauna, and steam rooms are currently not available.
Freeport Electric is pleased to announce that the reestablishment of electric service efforts south of Atlantic Avenue began early Saturday morning and is proceeding as rapidly as possible considering the extensive injury to customer’s homes and businesses, and utility facilities. At 10 am, crews began an unprecedented restoration effort emphasizing extreme safety to assure that customers would have their electric service reconnected in a cautiously controlled and secure manner.
By 4 PM Saturday afternoon, more than 23% of all electric services in the most distressed part of the electric system were successfully restored. We will continue to press on well into this evening and in the coming days to assure that electrical facilities in homes and businesses that have not been damaged can safely be re-powered.
At this same time, we are also pleased to announce that more than 95% of the electric service has been re-energized north of Atlantic Ave and will continue to strive for connecting everyone as quickly as possible.
The Village of Valley Stream
County Executive Ed Mangano and Valley Stream Mayor Ed Fare have teamed up with Island Harvest to bring a care pod filled with recovery supplies to Valley Stream's village hall tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday, from 10A.M. to 3P.M.
The pod should be equipped with water, food, blankets and other supplies for the residents of the greater Valley Stream area who were adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The pod will be located at the band shell on the east side of the Village Green, behind our village hall.
If anyone would wish to donate new or lightly used blankets, clothing or new toiletries, please feel free to drop these items off at this site between the aforementioned hours.
The Village of Amityville
Residents Welcome to Charge Cell Phones at Village Hall
If you need to charge your cell phone, Village Hall has a table setup in the lobby of the building. It is available 24/7.
The Village of Great Neck Plaza
To report a downed tree or request information regarding comfort stations and/or shelter facilities, please call 311, (516) 869-6311. A reminder, the Village of Great Neck Plaza is also serving as a comfort station for residents looking to warm up or charge any electronic items. Village Hall is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
The Long Island Rail Road is currently working to fully restore service to all branches. Due to this ongoing effort their schedule is in flux for the time being, so it is highly recommended that if you're looking to take the train you update yourself at the MTA site, located here.
Suffolk Transit is reporting that all lines are currently back in service.
Nassau Inter-County Express is in the process of restoring service to Storm-affected areas. For a full list of restorations feel free to check out the list here. November 5th update: NICE Bus is currently showing 98% restoration of service and has begun charging once again. The situation is fluid, so please check schedules at the above link. Below is a list from NICE's website of restored routes:
N15 Service to Long Beach until 5:00 pm, no stops at Island Park RR Station
N21 Route has detours
N25 Route has detours
N26 Route has detours
N33 Service through Long Beach runs until 5:00 pm due to imposed curfew.
N35 Service to Grand Avenue restored with detours
N58 Limited Service/ last stop is at the Academy
Please note that buses will most likely be delayed due to poor road conditions. Please plan extra time for your travel.
Disaster Relief Update
New York State storm survivors who lost their home because of damages caused by Hurricane Sandy may be eligible to receive rental assistance, the New York State Office of Emergency Management (NYSOEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA’s Individual and Households Program (IHP) offers funds to rent alternative housing for a limited period of time while repairs are made to the dwelling, and a free referral service to find a safe replacement rental property. Residents should first apply by calling the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362; TTY 1-800-462-7585. Multilingual assistance is also available by phone.
Applicants can also register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or with a Smartphone at m.fema.gov. Have the following information at hand when calling:
Your Social Security number
A general list of damages and losses you suffered;
Clear directions to the property that was damaged
Current mailing address and phone number
General financial information
Bank account code if you wish to speed up your assistance with direct deposit
Storm Survivors Looking For a Place to Rent
Call the FEMA Helpline 1-800-621-3362 and asking for rental resources by town, county, number of bedrooms, accessibility and other criteria.
Visit the nearest Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) and consulting a FEMA specialist.
Go online to the FEMA Housing Portal at http://asd.fema.gov/inter/hportal/home.htm and searching available properties by location, rent amount, accessibility, and other criteria.
Visit the New York State website: http://www.nyhousingsearch.gov/.
New Yorkers With Property To Rent to Storm Survivor(s)
Call the FEMA Helpline 1-800-621-3362 and provide the following information:
Address of rental property
Number of bedrooms
If the property is accessible to people with disabilities
If you accept pets, and the deposit required for pets, if any Disaster Assistance Guide Updated: Nov. 2, 2012
Household Appliance Grant Program
New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services offers an appliance grant program for New York state residents who sustained property damage due to Hurricane Sandy. The program will help cover the cost of replacing vital household appliances, such as refrigerators, boilers, hot water/heater tanks, washing machines, dryers, dehumidifiers, and furnaces damaged by flooding. Purchase of appliances and equipment must be for replacement purposes only and were not covered by insurance or FEMA. To apply call 877-697-6278 or check website: www.NYSappliancerebates.com
ELIGIBLE APPLIANCES/EQUIPMENT AND REBATE AMOUNT – will be determined post disaster
How to replace documents lost in a disaster
Part of disaster preparation is for people to put critical documents in a safe place. This means placing them in a sealable plastic bag or other watertight container and securing that container where it is best protected and can easily be located. Unfortunately, sometimes even these steps will not keep documents from being lost or destroyed, especially in the event of tornados, hurricanes or wildfires. If papers are lost – like birth certificates, Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses, tax records and so on – New York state and FEMA are advising residents on how to recover them:
Birth certificates: If you were born within the confines of the five boroughs of New York City, visit or write to the Office of Vital Records, 125 Worth Street, Room 133, New York, N.Y. 10013. (A photo ID is required both by mail and in person.) The office advises the fastest way to get records is online at www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords. The phone number is (212) 788-4520.
To download and print an application, log onto http://home2.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vr/birth1.pdf; to apply online, log onto www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords.
If you were born in New York state outside of New York City, log onto www.vitalchek.com or phone 1-877-854-4481. This will connect you to a company called VitalChek, which is contracted with the state to handle credit-card orders. There are modest fees involved.
Drivers’ licenses: Visit any New York Department of Motor Vehicles office. To find an office nearby, log onto www.nydmv.state.ny.us/offices.htm.
Social Security cards: Call the U.S. Social Security office at 800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. For TTY users the number is 800-325-0778, or log onto www.ssa.gov/ssnumber for more information.
Federal tax records: Call 800-829-1040, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, or log onto www.irs.gov.
New York state tax records and New York City tax records: Log onto http://www.tax.ny.gov or phone 518-457-5181
For copies of your utility bills, bank records, insurance policies, mortgage payments and the like, call the appropriate firm and speak to a customer-service representative.
It is also a good idea to make copies of all your vital and important documents and mail them to a friend or relative you can trust to keep them safe and retrievable in case disaster strikes.
How You can Help
In the aftermath of Sandy numerous people from all over Long Island and surrounding areas have come forward to help those who lost so very much. We are happy to provide the following links to organizations who are stepping up to help heal our battered region.
Island Harvest Hurricane Relief Update
Here's a summary of what we have been doing with your support to help our community recover and rebuild:
Beginning on Tuesday, October 30th, Island Harvest started working directly with government officials, first responders, and local relief agencies to distribute water and nonperishable food. Since then, we have distributed tens of thousands of sandwiches, water, and nonperishable food items, including cereal, peanut butter, and shelf-stable canned goods.
Our mobile food pantries and fleet of trucks have started to visit communities including Long Beach, Freeport, Lindenhurst, Bayshore, Amityville, Babylon, Mastic, New Cassel, Great Neck, Port Washington, Bayville, Glen Cove and Shirley to bring food and personal care items to thousands of residents in these hard hit neighborhoods.
If you'd like to support our Hurricane Relief effort, here's how:
1. Please consider making a financial contribution today on our website or by contacting us at (516) 294-8528 or (631) 873-4775.
2. Hold a fundraiser and/or fooddrive in your community! Contact a local business or organization. This flyer will support your efforts. After the arrangements have been confirmed, please register your event.
3. If you haven't already, please register as a user on our volunteer site. This site contains the most up-to-date volunteer needs. We encourage you to check it regularly.
4. Drop off food, cleaning supplies, water, and other nonperishable items to the following Island Harvest locations:
Island Harvest Food Collection & Distribution Center
40 Marcus Boulevard
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Hours: Weekdays, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Island Harvest Uniondale Warehouse (behind the Holly Patterson extended care facility)
875 Jerusalem Avenue
Uniondale, NY 11553
Hours: Weekdays, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Thank you very much for your support during our Hurricane Relief effort!
The Long Island Council of Churches released the following fact sheet:
AFTER THE STORM
The LICC offices in Hempstead, Freeport, and Riverhead have power, phones, and internet access (only our fax machine is out in Hempstead) and are open to assist people with food, clothing, toiletries, school supplies, and household items at:
Hempstead, in Christ’s 1st Presbyterian Church, 516-565-0290,
Riverhead, 407 Osborne Avenue at Lincoln, 631-727-2210, and
Freeport, 450 N. Main Street, 516-868-4989.
Church World Service, our partner in ecumenical disaster response and relief efforts, has offered to deliver blankets and Gift of the Heart kits to any church, agency, nonprofit, or government entity that can distribute hygiene kits, school kits (to keep kids occupied while in shelters), baby kits, and cleanup kits (which include nice big buckets). You can request these from email@example.com or 917-705-3038 or 716-773-7935. They are delivering hundreds of kits and blankets to our Freeport, Hempstead, and Riverhead offices—probably on Monday. Many thanks to CWS for this help—and thanks to all of you who have bought CWS blankets, assembled disaster response kits, walked in our recent CROP Walks in East Meadow, Baldwin, Westhampton, Sag Harbor, Hicksville, Southold, Riverhead, Montauk, Brookhaven and Sayville which raised funds for Church World Service, or sponsored walkers.
UMCOR, the United Methodist relief agency, is seeking locations where volunteer crews can sleep (a floor is fine), shower, and cook. If you have space to offer, please contact Warren Ferry, the Long Island coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 631-875-5204. To request assistance from these disaster response volunteer teams, visit http://nyac.com/pages/detail/1789 or contact the Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, Mission Coordinator for the New York Annual Conference (the downstate diocese of the UMC) at email@example.com or 914-615-2233.
The United Church of Christ can arranged for shipping disposable Tyvek suits with masks and gloves for cleanup work to any church or agency that would like to distribute them. Contact Florence Coppola at 216-736-3200.
The Red Cross needs volunteers at shelters on Long Island and in the city, and they will provide training for anyone who can help. To volunteer for this, call 347-687-4611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Details about this and other places needing help can be found on website for the Long Island Volunteer Center at www.longislandvolunteercenter.org. If your organization needs volunteers you can make requests through the LIVC web site or 516-382-3674. If your church or organization needs help, you can seek volunteers through them by email at email@example.com. They already have registered 100 potential volunteers this week.
The Salvation Army will arrange transportation from 66 Church Street in Freeport to its shelters at Nassau Community College and elsewhere. Those who need shelter—including those without as the temperature drops—can find the nearest temporary shelter by texting “SHELTER” and their Zip code to #43362 (4FEMA) or by calling the Red Cross as 1.877.733.2767.
The Congregational Church of Patchogue, has a wonderful project called “Workers without Wheels” that provides free bicycles (and bicycle repair training) to people lacking other forms of transportation. With it being so difficult to find gasoline in many areas hit by Sandy, this is a great time to think about conserving fuel and reducing the carbon emissions and global warming that make storms so much more. The church is doing everything it can to continue to provide bikes to those who need them. For further information, please call the Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter at 631-475-1235 or 631-891-9908.
Those without power who have cell service or can get to a phone (such as our offices) should report their outage—or any downed electrical wires--to LIPA at 1-800-490-0075. LIPA has no way of knowing exactly which customers need assistance unless someone reports the outage. Assume any downed wire is a live electric wire and stay away from it. Those without gas service, such as residents of Long Beach and Island Park, where storm water contaminated the gas lines, do not need to call National Grid, since they are the ones who shut off service to the entire community to keep folks safe.
Residents of Long Beach and Mill Neck should not drink tap water without boiling it. Island Harvest is trucking drinking water to these communities.
Residents of the Bay Park Sewage District, where the sewage treatment plant failed, should:
--avoid contact with sewage which may backup at manhole covers and basement drains,
--wear gloves and use soap and water for any required clean-up (the Tyvek suits offered by the United Church of Christ can be helpful with this job!),
--disinfect the area contaminated with a 10% household bleach solution,
--discard any items that cannot be cleaned,
--limit water usage and not water the grass or wash cars,
--limit laundry and washer/dryer usage to full loads,
--shorten shower time; and
--limit flushing of toilets.
As Dustin Hoffman said in Meet the Fokkers, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”
Residents with non-life threatening emergencies, such as sewage backup, should dial 1-888-684-4274. All those with life threatening emergencies should dial 911. For more information, visit www.nassaucountyny.gov/health.
The Red Cross has opened Mobile Meals distribution centers 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. with meals, water, and comfort kits at these Nassau locations:
• Cedar Creek Park in Seaford - Merrick Road east of Wantagh Avenue
• Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach - 880 Lido Boulevard
FEMA, which has responded to this storm with admirable speed and competence, has Points of Distribution. Here are the Nassau locations.
Long Beach: intersection of Neptune and Hudson & Maryland and Beech St.,
Long Beach Fire Department, 1 West Chester Street, Long Beach
Atlantic Beach: Atlantic Beach Rescue, 1 Rescue Road, Atlantic Beach
Point Lookout: Point Lookout Lido Fire Department, 102 Lido Boulevard
Island Park: Island Park Fire Department, 440 Long Beach Road,
Lincoln Ornes Middle School, 150 Trafalger Blvd., &
Heggarty School, 100 Radcliffe Road
East Rockaway/Bay Park: East Rockaway Fire Department, 376 Atlantic Avenue
Freeport: Freeport Fire Department, 15 Broadway
Oceanside: Oceanside Fire Department, 65 Foxhurst Road
Massapequa: Massapequa Fire Department, 5478 Merrick Road, &
Marjorie R. Post Community Park Dr., 451 Unqua Rd.
Bellmore: Bellmore Fire Department, 2670 Bellmore Avenue
Seaford: Seaford Fire Department, 2170 Southard Avenue
Wantagh: Wantagh Fire Department, 3470 Park Avenue
Hewlett: Hewlett Fire Department, 25 Franklin Avenue
Lawrence: Lawrence Cedarhurst Fire Department, 75 Washington Ave.
Inwood: Inwood Fire Department, 188 Doughty Blvd.
Woodmere: Woodmere Fire Department, 20 Irving Place
Baldwin: Baldwin Fire Department, 2386 Grand Avenue
Merrick: Merrick Fire Department, 2120 Merrick Avenue
New Hyde Park: Michael J. Tully Park, 1801 Evergreen Ave. &
LIRR Station, Lincoln Ave & Railroad Ave
New Cassel: New Cassel Community Center, Garden Street
Great Neck: Great Neck High School, 35 Polo Road, &
Great Neck South High School, 341 Lakeville Rd
Manhasset: Manhasset High School, 200 Memorial Place
Port Washington: Port Washington, Off Main Street and Haven Ave
Syosset: Syosset Woodbury Community Park, 7800 Jericho Turnpike
Bayville: Corner of Bayville Rd & Bayville Ave.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will help those who sustained damage during Sandy with grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. To apply for disaster assistance, you can register on-line at FEMA’s web site (www.disasterassistance.gov) or call 1-800-621-FEMA from 7 am to 10 pm, seven days a week. They have also set up Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers at:
*Nassau Community College (1 Education Way, Garden City), 8 am to 8 pm until further notice, and
*Edward Bauer Elementary School (315 Montauk Highway, Lindenhurst) 7 am to 7 pm until further notice.
A number of emergency programs are available from the U.S. Small Business Administration, whose hotline is 1-800-659-2955. The application Filing Deadline for Physical Damage is December 31, 2012, and for Economic Injury July 31, 2013. Whether you rent or own your own home, own your own business, or own a small agricultural cooperative located in a declared disaster area, if you are the victim of a disaster, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the SBA.
Home Disaster Loans – Loans to homeowners or renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate or personal property owned by the victim. Renters are eligible for their personal property losses, including automobiles.
Business Physical Disaster Loans – Loans to businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property owned by the business, including real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment. Businesses of any size are eligible. Private, non-profit organizations such as charities, churches, private universities, etc., are also eligible.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) – Working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. These loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period. EIDL assistance is available only to entities and their owners who cannot provide for their own recovery from non-government sources, as determined by the SBA.
For other kinds of assistance and information, visit United Way's 211 information and referral service 24/7 at https://211longislandcommunityos.org/cms/ or call 1-888-774-7633 11 a.m. to7 p.m.
THE PARAMOUNT PRESENTS:
"STRONG ISLAND HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF CONCERT" FEATURING: THE SCRIPT
with Special Guests
Thu. Nov 8th, 2012
The Paramount, located in downtown Huntington, Long Island announces the "Strong Island Hurricane Sandy Relief Concert", a special concert event scheduled for this Thursday, November 8 at 8 pm. The show, headlined by The Script, will include other special guests, to be announced. All ticket proceeds from the event will go to benefit the Long Island Red Cross, to aid in the relief of Hurricane Sandy on Long Island.
"As fellow Long Islanders, The Paramount wants to help our neighbors devastated by this terrible hurricane. We would like to thank The Script, and the other special guests, for responding to our request in creating this amazing benefit show", said The Paramount. "Additionally, in an unprecedented joint effort, our radio partners at WALK, WBLI, KJOY, WRCN, WPLJ, PARTY 105 and others, have banded together to promote this event and help make it a success. We thank them for assisting in our common goal of helping the local victims of Sandy."
Tickets are on sale now via Ticketmaster.com: CLICK HERE, charge-by-phone @ 800-745-3000 or The Paramount Box Office (open daily from 12 noon-6 pm).
CITIZENS CAMPAIGN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT ACTION ALERT
Sandy May Be Causing Serious Public Health Threats!
Help CCE document all of the environmental and public health impacts – Send us your storm stories and pictures today!
We know these are challenging and difficult times in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and CCE wants to be helpful to you and your community. We are back in action at all of our offices and have been hearing many stories about public health threats facing several communities. We are being told about sewage spills flowing into bays, running down roadways, and entering homes and basements. In addition, we've received calls telling of oil slicks on roads, oil leaks in marinas and boatyards, gasoline odors filling the air, and more.
We want to hear from you! If you see or smell something, say something! We are NOT seeking to assign blame for these occurrences but rather to document the problems and their sources. We're working to learn what needs to be addressed in order to prevent exposure to sewage and toxins and protect public health.
How You Can Help:
Please send your storm stories and pictures about environmental and public health threats to us atSandyStories@citizenscampaign.org.
In your email, please include your name, when and where the incident(s) took place, and the current status of the problem(s).
Thank you for taking action. Together we make a difference!
YOUR FRIENDS AT CCE
Friends of the Bay has released a fact sheet concerning Flooding:
Shellfishing Prohibited Until November 13.
DEC Extends Closures of Shellfishing Areas in Nassau and Suffolk CountiesClosures Due to Flooding of Sewage Treatment Facilities and Septic Systems.
The closures of shellfish harvesting areas in Nassau and Suffolk Counties has been extended, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. These temporary closures are necessary to protect public health due to the coastal flooding and power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy. DEC had initially implemented the shellfishing closures on Monday, October 29.
Effective at sunrise on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, the following areas are designated as uncertified and the harvest of shellfish, including bay scallops, is temporarily prohibited through November 13, 2012: The press release can be read here. The official recission notice is not yet available.
Nassau County has issued a Do Not Consume Water Order for the Water Districts of Long Beach and Mill Neck Estates.
Information regarding floodwater from the Environmental Protection Agency:
Should I limit contact to flood water?
Avoid contact with flood water due to potentially elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage and other hazardous or toxic substances that may be in the flood water. EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services urge everyone in contact with flood waters to follow these guidelines:
Wash your hands before drinking and eating
Wash frequently using soap -- especially disinfecting soap
Do not smoke
Limit direct contact with contaminated flood water
Cover cuts or open wounds, report all symptoms of illness
Keep vaccinations current
Read more about flooding response.
What do I do about water from household wells after a flood?
Do not turn on the pump due to danger of electric shock. Do not drink or wash with water from the flooded well until it is tested and safe to use. Read more about your water well after the flood.
What do I do with my home septic system after a flood?
Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a home-based or small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater.Read more about septic system cleanup.
For more information, visit the EPA website.
From the Department of Environmental Conservation, regarding oil tanks in the the event of an oil spill
If your home is affected by a flood that causes an oil spill in or near your home, you should contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Spill Hotline immediately at 1-800-457-7362 to report the spill.
In some cases, the oil mixes with the water that floods your home. If so, do NOT pump the water out into your yard. The oil may spread and contaminate other areas, including nearby wells, water bodies and homes.If a layer of oil is on water in a basement, you can minimize the amount of oil spread on walls and floors and the amount of other damage to your property by removing the oil before pumping the water out.
For an oil film, absorbent pads may be sufficient to collect the oil.
For a thicker layer of oil, a vacuum truck may be necessary to skim the oil off the water.
Oil spills can also contaminate indoor air. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) can provide information If you have questions; call 518-402-7810 or 800-458-1158. After hours and on weekends, call 1-866-881-2809.
For more information, read here
Hurricane Recovery Contact Information
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (has a feed from Governor Cuomo's office which provides storm updates. Also information on coastal erosion and tidal wetlands emergency permits, shellfish closures, etc.) If you see an oil spill, call
If you use Facebook or Twitter, many agencies and municipalities, as well as New York state senators Marcellino, Gillibrand and Schumer, and many assembly members and county legislators have feeds. News 12, especially meteorologist Rich Hoffman, has been very informative on Facebook. Boating Times LI (hashtag @BoatingTimesLI) is a great source of information to the boating community.
Friends of the Bay is on facebook, and on Twitter. Our hashtag is @friendsofthebay.
AARP New York warns of Sandy scams
Watch out for Rip-off Repairmen Offering Help When You Need it Most – AARP Offers Tips to Avoid Common Contractor Scams
NEW YORK, New York – In the aftermath of Sandy, along with repairs and clean up, comes rip-off repairmen, looking to cause a disaster of their own…on your finances. The scam artists are often called “storm chasers,” as they descend almost immediately upon areas hit hard by natural disasters. Today, AARP New York is warning consumers of the all-too-common contractor scams and is releasing some quick tips to help people avoid becoming the next victim.
First, check with your insurance company to see what your policy covers. Save all receipts, including those for food, hotel or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Then, consider these tips before hiring a contractor in the days and weeks ahead:
Before doing any major repair, get at least three estimates.
Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured to do business in your area.
Never hire a contractor on the spot. Check out repair companies by looking for consumer reviews on the BBB website and on social media sites such as Yelp or Angie’s list.
Avoid the paperless contractor. Reject anyone who has no business card or company fliers (or who lists a P.O. box instead of a street address).
Get a written contract, specifying what work will be done, the materials that will be used and the price breakdown for labor and materials. Any promises made verbally should be written into the contract, including warranties.
Never pay in advance — or in cash. While some companies may ask for a deposit, consumer advocates suggest paying no more than one-third of the job in advance.
Deposits or upfront fees should not exceed 25 percent of the estimate. Pay them only after materials reach your home and work begins.
The Johnny Mac Foundation and SKI's Open Heart Foundation are teaming together to help those devastated by Hurricane Sandy
have several families across Suffolk, Nassau, the city and Staten Island tha
t we have been in contact with because they have lost everything. If everyone can just bring one item, we can help so many. This is the time when we need to pull together. This is a LOCAL disaster, lets show them how NY pulls together and helps each other.
Drop off locations include the following:
South Country Ambulance - Corner of Montauk Hwy and Dunton Avenue in E.Patchogue. Please ask for a volunteer at the station and they will direct you where to leave your donation. Drop off from 9 am to 7 pm, Friday and Saturday.
Drop off to 13 Homan Avenue, Blue Point.
Drop off at 262 Martha Avenue E. Patchogue. You can leave on the front porch at any time.
Think of what you would need if you lost everything... Think of the little things, don't forget the pets...
Gift cards are priority!!! Toiletries, clothing, books, toys, school supplies for the kids, canned & non-perishable goods, water, blankets, sheets, animal food, etc.
Direct monetary donations can be made at the two foundation websites via paypal, so the foundations can purchase additional gift cards and supplies.
The United Way of Long Island has released a disaster relief fact sheet which you can reference here.
If you are a Small Business and need to apply for Disaster Relief:
Dear New York Small Businesses and Friends,
As you know, Senator Schumer has been fighting to bring in all available federal resources to help New York in the post-Sandy recovery. Pursuant to the Major Disaster Declaration declared for all of NYC and Long Island, there are a number of emergency programs made available by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Please see below and the attached fact sheet for details. You may direct small businesses with questions to the SBA hotline (1-800-659-2955) or put them in touch directly with our office. Please help us get the word out!
Thanks and good luck.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Application Filing Deadlines:
Physical Damage: December 31, 2012 Economic Injury: July 31, 2013
Whether you rent or own your own home, own your own business, or own a small agricultural cooperative located in a declared disaster area, and are the victim of a disaster, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
What Types of Disaster Loans are Available?
- Home Disaster Loans – Loans to homeowners or renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate or personal property owned by the victim. Renters are eligible for their personal property losses, including automobiles.
- Business Physical Disaster Loans – Loans to businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property owned by the business, including real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment. Businesses of any size are eligible. Private, non-profit organizations such as charities, churches, private universities, etc., are also eligible.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) – Working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. These loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period.
EIDL assistance is available only to entities and their owners who cannot provide for their own recovery from non-government sources, as determined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Senators Schumer and Gillibrand outline FEMA relief efforts
U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have released a joint statement concerning FEMA's disaster relief, reprinted in full below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Marisa Kaufman (Schumer) 646-438-0113
November 4, 2012 James Rahm (Gillibrand) 202-224-3873
SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND ANNOUNCE FEMA HAS EXPANDED DISASTER DECLARATION TO INCLUDE ALL PUBLIC ASSISTANCE FOR NYC, LONG ISLAND, WESTCHESTER & ROCKLAND COUNTIES
Schumer & Gillibrand Announce That Storm-Ravaged Counties Will Now Receive Funding For Repairs to Roads, Bridges, Water Facilities, Parks & More
Initially, FEMA Provided Individual Assistance & Certain Levels of Public Assistance, But Not All-- Senators Wrote To FEMA in Support of a Major Disaster Declaration to Include All Levels of Public Assistance
Schumer, Gillibrand: This Full Declaration Let’s NYers Know Federal Govt Is Behind Their Recovery Efforts
Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand announced that FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has heeded their call and expanded the President’s major disaster declaration to include all categories of Public Assistance for the counties impacted by Superstorm Sandy.. Specifically, the Senators announced that the storm-ravaged counties under the disaster declaration are now eligible for full Public Assistance, Categories C – G, which are as follows: Category C: Roads and Bridges, Category D: Water Control Facilities, Category E: Public Buildings and Equipment, Category F: Utilities, Category G: Parks, Recreational Facilities, and Other Items. Initially, residents in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley were made eligible for Individual Assistance and the municipalities were made eligible for Public Assistance categories A & B, which includes debris removal, and emergency protective measures.
“It is critical that FEMA has heeded our call and expanded the major disaster declaration to include full Public Assistance for communities throughout storm-ravaged New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley,” said Schumer. “Providing this full range of federal disaster assistance is essential for repairs to everything from sewages facilities, to parklands, to the hundreds of roads and bridges that were destroyed in the storm, and I am pleased that our communities can know that the federal government will be there to help as they continue their response and recovery efforts.”
"The damage I have seen and the destruction of whole communities is just devastating," said Senator Gillibrand. "The federal government has a responsibility to stand with these families every step of the way to help them recover and rebuild better than ever before. The Obama administration promised no red-tape, and this is another example of the President backing up that commitment. I want to thank FEMA for expanding this declaration and everyone who is working so hard to get New Yorkers the relief they need to get through this crisis."
NYC, Long Island and Westchester and Rockland Counties are now eligible for the following federal aid including:
- Aid to individuals and households
- Temporary housing, where homeowners and renters receive funds to rent a different place to live
- Homeowners get grants to repair damage not covered by insurance
- Under rare conditions homeowners get money to replace a disaster damaged home
- SBA Loans (technically SBA loans fall under IA) – loans are made to replace disaster-related damages to home or personal property, to business owners to repair damaged property
- USDA financial and technical assistance to help farmers deal with on-farm damages and compensate for production losses
- Aid to public and certain nonprofit entities for emergency services and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged public facilities
- There are seven categories of public assistance:
Category A: Debris Removal
Debris Removal is the clearance, removal, and/or disposal of items such as trees, woody debris, sand, mud, silt, gravel, building components, wreckage, vehicles, and personal property.
For debris removal to be eligible, the work must be necessary to:
· Eliminate an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety
· Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property
· Ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large
· Mitigate the risk to life and property by removing substantially damaged structures and associated appurtenances as needed to convert property acquired through a FEMA hazard mitigation program to uses compatible with open space, recreation, or wetlands management practices
Examples of eligible debris removal activities include:
- Debris removal from a street or highway to allow the safe passage of emergency vehicles
- Debris removal from public property to eliminate health and safety hazards
Examples of ineligible debris removal activities include:
- Removal of debris, such as tree limbs and trunks, from natural (unimproved) wilderness areas
- Removal of pre-disaster sediment from engineered channels
- Removal of debris from a natural channel unless the debris poses an immediate threat of flooding to improved property
Debris removal from private property is generally not eligible because it is the responsibility of the individual property owner. If property owners move the disaster-related debris to a public right-of-way, the local government may be reimbursed for curbside pickup and disposal for a limited period of time. If the debris on private business and residential property is so widespread that public health, safety, or the economic recovery of the community is threatened, FEMA may fund debris removal from private property, but it must be approved in advance by FEMA.
Category B: Emergency Protective Measures
Emergency Protective Measures are actions taken by Applicants before, during, and after a disaster to save lives, protect public health and safety, and prevent damage to improved public and private property. Emergency communications, emergency access and emergency public transportation costs may also be eligible.
Examples of eligible emergency protective measures are:
- Warning devices (barricades, signs, and announcements)
- Search and rescue
- Security forces (police and guards)
- Construction of temporary levees
- Provision of shelters or emergency care
- Bracing/shoring damaged structures
- Provision of food, water, ice and other essential needs
- Emergency repairs
- Emergency demolition
- Removal of health and safety hazards
Category C: Roads and Bridges
Roads (paved, gravel, and dirt) are eligible for permanent repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program, unless they are Federal-aid roads. Eligible work includes repair to surfaces, bases, shoulders, ditches, culverts, low water crossings, and other features, such as guardrails. Damage to the road must be disaster-related to be eligible for repair. In addition, repairs necessary as the result of normal deterioration, such as "alligator cracking," are not eligible because it is pre-disaster damage.
Landslides and washouts often affect roads. Earthwork in the vicinity of a road may be eligible, but only if the work is necessary to ensure the structural integrity of the road.
Road or bridge closures resulting from a disaster may increase traffic loads on nearby roads. If diverted traffic causes damage to a road, FEMA may pay to repair this damage if no alternative is available. Restoration of a damaged road may include upgrades necessary to meet current codes and standards, as defined by the State or local department of highways. Typical standards affect lane width, loading design, and construction materials.
Bridges are eligible for repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program, unless they are on a Federal-aid road. Eligible work includes repairs to decking, guardrails, girders, pavement, abutments, piers, slope protection, and approaches. Only repairs of disaster-related damage are eligible. In some cases, FEMA may use pre-disaster bridge inspection reports to determine if damage to a bridge was present before the disaster.
Work to repair scour or erosion damage to the channel and stream banks is eligible if the repair is necessary to ensure the structural integrity of the bridge. Earthwork that is not related to the structural integrity of the bridge is not eligible. Similarly, work to remove debris, such as fallen trees, from the channel at the bridge is eligible if the debris could cause further damage to the structure or if the blockage could cause flood waters to inundate nearby homes, businesses, or other facilities.
When replacement of a damaged bridge is warranted, eligible work may include upgrades necessary to meet current standards for road and bridge construction, as defined by the State or local highway department. Typical standards affect lane width, loading design, construction materials, and hydraulic capacity. If code requires, and if the Applicant has consistently enforced that code, FEMA will permit changes in the bridge design from one lane to two lanes to include access modification for a short distance (i.e., within area of damage). This does not apply to other expansions of capacity (e.g., from two lanes to four lanes).
Permanent restoration of a road or bridge that service USACE or NRCS levees and dams, private and commercial roads, and homeowners' association roads or fall under the authority of the Federal Highway Administration is not eligible for public assistance.
Category D: Water Control Facilities
Water control facilities include dams and reservoirs, levees, lined and unlined engineered drainage channels, shore protective devices, irrigation facilities, and pumping facilities.
Restoration of the carrying capacity of engineered channels and debris basins may be eligible, but maintenance records or surveys must be produced to show the pre-disaster capacity of these facilities. The pre-disaster level of debris in the channel or basin is of particular importance to determine the amount of newly deposited disaster-related debris. Such a facility must also have had a regular clearance schedule to be considered an actively used and maintained facility.
Restoration of reservoirs to their pre-disaster capacity also may be eligible in accordance with the criteria for debris basins described above. Not all reservoirs are cleaned out on a regular basis, and evidence of pre-disaster maintenance must be provided to FEMA. In addition, removal of debris that poses an immediate threat of clogging or damaging intake or adjacent structures may be eligible.
The USACE and NRCS have primary authority for repair of flood control works, whether constructed with Federal or non-Federal funds, as well as authority over federally funded shore protective devices. Permanent repairs to these facilities are not eligible through the PA Program.
Category E: Public Buildings and Equipment
Public buildings, including contents such as furnishings and interior systems such as electrical work, are eligible for repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program. In addition to contents, FEMA will pay for the replacement of pre-disaster quantities of consumable supplies and inventory. FEMA will also pay for the replacement of library books and publications. Removal of mud, silt, or other accumulated debris is eligible, along with any cleaning and painting necessary to restore the building.
If an insurance policy applies to a facility, FEMA will deduct from eligible costs the amount of insurance proceeds, actual or anticipated, before providing funds for restoration of the facility. FEMA will reduce public assistance grants by the maximum amount of insurance proceeds an Applicant would receive for an insurable building located in an identified floodplain that is not covered by Federal flood insurance. The reduction in eligible costs will be the larger of the two reductions just described. The owners of insurable buildings can expedite the grant process by providing FEMA with policy and settlement information as soon as possible after a disaster occurs.
FEMA may pay for upgrades that are required by certain codes and standards. Examples include roof bracing installed following a hurricane, seismic upgrades to mitigate damage from earthquakes, and upgrades to meet standards regarding use by the disabled. For repairs, upgrades are limited to damaged elements only. If a structure must be replaced, the new facility must comply with all applicable codes and standards regardless of the level of FEMA funding.
If a damaged building must be replaced, FEMA has the authority to pay for a building with the same capacity as the original structure. However, if the standard for space per occupant has changed since the original structure was built, FEMA may pay for an increase in size to comply with that standard while maintaining the same occupant capacity. A Federal or State agency or statute must mandate the increase in space; it cannot be based only on design practices for an industry or profession.
Category F: Utilities
Typical Utilities include:
- Water treatment plants and delivery systems
- Power generation and distribution facilities, including generators, substations, and power lines
- Sewage collection systems and treatment plants
The owner of a facility is responsible for determining the extent of damage incurred. FEMA does not provide funds for random surveys to look for damage, such as TV inspection of sewer lines. If disaster-related damage is evident, however, FEMA may pay for inspections to determine the extent of the damage and method of repair.
While FEMA will pay for restoration of damaged utilities, FEMA does not provide funds for increased operating expenses resulting from a disaster. Similarly, FEMA cannot provide funds for revenue lost if a utility is shut down. However, the cost of establishing temporary, emergency services in the event of a utility shut-down may be eligible.
Category G: Parks, Recreational Facilities, and Other Items
Repair and restoration of parks, playgrounds, pools, cemeteries, and beaches. This category also is used for any work or facility that cannot be characterized adequately by Categories A-F
Eligible publicly-owned facilities in this category include: playground equipment, swimming pools, bath houses, tennis courts, boat docks, piers, picnic tables, and golf courses.
Other types of facilities, such as roads, buildings and utilities, that are located in parks and recreational areas are also eligible and are subject to the eligibility criteria for Categories C, D, E, and F.
Natural features are not eligible facilities unless they are improved and maintained. This restriction applies to features located in parks and recreational areas. Specific criteria apply to beaches and to trees and ground cover.
Beaches. Emergency placement of sand on a natural or engineered beach may be eligible when necessary to protect improved property from an immediate threat. Protection may be to a 5-year storm profile or to its pre-storm profile, whichever is less.
A beach is considered eligible for permanent repair if it is an improved beach and has been routinely maintained prior to the disaster. A beach is considered to be an "improved beach" if the following criteria apply:
- the beach was constructed by the placement of sand to a designed elevation, width, grain size, and slope; and
- the beach has been maintained in accordance with a maintenance program involving the periodic re-nourishment of sand at least every 5 years.
Typically, FEMA will request the following from an applicant before approving assistance for permanent restoration of a beach:
- design documents and specifications, including analysis of grain size;
- "as-built" plans;
- documentation of regular maintenance or nourishment of the beach; and
- pre- and post-storm cross sections of the beach.
Permanent restoration of sand on natural beaches is not eligible.
Trees and Ground Cover. The replacement of trees, shrubs, and other ground cover is not eligible. This restriction applies to trees and shrubs in recreational areas, such as parks, as well as trees and shrubs associated with public facilities, such as those located in the median strips along roadways and as landscaping for public buildings. Grass and sod are eligible only when necessary to stabilize slopes and minimize sediment runoff.
This restriction does not affect removal of tree debris or the removal of trees as an emergency protective measure. FEMA will reimburse for the removal of tree debris and the removal of trees as emergency protective measures if the removal eliminates an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety, and improved property, or if removal is necessary to ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large. However, FEMA will not reimburse for the replacement of these trees.
Senator Schumer has also released a press release for today, November 5th, calling for opening new disaster relief centers:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Marisa Kaufman - 646-438-0113
November 5, 2012
SCHUMER CALLS FOR ADDITIONAL DISASTER RECOVERY CENTERS ACROSS NEW YORK CITY AND LONG ISLAND – HELP THOSE AFFECTED BY DISASTER GET FEDERAL AID
With Fuel Shortage, Some NY’ers Cannot Easily Access Disaster Recovery Centers; DRCs are Enormously Helpful Resources, But Not Readily Available in Some of New York’s Hardest Hit Areas
Schumer Requests Additional DRCs In Severely Damaged Neighborhoods Such As Lindenhurst, Mastic, Islip, Red Hook, Broad Channel, the Lower East Side And More
Schumer Calls on FEMA to Provide Additional DRCs, Which Will Help Residents Apply for Much Needed Federal Assistance
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to mobilize additional Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) throughout New York City and Long Island. Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are facilities or mobile units that provide resources and guidance for residents who wish to apply for FEMA and other disaster assistance programs. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, thousands of New Yorkers are in need of federal assistance; however, many do not have access to these centers. Schumer today called on FEMA to open additional DRCs in the neighborhoods that were hit hard by the Hurricane so that residents are given the information they need to sign up for disaster assistance. Schumer said that the FEMA run centers are enormously helpful, but more are needed in population dense New York.
“These Disaster Recovery Centers are a useful resource to residents who need federal assistance but do not know how to go about applying for it,” said Schumer. “While touring neighborhoods across New York City and Queens, I heard time and time again that people do not have easy access to these important centers. Many of the residents, who are in need of this assistance, either do not have gas to drive to the DRC or do not have phone service to call FEMA and ask questions and that’s why today I am calling on FEMA to provide additional centers for New Yorkers.”
DRCs are staffed with FEMA or Small Business Administration (SBA) employees who answer questions for residents affected by the Hurricane. These centers provide information on housing assistance, rental resource assistance, clarification and guidance to questions and referrals to agencies that may provide further assistance.
There are fifteen DRCs throughout the New York and Long Island area. According to FEMA, over 69,000 people in New York have already registered for disaster assistance and more than $75 million in assistance has been approved.
Schumer today called on FEMA to mobilize additional DRCs throughout New York’s affected neighborhoods. Schumer explained that these centers are helpful and provide useful information to residents who still do not have access to phone service. Schumer also noted that with the current fuel shortage crisis it is extremely difficult for residents to drive miles and miles in search of a DRC. Schumer noted a number of neighborhoods throughout New York City and Long Island that currently do not have a DRC but should be provided with one. In New York City, these neighborhoods include Gerritsen Beach, Canarsie, Mill Basin, Red Hook, Far Rockaway, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, the Lower East Side and Chinatown. On Long Island, DRCs should be mobilized to Lindenhurst, Islip, Mastic and South Massapequa, in addition to a number of other communities. Providing additional DRCs would be beneficial to New Yorkers who need access to this crucial information.
Please contact Vision Long Island for updates on your local downtown.
Veteran Housing Project moves forward in Babylon
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer announce today that the Department of Defense is finally transferring the land of a former Army Reserve Base in North Amityville to the Town of Babylon in order to begin construction on a $21 million affordable housing project for at-risk veterans on Long Island.
Northport post office study sought
Last Friday Representative Steve Israel called for an independent cost-benefit analysis of the facility, amid the uproar surrounding the proposed relocation of Northport’s downtown post office and mail carriers, in order to figure out the impact of any changes there.
The newly formed Northport Village Merchant's Association has been working to keep the Post Office on Main Street. United States Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have pledged to work to keep the Post Office in its current location.
Downtowns gain strength in Upstate New York
Many Upstate New York cities are finding that recent trends towards walkable urban places are boosting their residential market.
New investments provide a positive change in downtown Hicksville
Last month, two office buildings on Duffy Avenue in Hicksville were sold to a commercial real estate development firm, raising hopes for progress on a long awaited revitalization of the downtown area.
In fact, there are some more signs of some possible private investment in the area. The town is about to issue permits for a project that will redevelop two buildings at 80 and 82 North Broadway for a mixed use of retail on the ground floor and about 20 apartments on the second and third floors. The second and third floors currently contain offices. Ratnam Associates, a Flushing-based interior design company, which bought the property in 2006 for $3.64 million, is likely to start work soon. There been several inquiries by possible developers about potential mixed uses for a four-story nearly vacant office building just a block from the train station at 35 North Broadway that’s being shopped for $3.55 million. Oyster Bay seems to be on board with adding rental and for-sale housing in the area, as long as it doesn’t intrude on the suburban quality of life for its existing residents.
Proposal to fund cleanup of former industrial shores
On Monday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Glen Cove to announce that a new federal legislation proposal may help revitalize waterfront brownfield and industrial sites in communities across Long Island and New York State.
Mayor Ralph Suozzi said, “Glen Cove has received about $100 million worth of federal, state, county, and city funds that have been put into 52 acres of waterfront.” However, the city could still use additional funds through the bill to do environmental assessments remaining properties in the 214-acre waterfront former industrial area that have not been redeveloped and then clean up the pollution.
Vision Long Island's Executive Director Eric Alexander applauded the effort, stating that "Direct incentives are needed to revitalize Long Island's vacant waterfront properties. We are hopeful that the legislation advanced by Senator Gillibrand will move us past planning stages and towards redevelopment."
Building Regional Ties: Symposium sparks interest in Bus Rapid Transit on Long Island
On Friday, October 5th, Vision Long Island joined with Tri-State Transportation Campaign and numerous other organizations to host a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Symposium called “Building Regional Ties.” Over 100 people attended at the Suffolk County H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge to learn about the possibilities of BRT for Long Island, particularly along the Route 110 corridor. The forum was very well received and participants left excited to make BRT happen.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone opened the meeting with a brief overview of his Connect Long Island plan, and the imperative that LI has to build things like Bus Rapid Transit. Bellone noted the imperative of catering to young people by creating attractive places with good job and housing opportunities. Long Island has the capacity and ingredients to change, but we need to do more and push further. Connect LI builds on existing ideas that are out there now, like the Second Track on the LIRR, a new downtown center in East Farmingdale, and boosting up several downtowns that have transit-oriented development projects coming in such as Wyandanch and Ronkonkoma. Bus Rapid Transit would connect these downtown hubs with the Island’s research and innovation centers. “We can’t grow this economy on a model that brings more cars onto roadway,” said Bellone. “We can’t expand roads more nor do we want to, to grow our economy sustainably.” Bellone shut down the notion that Long Islanders love driving everywhere because ‘it’s in our DNA’. “That’s nonesense,” he said, the problem is that the infrastructure for alternative transportation is not in place. However, we have a great spine in the LIRR system. If we make the critical investments we can go further and grow our region in a sustainable and interconnected way. BRT on Route 110 offers the greatest opportunity we have to create that interconnectedness.
Following the County Executive, several speakers gave welcoming remarks. Veronica Vanterpool of Tri-State Transportation Campaign gave some statistics from the 2010 Census that demonstrated how dire LI’s growth problem has become: In 10 years LI’s population has growth be 3%, less than New York as a whole at 4%, and less than the nation at 10%. The young population on LI is dramatically declining – there are 12% fewer 25-34 year olds, while the over-55 population grew by 22%.
Gerry Petrella from the Office of Senator Charles Schumer described the Senator’s new Republic Airport Task Force, which is working on a redevelopment plan for the area in line with Connect LI by meeting with key stakeholders and looking at transportation options. The Senator has already secured funding for the Second Track project. Now, the Town of Babylon has received federal funding to study the possibilities for BRT on Route 110. Federal New Starts money would be used for the BRT system, which fortunately was preserved in the transportation bill.
Mike DeLuise of the Melville Chamber of Commerce said that a collaboration of government, residents, and businesses must work together to find more effective ways of doing things, and the business community is happy to join. BRT is like “planting a seed” that will bolster our economy and quality of life in many ways.
Mark Epstein of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council noted issues of station access and introduced the “last mile problem.” Most LIRR users are going somewhere on the Island that is not in walking distance of the station. BRT will go a long way to addressing that problem, and will help ensure that we become more than a bedroom community.
The keynote speaker, Annie Weinstock, is the Bus Rapid Transit Director for the U.S. and Africa for the Institute for Transportation and Development. Weinstock works all over the world in BRT development, and showed several successful examples and explained the nuanced features of a BRT system. The first BRT was built in Curibita, Brazil in 1974. BRT systems today are ranked by international standards, including gold, silver, and bronze. Some international systems (in places like Colombia, China, and Peru) have received the gold standard, while even the best U.S. systems (such as Cleveland, OH and Eugene, OR) have only reached the bronze level.
BRT’s goals are first to save passengers time by taking the buses out of traffic, and second to provide higher quality service to encourage people to use the system.
To save time: BRT buses should be aligned in a dedicated lane, preferably separated with a median, and the center of the road is best. Vehicle turns blocking the bus lane should be limited. BRT uses off-board fare collection, some with a gate control, and a proof of payment system to save boarding time. Raised boarding levels with no steps are important, as well as multiple wide doors. Buses must be high-frequency to reduce wait time(and to ensure other drivers do not get angry while sitting in traffic next to an empty lane). BRT should be designed to minimize transfers, and proper enforcement of lanes can increase ridership.
To improve quality: BRT stations should be comfortable and weather-sensitive. The system should be branded as different from the rest of the bus system. There should be real-time and fixed passenger information at the stations. It should integrate with the rail network so you can walk directly between the two. Consider putting bike lanes in the BRT corridor to build a complete street: more bikes or even a bike-share program can help solve the last-mile problem.
Economic development frequently follows BRT: Cleveland’s system brought in $5.8 billion of development along its BRT line, which was previously blighted. Las Vegas brought in $2 billion.
However, transit investments need other ingredients to spur development along the corridor. These include choosing the right corridor with ridership demand and developable land near a mixed-use downtown center, uniform zoning that exists or can be changed to accommodate more mixed-use development, offering incentives to developers, investing in streetscape improvements, and having a political champion to usher in these changes.
Weinstock took questions from the audience. An incremental approach to building BRT does not usually work, but if resources are limited, start with a smaller area with high quality. To make BRT work, ridership typically needs to be 1,200 riders in the peak hours in order to take a lane away. There have been some attempts at public-private partnerships in BRT, but in the U.S. this has predominately happened through developers paying for station upgrades (as a public benefit package). Bus fares are variable and do not impact comparable success. BRT funding would come in part from the federal New Starts and Small Starts programs, with some state and local funds. It is important to make pedestrian improvements to surrounding streets, especially if the BRT is in the median lane.
Vision’s Eric Alexander moderated a response panel of three regional leaders who have implemented or are in the process of implementing BRT or BRT-like systems. Panelists included Eric Beaton of the NYC Department of Transportation, RJ Palladino of NJ Transit, and Lyle Wray of Hartford Capitol Region Council of Governments. Alexander opened by noting Long Island is a community in transition, and we need to bring successful national and regional examples down to LI in order to move forward. We have many of the pieces of the puzzle for BRT now: the MTA and LIRR are invested, the County Executive is a champion of BRT, the Town of Babylon and other towns are working locally to make it happen, and labor and business groups are all involved.
Eric Beaton of NYC DOT spoke about the city’s new Select Bus Service, which is not strict BRT but uses many BRT elements. The service, which includes 6 routes and growing, includes two types of dedicated bus lanes: one curbside lane that replaces parallel parking and one that takes a lane away from cars but allows parking. The lanes are marked by red ink and overhead signs. Riders pre-pay on the sidewalk, get a receipt, and can enter on all doors. Police occasionally check and lack of payment incurs a $100 fine. Traffic lights were changed to be sensitive to when buses approach, and they can stay green a few seconds longer to let the buses through. There has been unique branding of the service and there is real-time bus information available. This has worked in less urban places like Staten Island, too. The result has been a 15-20% faster bus ride, and ridership grew 5-10% in the first year of service. Over 95% of riders say they are satisfied, and on two of the routes there has been a 21% reduction in traffic injuries. Beaton concluded by saying that simple and cheap solutions can have major impacts.
RJ Palladino of New Jersey Transit presented 3 projects and noted that NJ Transit is advancing several BRT studies. One project takes a busy road and replaces shoulder lanes with buses over about 5 miles. It was a low cost to improve existing shoulders but required some challenging coordination with the NJ DOT as those lanes were not built for bus traffic. The project included new pedestrian crossings. This was simple but effective. Second, the GOBUS 28 BRT Lite system around Newark is 12.1 miles with 25 “superstops” every half mile, versus existing bus routes which stop every quarter mile. Stations have new lighting, seating, and passenger info, and the buses are branded as a dedicated fleet. There is signal priority at 14 intersections. Finally, a proposed BRT system in South Jersey has required extensive coordination with many regional stakeholders. Regional park-and-rides are being considered to add new parking spaces. There will be off-board collection, branding with a special fleet of buses, and enhanced shelters. Palladino suggested that in suburban markets it may not be pure BRT. Either way, continuous public outreach is important in shaping any plan.
Lyle Wray from Hartford spoke about CT fastrak, which is currently under construction. Wray frankly noted that BRT changes mindsets – buses are no longer “poor service for poor people.” BRT is a “convenient and frequent transit option that suits intermediate density corridors.” BRT was considered in Hartford to deal with major road congestion. The system covers a major congested road with feeder lines flowing in to it. It is designed to offer one-seat rides rather than transfers. Wait time is 3-5 minutes and there is at-grade boarding.
Panelists answered some questions: there was some ridership growth after implementing the NJ and NYC services. Fares are typically the same as regular transit system fares, some with zones and some with flat fees. To sell BRT to local communities, it is important to start with a community process and let people say what they think (this was critical to success in CT). The timeframe of building BRT can be 2-4 with New Starts funding or quicker with state funding. In Hartford, community and political issues caused it to take 16 years.
The symposium ended by applying the lessons learned to Long Island. A quick audience poll demonstrated that almost everyone believed BRT can work here. Town of Babylon Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez spoke more about local context. Connect LI project leader Jonathan Keyes spoke on some of the technical elements. We are on the verge of having the first BRT on Long Island, said Martinez. The Republic Airport Task Force and Steve Bellone’s vision were the impetus to making it happen. To really make it happen, we must first go to residents and communities and build consensus. Simply, if people don’t like it, it won’t get built.
Keyes added that there is a wide spectrum of ways to implement BRT on 110. We have the ridership demand with 120,000 jobs on corridor. We have the political and community will. A challenge will be land use, as some areas on the corridor could have higher density development. However, we have funding from the FTA for an alternatives analysis on 110. An RFP will be released by the end of the year to study that. Then a locally preferred alternative will be released, which is essentially the plan for BRT.
Martinez concluded that we have all the ingredients. We have political champions working together, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaeffer, Huntington Supevisor Frank Petrone, NYS Senator Charles Fuschillo, and Senator Chuck Schumer. There is political will to change zoning. There are incentives for redevelopment. BRT is very possible for Long Island!
The speakers’ presentations are available here.
North Hempstead holds meeting on vision for Port Washington Main Street
On Thursday, September 20, 2012, North Hempstead's Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio hosted a public meeting at Schreiber High School to discuss the “Main Street Visioning”. Over 150 residents turned out with many asking questions as how this will address current concerns.
Residents voiced their concerns over increased traffic, pedestrian safety, trash removal, impacts to the school district, cost of the project, parking and other issues that they feel already exist and would worsen with increased development. One resident noted that encouraging 3- story development would create a sense that “driving down main street would be like driving down a canyon.”
Several town departments were on hand to address these such as trash removal. Councilwoman De Giorgio and town planner Michael Levine explained to residents that current code allows for 3-story development and that the plan would propose a change in use of the 3-stories. Additional, they discussed how the current plan would address parking issues and provide the town with more controls over the developments that would occur. This new plan requires that each development come before town board and that it is open for a public hearing where the community could provide input. There was also a grant writer present who discussed how aspects of the project would be able to receive grant funding which could be used for infrastructure improvements or as incentives for property owners to make their property owners to make improvements.
Although many residents voiced their concerns that the project should not move forward, some residents believed that the new plan would help the village grow properly and attract more people to their downtown.
Vision Long Island's Assistant Director Tawaun Weber attended the meeting and voiced support for the concept.
You can read a full write up on the meeting at the local Patch.
Suffolk considers changes to bus service
Suffolk County is considering changing some routes to reduce the costs of operating of its public transportation system.
For more on this story, check out Newsday's coverage here.
Huntington Station's "Source the Station" Campaign moves forward
On Thursday, September 7th, over 50 residents of Huntington Station gathered at the local Children's Enrichment Center to talk on a very important subject: What can be done to improve their local downtown. Over a meal of chicken parmesan and penne ala vodka, provided by local merchant Guiseppe's Pizza, the community discussed various options for improving local business, youth services and aesthetics.
For over two months now Source the Station, a campaign being run by local developer Renaissance Downtowns, has been working to gather ideas and suggestions from the local residents and businesses who have decided that the time for improvement can't wait anymore. Some of the more popular ideas currently being discussed and voted for include a retail cluster at the local LIRR station, a book shop cafe with performance space, a local restaurant row, a fresh fruit and vegetable market, a beer garden, and housing for young professionals to name a few. These ideas have all come from conversations with local community members about what they most want to see in their downtown.
The Thursday meeting included discussion on these topics as well as updates from both Source the Station and Renaissance Downtowns. Discussion was also centered around the idea of Source Mobs and how they can draw business from beyond Huntington Station. An example given was Station Sports, a local family-friendly sport and arcade venue that regularly hosts parties from all across Long Island.
Finally, the meeting also kicked off the official start to the Public Amerinities Campaign as well as the Downtown Living Campaign, both of which will continyue through November 15th. The Campaigns will feature members splitting into Breakout Groups that will then brainstorm, discuss and fine tune their plans on the topics with the top 3 ideas earning free feasability studies to be funded by Renaissance Downtowns. Plans for amenities will include multiuse green area, pedestrian bridge, 24-hour tutoring and daycare center, cultural center, roller skating ring, sports complex, and bilingual centers.
Vision Long Island support Renaissance Downtown's initiative in creating Source the Station as well as the local residents who have stepped forward to take ownership of their local downtown in order to make sure that it is a reflection of the community.
For more information on this campaign, or to sign up, check out Source the Station's website here.
Huntington Station holds Annual "Unity in the Community" Huntington Awareness parade and street fair
This past Saturday, September 22nd, Huntington Station held its annual Unity in the Community parade and street fair, an event aimed at celebrating the vibrant local community.
The event began at 11 with a short parade that saw Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, Town Councilwoman Susan Berland and Councilman Mark Mayoka, NYS Senator Carl Marcellino and Town Clerk Joanne Raia all marching. Local clubs, artists, community center employees and various businesses were also present in the parade as it made its way up New York Ave from 15th street to just north of the local LIRR station.
The street fair was a bevy of activity as well as local groups and businesses were on hand to talk with local residents and garner a few new customers. Children were also pleased to see numerous carnival rides and attractions available as well as a portable video game arcade at the event.
The event has become a regular mainstay of the community thanks to the efforts of local community leaders such as Delores Thompson of the Huntington Station Enrichment center and the entire Rosen family, a local family that has continuously supported the revitalization of Huntington Station. Vision Long Island's Assistant Executive Director Tawaun Weber was also at the event to show Vision's ongoing support for revitalizing this vibrant local community.
For more information on the event you can check out their website here.
Sierra Club hosts Community Voices for Clean Energy Rally in Point Lookout
This past Wednesday, the Sierra Club hosted the Community Voices for Clean Energy Rally at the Town of Hempstead Department of Conservation & Waterways in Point Lookout. Long Islanders of different backgrounds gathered under the wind turbine to call on the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to invest in clean and renewable energy. LIPA trustees prepare to vote and announce their decision next week on renewing a long-term contract for more than a dozen National Grid power plants across Long Island on October 2nd. Environmental advocates and supporters were rallying in an effort to sway LIPA to invest in offshore wind energy as a clean alternative to fossil-fuel in the regional energy system.
Study confirms that Smart Growth leads to less driving
A study by a San Francisco State University professor confirmed what Smart Growth advocates have said for a long time: living in a more densely populated area with access to a variety of transit options leads to residents driving fewer miles annually.
According to DC Streets Blog, by measuring Smart Growth indicators such as "residential and job density and per-capita transit spending," the study found that a 10 percent increase in such amenities led to a 20 percent decrease in miles driven. It also did a side-by-side comparison of Smart Growth factors and increased gas taxes and found that Smart Growth was a stronger indication of the reduction. The study also found that if mid-sized cities increased density to the levels of larger ones, they could easily see the same kinds of returns on traffic reduction.
Dr. Sudip Chattapadhyay, the professor behind the study, has said that his findings back legislation in California that aims to "promote efficient land use to help curb global warming."
Read more in DC Streets Blog here.
New York State DOT plans major safety improvements for Hempstead Turnpike
The New York State Department of Transportation is planning major changes to Hempstead Turnpike in the hopes of improving safety for pedestrians, drivers and other users of the busy east-west thoroughfare.
Hempstead Turnpike is a sixteen-mile stretch of roadway [that] goes through nine communities, four downtowns, a college [and] a medical center. On average, 5 people are killed each year on Hempstead Turnpike. Police accident reports reveal that about 500 pedestrians were hit by cars or trucks along the turnpike between 2005 and 2011. A NYSDOT review of motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians from January 2008 through December 2011 identified 326 pedestrian crashes, 20 resulting in fatalities. Vision Long Island and other community groups have appealed to the state for help.
Back in mid-March, NYSDOT began the first round of pedestrian safety improvements, some of which included the remarking of 235 crosswalks and then widening 126 of those same crosswalks, increasing pedestrian crossing times at 86 traffic signals, reprogramming dozens of crosswalks and adding new features to pedestrians crossing buttons.
NYSDOT revealed that starting this week, the state will launch an unprecedented effort to improve safety. Part of these series of safety improvements will include: new crosswalks, traffic signal installations and reprogramming to slow vehicles allowing more pedestrian cross time, fencing in certain sections to discourage jaywalking, the relocations of several NICE bus stops to existing marked crosswalks or planned crosswalks and the installation of 13 raised medians, which allow for pedestrians to cross between traffic signals, at eight locations.
“It’s long overdue. With the number of crashes and fatalities in last five to 10 years the Department of Transportation has to make these improvements,” said State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “The Department of Transportation is going to have continue to monitor Hempstead Turnpike as well as Sunrise Highway and other thorough ways throughout Long Island.”
Vision Long Island's Executive Director Eric Alexander also weighed in on the need for safety improvements, noting that Hempstead Turnpike is a “Sixteen-mile stretch of roadway [that] goes through nine communities, four downtowns, a college [and] a medical center.”
After the improvements along the turnpike, NYSDOT will move on to other roadways, with specific focus on the also-dangerous Sunrise Highway. The multimillion-dollar makeover of Hempstead Turnpike will help locations like Nassau’s medical center and Hofstra University become safer places to walk and will give surrounding neighborhoods a sense of security.
Long Beach City Council approves lowering of speed limit in unanimous vote
This past Wednesday, September 19th, the City of Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to lower the speed limit on "the President streets," a collection of streets named after presidents, to 15 mph, down from 30.
The move was made possible thanks to recently passed state legislation that allowed the City of Long Beach and the Town of Hempstead to lower speed limits. Due to state law, communities need to get legislation passed in Albany before they can conduct tests of safety conditions and pass ordinances to lower local speed limits below 30 mph. Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, who represents Long Beach in his district, was instrumental in getting the legislation passed that led to the city council being able to finally take action on this issue.
“There have been many tragic accidents on the many streets in Long Beach and Lido Beach in recent years,” Assemblyman Weisenberg said. “This long overdue law will allow these communities to finally set appropriate speed limits on many residential streets.”
“In 1978, I became a 23-year-old widow as a result of a DWI crash that took place in Lido Beach. My husband died as a result of two deadly elements: alcohol and speed,” Point Lookout-resident Donna Brown said. “I applaud Assemblyman Weisenberg for his tireless efforts to make our roads safer, including his ‘life-saving’ law lowering the speed limits in Lido Beach.”
Vision Long Island's Assistant Director Tawaun Weber was at the meeting and supported of the change. Numerous studies have shown that walkable communities such as Long Beach benefit greatly from lowered speed limits as pedestrians are exponentialy less likely to be hurt in accidents involving vehicles going lower than 30 mph. Vision hopes that this will serve as an example to other walkable communities on what local government can do to improve safety for both local residents and tourists.
For full text on the preceedings of the Long Beach City Council meeting, please check out the city's website.
You can also read a copy of Vision Long Island's testimony in support of the recent changes here.
East End Arts Council Means Business at the Suffolk Theatre
Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander joined an array of panelists, including moderator Dave Winzelberg from Long Island Business News, Michelle Isabel-Stark from Suffolk County Economic Council, Bob Spiotto from Suffolk Theater, Rob Salvatico from Hotel Indigo, and Elaine Thompson from Golf Series Art, who all spoke on the importance of downtown theatres such as the Suffolk Theatre on Long Island to a crowd of over 150 community and business leaders.
Mr. Spiotto set the theme of the day by saying, “We want to change the tone from arts versus business to arts mean business.” Over a dozen speakers focused their remarks on the importance the art community brings to the vibrant downtowns across Long Island. As Spiotto noted, “Theatre being the magnet to bring in people is nothing new.”
Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine was also in attendance, urging support for the theatre and stressing the importance of the theatre to downtown Riverhead. “Arts done right can do two things... Bring business into the downtown and increase the quality of life. The Theatre can be the spark that ignites downtown Riverhead,” says Legislator Romaine.
Marie Smith of the Long Island Community Foundation spoke to the growth of the arts industry, citing that “in the past ten years, the arts have increased jobs by 50%.” The arts can serve as the driver to create jobs as well as bring in the outside consumers. “The community mosaic brought 5,000 people to downtown Riverhead Memorial Day Weekend,” says Amanda Abraham, of the East End Arts Council.
As the construction continues on the theatre, interest across the region continues to grow from areas as far as Connecticut. Examples of theatres being an anchor in the downtown exist all over Long Island. Downtowns such as Patchogue, Great Neck, Port Washington and Huntington have seen the benefits to having a theatre including higher real estate value and increased quality of life.
The Suffolk Theatre has been the glue that held Riverhead together through hard times,” said Dennis McDermott, of The Riverhead Project.
“Sewage Right-To-Know Act” fills void left by state law for some Suffolk communities
A new law sponsored by Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine and adopted by Suffolk County will require operators of private sewage treatment plants within the county to notify health officials of when they exceed any minimum safety standards.
Underground aquifers contain Suffolk’s sole source of drinking water, and like surface waters, they are vulnerable to contamination resulting from the discharge of untreated sewage and wastewater. Recently adopted state legislation requires only municipal sewage treatment facilities to report such discharge, not requiring the same from private plants – the number of which greatly out number public ones.
The legislation will ensure public awareness of sewage contamination. When untreated or partially treated sewage is discharged, the plant will have to notify the Department of Health Services, who will then post notifications or incidents on its website and notify the County Executive and local legislators.
“I commend the members of the state legislature for adopting notification legislation. However, it is imperative to include private operators, not just public,” said Legislator Romaine. “This legislation will ensure all sewage discharges are reported and that the public knows when they occur.”
The legislation now goes to the County Executive for his signature or veto.
New Cassel cuts ribbon on new "YES WE CAN" Community Center
Vision joined Supervisor Jon Kaiman, the North Hempstead Town Board, and Nassau County Legislator Robert Troiano at the Grand Opening of the “YES WE CAN” Community Center in New Cassel. Many elected officials who represent the area joined over 500 Community residents in an afternoon of celebration. Special guest Marcus Camby, newly returning center for the New York Knicks, posed for pictures and signed autographs to kick off the facility’s first basketball tournament.
Supervisor Kaiman spoke to the uniqueness of the center because of the design and how it could be a model to the entire county. He explained the history of the project noting that it has been over a decade of working and waiting to reach this point. Guided by the vision put together by a group of then 4th and 5th grade students, Supervisor Kaiman worked towards creating the community center and growing community support. Some of the students were in attendance at the opening and were amazed of how their vision came to life.
"The North Hempstead 'Yes We Can' Community Center represents the efforts of thousands of stakeholders, including officials from all levels of government,” noted Supervisor Kaiman. “This facility is a poignant testament to the idea of grassroots participation and the notion that government works.”
Vision Long Island's Assistant Executive Director Tawaun Weber was also on hand at the event to help support the opening of the state-of-the-art center and to celebrate the accomplishment for the local community that it represents.
You can read more on this over at Newsday.
MTA-LIRR detail $100 million in Hicksville Station improvements
Last Thursday, LIRR and Vision Long Island presented at the Hicksville community council to update the community on the status of revitalization efforts. Scott Howell of the LIRR spoke about the $100,000,000 of improvements that have been allocated for the Hicksville RR station.
Almost half of the money secured will go towards reconstruction of the platforms, elevators, escalators, stairways, canopies, etc. Similar to the recent improvements at the Seaford station. The remaining money will go towards the extension of a spur track to the station to allow greater flexibilty and capacity at the station and improved signaling at the split between the Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma lines.
The improvements came from recommendations the revitalization committee proposed over the course of several visionings and meetings designed to gather opinions from local residents. The community council's response to the update and improvements was positive.
Vision Long Island has been working with both the Community Council and the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce to bring together local elected officals with community leaders and voices on what can be done to help improve the local downtown. Improvement of the tran station has consistently been high on the list of needed improvements and Vision supports the moving forward of this vital area of the project.
Northport Village residents and businesses fight to save local post office
In a public forum held by the village board of trustees at the local American Legion hall, over 200 local residents came forward to protest the possible shuttering of the local, nearly 80-year-old village post office.
"We don't want to just save the building; we want to save the business," said Sherry Pavone, a 38-year Northport resident. "The heart of our village is the post office."
"Post offices are a central component of the economic and social vitalities of Main Street," said Eric Alexander, a Northport resident and Executive Director of Vision Long Island.
The U.S. Postal Service, who has ben tightening their real estate holdings for years now, is currently looking to close the 240 Main Street site and shift their retail services to a smaller location. Carrier operations for the 19 routes currently serviced would be moved to the East Northport Post Office location.
The forum marked the beginning of the fight to keep the building open according to Village Mayor George Doll. Mayor Doll joined Trustee Henry Tobin, Damon Mcmullen and local and national elected officials with representatives from Senators Schumer and Gillibrand as well as Representative Israel were in attendance. The Huntington Town Board also unanimously approving a resolution to write a letter to congressional leaders urging action to prevent the closure.
"It is very critical to have a community response," said Pete Furgiuele, president of the Long Island chapter of the American Postal Workers Union. "You have to let the post office know you won't stand for it."
A spokeswoman for the Postal service noted that plans for the closure were still in the "early stages of [the] review process" and a meeting with elected officials and the community would still be forthcoming. Representative Israel said that he intends to host that meeting in his district office.
Economic Development Council to recommend LI projects for funding
This past Wednesday the Long Island Regional Economic Council unveiled the 16 "prioirity projects" on the Island that they'll be submitting to state in hopes of receiving $25 million in funding. The projects being submitted will include four initiatives that received funding last year as well as the Nassau Hub redevelopment plan.
Long Island will be competing with other regional councils from Buffalo, Syracuse and the North Country, which includes both Watertown and the Adirondacks.
The Nassau Hub redevelopment project is on the list first time in spite of trying to receive funding through the program the previous year. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano expressed gratitude at he project being included on the list, adding, "I look forward to announcing a master developer to ignite the process of redevelopment of the Hub."
Vision is happy to see funding for the Nassau HUB, Wyandanch Rising, Hempstead wastewater infrastructure, Ronkonkoma HUB, UA Theatre in Coram, and the Meadows in Yaphank. Vision has and will continue to support these projects.
Specific requested totals will be disclosed at the time of submittal on Friday afternoon. The council will also be recommending 73 non-priority projects and 11 projecs for the Excelsior Jobs Program. New York State will announce the winners of the funding later this fall.
Read more on this at LI Business News.
Energy Roundtable finds evidence for 100% renewable energy on Long Island by 2030
Long Island has the capability to produce or secure enough renewable energy to power every household that LIPA currently services by 2020 and all power needs in general by 2030 according to a new study.
The study, titled “A Clean Energy Vision for Long Island,” was released this past Tuesday at Farmingdale State College during an Energy Roundtable discussing the findings of the report. The Long Island Power Authority is currently examining the recommendations at a time when key decisions are being made about the future of energy in the region. This could lead to contracts for up to 2,500 megawatts of power from gas plants and cable connections to distant grids as well as renewing a contract with National Grid to keep current steam plants in production.
A press conference was held to announce the release of the LI Clean Electricity Vision- a study conducted by Synapse Energy Economics with funding from the Rauch Foundation, with speakers including reLI’s Gordian Raacke, Adrienne Esposito from the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, Dr. Hubert Keene of Farmingdale State College, Neal Lewis from the Sustainability Institute at Molly College, Peter Maniscalco, a former coordinator of the Stop Shoreham Campaign, and two students from “Generation Y” who stressed the urgent need for this change. Speakers also called on elected officials to support this vision because it would be better for environment but also our economy, instead of sending our dollars for fossil fuels overseas.
“We now have everything we need to make the transition from dirty and dangerous fossil fuels to a clean, and renewable electricity supply,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a regional not-for-profit organization. “This much needed transformation of our energy supply is achievable and affordable but it also represents a tremendous opportunity and challenge to all of us – Governor Cuomo, elected officials, our utility, municipalities, the private sector and every Long Islander.”
Enrico Purita, NYPIRG Organizer and concerned member of Generation Y at the roundtable, noted, "A comprehensive renewable energy initiative starting at the local level would restore my generation's confidence in politicians' ability to create a more sustainable, livable, and just society. Young people already know we need to transition to renewable energy. We're just waiting for the policymakers to catch up."
The report envisions a scenario with a strategic balance of rooftop and large, ground-mounted commercial solar arrays that would work in tandem with an offshore wind farm with supplemental energy coming from upstate land-based wind and, to a lesser extent, smaller amounts of hydropower and other renewables. This scenario also calls for the use of clean-energy credits earned from using renewable energy to purchase backup capacity from efficient gas plants.
“LIPA and state leaders have verbally supported renewable energy for a decade, now is the time to put those words into action. Making the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy is not halted by technology or cost, but rather by political indifference to the hardships caused by our energy choices,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Large scale renewables need to be a real part of our energy generation and this study shows we can do that. Now, we need the Governor to make it happen.”
The cost to ratepayers over the course of the plan would increase an average of between 8 and 12 percent above LIPA’s projected rates, with the larger impact coming sooner according to the report.
Despite all this it is still unclear what the impact of the report will be on LIPA’s new plans. Trustees are scheduled to vote on new contracts this month, but are expected to push that vote back to October in order to give the Governor time to review plans to reform the authority. The report presented at the roundtable will be considered as part of that process.
Vision Long Island's Assistant Director Tawaun Weber was present at the press conference to show support.
Brookhaven Councilwoman Kepert pushing for new mixed-use code
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert is considering bringing a proposal to the Town Board to create a new mixed-use zoning district in the town to encourage next-generation housing to move into the area and to help the environment. The zoning district would allow for many Smart Growth principles to flourish, including walkable communities, access to mass transit, amenities for pedestrians, bike riders and all road users. It also helps cut down on air pollution and traffic while the denser development helps preserve much of the remaining open space in the area.
“Next Generation Housing is not only an opportunity to keep our young people in Brookhaven, but to improve the environment, and enhance economic growth...“The code incorporates smart growth principles and will be an effective tool to create communities where our young people will want to live, work and play.” Kepert said. She intends for the developments to take place within 2,500 feet of existing railroad stations and within easy travel distance of existing downtowns, shops, and infrastructure.
Read more from Newsday.
TOD project in Mineola moves forward
This past Thursday, September 6th, the Nassau County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the Village o Mineola's most recent TOD project. In a move to continue the development of its master plan, the Village of Mineola is considering plans to develop on the site of the former Key Span building that is currently sitting unused under the ownership of the MTA.
The site was originally sold to the MTA in order to create more parking for the LIRR. Instead a local developer will purchase the property and is currently planning to turn the site into a 10-story, 315-unit apartment complex with 10% of the units set aside as affordable housing.
The plan will also provide for streetscape improvement as well, and will avoid major changes to local intersections and only a marginal increase to local traffic volume. The increase is expected to be absorbed by the existing intersections.
Village of Mineola adopted a Master Plan in 2006 that promotes growth and housing options adjacent to the train station, improves the village infrastructure and increases amentiies such as parks and public spaces.
Rockville Centre road to get Smart Growth improvements
Maple Avenue in Rockville Centre, called the “Fifth Avenue of Rockville Centre” by Mayor Francis Murray, is set to get a much-needed infrastructure facelift starting in the next few days. The street runs parallel to the LIRR tracks between North Long Beach Road and North Park Avenue and hosts many of the village's parades and events. Contractors are scheduled to break ground on improvements including new electrical conduits, water main upgrades, manhole covers, streetlights, repaved road surfaces, drainage improvements and re-vamped and beautified sidewalks and crosswalks for pedestrians. The work is expected to be done in phases and completed by next year.
“This project will beautify Maple Avenue and will also substantially improve our water and electric infrastructures now and for decades to come,” Murray said. “Next year, when we have finished the project, this area will show the village at its very best and be a source of pride for our residents.”
The road improvements are being funded by a $1.2 million grant from US Rep. Carolyn McCarthy. Village officials hope that they will be able to secure more funding for further street beautification projects, including benches, decorative lighting and planters.
Read more from the LI Herald.
NY Works Task Force holds public forum on Infrastructure
This past Wednesday Governor Cuomo's appointed NY Works Task Force convened a public forum at the Sustainability Institute in Farmingdale in order to discuss how best to spend Long Island's share of $16 billion in public funding for infrastructure.
Governor Cuomo created the task force over concerns regarding the spending of infrastructure funds across such a wide and diverse state as New York. The goal of the task force will be to come up with a streamlined and cohesive plan to provide funding for over 47 state agencies and local communities across New York by year's end. Implementation of the plan will also be based upon the recently passed NY Smart Growth Infrastructure Act.
Wednesday's forum was led by Long Island's Regional Planning Council chairman John D. Cameron, who is also Long Island's representatice on the 15-member task force. "This is an exciting challenge," said Mr. Cameron, "it's never been approached this way before and the governor has made it clear he wants a plan that helps leverage capital investment with a goal of 20 private-sector dollars for every public dollar invested in our roads, bridges, wastewater-treatment plants and other environmental infrastructure."
The forum included a panel composed of Mr. Cameron, State Budget Director Robert Megna, Long Island Federation of Labor president and Vision Long Island board member John Durso, Marianne Garvin of the Community Development Corporation. The panel touched on subjects such as Transportation, which included environmental and energy concerns, the future of development. There was also discussion on the undeveloped sites that numbered about 45 across the resion with over 6,300 units of TOD housing.
The discussion also covered the state of capital financing and budgeting in NYS. Sources of private capital being considered include both public and private funds with a particular eye on those from the construction industry, which stands to benefit from infrastructure investment. New York is also facing a statutory cap on public debt, which it will come within $600 million of hitting according to Mr. Megna.
Mr. Durso also spoke on the need for bipartisan leadership to accomplish the goals set forth by the group. This was tied in with his call for more road improvement, wastewater treatment, moving forward with the Heartland proposal and redevelopment of the Coliseum area. He also noted that as a regon looking to thrive, all of these issues were interconnected for Long Island.
Vision Long Island's Executive Director Eric Alexander spoke at the meeting of the need to prioritze infrastructure investment in line with the NYS Smart Growth Infrastructure Act. He also encouraged the task force to buld off the exisitng 15 regional plans and 80 local municipal plans in the formation of the state's infrastructure programs.
One of the more agreed upon themes from the meeting was the idea that Long Island investments yielded some of the highest returns in the state, making it imperative to a healthy state economy to increase funding for infrastructure spending in our region.
To learn more on this subject, check out Newsday's coverage here.
LIRR moves forward with plans to implement mobile ticketing system-wide
After a successful trial run last week, the Long Island Rail Road has decided to move forward with talked-about mobile ticketing plans. LIRR president Helena Williams announced that customers will be able to print train tickets at home or download them to smartphones by the end of next year.
The mobile ticketing system was effectively utilized by the LIRR last week for customers traveling to and from Farmingdale for the Barclays golf tournament. The agency sold 5,894 mobile tickets during the six-day event, said Joe Calderone, LIRR vice president of customer service. That number accounted for 20 percent of all LIRR tickets sold for the tournament and "far exceeded" expectations, he said.
Of 368 passengers surveyed last week, 99 percent reported being satisfied, and everyone surveyed said they would buy a ticket using the mobile system again.
This fall, the agency will gauge interest from mobile ticketing device manufacturers and will put out a request for bids by the end of the year. Calderone said the LIRR will look for a handheld device that conductors can use to scan bar codes on phones and printed tickets, swipe credit cards and print tickets.
Implementing the mobile system universally as opposed to the “controlled environment” of last week’s pilot program poses various challenges. For example, a systemwide mobile ticketing program would have to ensure the devices maintain cellular connectivity on a moving train, and the LIRR also would have to figure out how to "collect" mobile tickets twice during a typical trip — before and after Jamaica — as conductors do with paper tickets.
"We think the technology is out there, the solutions are out there, and the industry is ready to move toward mobile ticketing," Williams said. "And so are the customers."
Read more at Mass Transit Magazine here.
GoRail and Congressman Tim Bishop tour Twinco Manufacturing facility
On Tuesday August 28, 2012, Vision Long Island joined Congressman Tim Bishop, Suffolk County Legislator Duwayne Gregory and others for a tour of the Twinco Manufacturing facility. The tour was arranged by GoRail to show an example of how freight rail can bring jobs to Long Island, help alleviate congested roadways, and provide a cleaner and more fuel efficient alternative.
GoRail is a national, non-profit, public interest organization dedicated to maximizing opportunities to use our nation’s rail network to boost our economy and improve our quality of life. Since 2004, GoRail has been building the support among community and business leaders resulting in over 3000 government officials, businesses, and community members from 30 states endorsing their mission. As part of their mission, GORail promotes smart transportation policies that allow for freight growth in a that builds a strong economy and improves quality of life.
Long Island based company, Twinco Manufacturing Co., plays a key role in America’s railway system as a supplier of various rail and transit products including vital relays and components, and automatic train stops. Throughout the tour, John Schatz, President, explained how his 50,000 sq ft facility in Hauppauge allows for them to keep jobs here on Long Island, by engineering almost every aspect of their product in house. With such a high demand for their products, having such a facility, allows for onsite growth while creating new jobs.
Congressman Tim Bishop also addressed the group and employees, delivering a message of support for Long Island freight rail. As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman Bishop has pushed for long-term investments in transportation that will allow New York's infrastructure program to move forward with 27 months of stable federal funding to support job growth and economic recovery. "This transportation bill is good progress in the effort to put America back to work.”, says Congressman Bishop.
MTA Tax declared unconstitutional
This past Wednesday a NYS Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of Nassau and Suffolk County in a landmark case to declare the MTA payroll tax an unconstitutional law. The MTA has vowed to “vigorously appeal” the decision and noted that similar cases have been thrown out when challenged.
The suit, which was filed by Nassau County in 2010 during the funding battle over the county’s bus system, argued that the payroll mobility tax violated the state constitution by charging employers in the MTA region 34 cents for every $100 of payroll. The violation occurred when the tax unilaterally changed the policies of local municipalities without a direct benefit to the entire state. To impose such a change, the state would’ve needed to receive home rule messages from the municipalities effected or pass a two-thirds vote in the State Legislature according to the suit.
"The MTA payroll tax is a special law, which does not serve a substantial state interest," wrote Justice R. Bruce Cozzens Jr. in his decision. Because the state did not seek a home rule message or the two-thirds votes, "this was passed unconstitutionally."
“This unfair and onerous tax should have never been implemented,” Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine said. “I applaud the state Supreme Court for confirming what we have said for years: this tax is illegal. Businesses, governments, and not-for-profits who paid the tax should receive refunds immediately, If not, I would move for Suffolk County to file suit to recover these ill-gotten funds.”
Nassa County Executive Ed Mangano referred to the ruling as “a great victory for every taxpayer,” and added, "This success sends a strong message to job creators that we will not allow the MTA to stifle economic growth and chase jobs out of our state. This is a historic victory for tax relief and tax reform. I am proud that Nassau led counties and villages around this state to a tax relief victory."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also weighed in, calling the decision “a big victory for Suffolk County taxpayers, many of whom get little to no service from the MTA.”
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg responded to the ruling by noting, "We believe this opinion will be overturned, since four prior challenges to the constitutionality of the law making the same argument have been dismissed." Lisberg is referring to suits filed by the towns of Huntington, Brookhaven, Southold and Southampton.
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota also spoke at a recent press conference, saying "Without the payroll mobility tax, the M.T.A. would be forced to balance its budget with a combination of devastating service cuts and ever-increasing fare hikes." He would later go on to say, "I will work with the state legislature, I will work with the governor to see if there is a way in which we can construct something that is not as controversial as the [payroll mobility tax,]. But until that time, the PMT needs to continue. And we need to be able to continue to receive the revenue from the PMT to provide the level of service that we have been providing."
Though Republican lawmakers have been crusading for the removal of the tax, calling it a job-killer among other things, there have been calls for caution. "If this ruling is held up, what this essentially does is blow a billion dollar hole in the MTA budget," said Ryan Lynch, associate director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "And it's those elected officials that have been fighting so fiercely over this payroll tax that are going to have to find a different way to fund the MTA."
Business owners have also chimed in with E. Christopher Murray, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, stating, "We thought it was bad as public policy, and we thought it was illegal. It was in the heat of the recession, and the idea of placing a tax on payroll was kind of dumbfounding." Julie Marchesella, also of the Nassau Council of Chambers, said "Economically it was difficult for us. That might have been the thing that put small business owners out of business."
Rich Bivone, Nassau chair of the Long Island Business Council, noted that, "In the wake of this ruling, the Long Island Business Council believes that all sides now have an obligation to come together and come to a solution that preserves transit service without hurting our small businesses and local governments. "
The tax generates approximately $1.2 billion annually for the MTA, which expects the state to continue to collect the tax throughout the appeals process. For more on this story check out articles at Newsday, The Journal, The New York Post, and the Times-Herald Record.
Green building bill signed by Governor Cuomo
The green building local opt-in tax exemption bill was signed by Governor Cuomo last week on August 17th and sponsored by Senator Kenneth Lavalle. The bill is an act to amend the real property tax law, in relation to authorizing a municipal corporation to provide a real property tax exemption for improvements to real property meeting LEED certification standards using a similar program for green buildings as determined by the municipal corporation.
This bill was passed as part of an effort to become proactive and bolster efforts in New York to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting energy efficiency in homes and businesses throughout the State; significant measures have been enacted in an effort to accomplish this goal. This legislation would allow municipal corporations to adopt local laws granting a real property tax exemption for property improvements meeting LEED certification standards the green building initiative's green globes rating system, the American National Standards Institute, or substantially equivalent standards for certification for green buildings. This incentive would further build upon New York's efforts by encouraging more homeowners and businesses to go "green.
Uniondale releases Visioning Report; Unveils Kick-off Project
On Tuesday, August 21st, Uniondale residents were finally able to see the result of an almost year long process to gather input and recommendations to help create a plan for future development in the Town.
Surrounded by numerous local stakeholders and elected officials that included Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Legislator Kevan Abrahams, State Senator Kemp Hannon and Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper, Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby unveiled the new plan to the public.
“I want to thank all of the residents and other stakeholders in the Uniondale community for helping to develop a blueprint for a more prosperous and vital Uniondale,” stated Murray. “I especially want to recognize Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby for working tirelessly to bring this plan to completion.”
Councilwoman Goosby, who has been a driving force behind the Visioning process, had this to say: “Uniondale is a great community. By identifying key objectives and acting on them, we can enhance the quality of life experience for those who call Uniondale home.”
The process of creating the plan included many elements such as community participation exercises, public meetings, multi-lingual surveys of residents, several break-out charrettes and outreach meetings with key stakeholders such as local school districts, chambers of commerce and civic associations. The town had also employed planning consultants VHB Engineering and Hofstra University to help assist in developing the $102,000 plan. The cost will be split between Nassau County and the town and will also draw upon federal funds.
County Executive Ed Mangano stated, “Kate Murray and I are committed to working together to improve our economy and quality of life in Uniondale and Nassau County. I look forward to working with my colleagues in government to achieve the common goals set forth in this Uniondale Vision Plan.”
The plan itself will include four major categories of improvements. Beautification will focus on general clean-up efforts as well as improving aesthetics throughout the town and ramping up code enforcement. Traffic and Transportation will include pursuit of traffic calming measures while also improving local bus routes. Economic Development will involve a branding process while also utilizing social media with a focus on the “college town” aspect of Uniondale. Finally, Sustainability of Neighborhoods will work to increase local housing opportunities while also supporting the local land trust and expanding the privately-owned community center.
“The key ‘vision elements’ in Uniondale’s Vision Plan outline a defined course of action for delivering on the promise of Uniondale’s future,” said Goosby. “I am dedicated to the success of this Plan.”
As a celebratory kick-off to the Vision Plan unveiling, the Supervisor and Councilwoman announced a streetscape project that will take place along Uniondale Avenue across from the library. The project will feature about 150 feet of brick paved walkway, Victorian streetlamps, new concrete and decorative benches.
“This Vision Plan was created by and belongs to the people of Uniondale,” concluded Murray. Indeed, the involvement of the community and the commitment of government officials, and everyone invested in this great community are the keys to a prosperous future for Uniondale.”
For more on this plan, visit the Town of Hempstead’s website here.
Changes to Main Street Smithtown getting positive reviews
Long considered one of the deadlier roads in the region, Main Street in Smithtown has seen numerous changes recently aimed at increasing pedestrian safety. These changes include reducing eastbound traffic to one lane and installing left turn lanes in several intersections. The changes, while applauded for their safety increases, were met with some less than pleased comments from commuters.
However, that tune has changed in recent months.
Lavena Sipes, mother of Courtney Sipes, the 11-year-old girl who was killed on the road in November of 2009, noted the positive comments she’s been receiving concerning the changes. "As far as what's been done so far everyone has told me, especially closer friends, say that they honestly feel more comfortable driving down Main Street and that sometimes it's a little bit slower but so what, it's going to make things safer," Sipes said.
Mark Mancini, owner of Mancini Architecture as well as the president of the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce, also spoke on the comments he’s heard concerning the changes. "I think there's some frustration coming into the merge but it's got much better as the months have worn on, people have got used to it," he said. "There are times that it does get jammed up at the Route 111 intersection or at Terry Road, it gets backed up a little bit."
However, both noted that aside from traffic delays the most complaints they hear from locals concerns the lack of law enforcement and motorists who still speed on the road.
Local businesses have also expressed approval of the changes. John Johnson, owner of Cupcake Couture, noted that his customers are now more likely to park directly in front of his store instead of across the street. "Now customers can obviously park in front of the store so there is a convenience factor, for lack of a better word, for my customers," he said. "They probably feel a lot safer now that traffic has slown up a little bit." Mr. Johnson did note that it is too early to say whether or not the changes have affected his volume of business.
Vision Long Island supports the NYSDOT changes to the Main Street.
For more information on this story check out the original article on the Smithtown Patch.
Rail access becoming more desireable for LI businesses
With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon again, many businesses who rely on trucks to ship their goods or import their supplies are looking to find more economically efficient options. According to a recent Long Island Business News article, storefronts and factories that have rail siding and easy access to freight rail facilities are becoming increasingly popular. Some buildings with rail siding are selling for about a dollar more per square foot and can drastically reduce a company's shipping costs.
One freight rail car can take as many as four tractor trailers off our already overcrowded and congested roadways, helping ease traffic and helping the environment in the process. One detriment is that many of Long Island's tracks are shared by both freight and the Long Island Railroad and schedules must be coordinated to avoid delays for either system. The cost of building additional track is somewhat cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses, ranging from $150-300 a square foot. Switches can run between $150,000 to over a million dollars.
Existing infrastructure is still a huge asset to both businesses and real estate companies. The demand for this type of access has increased dramatically over the past five years and if gas prices continue to rise, rail access could become even more desireable and far less cost-prohibitive. Many of the eighty companies that currently use rail access can justify the increased cost of the space by projecting the savings on shipping. The new $40 million Yaphank rail facility, along with existing sites in places such as New Hyde Park, Hicksville, Farmingdale, Wyandanch, Deer Park, Yaphank and Speonk may offer the next wave of rail-based industries an opportunity to relocate to Long Island.
Read more in Long Island Business News here.
Report uncovers high risk for older pedestrians in Nassau
According to a study carried out by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Nassau County has the highest death rate for older pedestrians in downstate New York.
The report analyzed federal fatality and census data for each county in downstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut from 2008 to 2010. The transportation advocacy group found that the county’s rate of deaths per 100,000 people age 60 and older is 4.72 – the largest in the 12-county downstate region. Queens follows closest with 4.46 per 100,000, Brooklyn with 4.39, the Bronx with 4.35, Manhattan with 4.21, and Suffolk with a distant 2.00. Of the entire tri-state region, Litchfield County, Connecticut had the worst fatality rate for those 60 and older.
The study offers a ratio to help put these findings into perspective: in Nassau, the 60-and-older group makes up 44 percent of pedestrians killed, but only 20.9 percent of the population. The report’s failure to adjust for traffic volumes or identify whether the fatalities were county residents, is notable. Nonetheless, the unsettling data confirms that older pedestrians make up a disproportionate share of the total pedestrian death rates, the authors of the report said.
“Our senior population in the region, particularly on Long Island, is at a greater risk of being killed on our region’s roads,” campaign associate director Ryan Lynch said.
Lynch cited a variety of reasons for the fatalities, such as clocks that count down too quickly for the pace of senior citizens, and wide arterial roads designed to move cars as quickly as possible that lack pedestrian islands which provide refuge for those who are slower.
Lynch said a grant program aimed at improving pedestrian safety that had proved “wildly popular” with Island towns and municipalities was slated to be cut at year’s end by the state Department of Transportation, under pressure from federal cuts to pedestrian safety funds by one-third this year.
NYSDOT spokesman Bill Reynolds commented, “We continue to make pedestrian safety improvements at busy intersections and thoroughfares across Long Island. We will be announcing further safety enhancements in the future.”
Governor Cuomo signs Sewage Pollution Right-to-Know Bill
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation yesterday requiring sewage treatment facilities to notify both the Department of Environmental Conservation and the general public whenever a sewage spill or when untreated discharge occurs. The groundbreaking legislation passed the State Legislature on the last day of session, with sponsors Sen. Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Bob Sweeney. The bill was one of the pillars of the Long Island Lobby Coalition's 2012 platform.
According to the Governor's press release, the law is meant to protect the public by "increasing awareness when discharges which may affect public health occur, allowing the general public to make informed decisions about fishing, swimming and recreating in affected water ways." Untreated sewage discharge into recreational or public use areas can dramatically increase the risk of disease, both to humans and nature. Existing legislation only requires that facilities notify the Department of Environmental Conservation and local health departments in cases where discharge may affect shellflish or swimming and recreational areas. The expanded law also requires the DEC to produce an annual report on discharge information for all public treatment facilities.
Gov. Cuomo said "New Yorkers have a right to know when potentially harmful, untreated sewage is discharged into waterways in their communities. These new notification requirements will let the general public know when untreated sewage is released in water bodies, especially swimming beaches and fishing areas. In addition, this new law will also raise awareness to the need for upgrades and maintenance of our state's wastewater infrastructure. I thank the bill sponsors for their work on this important law."
Senator Mark Grisanti, Chairman of Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "I am pleased to have sponsored the bill that is now law creating a 'Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act' for all New Yorkers who want to enjoy the many great bodies of water in our state. This law ensures that the water people use for both recreational and commercial activities will not be threatened by bacteria, toxins or chemicals due to the spillage of raw sewage. When accidents do occur prompt notification and swift action for clean-up must happen."
Infrastructure is crumbling, treatment facilities are in need of massive repairs and federal and state funding are being slashed in each budget cycle. Many of New York's sewage plants are antiquated, overloaded and in danger of failing. Untreated sewage discharge sickens more than a million people a year across the country.
The law goes into effect next May.
Suffolk County announces comprehensive sewer infrastructure mapping study
County Executive Steve Bellone and County Legislator and Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsely, in conjunction with the Departments of Economic Development and Planning, Health, and Public Works, announced this week that they are conducting an unprecidented study to accurately map all public and private wastewater treatment facilities in the County. The study will undoubtedly provide critical information for both economic development and environmental planning efforts in the future.
The team gathered data on the location of all public and private sewer treatment facilities in Suffolk, the acreage and boundaries of all sewage treatment districts and factors such as the total average volume of sewage treated and the number of people residing in a given treatment area. According to the County's press release, the study has made the following preliminary findings:
“Despite the critical importance of waste water treatment facilities to the County’s environment and economic future, no central data base existed that would provide a comprehensive and accurate picture of the County’s waste water treatment resources,” said County Executive Bellone. “Now, we will have a clear and precise record of every treatment facility, large or small, public or private, operated by federal, state, county, town or village. While long overdue, this ambitious and difficult data collection process will give us a true picture of where we need to concentrate resources to promote economic growth.”
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said "Suffolk's future is directly linked to our ability to manage and treat our waste water effectively... Mapping the numerous STPs is a terrific accomplishment that allows us to plan our future around clean drinking water and healthy bays. Bravo to County Executive Bellone and DPO Horsley for getting this needed initiative completed quickly."
Privatization of Nassau Bus provides mixed results
In 2011, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano privatized the County’s bus system. Replacing the MTA with private company Veolia Transportation, Mangano wowed the County with savings: Nassau didn't need to pay the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the $35 million it needed to run Long Island Bus in 2012, or even the $9 million Nassau had previously been paying the MTA annually. Just $2.5 million from the County, to meet federal and state matching standards, would be enough to run the new Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) service.
But according to officials in Nassau and at Veolia Transportation, Mangano’s assertion was too good to be true. It became clear almost immediately after Veolia took over that the $106 million annual price tag – the MTA had slated $142 million from all sources – was impossibly low. Within two months, the County and company publicly announced $7 million in route and service cuts for the renamed NICE service. What had been sold as a $106-million deal would have cost $120 million to provide, and even the reduced service will cost $113 million for the year.
Veolia’s takeover has its positives, however. Accidents are down and riders surveyed are happier with the equipment and drivers. Routes have been cut, but others improved. And even with $7 million in cuts and expenses another $7 million higher than advertised, Veolia is providing service for at least $20 million less than the MTA said it would.
The future of Nassau’s bus system remains unclear. Although NICE received the extra $7 million in funding this year ($4 million more from the state than budgeted and $3 million more from the federal government), it is unlikely that the New York City-centric Assembly or the folks in Washington will continue to extend such generosity. The private takeover of Long Island Bus is cheaper, but not nearly as cheap as promised, and it's impossible to guess how much NICE will cost in the future or how much service will have to be cut.
Read more in Newsday.
The return of sprawl and what it means for walkable, transit-oriented communities
Since the end of the housing boom, an emerging generation of farmers has been buying land, at low prices, that had once been slated for agricultural uses, reports The Washington Post. Developments in past housing recessions have gone bust, leaving behind half-finished projects virtually derelict before eventually being sold and developed. For the past sixty years, even when a site was prepared for development with infrastructure in place, agricultural uses were not an option. Complicating matters is the recent trend of cities growing more rapidly than suburbs.
In Prince George's County, Maryland, there has been a sharp uptick in farming in less than a decade. Officials in the area, according to The Washington Post, believes the trend is at least partially related to the organic and local food movements. The County has seen a shift from suburban sprawl to the establishment of a winery and CSAs. What is happening in Maryland is spreading across the country.
After housing crash, Wall Street wrote off the value of thousands of lots which had been previously purchased and entitled. Developers are now building on these lots cheaply because of the zero land value that is being factored into the price, a result not from the market at work but rather from poor financial decisions prior to 2008. Analysts Christopher Leinberger and Arthur C. Nelson believe that a long-term shift has taken place in the market: there is an oversupply of large lots on the fringes of metropolitan areas that are automobile-dependent.
Others contend that once the economy recovers, sprawl will return. Sprawl is not solely driven by the market. It is in part an act of will from the housing and finance industries, the regulators who establish codes, the highway lobby and departments of transportation. Even if sprawl is dead in the market, these forces can keep it going for a long time after.
Another factor is existing, antiquated national transportation policies from the 1950s and 60s. The number of automobile miles traveled has dropped in the US since 2007 and transit use is on the rise, especially amongst youngest adults. In 2012, motorists aged 21-30 only accounted for 14 percent of the miles driven, down from 21 percent in 1995. However, the transportation bill approved by Congress and signed the President in July maintains the 80/20 percent split for highways and transit, which has been in place for decades. Advocates say that the funding for pedestrians and bicyclists could be cut by as much as 60 to 70 percent.
Though the market calls for mixed-use, walkable places within short distances of transit, there is also a push by government and powerful highway lobbies who still believe that asphalt is the way to go, which could lead to more sprawl. Zoning codes, street standards, parking regulations and other determinants of the built environment continually place barriers in the path of anyone who wants to create a walkable, transit-oriented area. As Leinberger reports in The Economics of Place, it is still illegal to build walkable urbanism in most communities and when it is legal, obstacles put up by transportation engineers often make walkability difficult.
Sprawl is not dead. It continually presents itself in the form of obsolete legislation, codes and barriers which prevent transit-oriented, walkable developments and places. The infrastructure we build today sets the foundation for the development of tomorrow and most importantly, it must be sustainable in order to prevent the constant return of sprawl.
Commuter Mass Transit Benefit passes Senate Finance Committee
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s provision to extend Commuter Mass Transit Benefit passes the Senate Finance Committee. This is good news for those who take public transportation instead of driving because it creates parity between the two and becomes retroactive to January of 2012. It will cover up to $240 per month since that time which matches the amount matched for drivers who commute.
“As I have made it abundantly clear, I have no intention of letting this vital tax benefit for middle-class families go gently into the night,” said Schumer. “It makes absolutely no sense to provide those who drive to work with a tax break and make commuters who use mass transit pay more. It’s an unwise and unfair disparity in the tax code and I intend to fix this inequity.”
According to Mark J. Epstein the chair of the Long Island Rail Road Commuters Council: "The LIRRCC strongly applauds the efforts of Senator Schumer in trying to restore parity between those that use mass transportation and those that drive to work. This is a wrong which must be righted.”
And according to David Buchwald Chairman of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council: “Commuters and local businesses need all the help they can get in these tough economic times, and this tax benefit is a smart way to create jobs, encourage mass transit use, and lower the cost of living for area residents.”
Having this in place will make more people want to ride the mass transit options available in Metro NY which will mean less of a need for fuel in our cars, less congestion on the streets, and will ultimately save commuters money, over $200 million, according to the Transit Center, to be exact. All of these things will better the commute and the world we live in.
Vision Long Island suports the restoration of this credit as a needed benefit for commutersand our region as a whole.
You can read Senator Schumer's full press release here.
Validity of one-trip LIRR tickets extended to two months
Starting on September 4, one-trip Long Island Rail Road tickets will be valid for two months from the date of purchase, thanks to a bill put forward by State Senator Jack Martins and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel at the end of July. The bill has been a priority for both lawmakers, who have been hearing complaint after complaint from riders regarding the shortened validity period on LIRR tickets.
For almost the past two years, train riders that did not use their one-trip ticket on the day of purchase were frequently out of luck. The validity period on tickets was two-weeks from the date of purchase; if a rider wished to return the unused ticket, they were charged a $10 processing fee, more than the cost of the ticket itself.
Due to a change that occurred in January 2011, he validity period for Long Island Rail Road tickets was reduced to two weeks from six months. State Senator Jack Martins says that should never have happened. The MTA’s revision is a step in the right direction Martins said at the Mineola train station on July 25.
Both Martins and Schimel said that extending the period of validity will encourage use of the LIRR and benefit Long Island’s economy. “Mass transit is the lifeblood of the metropolitan area,” Schimel said. Though the period of validity will increase, the $10 processing feel will remain in place.
You can read more on this at the Long Island Herald.
Proposals for the new Nassau Coliseum taking shape
Four developers have submitted proposals for the development of the 77 acres surrounding Nassau Coliseum, county spokesman Brian Nevin said Tuesday. Patchogue-based Baldassano Architecture, Garden City developer Breslin Realty, Plainview developers Renaissance Downtowns, and Syosset developer Ed Blumenfeld will compete to be master developer.
The winning proposal will have to be promising enough to keep the New York Islanders from relocating. The bid-winner will be asked to negotiate with Islanders owner Charles Wang, who has said he will not stay at the current arena past his lease’s expiration in 2015. Although each developer hopes to inspire Wang, the owner’s plans remain unknown.
Monti said he hopes to build a new arena, along with bioscience research facilities and a convention center, with eventual links such as bike lanes, shuttles, or light rail connecting the Coliseum project and the village of Hempstead. His submission to the county's request for qualifications, or RFQ, outlined a development team that includes Manhattan real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, Spector Group, an architect with offices in Manhattan and Woodbury, and sports facility architect Populous, formerly known as HOK Sport, which designed Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
Don Monti of Renaissance Downtowns said his plans would emphasize community involvement and financing would include his partners and potentially federal and state funds. "I love when people say it's impossible," he said, adding that he planned to reach out to the Islanders if he wins. "I deliver. We're going to keep them here -- no ifs, ands or buts."
$875G allocated to Glen Cove for ferry terminal
After 14 years of planning, the city of Glen Cove has finally acquired the funding it needs to build a passenger ferry terminal. On Thursday the state’s U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, announced that the Federal Highway Administration would allocate $875,951 to the city. The grant provides the final funding necessary to allow construction of the $3.5 million, 2,700-square-foot facility on Glen Cove Creek.
"This is great news for the city and the region," Mayor Ralph Suozzi said. He added that construction of the terminal, expected to be operational by fall 2013, and ferry service to Manhattan would be an economic boost.
Gillibrand added, "This terminal will increase economic development opportunities as part of the larger waterfront development project" to create the mixed-use Glen Isle complex on a previously blighted waterfront.
With $14 million in previously awarded federal funds and about $600,000 of Glen Cove’s own resources, the city has already dredged the creek, built bulkheads, installed a pier and floating docks, removed contaminated soil, installed utilities and built the terminal foundation.
Suozzi said the $875,951 and a matching contribution of $175,190 from the city would fund construction of the first floor and shell of the second floor, a waiting area, restrooms, a small office and area for kiosks on the first floor. A second phase, estimated to cost about $2.2 million, would expand the second floor to accommodate a restaurant and offices, and bring up the terminal space to a total of 7,500 square feet.
The city will soon advertise for bids for a ferry operator to transport commuters to the city, and will also offer harbor and dinner cruises when construction ends.
In its 2005 Long Island Sound Waterborne Transportation Plan, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council identified the Glen Cove ferry as a viable regional site for destinations to the west. The plan noted that ferry services operating on Long Island Sound made more than 4 million passenger trips and nearly 2 million vehicle trips per year, making the region one of the country's top 10 ferry markets.
You can read a copy of Glen Cove's press release here.
Read more at Newsday
MTA 2013 Preliminary Budget restores service to LIRR
MTA's 2012 July Plan Preliminary Budget was released this week, and a few changes were made to the LIRR.
Ronkonkoma will see an increase from hourly to half-hourly service between NYC and Farmingdale on weekends 9AM-12PM Westbound and 4PM to 7PM eastbound. It will be implemented in November of 2012. It will also receive an increase from hourly to half-hourly westbound service on weekdays between Farmingdale and NYC during post-AM peak, implemented March 2012. These changes are as a response to an increase in ridership.
Long Beach will see the restoration of one AM peak train from Long Beach to Penn, implemented in March 2013.
The LIRR will provide Atlantic Terminal with late night service between downtown Brooklyn and Jamaica, also in March 2013.
Port Jefferson will gain one PM peak train from Hunters Point to Port Jefferson. This is a service restoration and will be seen implemented in March 2013.
Montauk will gain hourly service to Patchogue until midnight, one PM peak train from Hunters Point to Montauk during Summer Seasonal months, and three evening scoots between Babylon and Patchogue. The PM peak train from Hunters Point will be implemented in May of 2013, and the other two services will be implement in March of 2013.
Though it is enouraging to see the restoration of services cut in the past, Vision hopes to see an even greater increase in transportation as well as support for the Connect LI initiative currently going on in Suffolk County.
Progress is also being made on the East Side Acces Project.
Everyday, Sandhogs 140 feet below the bustle of Grand Central Station continue their work blasting tunnels for the $8.25 billion East Side Access Project slated for completion in 2019. The project will allow some 80,000 Long Island commuters to disembark directly at Grand Central Station rather than Penn, assuaging the dense crowding on transit lines between the stations and alleviating traffic on existing LIRR transit lines.
The project will be of immediate benefit to New Yorkers by expediting transit times and it will ensure long-term remuneration by optimizing LIRR energy usage. Monday marked the completion of the project’s final tunnel. Though this breakthrough is a celebratory landmark is the project’s progress, all lot of work still has to be done.
The next steps for the ESAP involve hollowing out sprawling caverns under the station in order to cut a short tunnel under Northern Boulevard in Queens. According to Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction and the lead engineer for the East Side Access Project, this could prove a difficult phase in the plan. “It’s only 120 linear feet of tunneling,” he said, “but the geotechnical environment there is one of the most complicated I’ve ever seen.”
The tunnel is positioned behind existing tracks and an elevated structure with piles they need to support, and the type of layered clay they will be working in will slow progress as well. Regardless, Horodniceanu was upbeat about the status of the largest public works project now under way in the U.S. “I’d say we have about 12 to 15 percent of the digging left,” he said. “Of course, things happen which we cannot control,” but all in all, Horodniceanu assures, “We’re confident that our new dates are totally achievable.”
Read the full MTA 2013 Preliminary Budget here.
Read more at the on the East Side Access Project at the Long Island Herald
Mineola housing plan moves forward with aid from Nassau County
Nassau County has announced a long-delayed plan to put housing on land near Mineola’s Long Island Rail Road station. Mill Creek Residential Trust Llc. received tax breaks for two apartment buildings from the county’s industrial development agency, including a $647,000 sales-tax exemption, $1.7 million off the mortgage recording tax and a 20-year abatement on property taxes.
Mill Creek’s plan consists of two buildings. The first, a five-story building with 275 up-scale apartments ranging from studios to two bedrooms, will replace several vacant offices on Old Country Road and will carry monthly rents of between $1,750 and $3,000. The second is a smaller, four-story building to be constructed on Front Street at Roslyn Road with 36 apartments for seniors. The structures, valued at $95 million, have been dubbed “Winston” and Churchill” by Mill Creek.
“We’re providing much needed rental properties for professionals and seniors,” said Maria Rigopoulos, a managing director at Mill Creek. “There’s a real need for this…Westchester has double the amount of rental housing as Nassau.”
The original plan for the Old Country Road building was taller and consisted of condominiums until Garden City officials raised objections. Mill Creek dodged the criticism by shortening the building and replacing condos with mixed-income rentals.
A second source of controversy arose over the actual construction of the Mill Creek structures. A local carpenters and joiners union asked Rigopoulos if her company would pledge to pay the prevailing wage rate by signing a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), to which she replied, “We wouldn’t be able to do this deal with a PLA.” She added that “a good-faith effort” would be made to use local contractors, materials and workers.
IDA chairman Timothy Williams and executive director Joseph J. Kearney later promised a meeting would be organized between Mill Creek and area unions to find a compromise.
Read more at Newsday.
The Nature Conservancy reports on Long Island’s future water quality needs, conservation successes, and shortcomings in 2011
According to a report issued on July 18 by The Nature Conservancy, more than 1,000 acres of open space and natural areas, and 360 acres of working farms on Long Island were protected in 2011. The report is part of an action plan led by The Conservancy with 100 other organizations, businesses, individuals and government officials, called Long Island’s Last Stand.
The purpose of the plan is to protect 25,000 acres of open space and natural areas, preserve 10,000 acres of farmland and to restore thousands of acres of lands and waters – including our drinking water. In the six years since the creation of Long Island’s Last Stand (January, 2006), nearly 9,300 acres have been protected (about 1,390 in 2011) and efforts are underway to ensure the quality of our waters.
“There is a clear vision for success for a healthy environment on Long Island,” said Kevin McDonald, conservation finance and policy director for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “Enhancement and protection of Long Island’s harbors and bays, and drinking water quality must become a top priority from a two pronged approach: new funding sources for land conservation need to be established as well as a new groundwater purity standard for Long Island’s sole source aquifer.”
The Conservancy found that a standard of two parts per million nitrate in our aquifer (instead of current standard of 10 PPM) would be a vital step towards the restoration and protection of groundwater quality and the quality of water in our harbors, bays, rivers and creeks. Septic system discharge into our sole source aquifer and resulting polluted groundwater and sewer outflows into bays and harbors present the largest challenge to preserving and restoring the coastal and marine environment around Long Island.
“Everything we put on the ground winds up in our groundwater and in turn in our bays and estuaries. A significant source of pollutants –from wastewater – must be addressed. We must reduce the amount of nitrogen in our groundwater so that drinking water is safe and our bays and harbors are clean now and in the future,” said Dr. Marci Bortman, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island.
You can read the Last Stand report here.
Renaissance Downtowns cuts ribbon on Huntington Station Community Outreach Center
Pictured (L-R): Robert Fonti - Huntington Housing Authority, Dolores Thompson - Huntington Station Enrichment Center, Ellen O'Brien - Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, Brandon Palanker - Renaissance Downtowns, Mark Mayoka - Huntington Town Councilman, Erika Forland - Renaissance Downtowns, Frank Petrone - Huntington Town Supervisor, Don Monti - Renaissance Downtowns, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, Mark Cuthbertson - Huntington Town Councilman, Matt Harris - Say NO to Avalon Bay, Elissa Ward - Huntington Station resident, Luis P. Mendez - Noches Latinas International Consulting
This week Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone and members of the town board cut the ribbon and opened Renaissance Downtown's community outreach center on New York Avenue. This marked the beginning of Renaissance Downtowns' "Source the Station Campaign".
Source the Station is Renaissance Downtown's social media based Crowdsourced Placemaking Campaign. It gives the community a chance to participate in the planning of the revitalization of Huntington's downtown. Renaissance downtown was selected by the town board this spring as the Master Developer for Huntington Station.
"Community outreach and engagement is a hallmark of how Renaissance Downtowns and the Town of Huntington go about our business and is one of the reasons we selected Renaissance to be Huntington Station's Master Developer," said Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone. "The opening of their office, in a town-owned building, will further cement their relationship with the community and increase the flow of ideas that will help in Huntington Station's continued revitalization."
The plan is to focus on the area surrounding the Huntington LIRR train station to restore a vibrant, walkable downtown to the once thriving Huntington downtown. The goal is to achieve the "triple bottom line" of social, economic and environmental benefits. CEO of Renaissance Downtowns Don Monti has cited the :commitment to that Triple Bottom Line" as what allows Renaissance Downtowns to "create communities that are livable and economically viable."
Source the Station, as a Crowdsourced Placemaking campaign, looks to provide real input into shaping Huntington station's future via in-person meetings, online forums and a social network-like voting application. All of these operations will be based in the new community outreach center.
The revitalization will be a collaborative process. Partnerships have already been established some organizations including Station Sports, who's owner Brad Rosen has developed a nearby vacant property as a family fun center with miniature golf, batting cages and arcade games.
To learn more and participate in the community outreach program, visit www.SourceTheStation.com.
Pictured (L-R): Anthony Alosio - Huntington Planning Director, Matt Harris - Say NO to Avalon Bay, Ryan Porter - Renaissance Downtowns, Dolores Thompson - Huntington Station Enrichment Center
Mill Creek makes progress on Courtesy Hotel site
Last week West Hempstead residents turned out en masse to a public meeting to learn more about the Mill Creek Residential apartment complex being built at the former site of the Courtesy Hotel. The site, measuring 2.7 acres and located adjacent to the West Hempstead Long Island Railroad station, is expected to open in October.
Earlier this year in may the Courtesy hotel was demolished. This was the end to a decade of fighting to get rid go the crime-ridden, run down building. The abandoned courtesy for many years was a den for prostitution, drugs and other crimes. It posed a serious threat to the safety of area residents, and diminished home values.
Maria Rigopoulos, managing director at Mill creek Residential Trust and developer of West 130 at the site of the Courtesy Hotel, has been quoted as saying that the complex would take about two years to complete, but that the first units could be expected to be completed this fall.
At the hearing this week, Rigopoulos answered questions about the complex and provided updates about the site.
The 150-unit complex will be spread out between four stories, and will feature one, two and three bedroom apartments. Leases will be available for three, six, nine and twelve months. Rigopoulos explained that rents have not yet been set. "When we start opening our doors, we'll set the rents," she said. "We'll look at what's going on in the market. We probably will start pre-leasing sometime in the late summer."
Rigopoulos also informed the residents that the building will feature a 5,000 square foot amenity and administrative space with an outdoor swimming pool, sun deck, landscaped courtyards, a billiard room, a clubhouse, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and a cafe/coffee bar, as well as on site garage parking.
Potential renters, Rigopoulos explain, will have to undergo a background check with a salary requirement. "Generally, we're asking that you're not spending more than one-third of your salary on rent.", she said.
Rigopoulos also noted that more updates will be available in the near future, and the site will host an open house, which she anticipates will have a strong turnout.
"The amount of hits we've been getting on the website, the phone calls… there's a pent up demand for this," Rigopoulos said. "This is upscale, new rental housing that has not been delivered to the Nassau County Market."
For the original article, visit the LI Herald.
To learn more on the project itself, please visit their website.
Heartland Project Advances: NY State approves Sagtikos traffic study
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s efforts are finally being rewarded by New York State. A $3.4-million study on widening the Sagtikos Parkway has been added to next year's state's transportation plan, a move that could ease the way for the Heartland Town Square project, officials said.
The study, which will be added to the five-year Transportation Improvement Program in order to provide eligibility for federal funding, will focus on the possibility of adding lanes to the Sagtikos Parkway. Local officials have said that expanding the Sagtikos is vital to address concerns about an anticipated traffic increase that the Heartland project could bring. The new development in Brentwood envisages around 9,000 rental apartments, plus office space, retail and industrial components.
Also part of the conversation is Suffolk’s “Connect Long Island” economic development strategy. It is stipulated that expansion of the Sagtikos should include a north-south bus rapid transit space and a hiking-biking trail to connect Heartland and Suffolk Community College to Kings Park's downtown, and to Sunken Meadow and Nissequogue River state parks.
Bellone said the county had fought for the study to be included on the plan, as it had been included on an earlier version but then superseded by other projects. "If we had not taken this step, planning for expansion of the Sagtikos would have been delayed a further four years," he said. The state plan indicates $11 million could fund a preliminary design phase of the expansion after fiscal year 2015.
Read more on this subject at Newsday.
County Executive Steve Bellone provides updates on "Connect LI" initiative
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will be provideing regular updates on his Connect Long Island projects. Information will also include progress reports, news resources, and other information you can use involving the Sufolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning.
This week’s newsletter includes some updates on different projects like the Ronkonkoma Hub and Wyandanch Rising as well as a few others, so be sure to give it a read! If you’re interested in reading it you can sign up by going to this website, there is no charge.
And Mr. Bellone encourages you to give him some feedback which you can do so by going to this website
For a video presentation of Connect LI, feel free to check it out here.
Mangano issues RFQ for development in Nassau Hub
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano this Sunday announced that he had issued a Request for Qualifications to find a master developer for the Nassau Hub. Mangano is looking to keep the Islanders on Long Island by redeveloping the Nassau Hub, the 77 acre area in Uniondale surrounding the Nassau Coliseum.
The plan is to have the master developer find a way to bridge the gap between the money needed to construct a new arena and the money the Islanders will realistically pay to play there. It is hoped that this money would come from residential and commercial mixed-use units on the site.
Redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum and hub area has been at a standstill due to a lack of available funds; Islanders owner Charles Wong is unwilling to pay the entirety of the cost of construction. Mangano, last summer, turned to taxpayers in an attempt to approve fronting the $400 million needed for construction to be paid back by the Islanders. The proposal was voted down in a public referendum.
If the stadium and its surrounding area are not redeveloped and revitalized, the Islanders will leave the Long Island in 2015 when their contract with the County is set to expire.
Number of poor in the suburbs on the rise, LI unprepared
The Suburbs, once the spitting image of wealth and stability, have seen a large overall increase in poverty in the last few years. According to the 2010 census, the number of people living below the poverty line has increased 66% from the previous decade; as of 2010 18.9 million suburban Americans were living below the poverty line, up from 11.3 million in 2000.
Long Island has always experienced pockets of poverty, created by race and income segregation, but for the first time Long Island is seeing foreclosed homes, overgrown yards, plywood windows and closed storefronts even in the better-off subdivisions. At this point, Nassau and Suffolk have the second and third highest foreclosure rates in New York State, respectively, putting them only behind Queens.
These increases in poverty are putting new strains on government agencies, parish outreach programs and aid organizations. Families are waiting in lines to receive food at pantries that are continuously emptying out. The number of food stamp cases in Suffolk went up to 40,699 in April from 26,193 two years ago. Of Suffolk's 1.54 million person population, almost 195,000 people are on Medicaid.
Suffolk's Social Service Department is having trouble keeping up with demand. The average wait for Medicaid applicants is currently 29 days. Because of reduced state aid, both Nassau and Suffolk have tight eligibility rules for social service programs. About 468,000 people in Suffolk and Nassau, out of a population of about 2.7 million, live in households earning up to 200 percent of the poverty line, and they don't receive federal or county aid, so they're barely scraping by.
Dr. Richard Koubek, Vision Long Island board member and chair of the Welfare to Work Commission, recently organized a convened a conference to discuss the alarming growth of "working poor" on Long Island. The topics discussed in this conference will be used by the Suffolk County legislature to create a report on poverty rise in the region.
Some long term solutions, such as smarter use of social-service resources, more economically sustainable developments, and more use of mass transit, housing and job training have been proposed, but they don't address the immediate challenge at hand. To address the immediate crisis, more spending and more staffing to fix the safety net are necessary.
Eyesore in Coram to become core component of revitalization effort
Conifer Realty, a Rochester-based company, has plans to transform what has been an eyesore in the center of Coram into a $55 million dollar mixed-use development. Now it is up to the Brookhaven Town Planning board to decide whether the plan to redevelop the former United Artists theater qualifies for the town’s Blight to Light program.
Blight to Light was launched in 2010 by the Town of Brookhaven in an attempt to provide developers with incentives to build in struggling areas. The board must decide whether to approve a special permit use and issue site plan approval for Conifer’s proposed development on the 17-acre site at Route 112 and Middle Country Road.
The proposed Wincoram Commons development is expected to consist of 182 residential units including town houses, apartments, and residential units above retail. The project would generate 319 construction jobs and 112 permanent jobs. The Commons will attract and retain young professionals on Long Island, a common goal among recent redevelopment projects all over the island.
"This is really the way we should be developing," said Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert, a longtime supporter of the project.
The theater’s central location makes it an extremely desirable site for redevelopment, and developers expect it to be the core piece toward revitalizing Coram. The project is much needed as the hamlet has no downtown or centralized gathering space. A public plaza, playground and community building are all part of Conifer’s plans for the Commons, in what is hoped to be a future town center.
This project was planned with the guidance of the Middle Country Road Land Use Plan, which was adopted in 2006 with Vision Long Island's help and support. Vision Long Island conducted a visioning process in the Coram and Middle Island communities in 2002 in coordination with local civics, business leaders and the Town of Brookhaven.
Check out the original article over at Newsday.
Hempstead zoning approval ensures revitalization
The Hempstead Village board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to adopt a special downtown zone that will solidify plans for the $2 billion Main Street revitalization plan and secure hopes for a positive future. New overlay zoning will divide the downtown into four districts and cap building heights at eight to ten stories. The districts will include areas for hospitality and entertainment, transit, commercial transition (smaller commercial buildings with some housing) and downtown edge (largely residential), creating a diverse downtown encompassment.
The approval was met with some debate, but community activists and village officials have reached an agreement with developers to incorporate jobs, business, and housing for local residents. In addition, the choice to “opt-in” to the overlay zoning, remains with property owners, and will allow for mixed-used development—apartments over commercial space. Island-wide Smart Growth pioneers, Renaissance Downtowns, are heading the project and working with UrbanAmerica Advisors to pave the way to a better community. Their plans include creating affordable housing in 35% of the new apartments, based on the median income for a household in the village, which was $53,333 from 2006-2010.
According to Mayor Wayne Hall Sr., the master developer agreement also includes an option for the developer to purchase downtown village-owned properties. This will allow the project to expand development to underutilized parking lot areas, furthering beautification and, more pragmatically, producing property that will contribute to the village tax base.
“Hempstead is moving forward, and it's open for business,” Donald Monti, chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, said Thursday.
Central Islip Visioning reveals new design for 30‐acre Park
On Thursday, June 28th, Vision Long Island held a visioning meeting at the Central Islip High School to lay out the future plans of a downtown park with the support and involvement of the Islip Town Board. Islip Town Councilman Steve Flotteron spearheaded the effort, along with the Central Islip Coalition for Good Neighbors, Central Islip Chamber of Commerce, and Central Islip Civic Association. Other officials present were Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, New York State Assemblyman Phil Ramos, and Scott Martella from Governor Cuomo’s office. More importantly, over 150 residents and businesses were in attendance to preview the design for the new 30 acre park located near the LIRR train station.
A previous visioning session gathered the input of the residents and businesses as a basis for the design, using activities like “hopes and horrors,” an image preference survey, and tracing paper designs. The park will include: a great lawn, walking/biking trails, exercise stations, historic displays, picnic areas, a skate park, volleyball courts, soccer fields, a fountain/spray park, a bandshell, games like bocce ball, shuffleboard tables and chess tables, benches, concessions, restrooms, a playground, a koi pond, and even more. There will be an exterior gate with road improvements to the surrounding streets. Aside from a few minor tweaks, an overwhelming majority of the community was in favor of the design.
Residents were very supportive of the park. One commenter noted that plans for basketball courts may be excessive as there are courts in the rec center across the street. Another young participant reminded us of the need for bike racks throughout the park. There were concerns over the use of the PAL soccer fields, which are slated to be multi‐use fields for various sports. In addition there is space on the great lawn where pick‐up games of many sports could take place.
Officers from the Suffolk County 3rd Precinct were present to give some powerful remarks on safety in the park. Residents are very concerned about park safety, with many concerned about fencing and entrances, lighting throughout the park, and a security or police presence. The officers reiterated that all these things will be top priority, with one reminding people that his regular office was right across the street from the park.
The project would be implemented in three phases. Phase 1 will include clearing land and seeding or sodding the lawns, setting up fencing, building the multi‐use path, and adding the benches and exercise stations, as well as building the PAL soccer fields. The cost would range from $1.1‐1.3 million. Phase 2 will add the concession stand and restrooms, the playground, skate park, and volleyball courts, and would cost $1‐1.7 million. The final Phase 3 would add the promenade and spray park, bandshell, shuffleboard and bocce ball courts, koi pond, and picnic areas, and costs would be approximately $800,000. All costs are approximate as they depend on what type of equipment is used.
The project will be moving forward rapidly and the Town expects to break ground on the first phase in September. There is still some fundraising needed to supplement the “black box” ‐‐ a public benefits fund that is paid into from developers of the community’s new housing and commercial projects. This was supported by speakers at the visioning who emphasized the good fortune that the community has to have this fund, as it helps leverage matching grants. Additionally, having some many aspects to this park, allows for additional funding opportunities such as grants and sponsorships. It’s also opened the community to others that will come to their community and use the park, such as the Special Olympics and performance in the bandshell. As community leader Debbie Cavanagh noted during the meeting, there are several ideas for creative private fundraising underway that would be managed through the Chamber of Commerce.
Because of the momentum built up the Visioning process, many of the elected officials representing the area feel optimistic as they move forward in search of ways they can aide in funding this project. Community organizations and residents are also looking into ways to find funding through sponsorships such as “Buy‐a‐Bench”.
Although the park design has suggested that the project will be built in phases due to the limited funding, both elected officials and residents are working together to make the process seamless as the increase their efforts to acquire support as soon as possible. Potential meetings have been set for as early as next week.
Many residents left with a sense of ownership of the park through their input in the design. One resident commented saying, “One day I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I helped design this park”. In the end, the community was pleased with the design and felt that their ideas were heard and valued. Although not every idea was utilized in the design, the community was more than satisfied that their hope for a multi‐generational and multi‐use park that will be attractive not to just residents of Central Islip but to surrounding neighborhoods similarly to Eisenhower Park and on a smaller scale, to Central Park.
Overall, everyone was very positive and happy to see that after nearly a decade of talking about it, the park will soon become a reality. The design might have been created by Vision Long Island with the help of elected officials and the Town of Islip, but the real drivers behind the project are the local groups, businesses, and communities who reside in the area.
You can read more on this at Newsday.
Huntington Station renaissance/Renaissance
Huntington Station has been waiting for revitalization for decades, since the historic downtown was torn down in the 1960s in favor of asphalt lots and wider roads, which has since led to high-crime and a slow-moving revitalization process.
Peconic Jitney ferry to serve East End this summer
Introducing the Peconic Bay Water Jitney, a new East End ferry service to connect the North and South Forks! Operated by the Hampton Jitney, the new passenger-only service takes up to 53 people between Greenport and Sag Harbor in 40 minutes, which is speedy considering driving around the forks can take upwards of an hour and a half. The vessel is fully enclosed, air-conditioned, handicap accessible and is lavatory equipped. The vessel and crew are approved and certified by the United States Coast Guard.
Increase in Riders on the LIRR
For the ninth straight month in a row, the Long Island Railroad has seen an increase in ridership. Ticket sales are up 4% from 6,892,954 to 7,169,078, according to railroad officials. This increase in ridership has been a continued trend since September 2011, after a 3-year steady decrease from 2008. For the first time this past year, the LIRR fell behind the Metro-North Railroad as the busiest commuter railroad system in the country.
This boost was due in large part to a number of measures the LIRR has taken to increase sales. Helena Williams, President of the LIRR, said that they want to "attract new riders" by making sure that they have the "scope and breadth of service that the customers need." The recent restoration of the half-hourly midday service for Port Washington, for example, increased ridership on that line by 12%.
The LIRR is looking at ways to further increase ticket sales, such as the use of handheld credit card readers on trains. The Railroad has been testing these devices, which utilize an iPhone in a special cradle, at special events and dates. These card readers would not come with any extra charge, but if a rider boards at a station that has a regular ticket machine, they will face the normal penalty for buying a ticket on the train.
To learn more, visit Newsday.
Connect Long Island kicks off
On Tuesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone held a presentation on Economic Development, titled “A Roadmap for Suffolk County’s Economic Future.” Vision Board and staff were in attendance to hear an excellent presentation that served as a kick-off for the Connect Long Island plan. Select regional leaders, County employees and media also joined the event.
Patchogue breaks ground on New Village
This past Thursday, June 27th, saw Patchogue take its first step toward building their new, $100 million development at the “Four Corners” district of the village.
"You want your downtown to create an atmosphere where people will want to visit you," said Village Mayor Paul Pontieri who also predicted that the new development will turn into an anchor to help "bring young professionals to the area."
East Setauket developer TRITEC, who owns the property, has been waiting for five years to begin the process that is being heralded as “a model of what we need to do across Suffolk County as we seek to build an innovative economy that will attract and retain young people," by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
"This is the final piece that will establish the 'Four Corners'. It's a prototype for future downtowns on Long Island, with Patchogue leading the way," said Rob Loscalzo, chief operating officer of TRITEC. "We're real excited about the renaissance of the village. I couldn't be happier. This is going to be a beautiful downtown."
The mixed-use development will include 291 apartments, 46,100 square feet of rental space and 13,000 square feet of office space. The project is estimated to create 260 full-time positions, 850 construction jobs and 450 secondary jobs. The plan will consist of six buildings, one topping out at five stories, and is estimated to take 25 months before completion.
Who do you trust to plan your community?
The American Planning Association recently conducted a national poll called “Planning in America: Perceptions and Priorities.” Among the interesting results, the study found that two-thirds of Americans believe their community needs more planning to promote economic recovery, 79% support community planning, 51% want to be involved in community planning efforts, and Americans want planners to focus most on creating jobs — followed by safety, schools, protecting neighborhoods, and water quality.
11th Annual Smart Growth Awards showcase Long Island's leadership and progress
600 Long Island leaders honor the people, projects and policies representing Smart Growth at its best; “Be a Part of the Change”
The 11th Annual Smart Growth Awards took place on Friday, June 15th from 11:30am to 2:00pm at the Huntington Hilton in Melville. The event featured over 600 attendees from diverse sectors, eleven Award presentations, special guest speakers and Long Island Business News Publisher John Kominicki as emcee. This year’s luncheon demonstrated the progress that the region has made over the last year for the Smart Growth movement.
The event began with the singing of the National Anthem by Shardae Hale of the Cornerstone Church of God in Christ and an opening prayer by Reverend Jeffrey Saunders of Feed My Sheep Missionary Baptist Chruch. John Kominicki of Long Island Business News introduced each of the honorees, each of whom had a video clip played and were given the opportunity to come on stage for a short acceptance speech. This year’s honorees were: Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy for the NYS Regional Economic Development Councils, NYS Senator Charles Fuschillo and Sandi Vega for the NYS Complete Streets law, Dolores Thompson of the Huntington Station Enrichment Center, Mayor Jean Celender of the Village of Great Neck Plaza, for a transit-oriented development zoning code, David Schieren of EmPower Solar, Metro 303 in Hempstead by Mill Creek Residential Trust, The Riverwalk in Patchogue by GRB Development Corp., Water Mill Station by Koral Bros., The Paramount in Huntington, Bartone Hotel and Mixed Use in Farmingdale by Bartone Properties and BWC Realty Partners, and the Elmont Mixed-Use Zoning District in the Town of Hempstead.
The Smart Growth Awards honor individuals and organizations taking leadership in advancing Smart Growth projects, policies, regulations and initiatives. The event highlights the efforts of leaders in government, private sector, and the community that exemplify Smart Growth principles in such areas as transportation, mix of land uses, housing options, open space preservation, clean energy, compact design, revitalization, sense of place, and planning.
Smart Growth favors mixed-use, mixed-income development that is attractive and strategically designed to enhance the greater area. Smart Growth reduces traffic by making transit, walking, and biking realistic and pleasant options, thereby contributing to community health, safety, and vitality. It embraces clean energy and sustainability by design. It focuses on infill, redevelopment, and open space preservation in order to create more livable places conducive to a variety of transit options.
Congratulations to this year's distinguished honorees:
Providing a Range of Housing Choices: The Riverwalk, Patchogue
The award for Housing Choices went to The Riverwalk in the Village of Patchogue, by GRB Development Inc. The Riverwalk is a housing development built on a former industrial facility. It features 163 townhouses and condominiums in 18 buildings located along West Avenue adjacent to the riverfront. It features a public walkway and open space. The Riverwalk is located about half a block away from the Patchogue Long Island Railroad station and conveniently located near shops, restaurants, and the performing arts theater on Main Street. The project will provide an economic boost for the business in the Village and encourage pedestrian traffic. The Riverwalk is a great example of the kind of walkable, transit-oriented development which is needed in Long Island.
Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert introduced the award, which was accepted by GRB Development’s Mike Kelly with Sean Rose, as well as Village of Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri. Kepert noted that this is an important development because it transformed a warehouse into a residential community, connects residents to its history, and creates a walkable community.
Transportation Choices: TOD Zoning, Mayor Jean Celender, Village of Great Neck Plaza
Mayor Jean Celender of the Village of Great Neck Plaza was honored in the Transportation Choices category for the Village’s new Transit-Oriented Development Zoning for the “B” Business District. This new zoning code aims to revitalize the Great Neck downtown area through new affordable housing, parking, and infill development. The plan encourages mixed-use development, while building upon a walkable, transit-centered community, in order to reduce sprawl and spark revival.
Mayor Celender accepted the award along with the Village Trustees.
Creating Great Places: The Paramount, Huntington
The Paramount was honored for Creating Great Places. The brand new theater, located in the heart of Huntington Village, opened in September 2011, and already attracts major national acts such as Elvis Costello, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, The Pixies, Goo Goo Dolls, and many more, bringing upwards of 5,000 visitors to the Village each week. The venue is conveniently located near the LIRR Station in Huntington along with a free shuttle which takes you right to the theater. The Paramount has played an important economic role for local businesses and has provided the town with a cultural and artistic space which will give new life to the downtown area.
Accepting the award were the 4 theater owners, Dom Catoggio, Jim Condron, Brian Doyle and Stephen Ubertini, along with Neal Hoffman of Hoffman Grayson Architects.
Revitalizing Communities: Farmingdale Hotel & Mixed-Use, Bartone Properties & BWC Realty Partners
The Farmingdale Hotel and Mixed Use development by Bartone Properties and BWC Realty Partners was awarded in the Revitalizing Communities category for the Bartone Plaza project, which incorporates various uses on derelict properties adjacent to the Farmingdale Long Island Rail Road station. The hotel will not include a bar or restaurant in order to encourage guests to explore downtown, and the mixed-use component will include 115 apartments, retail space, and underground parking to promote community growth.
Anthony Bartone accepted the award along with Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand, who noted that this is the first of several developments that are slated to come to the Village under the new zoning code, and the cornerstone to bringing youth back to the community.
Certainty & Predictability: Elmont Mixed-Use Zoning District, Town of Hempstead
The Elmont Corridor Plan in the Town of Hempstead was recognized in the Certainty and Predictability category for the Hempstead Turnpike-Elmont Mixed-Use Zoning District. The zoning code has been a collaborative effort between residents, business owners, and the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County. The plan recognizes the need for downtown revitalization and will lead the way for progress in the Elmont community while ensuring more sustainable land use decisions town-wide. Notably, the Neighborhood Center section of the plan will enable mixed-use development with residences built above stores. The plan also includes design guidelines along with an architectural review board.
The Neighborhood Center sub-district will focus around “Community Corners,” the area near the intersection of Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road. This area allows for ample mixed-use development, and the goal is to create a pedestrian-friendly, downtown area for Elmont. In addition to existing business uses, Community Corners will allow for larger and smaller shops, offices, restaurants, and additional housing choices for a range of household types, family sizes and incomes. Building height limits will be increased from two to four stories and up to 60 feet tall, allowing for additional density. A new grocery store is also planned for the area.
Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray accepted the award with Councilman Ed Ambrosino. Murray noted that Hempstead Turnpike needs to be friendly and hospitable to residents, and this rezoning will go a long way to making that a reality.
Providing a Range of Housing Choices: Metro 303, Hempstead, Mill Creek Residential Trust
Mill Creek Residential Trust was awarded in the Housing Choices category for their work on the Metro 303 development, a 166-unit luxury apartment in the Village of Hempstead. The new housing provides an opportunity to attract young professionals to the area, and stays true to Mill Creek’s vision of creating apartment homes that enhance and compliment local communities. Metro 303 offers an immediate benefit to the community within the broader efforts to revitalize the Hempstead downtown.
Accepting the award was Mill Creek Residential Trust’s Maria Rigopoulos.
Compact Design: Water Mill Station, Koral Bros.
Water Mill Station by Koral Bros, Inc. was honored in the Compact Design category for their efforts to transform vacant land in downtown Water Mill into upscale office condominiums. The project is located on a long, narrow strip of land which is an infill site within easy walking distance to the historic Water Mill business district and next to the train tracks. It represents the ideal balance between preserving natural East End beauty and boosting up a small downtown business district.
Bill Koral of Koral Bros. and Alex Latham of ADL III Architecture accepted the award.
Clean Energy: EmPower Solar
EmPower Solar was recognized in the Clean Energy category for the company’s work building solar on homes, businesses, municipal properties, industrial sites, parking lots, and more. CEO and green entrepreneur David Schieren has a true vision for a clean energy future on Long Island. The company promotes the idea that solar energy improves the public health by reducing dependence on fossil fuels. EmPower solar is paving the way to a realistic future of clean, renewable energy on Long Island.
David Schieren along with the whole EmPower team accepted the award.
Community Participation: Dolores Thompson
Dolores “Dee” Thompson of the Huntington Station Enrichment Center was awarded for Community Participation. For decades, Ms. Thompson has been working towards revitalizing the Huntington Station community while building leadership programs. After witnessing the decline of the Huntington Station community, Ms. Thompson founded the Huntington Station Enrichment Center in 1997 which provides training in computer skills, entrepreneurship, English as a second language, job placement, senior services, and youth programs and activities. Ms. Thompson is responsible for many beneficial community programs over the years and continues to fight tirelessly for Huntington Station’s revitalization.
Huntington Station was once a thriving downtown center, but when a 1962 urban renewal project failed to move beyond demolishing buildings, the neighborhood began to decline and soon become a sea of parking lots. Today, the community is known as a crime-laden area in desperate need of revitalization. Ms. Thompson remembers the days when Huntington Station was in better shape and has a vision for revitalization that will bring the community back to where it once was. The primary root of the community’s problems, she has said, is the lack of new stores and housing. New construction would replace previously lost jobs and provide homes for a new generation.
Ms. Thompson was introduced by Town of Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone.
Walkability: New York State Senator Charles Fuschillo and Sandi Vega, NYS Complete Streets Legislation
This year’s walkability award went to New York State Senator Charles Fuschillo and Sandi Vega for their work in passing the Complete Streets law. The bill, which amends the state highway law, requires that all roads receiving state and federal funding recognize all users of the road—including cyclists, pedestrians of all ages and abilities, and public transportation vehicles—in the design and construction process. Senator Fuschillo introduced the Complete Streets legislation in the Senate and served as one of its strongest elected supporters. The legislation moved forward due to the tireless efforts of Ms. Vega, a strong advocate for safer streets and roads who garnered local support and commitment. Sandi Vega’s 14 year old daughter, Brittany, lost her life to a driver while walking to school one morning in 2010. This tragedy led Sandi to take action and fight for safer streets. Ms. Vega’s interest in safe streets is driven by her hope that no one else will have to suffer a similar loss; that the streets and roads across Long Island communities will be safe for all potential road users.
Ms. Vega was introduced by Lavena Sipes, who shares the tragedy of having lost her daughter, Courtney Sipes, in a hit and run accident in November 2009 on Main Street in Smithtown. Ms. Sipes’ comments were chilling, and when Ms. Vega finally took to the podium, the audience erupted in applause, a standing ovation and many in tears.
Senator Fuschillo was also in attendance to receive the award. Following the award presentations, the Senator was brought up to give a quick promotion for the Commuter Transit Benefits bill that is currently moving through the NYS Legislature. This bill, which passed the Senate with Senator Fuschillo’s sponsorship, will ensure that transit commuters in New York receive an existing tax benefit that the federal government cut this year.
Regional Leadership: Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, New York State Regional Economic Development Councils
This year’s Regional Leadership award went to New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, who was recognized for his work as chair of the NYS Regional Economic Development Councils. The Councils have resulted in $785.5 million worth of new funding for many important downtown revitalization projects, including Wyandanch Rising, the Ronkonkoma Hub, sewers for the Village of Hempstead, infrastructure for Heartland Town Square and many others.
Accepting the award on behalf of Mr. Duffy was Scott Martella, Suffolk representative for the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Martella presented Vision’s Eric Alexander with a letter penned by Duffy, explaining his gratitude for receiving the award. Martella spoke to the audience and really drove the importance of the Councils’ work toward rebuilding Long Island and making it a better place to live and work
Here are some supporting remarks from the event:
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said, “Vision Long Island promotes a more livable and economically sustainable future through its support of transformational projects like the Ronkonkoma Hub, Republic Station Redevelopment, Thought Box 1 and 2nd track. I applaud Vision Long Island for their hard work, which is an inspiration to all Long Islanders and New Yorkers.”
Lt. Governor Robert Duffy said, “The Regional Economic Development Councils will help transform our state’s economy and return New York to greatness. This belief is upheld by the work of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, who deserves recognition for this award. The projects you are honoring were made possible in part by the Long Island Council’s hard work and collaboration. In fact, one of the four major categories in the Long Island Council’s winning strategic plan is entitled “Smart Growth for Communities.” This award is in thanks to the council’s vision, success and continued commitment to Long Island’s economy. The region is lucky to have them as advocates.”
NYS Senator Charles Fuschillo said, "I am honored to receive this Smart Growth Award. New York State’s complete streets law will enhance safety initiatives, thereby, saving lives, preventing tragedies, and making our streets safer for all users of the road. I'm pleased to share this honor with Sandi Vega, who was a tireless advocate, and a special thanks to Vision Long Island for their strong support."
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano said, “The County is seeking private sector investors to redevelop the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the property that surrounds it so that we can create new jobs and generate the dollars needed to help hold the line on property taxes. With the help of Smart Growth we can and will plant the seeds needed to grow a sports-entertainment destination while redeveloping Nassau County.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “I offer congratulations to the 2012 Smart Growth Award recipients. The projects highlighted today truly represent sustainable developments which promote economic opportunity, community revitalization and help to improve the quality of life of all Long Islanders. The individuals recognized today serve as innovative transformers whose policies and strategies have served as an impetus for sustainable development.”
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said, “I am honored that Hempstead Town is receiving a Vision Long Island award for our work on the mixed-use development zone in Elmont. This is one of the most important projects we are undertaking here in America’s largest township, and the recognition of Vision Long Island shows that we are accomplishing great things for our residents.”
Huntington Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said, “Dee Thompson and the operators of the Paramount Theater have played important roles in the continuing evolution of Huntington Village and Huntington Station. In creating the Paramount, its operators returned a live performance space to a downtown that is one of Long island’s cultural meccas and expanded the range of programs to attract a new generation of concertgoer. For many years, Dee Thompson has been a vital force in Huntington Station’s rebirth, most recently as co-chair of the Huntington Station Action Coalition that has helped restore pride in the community while working on solutions for its issues. I commend Vision Long Island for recognizing their contributions to our community.”
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said, “I applaud Mayor Jean Celender’s selection as an honoree of the 11th Annual Smart Growth Awards. Her introduction of transit-oriented zoning to the Village of Great Neck Plaza’s business district will facilitate mixed-use development featuring affordable rentals and retail and thereby help stem the exodus of young people from Long Island.”
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert said, "Every year I look forward to Vision Long Island's Smart Growth Awards. It's an opportunity to connect with professionals and community people from all across the island who are working to push the envelope with projects that are transforming suburbia. I'm especially excited about the Riverwalk project located in the Town of Brookhaven. It's always an inspiring event and for that I thank Vision Long Island and congratulate this year's award recipients!"
Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said, “Bartone Plaza will provide the much needed housing to keep our youth on Long Island. It is a true TOD with walk ability to the railroad and downtown Farmingdale. The Plaza will be the first of many developments to increase foot traffic on Main Street our merchants are looking forward to its completion.”
Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne J. Hall, Sr. said, “On behalf of the Village of Hempstead, I would like to congratulate Metro 303 on this well-deserved award. Now that we have begun our transformative downtown revitalization project, it is important to encourage residential and commercial growth throughout our community. The 303 Main Street Project is an excellent example of the expansion and revitalization that we expect to see throughout the Village over the next several years.”
Donald Monti, President and CEO of Renaissance Downtowns, said, “There is a new norm in the market today, driven by our twenty-somethings who demand walkable, mixed-use downtowns near transit. If Long Island doesn’t provide these vibrant environments, our youth will continue to move away, as will the businesses that employ them. The good news is we are seeing progress - transformative redevelopments such as Hempstead and Huntington Station are two projects that we are proud to be a part of, along with numerous others such as Ronkonkoma, Wyandanch and of course, the great work underway in Patchogue. These revitalized downtowns are the answer to our region’s economic future, in addition to the social and environmental benefits brought about by responsible, transit oriented redevelopment."
Eric Alexander, Executive Director of Vision Long Island, said, “Vision Long Island is thrilled to highlight the accomplishments of our honorees for the 11th Annual Smart Growth Awards. This year’s honorees are ordinary LI’rs doing extraordinary things specifically improving their communities and the health of our local economy. The recipients are this year's testament to the collective action that is taking place in LI downtowns, empowering many of us to improve our neighborhoods. These projects are transforming Long Island’s downtowns for the better.”
The Smart Growth Awards is one of two primary Smart Growth events held on Long Island each year. On November 16th, these leaders will reconvene for the annual Smart Growth Summit, a full day of work sessions designed to advance the Smart Growth movement on Long Island.
Check out our event and media links:
View the article on the event at Newsday.
Also check out our recent Patch blog article: "Advantage Downtown II - Community Leadership: Be a Part of the Change..."
Thanks again to all our event sponsors:
2012 Smart Growth Awards event photos:
Save the Date for the 11th Annual Smart Growth Summit on Friday, November 16th!
Register today! Sponsorships are now available!
[ ] Visionary ($15,000) [ ] Leader ($10,000) [ ] Gold Sponsor ($5,000) [ ] Sponsor ($2,000) [ ] ___ seats ($100/person)
Please send questions and RSVPs by phone to 631-261-0242, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax to 631-754-4452.
LI Lobby Coalition Victory: Sewage Pollution Right to Know bill passes; Albany session ends as few bills advance
Sewage Pollution Right to Know Passes
Albany’s legislative season ended this Thursday, and despite an extremely low number of bills being passed this year, environmental and community advocates were able to celebrate the last-minute passage of the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act!
This act will finally give the public the right to know when raw or partially treated sewage is discharged into New York waters, allowing the public to avoid unnecessary exposure to dangerous sewage pollution. Governor Cuomo must sign the bill, before it becomes law, but he has been supportive to date. This bill was one of the priorities of the Long Island Lobby Coalition. The coalition is
Sewage overflows occur throughout the state and Long Island. They contaminate beaches, bays, rivers, lakes, and streams; and can flood streets and back up into homes or other buildings. Members of the public can often be seen recreating in areas that have recently been contaminated with sewage.
Similar public notification laws already exist in more than a dozen other states, including CT which passed a notification law earlier this year. New York’s Sewage Right to Know law will require public notification within four hours of a sewage discharge. Notification will happen via local news outlets and the website of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In addition, the DEC will produce a statewide Sewage Discharge Report each year that will report annual discharges and remedial responses taken.
The public has demonstrated overwhelming support for passage of this important legislation. Nearly 20,000 letters have been sent to elected officials and over 43,000 signatures have been collected in support of the public’s right to know when sewage overflows contaminate New York’s waterways and communities.
Beyond being an important win for the environment and public safety, this bill will bring light to the failing sewer infrastructure in our communities and put a greater impetus on municipalities and the state to make much-needed repairs.
Special thanks to the bill’s supporters: Assembly Sponsor Bob Sweeney, with co-sponsors Harvey Weisenberg, Michelle Schimel, Steve Englebright, Joseph Saladino, Phil Ramos, Earlene Hooper, Brian Curran, David McDonough, and Fred Thiele; and Senate sponsor Mark Grisanti with co-sponsors Chuck Fuschillo, Kenneth LaValle, and Jack Martins.
“Timely notification about sewage overflows will allow families to take precautions and avoid swimming in sewage, boating in bacteria, or fishing in filth. When it comes to harmful sewage pollution, ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We applaud Assemblyman Sweeney, Senator Grisanti and Senator Skelos for their leadership in passing this critical legislation. We now urge the Governor to sign the bill into law.”
“Discharges of untreated or partially treated sewage can pose a significant health risk to people that are fishing or swimming in contaminated waterways,” said Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation. “The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act will help ensure that New Yorkers receive notification about sewage overflows, so that they can take precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure to harmful sewage pollution.”
Read more in LI Business News.
Vision heads to Albany to push LI Lobby Coalition bills
Vision Long Island traveled to Albany on Wednesday to make a final push for several of the LI Lobby Coalition’s bills, including Sewage Pollution Right to Know, Commuter Transit Benefits, and the Solar Jobs Act. In partnership with coalition member Tri-State Transportation Campaign, we primarily focused on the Commuter Transit Benefits bill, which would restore a federally-cut tax benefit to NY’s transit commuters, making the benefit equal to that of drivers and helping to incentivize transit use. The bill passed the Senate in February but failed to move past the Assembly’s Ways and Means committee, where it was held this week.
Despite the chaotic end-of-session rush, we were able to speak with all the key players for this legislation, including the bill’s Senate sponsor Chuck Fuschillo, the Assembly sponsor Harvey Weisenberg, Assembly co-sponsors Michelle Schimel, Earlene Hooper, Steve Englebright, Andrew Raia and Ed Ra, bill supporters Chuck Lavine and Phil Boyle, and Fred Thiele from the Ways and Means committee. We also spoke with Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, chair of the Ways and Means committee, and several other Ways and Means members. Additional co-sponsors include David McDonough, Tom McKevitt, Michael Montesano, and Bob Sweeney. With the exception of Assemblyman Farrell, every representative was supportive of the bill, many calling it a “no-brainer,” and expressed confusion over why the bill was stalled. Though the bill only costs the state $15 million (which typically was spent anyway under the federal rule that expired in December), we were told that the problem was likely a budgetary one. Once again, Albany balances its budget on the backs of transit riders.
A joint statement from Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council, Vision Long Island and Tri State Transportation Campaign:
Moving forward, the bill can either be reintroduced next year, or if the federal government manages to end its standstill and pass a transportation bill this month it could include a restoration of the benefit.
The Solar Jobs Act also failed to pass through the legislature this year.
Newsday published a story on the bill on Wednesday, citing the LI Lobby Coalition.
You can also read Senator Fuschillo’s statement here. In addition, Assemblyman Thiele of the Ways and Means Committee helped by writing a letter to Assemblyman Farrell at Vision’s request, available here.
Glen Cove Waterfront Renewal Project Underway
Glen Isle, the City of Glen Cove’s large-scale plan to revitalize 56 acres of former industrial property through waterfront redevelopment is, after nine years of groundwork, finally underway. Progress was slow for Mayor Ralph Suozzi of Glen Cove and the Glen Isle team of Posillico, Renaissance Downtowns, and RXR Realty. With the encouragement of Vision Long Island, and after first being approved by the Glen Cove City Planning Board, Industrial Development Agency, and Community Development Agency, the $1 billion project has at last moved successfully through the State Environmental Quality Review Process Act.
The first project of its size and ambition to be approved, among many similar large-scale proposals across Long Island in the last decade, Glen Isle will strike its roots into the property along Glen Cove Creek by the end of the year with the construction of an initial 250 rental apartments. An additional 600 rental and condominium residences, a 250-suite hotel and conference center, 75,000 square feet of office and retail space, and 19 acres of waterfront esplanades and parks, will soon follow.
In keeping with the principles that won the development a Smart Growth Award in 2010, Glen Isle will fertilize 2.2 million square feet in total, priming the area for renewal and financial growth, combining economic sustainability with environmental sensitivity. With all its approvals complete and road design underway, the Glen Isle project is gaining momentum fast. Construction of the first 250 apartments is projected to conclude in time to benefit community members for the summer of 2014. When completed, Glen Isle will serve as a national model for Smart Growth, and deliver a message of hope that even the most blighted area can be transformed into a community asset.
For more about the Glen Isle project’s process and intentions see David Winzelberg’s article in Long Island Business News.
Hempstead residents support new downtown project
Village of Hempstead residents are getting fired up about the new $2 billion revitalization plan by Renaissance Downtowns. On Monday, June 18th a group of about 100 residents passionately spoke about this matter at a public meeting where they were encouraged to provide input on the supplemental environmental impact study. The study was conducted by the Village of Hempstead and by Renaissance Downtowns, the master developers for the project.
According to Village of Hempstead Housing Authority Board of Commissioners chairman Cornell Bozier "We don't want to see another Brooklyn or Manhattan; we do want to see Hempstead developed. We need to sit down and decide what we need, how much of it that we need and let's go from there. It hurts me growing up here to see what Hempstead has become."
Xavier Shorter, a graduating senior at Hempstead High School said “I'm actually leaving Hempstead to attend college, there's nothing here to keep my interest. Why is that? All I see up and down my street are underutilized buildings, debris . . . We need a positive change.” He then went to say that residents “need to understand that it's not just about them, or how tall or narrow the buildings should be. It's the impact on the youth. It's about pride in our village, being proud of where we come from. This is a chance for Hempstead to be as vibrant as it used to be."
Beyond the overwhelming support for the revitalization, some specific concerns were expressed over the impact on water, sewage, parking, and building heights. Though the public comment period closed earlier this month, Don Monti from Renaissance Downtowns said that he and other officials will meet with any resident or business owner who has concerns or ideas about the project. Monti added that “no site plan will be reviewed and no building permit will be issued until such time as a community benefit agreement is in place.”
For more information, read this article from Newsday.
Public Infrastructure Policy Act Implementation Report shows overall positive results for NYS
Empire State Future, Vision Long Island’s Albany partners, have compiled a report on the progress and implementation of the 2010 New York State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure and Policy Act (PIPA). After Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act efforts in 2009, New York State responded with a call for efficient infrastructure projects. The proposals received by the state included capital project repairs for water, sewage, road, bridge, transit and some for new engines of growth. The report shows that, overall, New York State agencies and authorities that implemented PIPA and provided their feedback and progress for the report have been showing positive results.
One of the best examples highlighted in the the report is the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC). The EFC administers the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) which funds sewer infrastructure. Part of the requirements to receive funding assistance is that all applicants must meet Smart Growth principles. The EFC also provides an outline for infrastructure, repair, and replacement projects which encourage intergovernmental coordination. Finally, EFC created a Smart Growth Advisory Committee to assist in the implementation of PIPA, focusing especially on reviewing input from affected local and environmental interests.
Within the report, Empire State Future provides suggestions for better environmental and fiscal decision-making for infrastructure, targeting the state level. Empire State Future encourages education and guidance on PIPA and for state agencies to provide incentives for proper PIPA implementation and disincentives for those who are not compliant. Empire State Future wants PIPA to be a benchmark for smarter spending for New York State and hopes that this will promote efficient use of infrastructure funding.
Vision Long Island will continue to partner with Empire State Future to ensure the implementation of this vital law that directs state resources toward Smart Growth communities.
Suffolk County and the Town of Islip support Ronkonkoma Hub project
Doing its part to pave the way for one of the most important pending economic development projects on Long Island, the Suffolk County Legislature has included $21 million of funding in its 2013 capital budget to create sewers to serve the Ronkonkoma Hub project. The project includes property in the Towns of Brookhaven and Islip. Brookhaven Town has already chosen TRITEC Real Estate as the master developer for the project, and on Tuesday, the Islip Town Board voted to enter negotiations with TRITEC about Islip naming the firm as master developer for the project. The proposed $350 million redevelopment project will transform the Ronkonkoma Long Island Rail Road station into a 50-acre, mixed-use, transportation-oriented, pedestrian-friendly centerpiece of the community. It is expected that this project will create more than 1,000 direct construction jobs, more than 500 permanent jobs and almost 5,000 secondary jobs.
The $21 million will fund the creation of a sewer district to serve the project. In the initial proposed 2013 capital budget, there were allocations of $5 million in 2014 and $15 million in subsequent years to fund the sewer district. Hoping to speed the project’s progress, the Legislature decided to provide the funding in 2013. The funding does not add to the county’s debt; it will be repaid by the sewer district covering the project once it is created.
The Hub project received a $4 million grant for design from the Long Island Regional Development Council, which called it a “transformative project.” Its potential is maximized by its location adjacent to the busiest LIRR station, Ronkonkoma, with more than 17,000 riders and MacArthur Airport.
“This is a transformational project for the economy of Suffolk County, Long Island and the Ronkonkoma community,” said County legislature Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley. “One of our top priorities as a Legislature is economic development, and we are all in on the Ronkonkoma Hub project.”
“We want to do everything we can to boost Suffolk’s economy by creating jobs for our residents,” said County Legislator DuWayne Gregory. “This project will be a major economic engine for Suffolk County and we completely support it.”
“This project is a prime example of how different levels of government here in Suffolk County can work together with a private company to effectively redevelop areas and create jobs,” said Legislator Tom Muratore. “It is my hope that this project will send a message to businesses and business people across the nation that Suffolk County is the place that they can start a business or easily relocate.”
County Legislator John Kennedy supported the funding, noting the need for revitalization of the Ronkonkoma railroad station. “The project will pave the way for significant new construction and will be paid for by property owners within the sewer district,” said Legislator Kennedy.
“The Ronkonkoma Hub is a transformative project that will mean thousands of jobs for Suffolk County residents,” County Executive Steve Bellone said. “This action sends a clear message that Suffolk County stands united to create jobs, pursue transit-oriented development and grow our economy.”
Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko said the funding for the sewer system is necessary before TRITEC can get approval for loans to buy the property: “The Ronkonkoma Hub is the best opportunity to create economic growth and a transit-oriented development on the entire East Coast. The sewer bond is a vital, essential step in the process, which allows our Master Developer, TRITEC LLC, to move forward with the redevelopment. They told us they can't move forward unless they know they can flush a toilet."
“Future economic development and job creation in Islip and Suffolk County is heavily dependent on sewage treatment capability and a thriving Long Island McArthur Airport,” said Islip Supervisor Tom Croci. “Support by the county at this critical juncture moves us closer to both goals.”
Read more in Long Island Business News.
Great Neck Plaza offers new public parking brochure
The Village of Great Neck Plaza announces its new detailed, colorful Parking Brochure which provides helpful parking hints and allows for easy identification of all 1,622 parking lots, parking garages and permit spaces. The brochure includes a new map identifying many Great Neck Plaza landmarks, allowing parking in respect to the locations easier for both residents and shoppers. The Plaza has ample public parking which is located at a convenient proximity to its variety of shops, restaurants, historical landmarks and the LIRR train station.
You can pick up the new brochure on display at the entrances of Lot 4, across from the Village Hall, and Lot 2, at Grace Avenue and Bond Street, as well as Village Hall.
Vision in DC for t-bill
Vision’s Eric Alexander was in Washington, DC earlier this month to meet with our representatives on the federal transportation bill. As the bill moves through conference committee, it is a critical time for protecting valuable programs and funding for our communities. At risk, for example, are Safe Routes to Schools and Transportation Enhancements, funding for transit operations and road repair and the very existence of an environmental review process. Four New York Congress members are on the conference committee, out of 33 total, including Senator Schumer and Representatives Bishop, Hanna and Nadler. The committee seems to be stuck, however, and time is running out before the current bill expires on June 30th.
Congress was not in session the week that we visited and members were in their districts, but Alexander, along with members of the Transportation for America Coalition, were able to meet with senior transportation staff for Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Representatives Bishop, King, Israel and Turner (Brooklyn and Queens). It was a productive day and it was great to hear the support from our region’s elected leaders on these important issues.
The staffer for Senator Schumer’s office listened to our points on transit support, transit operating flexibility, the bike-ped amendments to the House bill that are being threatened and repair issues. The team also discussed the environmental review process from a local involvement perspective.
Senator Gillibrand’s representative informed us that she would be writing a letter with her priorities for transportation. Vision urged the Senator to be a vocal champion for bicycle and pedestrian safety and the staffer hoped to find new ways for the Senator to be involved on the ground.
Representative Bishop’s staffer explained that his priorities are to push the Senate’s MAP-21 legislation. Bishop cares deeply about our priorities, especially transit funding and environmental review, and some safety regulations. The staffer confirmed that the working groups were still in the process of going over the bill line-by-line. Some House Republicans and staff are raising questions on almost every piece of MAP-21, while there is pushback from the Senate at attempts from to compare MAP-21 with HR 7.
Vision met with Representative Israel’s office on small business issues, as well as the transportation bill. Israel’s top transportation bill priorities are bike-ped safety, environmental review, and transit.
Representative King’s representative was clear about his support for transit when HR 7 and slashing funding was on the table, and Vision discussed pedestrian safety in detail.
Representative Turner’s representative made it clear that his office is a huge transit supporter, and the Representative does not view transportation as a partisan issue. Turner wrote a letter to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee supporting transit, road and bridge funding and report and safety funding to help pedestrians earlier this year.
Stay tuned as the conference committee discussions progress. Newsday published an editorial this week supporting a long-term bill that adequately funds transit.
Connect LI advances as Schumer convenes Republic Task Force
Earlier this week, the Office of Senator Chuck Schumer, in coordination with Town of Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer, brought together key stakeholders in an attempt to move the Connect Long Island plan forward. The plan hinges upon smarter land use patterns and transit oriented development in East Farmingdale and along the Route 110 corridor, the largest job center on Long Island, but also an area with little capacity for automobile growth.
That's why the plan also calls for reactivating the long dormant Republic Station on the Ronkonkoma Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, and implementing an enhanced north-south transit system along the Route 110 corridor. In order to push the project into the next phase, Senator Schumer's office brought together planning officials from both Suffolk County and the Town of Babylon, state and local elected officials, Smart Growth and transit advocates, local chambers of commerce and representatives from both the MTA and NYSDOT. Some of the specific groups involved include the LIRR Commuters Council, Melville Chamber of Commerce, LI Builders Institute, Vision Long Island, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and others. Members of the workgroup will work collectively to draw public and private investment into the redevelopment while coordinating with Schumer’s office and the Town of Babylon.
The movement forward on the Connect Long Island plan followed the recent announcement that $138 million in additional funding had been included in the MTA's 2010-2015 Capital Program. This funding will be used to begin double track construction along the Ronkonkoma branch from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma. The first phase of construction will take place from Central Islip to Ronkonkoma, and when completed, will not only support transit-oriented development proposals at Republic Airport and along Route 110, but also at the Ronkonkoma Hub and in Farmingdale's downtown.
The Route 110 transit corridor proposal has already undergone a feasibility assessment and last fall received $360,000 in funding from the Federal Transit Administration to conduct an alternatives analysis.
The Connect LI plan is available online here.
Town of Brookhaven receives revitalization grant for Bellport
Last week, the One Region Funders’ Group and Tri-State Transportation Campaign announced four grants that will help municipalities and development agencies in downstate New York and Connecticut pursue innovative and equitable transit-oriented development. As it did in 2009, the Transit-Centered Development Grant Program supports projects that will help grow our region in a more sustainable manner. This year’s grantees are a diverse group, and the chosen projects reflect different ways that transit-oriented development can help foster affordable housing, walkable communities, and neighborhood revitalization.
One of the awards went to the Town of Brookhaven, who received $44,500 for a study of potential sites and financing options for sewage treatment facilities near the Bellport Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station. Sewer infrastructure would support private redevelopment proposals aimed at revitalizing Bellport, a diverse working-class neighborhood, through construction of residential units, commercial and office space, as well as a community center.
The grant marks the continuation of a community-driven planning process coordinated by Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert and the Greater Bellport Coalition, a community organization comprised of business, civic, and faith-based organizations. The coalition held multiple visioning sessions and developed a sustainable community plan which was adopted by the town board in 2009.
“The One Region Funders’ Group is thrilled to support an innovative, forward-thinking project that will promote transit use, spur investment in Bellport, and implement the community’s vision for redevelopment,” said John McNally of the Rauch Foundation.
“Mixed-use development around existing transit service is good for the economy, environment and quality of life,” said Kate Slevin of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “The Brookhaven project is an ideal opportunity for successful, community-driven, transit-oriented development and can serve as a model for redevelopment statewide.”
"Sewage infrastructure will enable the town to move forward a Transit Oriented development (TOD) adjacent to the train station in North Bellport. It is a key investment which will spur growth, and create jobs in an area which has been under served and impacted by blight for many years," said Brookhaven Councilwoman Constance Kepert.
Long Island ready for solar growth
Pictured (L-R): NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Neal Lewis - Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, David Schieren - EmPower Solar, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, Brookhaven Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld
In terms of clean energy sources, solar power is perhaps the most popular among New Yorkers today. And with rising electricity needs, plenty of sunshine, and a local workforce primed for green jobs, New York has what it takes to lead the new solar economy. However, the state currently has a policy structure that has supported a miniscule amount of solar in New York’s electricity mix. As a result, clean energy jobs and investment have been pouring into neighboring states that have more aggressive policies.
The New York Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act is important legislation that will lead the way in building the state’s clean energy. The bill establishes a reasonable, baseline market commitment for solar power in New York, which will translate into green, local jobs. It builds upon the state’s commitment to acquire more solar power, and codifies the Governors NY SUN initiative while developing a more long-term commitment to solar growth. It is imperative to pass this legislation this year, as Assembly bill A.9149A (Englebright).
Long Islanders want solar power, and there is enormous on-the-ground support for statewide solar legislation. An op-ed in this week’s Newsday highlights some of this support. In addition, Long Island has played host to two major solar policy conferences in the last month to rally around the legislation and educate the public on the benefits of solar.
The first conference, organized by Vision board member Neal Lewis of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College on April 20th, drew nearly 200 guests including industry leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, utility representatives, advocates and policy makers. Themes included how to make Long Island a national leader in solar installation, and what policy changes could significantly increase the opportunities to expand the solar industry on Long Island. The conference explored the fact that solar energy is already a success story on Long Island, with a growing number of installers adding solar to over 5,000 homes and with the award-winning, large-scale solar project at BNL, and the 4 recently constructed Suffolk parking lot solar carports.
Now the goal is build upon that success and substantially scale-up the industry; creating jobs, reducing air pollution, fighting global warming and promoting energy independence. Major opportunities for policy changes include feed-in-tariffs, S-RECs, and fast-track solar permits, among others. Select guest speakers included Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Town of Brookhaven Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, Michael Hervey of LIPA, David Calone of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, David Schieren of EmPower Solar, Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy LI and many others.
Pictured (L-R): Sail Van Nostrand - LI Solar Energy Industries Association, Peter Olmsted - Vote Solar Initiative, Adrienne Esposito - Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Neal Lewis - Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, Jim Castellane - Building Trades Council, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island
More recently, on Monday, May 21st, the NY Solar Jobs Coalition hosted one of several statewide “Solar Jobs Days” on LI at the Molloy College Suffolk campus. The coalition comprises an extensive group of diverse stakeholders and many local organizations collaborated on the event. Despite the irony of the rainy, overcast weather that day, the event was a success, with info presented on both the legislation and the solar industry.
Featured speakers included Sail Van Nostrand from the New York and Long Island Solar Energy Industries Association, Jim Castellane from the Nassau and Suffolk Building Trades Council, Adrienne Esposito from Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Neal Lewis from the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, and Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island.
The event included a solar jobs training 101 session, which presented technical info for those interested in getting into the rapidly growing solar energy field, including a training program offered at Farmingdale State College. Sail Van Nostrand and Adrienne Esposito also gave educational presentations on the importance of solar power for LI and the relevance of the legislation. In addition there were hands-on exhibits by SUNation Solar Systems, Eldor Contracting Corp, Energy by Choice, LTD, ABest Energy Power, Absolute Solar, EmPower Solar, DPW Solar, The Sun Energy Grow and Go Green Energy Solutions. The message of the day was that Long Islanders should get excited for this solar legislation, because of how much it is going to help out the environment and how much energy it is going to provide (pun intended)!
For more info on the fair check out this op-ed published in Newsday this past week.
Hicksville Downtown revitalization advances: LIRR to get major renovations
The Long Island Rail Road has pledged to spend $203 million to make repairs along its main line, including major renovations at the Hicksville station such as new 12-car platforms, escalators, waiting areas, lighting and canopies. In addition, the LIRR will work to modernize the station’s signals and lay tracks to connect the station to a nearby area for train storage. This work will enable Hicksville to increase train service, especially at rush hour.
Vision Long Island has been working closely with the Hicksville Community Council and the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce to reach out to the local community and stakeholders to gather information on what they would like to see done with the station. Over the course of these meetings Vision has gathered numerous recommendations for the train station that, in addition to the above changes, include adding new ticket machines, adding new garbage cans and smoking posts, powerwashing and painting the trestles and creating murals or other types of public art beneath the tracks. Vision and community leaders met with the MTA where they made commitments to make these improvements.
As one of the LIRR’s busiest stations- 215 trains pass through each week- this is a welcome and important announcement. In fact, as one of the primary recommendations from the downtown revitalization process it shows that the MTA has in fact been listening to the community and hopefully plans to continue doing so as improvements continue.
Joel Berse, of the Hicksville Community Council said in Newsday, "The thing is old. The thing is dingy. It's not friendly for somebody to have as a destination... It doesn't look clean even when it is clean. The renovation is a really great idea."
The funding will also repair a crumbling bridge in Westbury. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 and be completed in 2017.
Island Park's Austin Boulevard gets safety boost, but no medians
The residents of Island Park can breathe a small sigh of relief, as the county has finally decided to do something about the dangers of Austin Boulevard. According to a study by The RBA Group, from 2008 to 2010, Austin Boulevard had 309 accidents, which is double the average for a similar road. Eileen Kelly, a transportation planner for RBA, said that “the majority of accidents were rear-ends, left-turn collisions, and parked cars being sideswiped which is indicative of aggressive driving.”
There are many planned improvements for Austin Boulevard and the main goal, according to Kelly, is traffic calming. To do so, RBA has proposed adding new crosswalks with countdown timers and retiming the traffic lights, replacing them with top-of-the-line models. They also proposed adding sidewalk “bulb-out" widened sidewalk areas at corners that give pedestrians more room to stand, make the road appear narrower to drivers, create safer parking zones on the side of the road and reduce the distance pedestrians have to walk to cross the street.
In addition, RBA’s study suggests widening the parking lanes by three feet and widening the travel lanes by one foot, both which would be on par with the average for Long Island. In order to widen the lanes, the road would have to eliminate the third southbound travel lane to avoid expanding onto anyone’s property. The northbound route is a coastal emergency evacuation route, so three lanes would remain.
This plan was announced to residents at a meeting earlier this month. Though excited to receive some long-anticipated changes, residents were disappointed that these plans did not include a raised media; only a painted median suggested.
Island Park Mayor James Ruzicka said that "it went three-quarters of the way to where everyone would like it to be, it seemed like there was a lot of positive feedback [from residents]. We’re going in the right direction.” Some other residents just wanted a little more police reinforcement on the roads, just to make sure the speed limit is enforced.
“I feel this is a positive step for the whole community,” said Dina Bert, who helped galvanize the Island Park Civic Association behind this issue in 2008. “I think it’s going to revitalize the town. I think it’s something we really, truly need as a community.”
RBA and the County are listening and the proposal will not necessarily be the final plan, but at least something is finally being put into motion and Austin Boulevard is finally going to see a safer future.
Mixed-use project in Bay Shore to advance with IDA support
The Town of Islip and the Islip Industrial Development Agency have approved a measure that will allow a Bay Shore mixed-use project to advance. Pace Cove will be a 90-unit apartment building with retail space, located at 11 Maple Avenue on the corner of Gibson Street and developed by Chase Partners. It will cover 1.7 acres and 133,000 square feet. The project was previously planned to be a 58-unit condo development, but fell apart due to economic constraints.
Last year, the Town of Islip passed a Uniform Tax Exempt Policy that incentivizes development in certain downtown corridors in alignment with the Town’s Master Plan. This policy allows the IDA to make special exemptions for mixed-use projects. In this case, the measure will allow the IDA to offer tax abatements to Chase Partners, which will help finance the $21.3 million Pace Cove project. According to a press release: “The real estate development company potentially could receive property tax abatements as well as exemptions from the mortgage recording tax and sales tax once the IDA approves a final resolution for the project. Terms of the abatement have not been decided.”
Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, who approved the IDA measure on May 8th, said, “I’m pleased we will be able to undertake this project. The redevelopment of our downtowns is important to the prosperity of the town and the creation of housing in these corridors will go a long way in assisting our young residents to find places to live.”
Construction is expected to begin in October and completed by December 2012.
Welfare to Work Commission tackles poverty in Suffolk
“People are not poor because THEY did something wrong.” That was the message that was conveyed at last Friday’s Welfare to Work Commission event at the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge. The title of the public hearing was “Struggling in Suburbia: Meeting the Challenges of Poverty in Suffolk County.” During the hearing, attendees were instructed on many issues going on in Suffolk County and all of Long Island, with the increasing number of Long Islanders who are poor and who, more recently, are becoming poor.
According to American Community Survey data collected between 2006 and 2010, there are about 90,000 people, or 6% of the population, in poverty on Long Island, 4% being families. There are about 40,000 people below 50% of the poverty line, 120,000 people below 125% of the poverty line and the number of people below 150% and 200% increased. There are 3 types of poor: the “near poor” who are not quite in poverty but who are still struggling, the “new poor” who have to turn to government assistance after losing their jobs and their homes and the “working poor” who are still working a job but do not have enough money to be comfortable and must still choose between paying bills and eating.
There was a plethora of speakers at this event, including government officials, human service agencies, academic experts and impoverished Long Islanders. The most moving part of the presentation was when a community member got up and spoke about his recent troubled times. He spoke about how he had been working on Wall Street since he was 18 and had worked his way up the ladder. He had gone from sitting at the top of the stadium at baseball games to sitting right on the field level; he was supporting his family and everything was going well. But once he lost his job he was no longer able to do the things he once loved to do; even going to baseball games became difficult. The stress of not having a job and not being able to pay the bills caught up to him and also made him very ill for a time, and required a hospital stay hindering his ability to look for work.
Special thanks go out to Vision Board member Dr. Richard Koubek for organizing this conference as chair of the Welfare to Work Commission. The Suffolk Legislature will use the topics discussed at this hearing to assemble a report in the coming weeks and months on the rise in poverty in Suffolk County.
Read more at Newsday.
What’s going on with the Coliseum?
One of our region’s largest redevelopment projects has undergone quite a dramatic process. After over a decade of failed privately- and publicly-financed redevelopment plans, the Nassau Coliseum seems to have taken a backseat in recent months. As the clock ticks until the Islanders’ lease expires in 2015, local government, developers, and the public feel an immense pressure to get something done soon.
One venue that County Executive Mangano is expected to pursue is the NYS Regional Economic Development Councils. After being denied funding last year, Mangano says he will get a viable proposal together before the June 15th deadline for the second round of funding.
However, this funding would only represent a small fraction of what is needed to pay for a redevelopment plan.
Mangano was expected to issue a request for proposals in February, and several local developers expressed interest. However after hearing that Islanders owner Charles Wang would not bid, Mangano let the effort die. He said of the RFP process without Wang, “It would summarily end any opportunity to keep the Islanders. We really would not have accomplished our primary goal, which is still to retain the Islanders and to create a sports entertainment destination."
LI Federation of Labor president and Vision Long Island board member John Durso said, “We're hopeful that all of the parties will continue to talk and we're very supportive of moving the project forward. It's absolutely vital to the future of Long Island, not just Nassau County, and an integral part of getting Nassau County back on the road to financial solvency.”
The Town of Hempstead has expressed a willingness to work with the county on any zoning issues to help spur redevelopment once a developer is chosen. Mangano is looking at additional low-interest financing options, and would also consider using some county funds. "I've been pursuing it aggressively and actively since August," he said. "I have not given up hope."
Read more at Newsday.
North Hempstead hosts downtown revitalization conference
The Town of North Hempstead held a Downtown Revitalization Conference on May 11th at the Harbor Links Golf Course in Port Washington to concentrate on breathing life into declining shopping corridors in the town. The conference attracted 130 participants, including elected officials and representatives from local business improvement districts and grassroots groups. Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman and the Town Board hosted the event along with the Town’s Business & Tourism Development Corp.
“Reviving and redesigning downtowns so they thrive economically is not only a national matter but a local one as well,” said Supervisor Kaiman. “With a number of communities right here in the Town of North Hempstead contemplating revitalization projects, the timing was right for the Town to take the lead in holding a conference like this.”
The half-day conference kicked off with welcoming remarks by Louise Fishman and Roy J. Smitheimer, the program director and economic development consultant for the Business & Tourism Development Corp. It explored topics from “Strategies for Designing a Downtown and Zoning as a Planning Tool” to “Retail Recruitment Strategy, Place Branding and Funding Your Downtown Efforts.”
Vision’s Eric Alexander spoke, noting that 30 downtowns across Long Island are seeing real success in their revitalization work. Over 6,000 units of housing have been approved near train stations and, in fact, the market is in favor of this type of redevelopment. There are opportunities to create transit-oriented development in Port Washington, improve pedestrian safety in Manhasset and reinvest in forgotten areas of the Town, with help from the state laws for Smart Growth public infrastructure and Complete Streets. "The key to moving forward is to continure building consensus, you can do anything,” he concluded, "You can revitalize your downtown, the market and the resources are with you."
NYS Senator Jack Martins gave a keynote speech, drawing from his time as Mayor of Mineola. “The opportunity to bring people from so many different sectors to share ideas on the next generation of suburban community was an idea whose time has come,” he said. “I applaud the town for taking lead in providing this opportunity.”
Additional distinguished speakers were Larry Levy from the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, Victor Dadras from Dadras Architects, Dawn Blinn from the Village of Westbury Business Improvement District, Council members Dina DeGiorgio, Anna Kaplan, and Lee Seeman; Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman, Village of Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner, Village of Plandome Manor Mayor Barbara Donno, Michael Levine from the Town’s Planning Department, and Chris Murray and Francesca Carlow from the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce.
Read more from Patch.com.
Mill Creek to build The Winston in Mineola
The Winston, a 275-unit apartment building planned for Mineola at Old Country Road and Willis Avenue, has taken on a new partner as it moves forward in the building process. Polimeni Associates will partner with Mill Creek Residential Trust, the developers responsible for the Courtesy Hotel redevelopment in West Hempstead and Hempstead Village’s Metro 303. The revised agreement was approved the Village of Mineola Board last week.
The Winston was originally slated to be condominiums, but after a challenge from the neighboring Village of Garden City, Polimeni switched the plan to rental apartments, which would not require approval from Garden City. The project will also include a 36-unit senior housing building along Front Street called The Churchill, as well as a community benefits package.
“We are very excited about moving forward with the Winston development,” said Maria Rigopoulos, managing director for Mill Creek in the northeast and Vision Long Island board member. “We think that the site, located in downtown Mineola and so close to the Mineola LIRR train station, is a terrific location for new rental housing.”
Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2012 and take about 2 years to complete. The Winston won a Smart Growth Award in 2008 for encouraging walkability.
Read more in Long Island Business News
Big Victory for Smart Growth: Farmingdale Village approves Bartone Plaza
On Monday evening, the Bartone Plaza project was given a 5-0 unanimous approval by the Village of Farmingdale Board. The developer, Anthony Bartone, was thankful and enthusiastic about the success. His hope is to redevelop blighted and underutilized properties and promote walkability in order to return a sense of vibrancy back into downtown Farmingdale. The project is expected to break ground this August.
The project, located in downtown Farmingdale, consists of a three-story mix of apartments and retail space which will take over a vacant warehouse, providing 115 apartments and 17,000 square feet of retail shops, along with an underground parking lot designed to hold 172 vehicles. Across the street, on what is currently a private parking lot, will be an 85-room Home 2 Suites Hilton Hotel. The development will also work as a transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly property due to its proximity to the LIRR station. Bartone Plaza will also provide a series of amenities, including brick walkways, parking meters (whose revenues will go to the Village), road work, removal and burial of utility poles, trees and landscaping and a pocket park.
Vision Long Island has awarded Bartone Plaza a 2012 Smart Growth Award for “Revitalizing Communities.” Vision Long Island also conducted a visioning process beginning in 2006 that identified the location for redevelopment.
Vision is quoted and referenced in the above articels and the Newsday editorial, which you can find here.
Smithtown Update: Main Street repairs commence
People driving through Smithtown this week were treated to a new experience, as the first of the Department of Transportation’s road reconfigurations have been implemented. One lane along westbound Main Street has been closed, with new painted medians and left-turn lanes. One of these turn lanes has been added at Lawrence Avenue, the intersection where 11-year old Courtney Sipes was killed in 2009. In addition, traffic signals will turn red in all directions when pedestrians begin to cross, and signals at Lawrence and Maple Avenues will remain red on off-peak hours until sensors see a vehicle approaching. The reconstruction is being hailed by advocates as a good first step:
Lavena Sipes, mother of the deceased Courtney, said “Overnight the DOT implemented a major change to the road that we have talked about for months. To see the drawings we have been looking at for so long transform into reality is an awesome thing. As I look at the new road I can’t help but remember the precious lives lost that inspire many of us every day to make a difference. This is a major milestone in the journey to a better Smithtown. Many people are involved, but the DOT should ultimately be commended for implementing the previous measures and especially this very important long term solution.” She added, “More needs to be done, but it's a step in the right direction, and it's what they can build on to make it safer."
Mark Mancini from the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce told us, “This morning the trucks were putting the final stripes down on the road for the new configuration. The DOT has taken the first step towards makes Route 25 / 25A (Main Street) a safer environment for drivers and pedestrians. A lot more needs to be done, but I feel we are finally moving in a positive direction that will save lives and put Smithtown’s main street back on track to becoming an area that we all are proud of.”
Read more at Newsday and Fios1.
First round of improvements announced for Hempstead Turnpike
After significant media attention on the most dangerous road for pedestrians in our region, NYS Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano have announced the first set of improvements that are planned for Hempstead Turnpike.
Improvements will include: repainting crosswalks, increasing signal time for pedestrians, upgrading crossing signals with push buttons, and repairing broken traffic signals. Several of these improvements have been ongoing in the last several months, including 86 intersections which have had pedestrian-crossing time increased. Leading pedestrian intervals, which give pedestrians a head start before the light turns green for cars, have been installed at 52 crosswalks.
During a press conference in Elmont, McDonald said, "We've made significant improvements and we're going to be doing more," and Mangano noted that these improvements represent "a first step, but a giant step.” In addition to the planned changes, the DOT will consider raised medians, fencing along some sidewalks, additional signal timing changes, relocating bus stops to be closer to sidewalks, and adding more pedestrian signals in the future. McDonald hopes to have a “menu” of potential improvements by June. Other options include eliminating some parking along the road and adding up to six red-light cameras. "Cost isn't the issue," McDonald said. "We're funding what needs to happen."
There will also be a “Walk Safe Nassau” public education campaign that will target both pedestrians and drivers with fliers and posters.
Central Islip Visioning draws over 200 to plan future park
Pictured (L-R): Debbie Cavangh - Coalition of Good Neighbors, Amparo Saddler - Central Islip Parks Committee, Scott Martella - Office of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, Nancy Manfredonia - Central Islip Civic Council, Debbie Rotunda - Central Islip Parks Committee, Islip Town Councilman Steve Flotteron, NYS Assemblyman Phil Ramos, Suffolk County Legislator Rick Montano, NYS Senator Lee Zeldin
On Saturday, April 28th, over 200 families, young people, seniors, chamber members and other local stakeholders gathered for the Central Islip Visioning at Central Islip High School. The goal of this visioning, spearheaded by Islip Town Councilman Steve Flotteron and facilitated by Vision Long Island, was to design a 20-acre park in the heart of the community. The meeting was filled with an excited and positive energy and some consensus developed on possible uses for the park.
The charette began with brief comments from community and government leaders. Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander kicked things off by introducing the Town’s park committee that is seeking more community input for the project. The community’s goals are to build something multi-generational and multi-use. The park, which is currently an under-utilized space, will be adjacent to the new Jobco housing development Coventry Gardens and will be funded in part through a public benefits fund from local developers. Community leaders noted that Central Islip has been waiting 50 years for this park!
Additional speakers included: Debbie Cavanaugh of the Coalition of Good Neighbors, Amparo Saddler of the Parks Committee, Debbie Rotunda of the Parks Committee, Nancy Manfredonia of the Central Islip Civic Council, Councilman Steve Flotteron, Scott Martella from Governor Cuomo’s office, Suffolk County Legislator Rick Montano, NYS Assemblyman Phil Ramos, NYS Senator Lee Zeldin and Vision Assistant Director (and Central Islip resident) Tawaun Weber.
The day before the meeting, Vision worked with the Islip Youth Mentoring program to do a mini-charrette with several middle school students. The youth presented their ideas, which included concession stands, spray or water park, basketball courts, a skateboard park, a theater, a dog park with dog sitters, restaurants, an ice skating rink, tennis courts, volleyball courts, bocce ball courts, bike riding paths, sufficient parking, bathrooms, water fountains, ‘you are here’ maps, and a jogging trail around perimeter. The kids concluded that they want officials to “show us the money.”
Following the kick-off speeches, Vision Long Island Sustainability Director Elissa Ward went through a presentation showing some of the possibilities for the park, opening people’s minds to various possibilities. The community then did an image preference survey, where they got to vote on a wide variety of options for park uses.
An important interactive activity had participants list some of the “hopes and horrors” for the park. The list of hopes was much longer than the horrors, the latter which included fear of gang infiltration and the idea that park maintenance and cleaning would not be kept up. Later in the day, people were given stickers that were used to vote on their favorite hopes and worst-case-scenario horrors. Among the top choices for hopes were: a place for families to gather; a running/biking path with exercise stations; fields for sports such as soccer, basketball or football; a spray park or fountain for kids; picnic and BBQ areas; a bandshell or performance area; a dog park; a wildlife center; a display of the history of Central Islip and many others.
During a brief question and answer session, main concerns included the time frame of the park’s completion and how to finance it. Another community meeting is planned for late June and the Town hopes to break ground in the fall, after which it should take 6-12 months to complete. As for funding, beyond the seed money the Town has from the public benefits fund, there are several sources available at the state or regional level, and with a united plan, the community is primed to access those funds.
Maps and tracing paper were distributed to the tables and groups used the ideas generated throughout the morning to put pen to paper and design the park! The table groups were very creative, with most staying true to the hopes and horrors results. Adults worked in fun activities for kids, and the kids planned spaces for seniors to go.
Throughout the day, the diversity and energy in the room was infectious, and we look forward to seeing this multi-use and muliti-generational park get built!
Here’s what some folks are saying about the park:
“I am very excited that this project is finally starting to happen. We have been waiting 50 years for this park in Central Islip. We want to make it a multi-generational area, for all ages to enjoy. It has been wonderful to work with the Town of Islip, Vision Long Island and community leaders who spent a lot of hours together to make this happen.” - Amparo Saddler, Central Islip Chamber and Central Islip Park & Recreation Committee
“This parkland is 50 years in the making. We are excited this current town board, including Supervisor Tom Croci and Councilman Steve Flotteron, have kept their campaign promises to build the park,” - Debbie Cavanagh, Coalition of Good Neighbors.
“We want to tell people CI is here! We’re real, we don’t bite! It’s safe to come here! … Dream on this, think the biggest things you can think of. Because you know what? We might just find a way to make it happen.” - Debbie Rotunda, Parks Committee
“We have been working for many years to get some good recreational facilities for our kids, and I’m absolutely thrilled to see all of you here today because this is really a turning point in our community for our children.” - Nancy Manfredonia, Central Islip Civic Council
“We wanted an open, transparent process where everyone can participate and take ownership in the end result. Recognizing that the community knows best their needs and desires for this park, we are pleased to introduce a process that will bring their vision to life.” - Steve Flotteron, Town of Islip Councilman
“This is about beautifying our communities here on LI, to make this a more business-friendly place. But more than that it’s about reclaiming the identity of your towns; finding a way to leave your imprint, to make this the town you want it to be, and not let other people make that decision for you...Civic engagement is what really makes our community special.” - Scott Martella, Office of Governor Cuomo
“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you work together with your colleagues... All levels of government are working together on this... It’s really a great reflection on the community that all of you are here this morning.” - NYS Senator Lee Zeldin
“There is no Democratic way to revitalize a downtown or Republican way to fix a park. We know what we have to do. Campaign is campaign, but there’s a time for us to do our jobs and work together and get the resources and just make it happen.” - NYS Assemblyman Phil Ramos
“This is a dream that Central Islip has pursued for many years... Anything that we can do to in the County of Suffolk to improve the quality of life for the community that I represent, believe me we’re going to do it.” - Suffolk County Legislator Rick Montano
Pictured (L-R): Nancy Manfredonia - Central Islip Civic Council, Debbie Cavanagh - Coalition of Good Neighbors, Amparo Saddler - Central Islip Parks Committee, NYS Senator Lee Zeldin, Islip Town Councilman Steve Flotteron, Suffolk County Legislator Rick Montano, Central Islip Youth Mentoring Program representatives, Scott Martella - Office of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Assemblyman Phil Ramos, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island
Earth Day Lobby Day pushes solar jobs; EPF funding
On April 25th, Vision participated in the 22nd annual Earth Day Lobby Day in Albany, which drew well over 100 people from throughout the state to urge representatives to enact critical legislation that will protect the environment and build a clean energy economy. The day consisted of a high-energy morning program and productive afternoon lobby visits with over 90 state legislators.
The morning program presented the five “Super Bills” that the coalition supports this year. Vision was there to support the Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act (A.9149A / S.4178A, not currently same as). This legislation would create thousands of new solar jobs and jumpstart investment in New York’s growing solar energy industry by requiring that 3,000 megawatts be installed on the grid by 2021—enough to generate over 3,400 gigawatt-hours of electricity to power over 300,000 households, equivalent to nearly two percent of New York State’s total electric load. Adding that much solar to our energy mix would reduce as much carbon pollution as taking nearly two million cars off the road. The Assembly’s version of the legislation would codify parts of the Governor’s NY SUN initiative. Vision also represented the LI Lobby Coalition for this bill.
The other four bills included: the Environmental Protection Fund Enhancement Act (S.5403A / A.7137A) to increase resources allocated to the state's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), the Child Safe Products Act (A.3141A) to protect New York's children from toxic chemicals, the Global Warming Pollution Cap (A.5346 / S.2742) to require that climate-altering pollution from all sources is cut by 80 percent by the year 2050, and the Fracking Hazardous Waste Loophole (A.7013 / S.4616) to end special exemptions that allow the gas industry to circumvent requirements for hazardous waste disposal, including fracking wastes.
After reviewing the legislation, presentations were given by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, and Senator Mark Grisanti who all voiced their support for the environmental legislation. DiNapoli explained that the environment and economy work hand-in-hand, and that we need a more long-term approach to the protecting the environment. Sweeney noted that the EPF was not cut this year, for the first year in some time, and it is time to bring it back up to stable levels. He also expressed the need to introduce a new environmental bond act next year. Grisanti was eager about the day’s agenda, and mentioned that the solar jobs legislation could bring 22,000 jobs to the state.
The crowd split into 25 small groups for the afternoon lobby visits. Vision was met with Senator Carl Marcellino and Staff for Senator Owen Johnson and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, and others throughout the afternoon. There was broad support for the Super Bills and for the advancement of solar energy on Long Island!
Earth Day Lobby Day was hosted by the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Alliance for New York State Parks, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Clean and Healthy New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Interfaith Power and Light, New York League of Conservation Voters, New York Public Interest Research Group, Pace Energy and Climate Center, Public Employees Federation Division 169, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Sierra Club, Sullivan Citizens for Responsible Energy Development, The Nature Conservancy, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and cosponsored by additional organizations.
Read more at Environmental Advocates of NY’s website.
Pedestrian fatalities in Nassau happen near transit, study finds
According to an analysis by Tri-State Transportation Campaign, 83% of pedestrian fatalities (68 of 82) in Nassau County between 2008 and 2010 occurred within ¼ mile of a transit hub. TSTC writes, “The clustering of pedestrian fatalities surrounding transit stations may occur because the areas tend to be pedestrian hubs. People often walk to and from transit stops, especially bus stops, and bus routes are often found along arterial roads whose design is a leading cause of pedestrian fatalities in the region.”
Hopefully, this data can inspire more traffic calming projects and funding that are targeted into our areas with transit hubs. The NYC Department of Transportation has a model program called Safe Routes to Transit which works to improve pedestrian safety near mass transit and
the New Jersey DOT’s Safe Streets to Transit program targets grants to municipalities interested in promoting greater transit use through safer access. Long Island municipalities and the NYS DOT should work to develop similar programs and target existing traffic calming dollars into these locations.
Vision’s Eric Alexander was interviewed on this study in Fios1 News. Read about the study on Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s blog.
Poll: Business community opposes SEQRA takeover
Last week, 79% of voters on Long Island Business News' website opposed the proposed state takeover of SEQRA. The poll was listed on the main page of the site and logged IP addresses to ensure that each computer could only cast one vote. It should be noted that the publication has a generally pro-development readership. Here are the full results from the 400 respondants:
Should SEQRA approval authority be taken out of municipalities' hands and be given to the state?
No, authority should remain with local governments. (79%, 314 Votes)
Yes, but only for regionally significant projects. (15%, 58 Votes)
Yes, for all projects. (7%, 28 Votes)
NYS lawmakers have put forth a bill that would block the takeover (S.6525 (Marcellino) and A.9541 (Schimel)). The legislation has gained some new sponsors since we last covered this issue: Senator Marcellino is joined by Senators Fuschillo, Johnson and Martins and Assemblywoman Schimel is joined by Assemblymembers Saladino, Curran, Ra, Montesano, McDonough, McKevitt, Murray and Weisenberg.
Read more at LIBN.
Real Estate Awards honor Smart Growth leaders
Long Island Business News hosted their annual Real Estate Awards on Wednesday night at the Crest Hollow Country Club. The awards recognize the Island’s top professionals in the commercial and residential business community, including brokers, developers and economic development officials.
Among the winners were two Vision Long Island board members: Maria Rigopoulos from Mill Creek Residential Trust won Best Smart Growth Project for the Metro 303 multifamily development in downtown Hempstead, located a few blocks from the train station, and Michael Puntillo from Jobco won Top Mixed Use Project for the Glen Cove Piazza project in downtown Glen Cove. In addition, previous Smart Growth Award winners were honored, including the Hyatt hotel in downtown Riverhead for Top Hospitality Developmen and Wyandanch Rising for Best Public/Private Partnership between Albanese Organization and the Town of Babylon.
The event was well-attended and a good night for Smart Growth projects. Congrats to the awardees! View the full list of winners at LIBN.
Paterson to join MTA board
Former NYS Governor David Paterson has a new gig: MTA Board Member. Paterson was nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who must find a replacement for recently-resigned member Nancy Shevell. The appointment is good news for transit riders, as Paterson has demonstrated a sensitivity towards local communities and transit service.
Cuomo said, “Gov. Paterson has dedicated his life to working for the people of this state and I am excited that he will continue his public service at the MTA. Gov. Paterson’s energy, expertise, and experience will benefit the millions of New Yorkers who rely on the MTA every day. I look forward to working together as we continue to reform the MTA and improve service for New Yorkers.”
Speaking to a news source this week, Paterson defended the scaling back of the MTA’s payroll tax, saying it was "a perfectly valid concept whose life ended in 1999, and the current thinking does not accommodate it." He added: "The reason I accepted the payroll tax [in 2009] is because I had to close $21 billion of deficit. We talk about $10 billion deficits now like it’s the worst thing that ever happened. I’m the only governor in the state that ever had to close $21 billion in their first year. And so at that point, anything that was on the table that involved revenue generation to pay off these debts, I took. But now the governor who has continued to cut spending and has cut two budgets in a row on time, he has rolled back a lot of that tax, and at this point in history, it is precisely the right thing to do.”
Paterson also indicated that he may be receptive to congestion pricing again, which has recently come back into transportation discussions.
The nomination still needs to be approved by the State Senate.
Read more in LI Business News and Capital.
New Carmans River plan to move forward
After the defeat of a controversial plan to protect and redevelop the area around the Carmans River, a new community-based approached is scheduled to advance.
The ten-mile Carmans River runs from Middle Island to Bellport Bay. There is a concern that new development near the river could lead to the level of pollution that is in the nearby Forge River. Under the original Carmans River Watershed Protection and Management Plan, zoning would have changed away from the river to allow for greater densities while protecting the watershed. Local civic organizations opposed the high level of density, and were concerned that the plans were developed without their input. Town Council Members voted down this plan earlier this month.
This week, the board voted unanimously to move forward with the new plan. Pending a community process, the plan could include a $30 million to $40 million Open Space Bond and could also rezone properties surrounding the watershed. In addition, the Town hopes to introduce a new zoning code that would allow for mixed-use buildings with retail on the ground floor and up to two stories of affordable housing above. Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld explained the new resolution would be a "public process to get input first and then write things later," which was an issue in the first plan.
The two community meetings to develop this plan will be held on May 30th at 6pm and June 2nd at 1pm at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville.
Read more at Port Times Record and Newsday.
State considers SEQRA bill
Behind all of the recent hullabaloo over the possibility that New York State will take over the environmental review process for major redevelopment projects on Long Island, there has been a quiet legislative process at play in Albany that could impact this proposal. Senate bill S.6525 and Assembly bill A.9541 would “insure that a local agency will be the lead agency for all SEQRA purposes when the anticipated impacts of an action are primarily of regional or local significance.”
The justification for the legislation reads: “In cases when projects are undertaken that are primarily of regional or local significance, the lead agency conducting the SEQRA review should be a local agency. Major projects have the greatest impact on the host municipality. It stands to reason that the most qualified entity to be the lead agency for environmental review would be at the local level. This legislation recognizes and seeks to insure that lead agency status remains at the local level and should not be taken over at a higher level of government for SEQRA review of projects that are deemed of regional or local significance.”
The Senate bill was introduced in February by Senator Marcellino and is co-sponsored by Senators Fuschillo and Martins. It passed through the Environmental Conservation Committee in late March. The Assembly bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Schimel and is co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Saladino, Curran, Ra and Montesano, with multi-sponsors McDonough, McKevitt and Murray.
Long Island Business Council holds meeting on Small Business Study, Energy, Jobs for Youth, Taubman Mall and SEQRA reform
Pictured (L-R): Dave Winzelberg - Long Island Business News, Rich Bivone, Bob Fonti - Long Island Business Council, Dr. Nathalia Rogers - American Communities Institute at Dowling College, Mark Grossman - NYS Department of Labor, E. Christopher Murray - Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce
On Friday, April 13th, the Long Island Business Council met at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College. Nearly 100 business leaders and community groups were in attendance to discuss the results of a small business study, electric rates for downtowns, the NY Youth Works program, and the Cerro Wire mall property along with the proposal to move the SEQRA process up to the state level.
Dr. Nathalia Rogers of the American Communities Institute at Dowling College started with a presentation on the results of a federally-funded small business study, with data gathered from surveys of 159 small business owners, 10 focus groups with 167 small business owners, and a small business symposium with 110 small businesses and experts. Steps that businesses suggested the government take include: provide tax credits, contain healthcare costs, create tax-deferred IRA accounts for small businesses, and develop local downtowns as small business hubs. The results of this study will be used to advance federal legislation, as well as possible implications at the state and local levels. Read the full study on Dowling’s website.
You can also download Dr. Rogers’ powerpoint presentation here.
Chris Murray of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce discussed the rising electric rates on Long Island. He noted that to grow downtowns, we must control utility costs. The state’s Recharge NY program takes low-cost power from upstate and makes it available downstate, giving incentives for businesses to grow in NYS. However, local downtown merchants have no access to this program, which limits revitalization. We need to adjust this limitation to allow downtowns to prosper, which could potentially be done by consolidating efforts through a Business Improvement District or Chamber of Commerce. This proposal was well-received in Albany, where many elected leaders were surprised that Recharge NY was not available to downtowns.
Mark Grossman of the NYS Department of Labor talked about the NY Youth Works program, after being introduced by Suffolk representative for Governor Cuomo Scott Martella. The program authorizes $25 million for business tax credits and $8 million for job-readiness training, and enables low-income or disadvantaged youth ages 16-24 to connect with sustainable jobs. On Long Island, participating youth must live in the Towns of Hempstead or Brookhaven, and participating businesses can be nearly anywhere on the Island. Youth and minority unemployment levels are very high, and this program will help address that gap. Meanwhile, businesses that employ participating youth will receive a maximum tax credit of $4000 in the first year, or up to $2000 for a part-time or seasonal employee. The program targets 7,000 young people statewide. Learn more and sign up your business here.
Download Mr. Grossman’s powerpoint presentation here.
The main event of the meeting started next, with a program and discussion moderated by David Winzelberg of LI Business News. A front-page story in LI Business News that week, written by Winzelberg, confirmed that New York State’s economic development department was considering a proposal that was on page 75 of an 80 page report written by the LI Regional Economic Development Council. The proposal would allow the state to take over as lead agency for all SEQRA environmental review processes for transformative or regionally significant projects, taking authority away from the local municipality or agency. The Cerro Wire mall is one project that could be affected by this change.
Howard Avrutine of the Cerro Wire Coalition opened with a presentation on the proposed mall development in Syosset, which his organization along with many civic organizations and community members oppose. The 39-acre property was first proposed in the 1990s, and along the way there have been several lawsuits and attempts to circumvent the environmental review process by going around the Town of Oyster Bay and getting recognition from regional and state agencies. Under the SEQRA proposal, Cerro Wire’s environmental review could be done at the state level, where representatives would likely be disconnected from the widespread community opposition. Avrutine said that he is adamantly opposed to the state takeover of SEQRA in this case, noting that there is no basis for changing the lead agency except that the developer would get a better deal from the state after the town denied the proposal.
Long Island Business Council reached out to Taubman Mall representatives who declined to attend or send a statment.
John Cameron of Cameron Engineering and the LI Regional Planning Council gave an opposing view. He noted that whether it is regionally significant is in eye of the beholder, and the LIRPC said yes. Taubman, the developer, is not asking for any grants or stimulus money, so the project would just be an infusion into the economy. He added that some community members have argued that the site be used for other uses like affordable or senior housing, but as a superfund site the property is not remediated to residential standards, which would cost tens of millions more. He did not comment on the SEQRA issue.
Warren Tackenberg of the Nassau County Village Officials Association argued that all 64 villages that he represents, along with the NYS Conference of Mayors, have reasons for maintaining local control and are very opposed to the state taking over SEQRA. Cerro Wire is the poster child for this debate. Bringing up an earlier point, he cited the example of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, which the state controls and has been sitting on for 25 years without doing anything. He added that SEQRA has been around since 1975 with hundreds of successful reviews that have not been problematic to local communities. If there is a problem with a developer or local government, that is what the courts are for.
Vision’s Eric Alexander read a message for the group from Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro, who said that this is a really bad idea: developers right-size projects because of local control, and developers who want to do Smart Growth will always be able to market their projects to the public if they are done right through a community process. There is no way for the state to assess all local mitigations. Cavallaro’s village has had 800 downtown housing units approved recently without much controversy or fanfare.
Dennis Grossman of the Board of Realtors said it is important to keep the process on the local level, as local people know what’s going on.
Chris Murray said that Taubman was a bad example because of the local opposition. “A hard case makes bad law,” he said. SEQRA is supposed to be an environmental review, not the weapon of choice for people who want to challenge and delay projects. There would still be local control, he argued, because the local municipality would still have the final say in zoning and site plan approvals.
Avrutine countered that SEQRA and zoning overlap, and if the state were to make its own findings it could handcuff a community if there are contrary finds (for example, both SEQRA reviews and site plans analyze traffic). That is why SEQRA is set up for the permitting authority to handle the entire application.
Neal Lewis of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College said that this distinction is important, because the REDC’s seem to be looking for a broader usurpation of local control. In addition, the definition of regionally significant is murky.
Jeannine Maynard of the Uniondale Community Council reminded the crowd that SEQRA at its core is about looking at impacts on the environment, and as an Island we need to take that seriously. Many SEQRA reviews tend to overemphasize economic impacts over the physical environment. The people who understand those local dynamics are on the ground.
Winzelberg concluded the discussion with an audience poll: How many think it’s a good idea for the state to take over SEQRA for regionally significant projects? About 6 hands were raised. How many think it’s a terrible idea? Most of the remaining hands of the 100-person crowd were raised.
The LIBC has not taken a position on the SEQRA issue as of yet.
The following are some quotes from the meeting (and beyond) on the SEQRA matter.
Susan Berland, Huntington Town Council, speaking to News12 during the meeting, as aired on 4/13: “They want the businesses to come in, but they want them to come in and recognize what the locality wants, and by taking the responsibility away from the localities and putting it to the state, I’m concerned that what matters to my constituents is not going to be considered.”
Peter Cavallaro, Mayor of the Village of Westbury, via Facebook: “As you might imagine, this is a really bad idea. The only thing that makes developers 'right size' their projects is local control. Otherwise, developers will be able to overdevelop projects at the expense of local communities. Local governments that want to pursue smart growth (and there are plenty) will always be able to make their case to the public that a particular proposal is the right thing to do, if crafted correctly with local input. There is no way that a regional or state agency will be able to accurately and adequately assess all local impacts, and make sure that adequate mitigation is provided for. And, if the state wants to encourage community support for these regionally significant projects, maybe they should try to induce support by distributing the property tax revenue generated by these projects to the entire affected region, not just the locality in which the project happens to be located. The impacts of these projects are regional, and the benefits should be too. Instead, the state is seeking to alter the fundamental right of local communities to have a say in what they want their community to be. The state legislature should pass laws creating 'taxpayer equity' platforms to allow counties and towns to implement this kind of tax sharing tool in the decision making process.”
Howard Avrutine, who represents the Cerro Wire Coalition, said "The Economic Development Council’s report…states that for projects either transformative, regionally significant…or even important…then the state should take over reviews. And this is not limited to the Taubman application. So it’s an important issue for the people of Long Island…and to make everyone’s opinion known. As an advocate for the communities impacted by the Taubman mall project, our position is obvious. We are adamantly opposed to any state takeover of the application review process. In certain instances [state review] would be appropriate, and in certain instances it’s not. Long Island has a lot of villages…and the villages exist because the people who live in those communities want local control, home rule. That’s why they choose to live there and it’s the purest form of democracy there is…they want their villages to appear a certain way and want the people who live there to have certain amenities…that’s where enemies come. And that simply can’t be stripped away overnight.”
Warren Tackenberg, executive director of the Nassau County Village Officials Association, noted "There is no loss of translation. We are very opposed to the state takeover of SEQRA and I don’t care about the Cerro Wire mall…that’s not the issue. The issue is letting the State of New York take away local control…from the municipalities of the State of New York. If you give them that power, it would be the worst thing you could do.”
E. Christopher Murray, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, said “SEQRA is supposed to be an environmental review; it’s not supposed to be a local control over projects. The local control over projects is site planning, is zoning; those are the mechanisms with which the county has the ability to control...SEQRA is simply supposed to be looking at the environmental impacts, looking at alternatives, and making determinations. But what it's turned into is the weapon of choice, the weapon of choice for people to try to oppose a development…you still have local control. We’re mixing everything up together and we’re using SEQRA not what it was intended for.”
Martin Cantor, in an op-ed in LI Business News: “The transfer of SEQRA responsibility could lead to a Long Island where local residents will have little say over development in their communities – places where they have made the biggest investments in their lives. Further, the development process and job creation would be further delayed by shifting SEQRA responsibility away from local elected officials because Long Island’s municipalities impacted by the regulation change would certainly seek redress from the courts...Treading on local community rule on Long Island is the new third rail of New York state politics. Be wary of touching it.”
Read the LI Business News article that sparked the discussion.
So tell us: what do you think? Email comments to email@example.com or call us at (631) 261-0242.
Rally for pedestrian killed crossing Hempstead Turnpike highlights need for change
Vision attended a rally last weekend in remembrance of Anthony D'Alessandro, a 16-year old who died trying to cross Hempstead Turnpike after a party two weeks ago. The rally was intended to honor Anthony, while bringing attention to the dangerous roadway and proposing a pedestrian bridge as a possible way to make it safer for pedestrians.
Following February's announcement that Hempstead Turnpike was once again named Long Island's bloodiest roadway in terms of pedestrian deaths, the Department of Transportation, according to News12, has said that they would be fast-tracking safe street improvements such as pedestrian medians and islands, more countdown signals, modified turning lane restrictions and more red-light cameras. Some residents have suggested that another key point in making the road safer involves better enforcement of existing traffic laws, such as those against texting and driving, drinking and driving, speeding and jaywalking.
Kudos to Anthony's friends and family for putting together the event.
Read more about the rally and the road on News12's website.
UPDATE: 2012 Long Island Youth Summit brings over 200 high school students to work with experts on Long Island’s issues
Dowling press release published
Pictured (L-R): Michael Dowling - President and CEO of North Shore LIJ Health System, Dr. Nathalia Rogers - Dowling College & the American Communities Institute, Honorable Steve Flotteron - Islip Town Council, Dr. Elana Zolfo - Dowling College
On Friday, March 9th, more than 200 high school students from across Long Island assembled for the 2012 Long Island Youth Summit (LIYS) at Dowling College in Oakdale. The purpose of the Summit was to work with the brightest and most active high school students to find innovative solutions to socio-economic and socio-medical issues affecting Long Island.
According to the recently published press release from Dowling, "The purpose of the Summit is to work with the brightest and most active high school students to find innovative solutions to socio-economic and socio-medical issues affecting Long Island. During the Summit students work with experts in the fields of medicine, government, civic activism, economics, and the environment to address such issues as bullying and violence, the dangers of social networking, the effects of poverty on health, pollution of the environment, the use of renewable energy, the shortage of alternative housing, cuts in public transportation, and the inequalities in high school education."
During the Summit, students worked with experts in the fields of medicine, government, civic activism, economics, and the environment to address such issues as bullying and violence; the dangers of social networking; the effects of poverty on health; pollution of the environment; the use of renewable energy; the shortage of alternative housing; cuts in public transportation; and inequalities in high school education. Vision Long Island’s Executive Director Eric Alexander moderated a panel on LI Economic Growth and Employment, and Sustainability Director Elissa Ward served as an expert on a panel on Housing and Sustainable Community Design. (See below for a list of workshop topics, participating experts, and award winners.
This year, the program began with a keynote speech delivered by Michael Dowling, president and CEO of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Dowling emphasized the importance of leadership and civic activism in creating positive changes in local communities.
“A future president of the United States may be in this room, a future governor of New York State may be in this room, a future president of a large health system may be in this room”, noted Dowling. Providing valuable advice to the future generation, Dowling stressed key points of leadership including: not being afraid of change, having a positive attitude, having a vision, the importance of building bridges rather than walls, and the ability to influence others based on one’s vision and attitudes rather than the power of one’s institutional title.
Pictured (L-R): Michael Dowling - North Shore LIJ Health System, Arthur Perri - Dowling College, Scott Martella - Office of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, Bill Cunningham - North Shore LIJ Health System, John Keating - National Grid / LIPA, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, Dr. Nathalia Rogers - Dowling College & the American Communities Institute, Robert Scheiner - H2M, Dr. Elana Zolfo - Dowling College
Recognizing that future leaders are capable of making a difference in their communities right now, Dowling offered students who won the Summit’s awards an opportunity to obtain internships within the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “If you stay engaged as a leader, you can make a difference in your community today”, he said.
Dowling noted the importance of the Summit. “This is a transformative event for the youth who have been selected to be a part of this initiative. What we are really doing is identifying emerging leaders who will help improve the Long Island community,” he said.
Students participating in the Summit as finalists were selected from a pool of more than 500 participants who submitted projects representing high schools from across Long Island. Student projects were scored based on comprehensiveness, creativity and original research, and innovative ideas and solutions presented in a project.
“Our goal is to engage students as early as possible in creative thinking about issues that affect Long Island,” said Dr. Nathalia Rogers, director of the American Communities Institute at Dowling College. “We’re looking for the development of future leaders in our communities and the Summit is the first step in the process. The Summit is also a great example of a public/private partnership among organizations in the fields of health, education, business, and policy that brings together resources to provide young people with the tools they will need to succeed in the future.”
During the Summit, student finalists participated in 10 workshops including: Bullying and Violence; Social Networking; the Effects of Poverty on Health; Protection of Water and Preservation of Open Space; Renewable Energy; LI Business and Economic Development; LI Governance and Activism; Transportation; Housing and Suburban Culture; and Race, Class, and Education.
Dowling College has published their offifcial press release. Check it out here.
Town of Hempstead passes Complete Streets law
The Town of Hempstead became the sixth Long Island town to pass a local Complete Streets law this week, taking a major step toward designing safer streets for all road users. Hempstead joins the Towns of Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven, North Hempstead and Southampton in passing Complete Streets, along with New York State and local villages like Great Neck Plaza.
Newsday explains, “For the most part, the town is responsible for side streets that don't have traffic lights, including busy roads such as Neptune Avenue in Seaford, Dogwood Avenue in Franklin Square and Bellmore Road in North Bellmore and East Meadow, said spokeswoman Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky.”
Town Supervisor Kate Murray said, "By developing this all-encompassing ‘Complete Streets’ policy, the town is laying the groundwork for creating more efficient roads that are safe for all residents. I am confident that pedestrians, bicyclists, and those who use public transportation will all benefit from this new road design policy.”
Vision’s Eric Alexander testified in support of the legislation at a Town Board meeting on Tuesday, along with safety advocate Sandi Vega and Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
The Wantagh-Seaford Patch writes, “Alexander said he is pleased Hempstead has joined five other Long Island townships in crafting ‘Complete Streets’ policies...‘There are a lot of people in Hempstead that will benefit from this law,’ Alexander said...Vision Long Island will be honoring Vega as well as State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick, this June for their commitment to improving transportation safety conditions.”
Read more from Newsday and Patch.
Engel Burman advances multi-family projects
The Engel Burman Group has put forth a proposal to build 482 units of condominium housing at the 37-acre Oaktree Dairy property on Elwood Road in East Northport. The $250 million project would be marketed to as high-end housing for seniors over age 55, with prices at about $450,000 for two-bedroom units. Tentatively titled “The Seasons,” it would feature a 20,000 square foot clubhouse with indoor and outdoor pools, a gym, tennis courts and a jogging track.
The project requires a zone change from the Town of Huntington. Engel Burman principal Steven Krieger said that the Elwood School District supports the development, which would receive about $1.7 million in school taxes per year but without any additional students, versus the $110,000 that is currently paid by Oaktree Dairy. In addition, VHB’s Bob Eschbacher analysed traffic flow and noted that peak travel hours on Elwood Road would not coincide with active hours for the 55+ community. Several improvements will be made to nearby infrastructure, including a traffic circle installed in front of the property to allow cars to enter and leave more safely, wider sidewalks in front of the nearby high school, and new signage to obey traffic safety laws.
Engel Burman is also proposing multifamily housing developments in Brentwood and Garden City, along with additional locations for their “Bristal” senior living facilities.
Long Island Business News wrote that Vision's Eric Alexander “said Engel Burman’s push into multifamily will help create much-needed diversity in the Island’s housing stock. ‘Engel Burman has been very active in meeting the needs of Long Island’s housing market,’ Alexander told LIBN. ‘Vision Long Island is pleased that their newest projects, such as in Brentwood and Garden City, conform to smart-growth principles and providing alternative housing options for the local community.’”
Read more in LI Business News and Northport Patch.
SEQRA Reform: The right way to go?
In December, Smart Talk reported on a troublesome measure that was tucked away on page 75 of the LI Regional Economic Development Council’s report to New York State. The measure would allow the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to assume lead agency status on SEQRA reviews for all of the “transformative” projects identified in the plan. The goal, noted the Council, is to avoid projects getting “bogged down at the local level” during the environmental review process and that a state agency could “fast-track projects that have been identified as transformative.” These projects include Wyandanch Rising, the Hempstead Village revitalization, Heartland Town Square and the Ronkonkoma Hub, which were funded by the State last year. This could also potentially affect controversial projects like the Nassau Hub and Cerro Wire mall in Syosset.
An article in this week’s Long Island Business News reports on the local backlash to this proposal, as well as the origin and justification for the measure. As the article explains, the Nassau County Village Officials Association recently sent a letter to Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, the chair of the Regional Economic Development Councils, noting that the change would be “a serious mistake that could only lead to poor results and enhanced conflicts between DEC and the municipality that actually has responsibility for overseeing the project. It is a complete reversal of how things have been done since SEQRA was adopted more than 35 years ago.” The letter continues, “I urge you to abandon this recommendation regarding the DEC which threatens the welfare of communities and assure local officials on Long Island that the time honored home rule principles will continue to be applied as we pursue economic progress in New York.”
Meanwhile, according to LIBN, “Land use attorney Chris Kent, of Farrell Fritz in Hauppauge, said the council’s recommendation to give the state the lead is a reaction to localities that have failed to act on developments that have been identified as real necessities for the region. ‘A few local people are unduly influencing elected officials from making tough decisions,’ Kent said. ‘Sometimes hard decisions have to be made.’
The debate leaves out some problems: the DEC is known for being understaffed and giving authority to them removes the nuanced understanding of local issues that exists with local decisionmakers. SEQRA is certainly in need of reform to speed up a bureaucratic and time-consuming process, but taking away local control for ongoing downtown revitalization processes could be problematic.
What do you think? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
This topic was discussed at this morning’s meeting of the Long Island Business Council. Stay tuned for a full update on this meeting next week.
Read more from LI Business News.
Census: Suburban growth shrinks while cities thrive
Suburban growth has essentially fizzled out, according to new Census estimates released this month. For the first time in at least 20 years, the annual rate of growth in American cities and surrounding urbanized areas have surpassed sprawling “exurbs” located on the edge of metropolitan areas.
According to an article printed in Huffington Post, “Gas prices are discouraging long commutes. Young singles prefer city apartments. Two years after the recession technically ended, and despite some signs of economic recovery, there's a reversal of urbanites' decades-long exodus to roomy homes in distant towns.”
Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller called the development of suburbs since 1950 "unusual," enabled only by the rise of the automobile and the nation's highway system. "With the bursting of the bubble, we may be discovering the pleasures of the city and the advantages of renting, investing our money not in a single house but in a diversified portfolio," he said.
"The sting of this experience may very well put the damper on the long-held view among young families and new immigrants that building a home in the outer suburbs is a quick way to achieve the American dream," said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who analyzed the census data.
Read more in The Huffington Post.
Bartone Plaza mixed-use project moves forward in Farmingdale
On Monday night, the Farmingdale Village Board of Trustees voted to move forward on the proposed Bartone Plaza mixed-use project by sending it to Nassau County’s Planning Commission for review. This development has been in the planning stages for many years and was awaiting the completion of additional Village-wide planning studies.
The three-story development would replace a vacant warehouse with a mix of apartments and retail space while also working as a transit-oriented district due to its proximity to LIRR. The proposal includes space for 115 apartments, several retail units on the first floor and an underground parking lot designed to hold 172 vehicles on 162,000 square feet. The Village is hoping for quick approval so they can break ground on the project sometime in August.
"We are hoping that when we reconvene on May 7 - when everything is said and done - I can bang the gavel and they can put a shovel in the ground in August," Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said Tuesday, which also happened to be his first day in office.
In addition to building the development, Bartone Properties will also provide a series of amenities in exchange for exceeding the pre-approved density cap for the Village. These amenities will include widening streets, installing parking meters that will generate revenue for the Village, brick walkways, removal and burial of utility poles, plus the addition of trees, landscaping and a pocket park. The building itself will also bring a number of new retailers into the area with a coffee shop, a bank and a frozen-yogurt shop all under consideration.
“We’re not excluding a restaurant but our immediate uses are the service-oriented retailers,” said Anthony Bartone, managing partner of Bartone properties.
Though the project originally met with some concern over density, the response from residents and the Village Board has been mostly positive and representative of a recent shift in public opinion when it comes to transit and density in Long Island downtowns. "I would say a trend is well under way," said Eric Alexander, Vision Long Island’s Executive Director. "A certain part of the market wants to live in downtowns with easy transit access to Manhattan. We see communities across Long Island do what Farmingdale is doing."
The project’s approval was due to a November amendment to Farmingdale Village’s zoning code that allows for mixed-use and high-density development. This will be the first project approved for the municipality that follows those guidelines.
Vision Long Island conducted a visioning process in 2006-2007 that identified this location for redevelopment.
Vision Long Island has also awarded Bartone Plaza a 2012 Smart Growth Award for “Revitalizing Communities”
Village of Westbury makes strides in revitalization
Vision Long Island joined Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro and Village Clerk Ted Blach in February for a walking tour of the Village to see the downtown improvements that have been made to date, as well as pending projects and potential for the area.
Construction on the Smart Growth Award-winning Westbury Theater is well underway and, when completed, it will serve as a major attraction to draw more people into the downtown. Westbury is unique in that it has an existing downtown fabric that supports daytime activities, with a great deal of housing and office space with retail lining the long main street, Post Avenue. However, the community is typically pretty quiet at night. Alternatively, many downtowns on Long Island have strong nightlife but struggle to stay vibrant during the day. The Westbury Theater will work to enhance nighttime activities in the community. Not only will the theater bring in more visitors to the downtown, but it will also support local businesses and restaurants so that people can do “dinner and a show.”
Read more on the Village of Westbury's website.
American Communities Institute at Dowling College releases Small Business Study
Over the summer of 2011, the American Communities Institute at Dowling College conducted a study aimed at creating recommendations for the federal government and Small Business Administration on ways to improve the small business climate in New York State and across the United States. For the purposes of the study, a company with less than 500 people qualifies as a small business.
The ACI received a grant from the US Small Business Administration to conduct a scientific study of small businesses in order to generate the recommendations, along with identifying factors that contribute to the improvement of the small business environment. This was accomplished through the combination of three different methods of data collections: a survey of small business owners; face to face focus groups with both small business owners and experts; and technical symposiums with small business owners, experts and lawmakers in attendance. Programs of the past symposiums can be found here.
The study uncovered key factors for growth in the small business community. Small businesses, for example, could benefit more from “rainy day” tax-deferred savings accounts as opposed to straight tax breaks. These accounts would be similar to IRAs for individuals, including triggers for withdrawing funds and penalties for early withdrawal, but ultimately designed to cushion them from sudden financial strain. Businesses need a set of strong incentives for small businesses to set aside money during profitable times to avoid debt-borrowing when things became lean. These tax-deferred accounts could mean the difference between staying open and closing permanently during economic downturns.
“They have an incentive to spend, so they don’t pay as much taxes,” said Dr. Nathalia Rogers, Director of the American Communities Institute at Dowling College and principal investigator for the small business study. “When a tough situation comes in, businesses have nowhere to go to get extra capital.”
“We found 52 percent of businesses, a high number, wanted the state to provide something like this and 47.8 percent wanted the federal government to do something like this,” Rogers said. “They wanted a form of self-reliance. Put a percent of profits into a tax-deferred account. When a recession hits, you can draw on those accounts up to a point without paying taxes.”
The study also concluded that small businesses have been hit hard by downturns in local downtown areas. Traditionally a haven for entrepreneurs, the study found that real estate prices and a lack of parking have been holding back growth in the area. This keeps small businesses from competing effectively with malls and shopping centers where leases are usually more costly.
“People want to see their downtowns filled with viable small businesses,” Rogers said. “Before, I don’t think that was such an issue.”
Smithtown residents gather to discuss safety improvements to Main Street
Pictured (L-R): Mark Mancini - Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce, NYS Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick
Pictured (L-R): Will Stoner - AARP, Lavena Sipes - The Courtney Sipes Memorial Foundation, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, Ryan Lynch - Tri State Transportation Campaign
On Friday, March 23rd, over 200 Smithtown residents gathered at the Smithtown Historical Society’s Brush Barn to hear from advocates and discuss plans for future safety improvements to Main Street. In attendance were NYS Assemblyman MIchael Fitzpatrick, Suffolk County Legislator John Kennedy, and Suffolk representative for Governor Cuomo Scott Martella. The two meetings were organized by AARP, the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce, the Courtney Sipes Memorial Foundation, Vision Long Island and Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
The meetings were held to respond to an independent engineer’s report that was commissioned by the organizing groups. The report, written by Michael Wallwork of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (walkability expert Dan Burden’s group), states, “This project is too complex to simply add a few additional minor tweaks.” It suggests some short term solutions, such as better crosswalk striping to make sure pedestrians are more visible, but notes that the DOT’s ideas are not long-term solutions. These solutions would include encouraging more traffic on the Smithtown bypass, installing better controls like roundabouts and raised medians, a mid-block crossing near the fence, and removing one travel lane in each direction, among others. The report analyzed up to 5 locations where roundabouts could work.
Each of the two meetings began with an activity to gauge the crowd’s initial feelings toward roundabouts in Smithtown. Residents held up a red, yellow, or green sheet of paper to indicate their thoughts (negative, unsure, or positive, respectively). At the end of the meeting the activity was reprised to see how feelings had changed. Both sessions demonstrated a healthy mix of opinions, with a few minds changed from negative to positive by the end. Although roundabouts tend to be unpopular during planning stages, there was a good deal of support by the end, with 54% of attendees liking the idea, 30% opposed, and 16% undecided.
AARP’s Will Stoner began the presentations with some information and statistics on why traffic and pedestrian safety issues are so important on Long Island, especially for the growing number of elderly individuals. New York has the 4th highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country, and 22.5% of all traffic-related deaths in the state involve pedestrians. Traffic calming matters,as dfemonstrated by the following statistics: If a car is driving 40 miles per hour, there is an 80% chance that if the car hits you while you are walking, you will die. At 30mph, there is a 60% chance that you will die. At 20mph, the chance drops to 5%. Stoner noted that local groups have been working with the Department of Transportation to turn Main Street into a “complete street.” The DOT hopes to make some quick improvements, like re-timing traffic lights, painting, and new curb cuts, but it’s not enough; we need more.
Lavena Sipes spoke briefly about the multitude of tragedies that have taken place on Main Street, including the death of her daughter, Courtney, who was killed by a speeding driver in 2009. She became outraged as the deaths continued and no one did anything to fix the road. Sipes decided to form a Facebook group, which gave some organizational power to her efforts to reform the road. She has since collected thousands of signatures and has been successful in bringing all the relevant parties together to find solutions.
Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Ryan Lynch spoke about the widespread problem of dangerous roads on Long Island. He noted that arterial roads like Main Street, with multiple lanes designed to move traffic quickly, are responsible for 60% of pedestrian fatalities, even though they only comprise 15% of roads in the region. He discussed other dangerous roads, like Hempstead Turnpike, and efforts to repair them. However, he noted that there is “no silver bullet” to fix road problems; every road is unique and will require unique solutions.
Mark Mancini of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce presented a hyper-local look at Main Street, and explained how road design improvements will have a major impact on economic development. Smithtown is plagued by problems like an exodus of young people, a lack of sewer infrastructure which limits growth, and 36 vacant stores on Main Street, with many neighborhood shops for everyday use being replaced by pawn shops and offices. Yet the downtown also has many opportunities, including an LIRR station in the downtown, an underutilized waterfront, great restaurants, plenty of parking, and space to build apartments over stores. Mancini also introduced roundabouts, showing on a map exactly how they would work in Smithtown. He noted that when you enter a roundabout, you know that you are entering a community, and you must slow down.
Vision’s Eric Alexander spoke about potential funding opportunities for Smithtown. There are numerous sources, including the DOT capital budget, federal support, safe streets traffic calming funds, LI Regional Economic Development Council funds, and possibly a state infrastructure bank. He also discussed the new NYS Complete Streets law, along with successful examples of roundabouts on Long Island in Huntington and Great Neck Plaza. He also explained that the DOT has been doing things in recent years to make people think they are changing their methods, as seen on Route 347 and Hempstead Turnpike.
Assemblyman Fitzpatrick, a Smithtown native, also spoke briefly during the first session and provided a supportive overview for “out of the box” solutions. He added that residents should be flexible and open-minded to new solutions. Assemblyman Fitzpatrick was quoted as saying, "I am a very big fan, I do believe that they work, I’ve done some homework on it … if you look for solutions inside the box they’re gone, they’re not there. I believe in it, I want to talk about it, I want to help people understand it. I think it could be very realistic if the community gets behind it. Top down, people will push back. Bottom up? Inform them, show them, educate them and build it that way then I think it could happen more quickly than people realize.”
Following a short video explaining the benefits of the “modern roundabout” versus the larger traffic circles that many are accustomed to and a short overview of the report’s recommendations, the meeting was opened up to questions and suggestions.
There were many comments and concerns about the roundabouts, most relating to the logistics of navigating them by foot or car and whether they would actually succeed in calming traffic. For example, when do people walk if traffic lights are removed? And how do you prevent cars from backing up in bumper-to-bumper traffic? To cross the street, pedestrians would only have to cross halfway at a time, resting in pedestrian islands in the middle. In addition, pedestrians and drivers would rely on naturally slower speeds and improved signage to make eye contact and avoid collisions. Roundabouts would help to serve as visual cues that drivers are entering a downtown area, and naturally slow them down. Roundabouts also allow for a constant flow of traffic, so even if cars are backed up they are always moving. Some suggested that roundabouts could work well as a pair, with one at Route 111 and one at Town Hall, serving as gateways into the community. Statistics tell us that roundabouts work: on Gerard Street in Huntington Village, there were 33 accidents the year before the roundabouts were installed and 0 the year after.
Some residents also called for additional immediate actions that are easier to implement, like retiming traffic lights, installing red light cameras, and creating public education campaigns about obeying traffic laws. Some mentioned that the Town needs to create a master plan to help. Many also called for better enforcement of traffic violations. Assemblyman Fitzpatrick noted that one problem is that there is no place on Main Street for a police car to pull anyone over. However, redesigning the road will be just as important, if not more so, to improving safety. Design changes behavior, and these traffic calming solutions give the best chance possible to Smithtown’s pedestrians and drivers.
NYS passes budget deal; transportation wins big; First Long Island Lobby Coalition for 2012
Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have reached an agreement to pass a $132.5 billion budget, and transportation ‘fares’ well! The MTA Capital Plan will receive an infusion of $770 million, allowing it to be fully funded for the final three years of its 2010-2014 span, and the bond cap will be raised to $7 billion. This is a win for projects like East Side Access and Manhattan’s Second Avenue Subway. This is a measure that was part of the Long Island Lobby Coalition’s 2012 platform, so we are excited to celebrate its success! A source told the Daily News that “This represents the greatest commitment to the MTA from a governor in recent history.”
The MTA said in a statement "The MTA is grateful for Governor Cuomo's leadership and commitment in recognizing the critical importance of funding mass transit, and in particular fully funding our current Capital Program. The MTA Capital Program not only provides for continued investment in our network, but also creates tens of thousands of jobs and generates economic activity across the entire state. With this funding, the MTA will continue to enhance our riders' experience by investing in the future of our transportation network, as well as bringing our assets up to a state of good repair."
The budget was the first win in 2012 for the Long Island Lobby Coalition which was in Albany this February and has been advocating for budget items since then. The Lobby Coalition was happy to see the budget include both the approved funds for the transportation capital plan as well as funding for Nassau and Suffolk County to expand its red light camera program, both of which were specifically in the Coalition's platform (link here). Kudos to the LI Federation of Labor and the Tri-State TransportationCampaign for making these issues a high priority in their lobby efforts in Albany.
The budget also funds the Governor’s NY Works Fund, which would develop a coordinated capital infrastructure plan with various state agencies, and work to fund and implement those projects. This could help accelerate road and bridge repair projects. It also funds the second round of Regional Economic Development Council projects.
Governor Cuomo said, "For the second straight year, New York State has worked and created a balanced budget based on fiscal responsibility, job creation, government efficiency, and the premise that we must invest in our communities. The cornerstone of this budget is the New York Works program, a new and smarter strategy for putting New Yorkers back to work by rebuilding our aging infrastructure and helping put our state's economy back on track, just the way we have put our state government back on track. I commend Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver for working with us to achieve this historic early progress."
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said, "The historic, on-time budget passed today puts New York State on the path to future prosperity by keeping spending under control and putting in place important measures to create private sector jobs. As we have done over the past 15 months, the Legislature has worked together with Governor Cuomo to achieve bipartisan results that protect taxpayers and get the economy working again. I commend the Governor for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work together in a bipartisan way to rebuild our state."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "This year’s state budget is good news for New Yorkers. While we are holding the line on spending, we are funding vital safety net programs, including the promised four percent increase in education and healthcare programs. For the second year in a row we have passed an on-time, balanced budget by working together with Governor Cuomo in a bipartisan manner. I thank the Governor for working together with the Legislature and I look forward to continued progress building a better future for all our state’s residents."
House punts on Transportation Bill; Obama signs 90-day stopgap extension
Fortunately our April Fools’ joke about Congress failing to pass a transportation bill, thus causing a shutdown of all government transportation services, did not come true. But UNfortunately, our favored outcome of the House passing HR 14 before March 31st did not come true either. Instead, the House passed a 90-day extension of SAFETEA-LU. With no other option forthcoming, the Senate approved the House's stopgap bill, setting up another showdown on the previously uncrontroversial issue in 90 days. This serves as the 9th extension of SAFETEA-LU, which was signed into law by the President last Friday. Speaker Boehner still hopes to pass a 5-year bill, but with a fractured House and such widespread opposition to HR 7, the future of this process is murky at best.
“The House should have passed the sensible, bipartisan bill approved by the Senate earlier this month,” said US Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who serves as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “Kicking the can down the road for another 90 days is not good policy. While I am relieved that we’ve been able to avoid letting our job-critical and surface transportation safety programs lapse, I’m frustrated that the House has been unable to act on the Senate’s bipartisan two-year reauthorization, which passed (the Senate) with 74 votes.”
Streetsblog summarizes the situation well: “Just to remind everyone where things stand, the Senate has passed, in a 74-22 vote, a two-year transportation bill that the House GOP doesn’t like. Meanwhile, the House has offered up a 90-day extension of current funding that Senate Democrats don’t like. House Republicans are expected to use their extension to buy time for their five-year bill that almost nobody likes.”
They continue by noting that Congress needs to stop passing short-term extensions: “Every extension eats away at the Senate bill’s value as a long-term reauthorization measure. The Senate’s two-year bill would go into effect retroactively to September 30, 2011, meaning that even if it were to be signed into law tomorrow, it will only be in effect for 18 months. Tack on a 90-day extension, and what is nominally a two-year bill would in reality be a 15-month bill. Another 90 day extension to the August recess would reduce the Senate bill to little more than a one-year deal, and any extensions beyond that would effectively kill the Senate bill altogether.”
Read more on this important issue at Streetsblog.
Village elections a win for revitalization platforms in Farmingdale and Patchogue
Congratulations go out to the winners of this week’s local Village elections! Village of Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri was re-elected for a third term and Ralph Ekstrand was elected Mayor of the Village of Farmingdale, replacing incumbent Butch Starkie, who did not seek re-election. Both ran on platforms of downtown revitalization and plan to continue or implement planning efforts in their communities.
In Patchogue, Mayor Pontieri has been successful in bringing hundreds of new housing units to the downtown in the last few years, with projects including ArtSpace, Copper Beech, New Village, River Walk and many others completed or underway. These housing units connect with strong local businesses and entertainment opportunities, such as the Patchogue Theater for the Performing Arts. Pontieri will continue to promote downtown revitalization and Smart Growth solutions over the coming years.
Pontieri said, "I think it's very clear the residents want us to move forward. They understand where we've been, they understand where we've come to, and they understand the next steps are the big and bold ones. We're moving forward."
Farmingdale’s challenge is to implement planning efforts and reports that have been in the works for years but have been too long delayed by many planning efforts. Recent zoning amendments will allow for additional housing in the downtown, including apartments above stores. Ekstrand ran on the “Farmingdale 2035” party line and, along with his new Village Trustees, will work to bring in private sector builders and work toward a revitalized community.
Ralph Ekstrand said, “A vibrant, revitalized downtown will only become a reality by utilizing transit oriented development and mixed use buildings. With our historic train station as a focal point, our plan includes controlled growth and walkability from the train station to Main Street.” He added, "It was a hard fought election on both sides. The people had a choice of whether to go forward with development and revitalization or not, and the residents chose building and revitalization, and for that I am eternally grateful."
Read more about all the Village elections at Newsday.
Suffolk County creates land bank
Suffolk lawmakers are applauding the creation of a Suffolk County Land Bank, a measure that takes advantage of a new state law and allows Suffolk County to remediate and return to the tax rolls abandoned and contaminated brownfield properties. The Legislature unanimously supported creating the Land Bank earlier this month.
The law allows the County to establish the Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation, a not-for-profit entity that gives the County discretion to acquire and sell brownfields for development purposes. Brownfields are abandoned properties, previously used for industrial purposes or commercial uses that are contaminated by hazardous waste or pollution. Often located in busy commercial or industrial areas, they have the potential to be put back on the tax rolls once they are cleaned up. The problem is County law currently does not allow for these properties to be sold at a price lower than what is owed in back taxes. The State’s Land Bank law, adopted last summer, encourages developers to purchase properties by allowing them to be sold at price lower than the outstanding tax lien, however the developer is responsible for the remediation.
“All across Suffolk County, communities are struggling to cope with vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties, resulting in lost revenue to the county and leading to deterioration of neighborhoods and business districts,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “This Land Bank will finally give Suffolk County a tool to put dozens of brownfields in the hands of private individuals where they can be cleaned up and restored to good use.”
According to the Suffolk County Brownfields Taskforce, at least 83 brownfield sites comprised of 76.8 acres, representing more than $20 million in uncollected tax revenue, would qualify for remediation under the new entity. These parcels are located in communities all over Suffolk County from Babylon to Southold. Taxpayers are further shielded from any additional costs because board members will serve without pay and existing County employees will staff the land bank.
Bellone developed the measure in consultation with Legislators DuWayne Gregory and Tom Cilmi. The County Executive introduced the measure this month in order to allow Suffolk to qualify for the State’s first round of authorization and to also become eligible for federal funding that the County could qualify for this summer. Once the board is formed, members will begin meeting to determine which of the current stock of brownfields have the greatest potential for development.
Read more on the County Executive’s website.
Federal Update: House must act on transportation bill; HR14 introduced
The House of Representatives has only one week left to take action on the surface transportation bill before current legislation expires. While HR7 has gone back to the drawing board, and the piece that would eliminate dedicated transit funding is likely to be scrapped, there is still a long way to go before the House bill is in good shape. Fortunately, some good news came Thursday night when Long Island’s own Representative Tim Bishop introduced HR14, which is identical to the Senate’s bill.
The Senate’s version of the bill, a 2-year, $109 billion package, was passed with bipartisan support last week, and includes provisions to support transit, biking, walking, complete streets, transit-oriented development and other important components that support the Smart Growth movement.
Unfortunately, Speaker Boehner has said that he hopes to pass a short-term extension of current legislation and revisit the issue after the spring holidays, still hoping to pass a 5-year bill. He has expressed that he will not bring HR 14 up for a vote before the March 31st deadline. Many have been speculating this week that if the Senate’s bill were up for a vote in the House today, it would receive the 218 votes needed to pass. "So what the heck is Speaker Boehner afraid of?” said Senator Charles Schumer, who is among many Senators who are putting pressure on the House to move the Senate’s bill this week.
Vision had a letter to the editor on this issue published in Newsday on Wednesday, titled “Keep safe streets, transit in bill.” The piece reads:
For the fourth time since 2008, Hempstead Turnpike has won the great (dis)honor of being the most dangerous road for pedestrians in the region ["Deadly roads for LI pedestrians," News, March 8]. With 15 pedestrians killed by vehicles in three years on the turnpike, local leaders are right to look for solutions and calm traffic.
Unfortunately, a stalemate in Congress puts initiatives like this at risk. Supporters of transit and pedestrian safety have been fighting for more equitable funding formulas introduced into a long-term transportation bill -- one that would reflect the growing numbers of walkers, bikers and transit users.
So when the House of Representatives introduced its now-defeated version of a five-year surface transportation bill, pedestrian-safety supporters were floored that not only was equitable funding not in place, but the bill actually removed dedicated transit funding, eliminated pedestrian safety programs and removed local control over transportation funding sources. Municipalities would lose access to safety programs like Safe Routes to Schools and Transportation Enhancements, and New York State could lose nearly half of its transit funding, about $1.7 billion.
After a massive outcry, House leaders said they would go back to the drawing board. The Senate's version of the bill -- a two-year, $109-billion package -- is more on track.
Eric Alexander, [Northport]
Editor's note: The writer is the executive director of Vision Long Island, a nonprofit advocate for smart growth.
Newsday also published an editorial which argues the same point.
Senator Schumer has also noted that the Senate’s bill could bring $3.5 billion in infrastructure dollars to New York over the next two years.
In related news, this week was the National Bike Summit in Washington, a 3-day event that drew over 800 cyclists from 49 states to raise awareness on this important and growing mode of transportation. The release reads, “[T]he Summit convenes as Congress considers how to spend billions of dollars on the future of our transportation system. Bicycling represents a popular, equitable and growing mobility option that creates jobs, cuts healthcare costs and protects American families from skyrocketing gas prices. Still, members of the U.S. House of Representatives are poised to eliminate dedicated funding for cost-effective programs that make bicycling safe and accessible in urban and rural communities across the country.”
Federal Transportation Bill passes Senate 74-22
On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed their 2-year, $109 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill with a bipartisan vote of 74-22. The bill includes many of the provisions that we have been fighting for and is a major success for sustainable and equitable transportation funding in our country and region. The Senate is urging the House of Representatives to swiftly adopt their version of the bill, before current funding expires on March 31st.
The Senate bill, known as MAP-21, maintains current levels of road and transit funding and protects the existing transit funding source threatened by the House. It maintains local control over certain funds and ensures access to funding for safer walking and bicycling through programs like Safe Routes to Schools and Transportation Enhancements. It also includes language that makes federal road projects include “complete streets” principles, restores the federal commuter transit benefit, reforms the New Starts program to get transit projects out the door faster, allows transit agencies to use a small portion of federal funds for emergency operations and creates a transit-oriented development planning grant program for municipalities.
By protecting transit funding and providing flexibility from a costly federal mandate, Senator Charles E. Schumer noted that the Senate’s bill would provide additional flexibility to the MTA to build the $750 million Second Track project on the LIRR from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma.
Schumer said: “This bill will allow the MTA to make the Farmingdale-to-Ronkonkoma second track its first priority for Long Island. Our bipartisan bill provides the MTA with the needed flexibility to finally devote the resources to move forward with this second track; a project the agency itself described as its most important project for the Long Island Railroad. A second track would radically reduce commuting times, facilitate the flow of workers into and out of Long Island, spur the growth of MacArthur airport and create a job creation corridor right down the center of the island. No more excuses and delays, the MTA needs to make it a top priority in their capital plan.”
Read more in SmartTalk.
Vision in Washington for Railroad Day
Vision Long Island traveled to Washington, DC on March 8th to participate in “Railroad Day on Capitol Hill,” an annual event organized by GoRail. GoRail “unites rail stakeholders with community leaders and the public to support rail solutions for tomorrow’s transportation challenges.” The lobbying effort was a unique opportunity for Vision to connect with national leaders working to advance freight and passenger rail. The day sought to extend a railroad tax credit, preserve balanced regulation and bringing about a more balanced transportation infrastructure spending policy. Throughout the day, we met with Long Island Congressmen Tim Bishop and Steve Israel, who were receptive to our issues.
Issues specifically included: preserving reasonable regulation by opposing the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act (S.49/S.A.1591); extending the Short Line Tax Credit by supporting the Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2011 (H.R. 721 and S.672); opposing bigger and heavier trucks through the surface transportation bill (S.1813 and H.R. 7); and preserving the Section 130 Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Program.
Freight rail infrastructure is very important to our national and regional economies. We hope that new freight opportunities can expand on Long Island to help reduce congestion on our highways and build our economy, like the new Calverton rail spur which has already attracted several new businesses to the area.
For more information head on over to GoRail.com.
2012 Long Island Youth Summit brings over 200 high school students to work with experts on Long Island’s issues
Pictured (L-R): Michael Dowling - President and CEO of North Shore LIJ Health System, Dr. Nathalia Rogers - Dowling College & the American Communities Institute, Honorable Steve Flotteron - Islip Town Council, Dr. Elana Zolfo - Dowling College
On Friday, March 9th, more than 200 high school students from across Long Island assembled for the 2012 Long Island Youth Summit (LIYS) at Dowling College in Oakdale. The purpose of the Summit was to work with the brightest and most active high school students to find innovative solutions to socio-economic and socio-medical issues affecting Long Island.
During the Summit, students worked with experts in the fields of medicine, government, civic activism, economics, and the environment to address such issues as bullying and violence; the dangers of social networking; the effects of poverty on health; pollution of the environment; the use of renewable energy; the shortage of alternative housing; cuts in public transportation; and inequalities in high school education. Vision Long Island’s Executive Director Eric Alexander moderated a panel on LI Economic Growth and Employment, and Sustainability Director Elissa Ward served as an expert on a panel on Housing and Sustainable Community Design. (See below for a list of workshop topics, participating experts, and award winners.
This year, the program began with a keynote speech delivered by Michael Dowling, president and CEO of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Dowling emphasized the importance of leadership and civic activism in creating positive changes in local communities.
“A future president of the United States may be in this room, a future governor of New York State may be in this room, a future president of a large health system may be in this room”, noted Dowling. Providing valuable advice to the future generation, Dowling stressed key points of leadership including: not being afraid of change, having a positive attitude, having a vision, the importance of building bridges rather than walls, and the ability to influence others based on one’s vision and attitudes rather than the power of one’s institutional title.
Pictured (L-R): Michael Dowling - North Shore LIJ Health System, Arthur Perri - Dowling College, Scott Martella - Office of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, Bill Cunningham - North Shore LIJ Health System, John Keating - National Grid / LIPA, Eric Alexander - Vision Long Island, Dr. Nathalia Rogers - Dowling College & the American Communities Institute, Robert Scheiner - H2M, Dr. Elana Zolfo - Dowling College
Recognizing that future leaders are capable of making a difference in their communities right now, Dowling offered students who won the Summit’s awards an opportunity to obtain internships within the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “If you stay engaged as a leader, you can make a difference in your community today”, he said.
Dowling noted the importance of the Summit. “This is a transformative event for the youth who have been selected to be a part of this initiative. What we are really doing is identifying emerging leaders who will help improve the Long Island community,” he said.
Students participating in the Summit as finalists were selected from a pool of more than 500 participants who submitted projects representing high schools from across Long Island. Student projects were scored based on comprehensiveness, creativity and original research, and innovative ideas and solutions presented in a project.
“Our goal is to engage students as early as possible in creative thinking about issues that affect Long Island,” said Dr. Nathalia Rogers, director of the American Communities Institute at Dowling College. “We’re looking for the development of future leaders in our communities and the Summit is the first step in the process. The Summit is also a great example of a public/private partnership among organizations in the fields of health, education, business, and policy that brings together resources to provide young people with the tools they will need to succeed in the future.”
During the Summit, student finalists participated in 10 workshops including: Bullying and Violence; Social Networking; the Effects of Poverty on Health; Protection of Water and Preservation of Open Space; Renewable Energy; LI Business and Economic Development; LI Governance and Activism; Transportation; Housing and Suburban Culture; and Race, Class, and Education.
AARP, Vision Long Island, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Smithtown Chamber of Commerce release safety recommendations for Main Street Smithtown
Michael Wallwork, an engineer from the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, released a report this week that presents several recommendations for design changes that would best benefit traffic safety on Smithtown’s Main Street. According to the study, the best way to calm traffic along the 1-mile strip would be to install five roundabouts, reduce the road from four lanes to two, lower the speed limit and install a raised median.
The report was commissioned by AARP with support from Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Courtney Sipes Foundation, the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce and Vision Long Island, and was written after walkability expert Dan Burden came to Smithtown and spoke with both DOT and community representatives.
Two public meeting to present the report and hear from the community will be held on March 23rd: one from 1-3pm, and one from 7-9pm. Both will take place at the Smithtown Historical Society’s Brush Barn, 211 East Main Street (Route 25). Register on the AARP’s website.
The report was featured on page 8 of Monday’s Newsday, and an article in the Smithtown Patch features a poll and some insightful comments by community members.
Vision in D.C. for federal transportation bill
Pictured (L-R): Transportation for America's Ilana Pruess, Eric Alexander, and U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy
Vision Long Island Executive Director Eric Alexander traveled to Washington, DC on February 28th and 29th to participate in an advocacy event organized by Transportation for America to fight for the federal surface transportation bill. The first day included several panels and training sessions on the bill, while the second was filled with lobbying visits to Congressional members from across the country. The overarching goal is to promote a transportation bill that is adequately funded and promotes a more balanced system including transit, traffic calming and pedestrian and bicycle projects in addition to highway funding.
Vision met with Representative Tim Bishop and Representative Carolyn McCarthy, as well as the offices of Representative Steve Israel, Representative Gary Ackerman, Representative Peter King and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. The meetings were very successful and we know that our representatives were listening, as evidenced by recent movement on the bill.
The dreadful House bill, HR 7, has disappeared from public attention as it has gone back to the drawing board. Our comments were important to reiterating public distaste for certain components of this bill, especially the piece that would eliminate all dedicated transit funds (we expect that this piece will be restored in a new version). Meanwhile, the Senate adopted three important amendments to their 2-year bill, MAP-21, shortly after our visit. These included the Cardin-Cochran amendment to ensure that local municipalities have access to pedestrian and bicycle safety funds, the Franken-Blunt to provide additional flexibility for states to repair bridges and the Landrieu-Murray amendment to ensure that the bill’s incentive for states to repair bridges doesn’t inadvertently punish MPOs. The Transportation for America coalition is supporting these amendments, and given their adoption now officially support the Senate’s version of the bill.
The Senate will now be breaking MAP-21 into 30 separate amendments and voting on them individually. Many of these amendments are not at all related to transportation, or are non-germane as it is commonly known, and will likely be more controversial. These will likely include the Keystone XL pipeline and expanded oil drilling. However, the positive transportation amendments will be rolled into a “manager’s amendment” package which is a victory.
We’re pleased that our time in Washington was so productive. It is important that we all continue to remind our Representatives that the transportation bill matters to us and that we want to see transit and pedestrian projects on more equal footing as highways.
Schumer supports Hicksville’s Thought Box project locating to post office building
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is asking the U.S. Post Office to work with the leadership of Accelerate Long Island to transform the currently underused Post Office building in Hicksville into space for the new Thought Box 1 business incubator project. The Thought Box aims to redevelop existing vacant properties in downtown Hicksville into multi-use space for innovative companies and entrepreneurs involved with the federal research lab in Brookhaven as well as other institutions. A 450,000 square foot building such as the post office, which has residential and commercial space and is located near the Hicksville LIRR station, will create hundreds of jobs and serve as a key piece in the revitalizion of downtown Hicksville. The project leaders have not yet selected a location for the project.
In December, the project received a $3 million grant from the state’s Regional Economic Development Council for construction of a business incubator. Canrock Ventures, a LI venture capital firm, and the LI Emerging Technology Fund, a fund dedicated to Accelerate LI technologies, will be the Thought Box Center’s first tenants, and will bring with them the eight technology companies on Long Island they have already invested in. It is estimated that they will be bringing from 200 to 500 employees with them. On day one, the Hicksville Thought Box could have at least one technology anchor with over 500 employees.
in a letter to the Postmaster General, US Senator Chuck Schumer urged the Post Office to work with the leaders of the Thought Box project to explore selling or leasing the space. Schumer also said that disposing of this run-down facility to the private sector would allow the Hicksville Postal Service workforce to potentially re-locate to a modern facility with better amenities.
“Providing a new home for Accelerate Long Island companies, helping the Post Office cut costs, and locating the Thought Box 1 concept in Downtown Hicksville is a win-win-win," said Senator Schumer, "Long Island could become a new hub for technological innovation – if we commit to fostering and growing start-up tech businesses. By turning this post office into the next state-of-the-art incubator right here in Hicksville, we could demonstrate Long Island’s commitment to being the next home of innovative, cutting-edge entrepreneurs and companies.”
Lionel Chitty, President of Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, noted that “the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce is very supportive of Senator Schumer for recognizing the need to revitalize our downtown with an opportunity for high tech office, retail and housing development. This initiative will be a part of our ongoing visioning effort that has the support of our local business and community leaders.”
“Kudos to Senator Schumer for supporting the transformation of the local post office facility into productive use through mixed use development," said Vision Long Island's Executive Director Eric Alexander. "This tax positive project will add economic viability and life to the local downtown in partnership with the vision of the local chamber of commerce and community leaders.”
Read more in Senator Schumer’s press release.
Riverhead to gain “historic downtown” status
The NYS Historic Preservation Board is recommending downtown Riverhead to be one of 31 places that be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This designation will be a major help to ongoing downtown revitalization efforts in the downtown. The state board said “the concentration of buildings represents Riverhead’s importance as the center of business, culture, entertainment and government on the East End of Long Island.”
According to Richard Wines, chairman of Riverhead’s Landmarks Preservation Commissions, “Getting parts of downtown on the National Historic Register facilitates the availability of restoration tax credits. It should really be valuable for the town board’s revitalization efforts on Main Street.” The creation of a “Riverhead Main Street Historic District” will allow local property owners to get assistance in revitalizing their buildings through programs and services such as matching state grants and historic rehabilitation tax credits.
The historic designation still has to be approved by the state, which is expected by summer. Mr. Wines suggested downtown Riverhead property owners should apply for tax credits now, since just being recommended for the register qualifies the designated area for a 40 percent rehabilitation tax credit.
Read more at LI Business News.
LI Smart Growth Working Group hears from Congressman Bishop and Suffolk County Executive Bellone
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and US Congressman Tim Bishop
Sustainability Institute at Molloy College's Neal Lewis, Greenman Pedersen's Mayer Horn, Jobco's Michael Puntillo, LI Business Council's Bob Fonti, Citizens Campaign for the Environment's Adrienne Esposito, US Congressman Tim Bishop, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Vision Long Island's Eric Alexander, Renaissance Downtowns' Brandon Palanker, Tri-State Transportation Campaign's Ryan Lynch, Uniondale Community Council's Jeannine Maynard, PCAC's Jan Wells and Leadership Huntington's Trudy Fitzsimmons
The Long Island Smart Growth Working Group held its first meeting of the year on February 24th at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale. Over 80 participants came to hear from special guest speakers Congressman Tim Bishop and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, as well as reports from several municipalities and initiatives on the Island.
Congressman Tim Bishop kicked off the meeting by discussing two major issues that he is working on at the federal level: the surface transportation bill and wastewater infrastructure. On transportation, Bishop discussed what he called a crisis in the federal government’s inability to pass a long-term transportation bill because Congress in unable to agree on a funding mechanism. Part of the problem is that the highway trust fund money created by the gas tax has decreased, due to people driving more fuel-efficient vehicles and traveling less frequently. Though Bishop noted this is a good thing, it still creates a funding gap. The “looming crisis” is the House leadership’s current bill that has passed through committees and cuts all dedicated transit revenue as well as the small programs that do traffic calming (Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements). If passed, we could lose 550,000 jobs and 45 of the 50 states would get less money over the next five years. Part of the bill would also eliminate the environmental review process at the federal level. Bishop argued that this process needs to be streamlined, but not eliminated. Bishop quoted Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood saying that this is the most anti-safety bill he has ever seen. The bill, HR 7, may not have the votes to pass the House, which suggests it will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate. Bishop said that we need to find a way to come together and do what we have historically done and pass a transportation bill on a bipartisan basis.
On wastewater infrastructure, Bishop noted that we have a $300 billion backlog on clean water needs, and there has been a major funding dip in past years. He has introduced a bill that would increase the funding level to $13.8 billion over five years—still not what is needed but more than is currently allocated. In addition, this bill would leverage private dollars by creating a wastewater infrastructure bank, as well as allow direct lending to municipalities to assist with local projects. The bill would create many jobs for builders and system suppliers.
Responding to a question from the audience, Bishop mentioned that there is talk about breaking up the transportation bill into three sections and voting on them individually, then if passed, stitching them back together and sending the bill to the Senate. This still likely would not repair the damage that this bill imposes.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone spoke next, noting that his first 7 weeks in office have felt like a year, but that he is optimistic about the changes he will make for the County. His budget and finance task force will release a report next week that highlights the “shocking” and “horrible” financial circumstances of the County. Bellone has already laid off 20% of his management staff, but noted that, despite these circumstances, he is committed to doing more with less, especially in terms of economic development and sustainable growth.
Bellone’s plan to streamline government will work hand-in-hand with the new Economic Development and Planning Department. This new department will have a Commissioner and point people for the areas of downtown revitalization; agriculture, marine and tourism; sustainability; health care; environment and open space; housing; transportation; Innovate Suffolk; and one-stop shop.
The transportation person will focus on changing our land-use planning to focus on transit-oriented development, rather than the unsustainable model of adding more cars. Bellone noted, “Towns and villages are changing the way they do planning.” This local lens is one piece of Bellone’s “Connect Long Island” plan. This plan includes local TOD projects that are already underway, including the Ronkonkoma Hub, Wyandanch Rising and many others. It will also include investing in a second track on the LIRR from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma and improving North-South transit connections through a Bus Rapid Transit line on the Route 110 corridor.
Innovate Suffolk will be an initiative to help effectively leverage our assets- including education, natural resources, technology and others- to grow our economy and facilitate growth. The one-stop-shop person will provide a place where businesses go to understand all of the opportunities available in our region, such as tax breaks, grants, energy credits and others. This is one way that our Island can become an “economic powerhouse” rather than “bouncing along on the bottom” as we currently are in our region. Bellone noted that “this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
County Executive Bellone stayed to answer nearly a dozen questions. He spoke on the health department and how projects tend to get stuck there, and on this issue suggested that “the natural state of a bureaucracy when it’s not managed well is to stop things, slow things down.” He responded to a question on keeping our young people on LI by reinforcing the importance of the elements of his new economic development department. You must address the things that keep young people in a place, he said, including rental housing, good-paying jobs, entertainment and more. Transportation advocates in the audience praised Bellone for passing a Complete Streets policy in the Town of Babylon when he was Supervisor, which served as a catalyst for other municipalities as well as the passage of the statewide bill last year. Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Ryan Lynch suggested Bellone consider closing gaps in the state bill by passing a countywide policy or monitor how the towns build roads.
Bellone closed by saying that the County will support local plans, acting “much less academic, and much more focused on implementing.” The County will work to make Smart Growth happen, recognizing that on Long Island planning happens at the local level and that the County should serve in an administrative role only. Spontaneous applause broke out, with audience members thrilled to see such a major reversal in policy at the County level.
After lunch, the meeting continued with several local reports. Jonathan Keyes from the Town of Babylon noted that the Wyandanch sewers will be finished in the spring, and the park will be opened in July. Sal Coco of BHC Architects spoke briefly on the Wyandanch Rising project, noting that they are working on the designs now and are looking at adding an extra development phase to help with financing. Kathy Sefchek of the Town of Hempstead and Jeannine Maynard of the Uniondale Community Council spoke about the Uniondale community visioning project and said that they hope to have a community vision plan in place by this summer. Linda Bianculli and Ralph Healy from Oyster Bay talked about Hicksville, which is proceeding with phase one of a brownfield project and a traffic study on parking resources. There is talk about expanding the centrally-located Kennedy Park, which seemed to be news to Hicksville Chamber of Commerce’s Lionel Chitty and Jim Pavone. The Town is also investing $3.5 million (mostly from Regional Economic Development Council money) in a 350,000 square foot tech facility near the train station called “Thought Box.”
The Town of North Hempstead’s Michael Levine gave several new updates, including one on the $5 million in federal stimulus money for New Cassel and the completion of the community center planned for this spring. Port Washington is also looking to expand mixed-use development to areas around the train station, but have run into some opposition. However they have seen success with a new three-story, 33-unit mixed use building. The Town of Huntington update came from LI Business Council’s Bob Fonti. He discussed the success of the new Paramount Theater for the community and the region. The town is looking at the Route 110 corridor to expand business opportunities and incentives for landlords. There are a number of senior housing projects underway in the town and the Village of Northport is working on sewer infrastructure. Brandon Palanker of Renaissance Downtowns, the officially-designated master developer for the Village of Hempstead, said that labor and zoning agreements are in progress and that local community members can have a voice, starting at the new website, renewhempstead.com. Michael Puntillo of Jobco talked about his Central Islip project which he hopes to start construction on this year. Coram Civic Association’s Erma Gluck talked about the exciting plan to build a new mixed-use town center in Coram.
The updates moved from the local to the regional. Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment talked about the recent successful collaboration of 55 organizations for Long Island Lobby Day in Albany, and she and Vision’s Eric Alexander called on additional groups to join the coalition. Greg Watson of NYS Homes and Community Renewal covered the Regional Economic Development Council funding that Long Island recently received and noted that round two of funding is coming soon. Susan Lagville of Housing Help discussed the state budget provision which will end funding to 14 organizations on Long Island that provide on-the-ground counseling to people for housing foreclosures and mortgages. The State would to replace these local groups which reach hundreds of thousands of people with one “mobile van” that served the same function. They hope to fight this provision.
Jobco’s Michael Puntillo mentioned a private-sector solution that he is doing with a project in Central Islip, whereby instead of building the required 20% affordable housing units, the company will purchase and refurbish foreclosed homes in the neighboring community and work to get people back into them. Neal Lewis of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College mentioned some solar policies and opportunities, which will be explored further at a conference on April 20th. Kathy Wisnewski from National Grid also covered their energy efficiency programs, including one that works with towns to provide rehabilitation grants. National Grid is looking to the next generation of housing projects and they are working with Vision to find ways to get energy efficiency into mixed-use projects. Finally, Paddy Steinschneider of the Congress for the New Urbanism-NY Chapter applauded Vision for moving beyond academia and really accomplishing a great deal. He mentioned an inspiring project by Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk that was recently presented in NYC on her Miami21 plan, which comprehensively rezoned the entire city with community support. Stay tuned for 2014 when the national CNU conference comes to New York in Buffalo.
NICE Bus plans service changes
Veolia Transportation, Nassau County’s new private bus operator, hosted two community meetings last week to announce several changes to their NICE Bus system. The changes appear to be a mixed bag, with some severe service cuts that will hurt riders as well as some seemingly positive additions.
On the plus side, the company will be adding new express routes and will adjust certain bus schedules to align with LIRR trains better. They also reinforced their promise not to raise fares this year. Unfortunately with the good comes the bad: about 30 lines will see service reductions, mostly at midday and weekend hours and some routes will be consolidated. No routes will be completely eliminated. The service changes are scheduled to go into effect on April 8th, though Veolia will listen to the public and insists that the changes are not set in stone yet. Learn more about specific changes on the NICE website here.
The community meetings, which are required to take place before enacting any service cuts, took place Wednesday night in Uniondale and Thursday night in Great Neck. After a short presentation by Veolia’s Vice President for Business Development Rahul Kumar, attendees were sent to talk with various staff to ask them specific questions and give feedback. Staff were receptive, friendly and honest about the difficult position they are in due to a $7.3 million budget deficit.
Newsday’s Joye Brown mentioned in her column that “it's no coincidence that Veolia finds itself almost more than $7 million in the hole so soon. That's close to what the county chose to shortchange the system when officials reduced Nassau's contribution to the MTA-run system from $9 million to $2.62 million.”
Another requirement established in Veolia’s contract is a 5-member Transit Advisory Committee, which would be appointed by the County. Any major service cuts or fare increases must pass through this committee. The committee was finally announced last week (after the community meetings for service changes was announced). Among them is the Vice President of All Island Transportation, a taxi company who would likely benefit from bus cuts. We hope the County will consider giving bus riders a formal voice in this process in the future.
Representatives of the recently-formed LI Bus Riders Union were at the meetings to talk with riders and work to protect their interests. The group held a press conference this week to release some preliminary recommendations for Veolia on behalf of riders, outlined in this report. Priorities include maintaining and expanding service, stabilizing fares for five years and ensuring communication is transparent and multi-lingual. If you are a Nassau County bus rider and want to get involved in the Bus Riders Union, visit this website.
Special thanks to Nassau County Legislators Kevan Abrahams, Judi Bosworth, Judy Jacobs and Wayne Wink for attending the meetings and continuing to monitor the bus transition.
Read Newsday’s front-page coverage from this week here.
Vision Long Island meets with new Suffolk County Exec
Vision Long Island Board and Staff spent an hour and a half meeting with newly-inaugurated Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in his office in late February and we are happy to report that we have a real Smart Growth advocate in office! Bellone plans to focus on implementation rather than more planning. He recognizes that planning on Long Island happens at the local community level, and rather than serve as an obstacle the County should provide resources and only block projects that are seriously flawed. This is a major reversal and we are eager to work together to implement Smart Growth in Suffolk County. Much of what we discussed Bellone summarized at the LI Smart Growth Working Group meeting last week, so for a full update, check out that write-up. He told us: “Creating great places. If you don’t do that, you’ve failed.”
Wyandanch Rising breaks ground
One of Long Island’s most ambitious revitalization projects in decades, Wyandanch Rising, has begun the first of many phases included in its proposed $500 million public-private redevelopment outline. Recently, bulldozers have commenced digging for the new sewer pipe to be installed down the middle of Straight Path, which the town hopes will increase property values. In addition to the new sewer line, Wyandanch’s revitalization plan includes transforming the downtown area by redeveloping it so that it is largely centered around the local Long Island Rail Road station, adding mixed-use commercial and residential buildings and open green space.
The Wyandanch Rising project has received more than $49.9 million in state and federal grant money, including grants for sewer infrastructure and job creation. The town has also gained 50 properties through purchase and eminent domain using $8.5 million in issued bonds and $16.7 million in reserve funds. In addition, officials say that the Town has agreed to a $20 million bond to purchase 17 additional properties.
The Town of Babylon is set to take its first major steps by completing the sewer line by the end of spring and to begin construction on the first phase of development- which will include 50,000 square feet of commercial space, 150 rental and 90 condo units- by this fall. For more on Wyandanch Rising’s progress, visit the website here.
Great Neck adopts Complete Streets
The Village of Great Neck Plaza has become the next Long Island municipality to adopt a local Complete Streets law, with the Village adopting the Complete Streets Policy Guide on February 1st.
According to the guide, “The Village of Great Neck Plaza recognizes the importance of taking a well-balanced approach to transportation planning and providing optimal transportation accessibility and choices for its residents and visitors. The Village believes that the public right-of-way is more than just a conveyor of vehicles and that it instead serves a vital role in shaping a community’s landscape and livability. The present network of roads, in many cases, provides for the needs of motor vehicles to the exclusion of alternative modes of transportation, including cycling and walking. The Village therefore seeks to create a road system that will accommodate the needs of all users and will integrate safety improvements and sustainable practices to reduce congestion, minimize environmental impacts, promote healthier lifestyles, encourage economic growth, and increase overall efficiency. "
February 15th marked the day that the New York State Complete Streets legislation went into effect, with local policies in effect in 5 LI towns. We hope to see more towns, villages and the counties adopt Complete Streets policies and build safer streets this year!
Read the policy guide here.
NY Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos keynotes Long Island Business Council event
Last week, NY State Majority Leader Dean Skelos appeared before the Long Island Business Council with a message of what a bipartisan state government can do for small business on Long Island.
Skelos started by recounting a meeting between himself and then-newly elected Governor Andrew Cuomo wherein they agreed that the dysfunctional nature of Albany was doing more harm than good and needed to stop. “We have to start talking to each other instead of shouting,” Skelos said. “When there is shouting, no one hears. We have philosophical differences, but we have to try to resolve those differences to get things done.”
Skelos also drew applause when he spoke about the repeal of the MTA tax for Long Island businesses as one of those bipartisan agreements that was easily attainable. The repeal of the tax had been a major goal for the Long Island Business Council, according to East Meadow Chamber of Commerce Vice President Dolores Rome. Removing the tax allowed the businesses from the chambers to reinvest in themselves. “It allowed them to put money back into their businesses and they really needed that,” said Rome, who also noted that Skelos has a “willingness to always look out for small businesspeople.”
Skelos mentioned another potential bipartisan goal: to keep more existing businesses here on Long Island while also encouraging new businesses to settle here through the reduction of property taxes and mandates and stabilizing utility prices. He pointed out that education may be an area where these savings were possible. “Making it more affordable to live on Long Island is critically important,” he said while also noting that Long Island has lost numerous jobs specifically due to affordability.
Skelos also noted that $101 million in funding is slated for investing in 66 high-tech "economic backbone" business ventures on Long Island including Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor labs and Hofstra University.
Also discussed at the meeting was the recently completed federal study conducted by Dowling College. This study included numerous suggestions for improving small business on a local, state and federal level. The study includes information drawn directly from over 100 local Long Island businesses and will be used to guide legislation aimed directly at bringing relief to small business owners. Once completed, the study will be posted in its entirety on the website of the American Communities Institute, which is located at Dowling College and run by head of their sociology department Dr. Nathalia Rogers.
The Long Island Business Council is chaired by Rich Bivone of RMB Drafting and Bob Fonti of Vincent James Management Company. Joining the group on that day were NYS Assemblyman Andrew Raia, NYS Assemblyman David McDonough, Huntington Councilmembers Mark Mayoka, Eugene Cook and Susan Berland, Islip Councilmember Steve Flotteron, Suffolk County Legislators William “Doc” Spencer and Tom Cilmi, Robert Moore representing US Congressman Steve Israel and NYS Supreme Court Judge Peter Skelos.
You can read more on the meeting in Long Island Herald’s article.
Hempstead Turnpike named area's most dangerous road
Hempstead Turnpike (SR 24) in Nassau County has been named the metropolitan area’s deadliest road for pedestrians, as announced in a cover story in Newsday this week. The highly trafficked road runs through a dense commercial area where many individuals travel by foot or bicycle. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) shows that, in the three year period from 2006 to 2008, 13 pedestrians were killed along the 16-mile stretch of highway. Experts believe that the most likely cause of these frequent deaths can be attributed to a lack of proper roadway infrastructure. “The design of these streets encourages dangerous driving behaviors like speeding and failure to yield”, says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “In a region where many families don’t own cars, that so many streets should be hostile to walking is appalling.”
Newsday asked traffic engineers to recommend modifications that could be made to create a safer turnpike for pedestrian traffic. The engineer’s suggestions included adding more traffic signals, adding red left-turn arrows to prevent cars from turning into pedestrians and putting up fences to prevent pedestrians from crossing at places other than crosswalks and intersections. In addition, engineers proposed moving bus stops closer to intersections, adding pedestrian islands midway across the highway for pedestrians who are unable to make it completely across during the allotted time, extending the sidewalks further into the lanes to decrease the distance pedestrians have to walk (also referred to as a “bulb outs”) and increasing education of both pedestrians and drivers through a safety-information campaign and stricter enforcement of traffic violations.
State and federal funding is usually allotted to speeding traffic up and decreasing delays, but traffic engineer Gary Toth’s redesign vision for Hempstead Turnpike would alter traffic flow by decreasing vehicle speed but moving traffic more steadily so they would still reach their final destination on time. Toth would accomplish this by replacing some traffic lights with roundabouts, adding fencing and increasing enforcement and education. Vision Long Island’s Executive Director Eric Alexander emphasized in Newsday how important it is for the local governments in Suffolk and Nassau County as well as the state transportation department to become involved in this issue. “The governor is looking at investing multiple billions of dollars in infrastructure, so these types of roadways where people are literally dying should move up the list. If tax dollars are available for fixing the roads, let’s at least fix the ones that are broken.”
Following the publishing of Newsday’s investigation, New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald ordered DOT engineers in Albany and Hauppauge to investigate and report in three weeks back on short-term improvements and long-term options to make the turnpike safer for pedestrians. Specific changes McDonald wants considered include adding more red-light cameras, crosswalk countdown signals and high-visibility street signs. In order to fund these changes, McDonald says, we may have to defer some other projects, but because peoples lives are at risk, this takes precedence. Any changes that will be made, however, must be made in conjunction with increased enforcement of traffic laws and a public education campaign.
This new support falls in line with the recently passed Complete Streets legislation. Kudos to NYS Dept of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald for taking leadership on these improvements. Watch a video on News 12 for more information here.
The Newsday analysis reinforces what a study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has been saying for several years now: Hempstead Turnpike is one of the region’s most dangerous roads in the region for pedestrians. View the study here.