Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Capece’

Leaving Long Island

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Discouraged by the lack of affordable housing, young people are moving elsewhere

By Alex Costello

 Part one in a series, “Plugging the brain drain.”

For the past decade, Long Island has been losing college graduates and young professionals. The high cost of living and lack of affordable housing has forced them to leave the area in droves.

The phenomenon is known as the “brain drain.”

In 2000, 12.86 percent of the population of Long Island was between ages of 25 and 34. By 2008, that had dropped to 9.98 percent. According to the Long Island Index, 22 percent of the population of 25- to 34-year-olds left Long Island in that eight-year period.

“Long Island sends kids away to these great universities, and then they leave,” said Chris Capece, the development director for AvalonBay Communities on Long Island. “They don’t come back.”

The explanation is twofold: First, the cost of living on Long Island is too high for young people to afford. Second, even if they could afford it, many young people don’t want to live here.

“When a kid’s coming out of school, he doesn’t jump in and buy a single-family home. It just doesn’t happen,” said Capece. “So what’s happening is that there are other places where a 23-year-old can get a one-bedroom apartment and live in it. Or a two-bedroom flat and split it with a roommate. That does not exist here on Long Island, and it’s in other places, which is why people are moving to other areas.”

What rental housing there is on Long Island is expensive, by any measure. In 2000, about 55 percent of rentals on the Island cost less than $1,000 a month. By 2006, only 23 percent did. And by 2006, 38 percent of rentals cost over $1,500 a month.

According to Ann Golob, director of the Long Island Index, rentals account for only 17 percent of Long Island housing. In Fairfield County, Connecticut, 28 percent of housing is rentals, and in Westchester County, 37 percent. “We have not built the number of rental units that are typically what a young person can afford,” said Golob. “So it makes us much less affordable. The numbers are very striking.”

The fight for affordable housing

Other than a few isolated pockets in places like Rockville Centre and Long Beach, there is simply not much rental housing on Long Island. “It has to do with … how Long Island has grown,” said Golob. “Where would you be able to put more rental housing?”

According to Capece, the lack of rental housing drives up the price of what does exist — a simple case of supply and demand. And it is extremely difficult for developers to get approval to building new rental units. “There are no parcels of land on Long Island that are already zoned for multi-family development — they don’t exist,” said Capece. “But what you have … are large tracts of land that are zoned for single-family residential homes. So what will happen, and how Long Island has been built up over the years from a residential standpoint, is with single-family subdivisions.”

The reason, Capece explained, is that it’s easier for developers. When buying a parcel of land already zoned for single-family homes, developers have two choices: either build homes or try to get the land rezoned so they can build something else. But a decision to change the zoning is at the discretion of the municipality that has jurisdiction over the area, and residents tend to oppose affordable rental housing when it comes before the boards of their municipalities.

“About three and a half years ago,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, a community organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, “we realized in our organization, through going to different town board meetings and trying to help to create some affordable housing in the Hamptons, that most of the time the opposition comes out to oppose anything that gets proposed.” To combat the “not in my backyard,” or NIMBY, mentality, the LIPC created a YIMBY campaign (for “yes in my backyard”). It is a group of people, including members of unions and civic organizations, who go to board meetings and petition in favor affordable housing.

Many observers agree that part of the reason there is so much opposition to affordable housing — also known as work force housing — is that there is a general lack of understanding about what it is. “We don’t work towards creating Section 8 housing,” said Silva-Farrell. “We’re talking mostly middle-income families. And the reason is that we realize that middle-income families can’t really afford to stay on Long Island. That’s why it’s such a huge emigration of people.”

Section 8 housing, technically known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is government-subsidized housing for low-income families and people who might otherwise be homeless. But that is not what advocates of affordable housing want.

“What’s being missed is kind of that band in the middle between the haves and the have-nots,” said Capece. “It’s the young writer, it’s the policeman, the teacher, the nurse — those are the people that are being missed. It’s not the person that’s making $15,000, it’s the person making $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 a year that’s being missed.”

By all accounts, Long Island residents, especially the elderly, are very concerned about what adding an apartment complex to their neighborhood would do to their home values. “We did a survey a couple of years ago in which we asked people the degree to which their long-term retirement savings was based on the value of their home,” said Golob. “And more so than in other areas, the degree to which Long Islanders are dependent on their homes for their retirement is very high. Scarily high.”

Because of that, Golob explained, Long Islanders are determined to keep their neighborhoods as they have always been. “You have to maintain everything the same, and that’s really not a recipe for a changing economy and a changing world,” Golob said. “But people don’t see that. They don’t understand it.”

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Avalon Supporters Speak Out Before Town Board Meeting

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

YIMBY, LIPC gathered to endorse economic development through AvalonBay in Huntington Station on Tuesday.

A group of close 30 people gathered outside Town Hall on Tuesday prior to the Town Board’s Sept. 7 meeting to announce their endorsement of the Avalon Huntington Station project.

Members of The Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC) and The Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station spoke positively about the AvalonBay Transit Oriented Development being proposed in Huntington Station along with a small group of Huntington and Huntington Station residents.

“Today we’re here to say we support Avalon Huntington Station,” said Lisa Tyson, Director of the LIPC. “There has been a new coalition formed called the Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station – over 25 organizations and growing have joined that coalition.”

Members of the YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) campaign were on hand for the press conference as well. The YIMBY campaign, a project of the LIPC, is an affordable housing movement across Long Island that mobilizes housing supporters to say “yes” to initiatives that propose good affordable housing projects. The LIPC, the local affiliate of Citizen Action of New York, is a 31-year-old organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development, revitalizing local communities, creating effective democracy, enhancing human dignity, and achieving economic, racial and social justice.

During the Town Hall meeting hundreds of letters were delivered to the Town Board from Huntington Station residents who say they are in support of the development.

“We have talked to many Huntington Station residents who believe that AvalonBay is the type of development that is bringing solutions to the community,” YIMBY organizer Maritza Silva-Farrell said. “Today, we are here to deliver more than 300 handwritten letters from Huntington Station constituents to the Town Board, sending their message, ‘Yes In My Backyard.'”

On top of the members from the YIMBY and LIPC support groups, several members from AvalonBay were also present, including Christopher Capece, the Development Director at AvalonBay.

“Not only have we had a large number of individual supporters and homeowners throughout the township, but we also have a coalition of groups that support us that represents thousands of people and I think that really speaks to the broad support that we have out there,” Capece said. “The press conference today was an example of that. I think it’s great.”

Avalon Huntington Station supporters also responded to false information that the AvalonBay opposition has allegedly distributed in the community.

“For too long Huntington Station has been the sight of far too many of the problems that are facing the Town of Huntington: inadequate police protection, gang violence, and now the closing of the Jack Abrams School,” said Richard Koubek, President of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition. “As a result the people of Huntington Station are afraid, angry, and frustrated due to years of neglect.

Koubek added, “Unfortunately a loud group of anti-AvalonBay people have exploited this situation, nitpicking at the AvalonBay proposal and spreading rumors and misinformation that have driven up the political heat in Huntington Station – this is why the Huntington Township Housing Coalition formed The Coalition to Support Avalon Huntington Station. … As of this morning, we have 26 stakeholder organizations from the Town of Huntington who have stepped forward with formal endorsements of this coalition.”

Opponents to Avalon Huntington Station have cited the re-zoning of the land as the major problem with the proposal. However, AvalonBay officials have said, the only property that would be re-zoned is the 26.2-acre parcel of property where Avalon Huntington Station would be located. The remainder of the half-mile radius would not be re-zoned, according to AvalonBay officials.

But still AvalonBay opponents are not content with the Transit Oriented Development proposal. Jennifer LaVertu of Huntington Station is one of the main opponents of Avalon Huntington Station. As a member of the community, she said she is not happy where the AvalonBay support is coming from.

“The YIMBYs live in Brooklyn and Amityville and Yaphank and want to tell me what to put in my backyard?” LaVertu said. “Who are we kidding here?”

The AvalonBay proposal is the agenda for the Town Board’s Sept. 21 meeting.

“Each Town Board member has to have the courage to rise above the current clamor and to do the right thing for the future of Huntington Station and for the future of all of Huntington,” Koubek said. “AvalonBay is an unprecedented opportunity to pump millions of dollars into the ailing Huntington Station economy. This is a once in a generation opportunity, economic development during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”