Posts Tagged ‘Maritza Silva-Farrell’

Young people are leaving L.I. for more affordable areas

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

By Alex Costello

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

The lack of affordable housing on Long Island is forcing young adults to leave the area in droves. And as their population decreases and the cost of living keeps increasing, businesses are also taking part in the exodus, damaging the Long Island economy.

According to a poll conducted by the Long Island Index, 69 percent of people 18 to 34 are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to leave Long Island within the next five years. According to Maritza Silva-Farrell, a community organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, what young people want, more and more, is to live in an area like Huntington Village — an area with shops, restaurants and bars in a walkable area.

The best places to develop more areas like that are in the downtowns that already exist in many Nassau communities. “When you see the sea of parking we have on Long Island, isn’t that a possibility?” said Ann Golob, director of the Long Island Index. “If people would be a little less scared of the possibility of multi-level parking structures — which are ubiquitous throughout the country, but pretty rare on Long Island — there might be some exciting possibilities.”

But restrictions placed by villages and towns on building height and density means that anyone who wants to build an affordable housing complex in a downtown area—or even add on to an existing structure — must apply for a zoning variance, which can be a long, expensive and ultimately futile process.

White-bread Long Island

Keeping communities limited to mainly single-family homes restricts the people who can live in the area, creating homogeneous communities.

In 2000, 62 percent of the homes sold on the Island were priced under $250,000. Just six years later, only 4 percent of homes were. “So while we used to talk about starter homes, now we talk about starter castles on Long Island,” Golob said. “Because the size of the homes, the cost of the homes is completely out of league with what an average person can afford.”

The dearth of affordable housing helps creates homogenous communities. But what many young people want is diversity.

“It’s unfortunate, but people on Long Island don’t really agree with the idea of mixed-income communities,” said Silva-Farrell, whose organization petitions in favor of affordable housing developments at many local government meetings. “And race is a big issue. And that’s why the opposition sometimes tries to use code words to say, ‘We don’t want people who don’t look like me in this community.’”

“There are fewer and fewer people who look for the homogeneity that was a hallmark of Long Island growth in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Golob. “A lot of people fled New York City when integration was being ‘forced upon them’ in the schools, and that helped to create the kind of homogeneity they wanted.

“But that doesn’t work for the future,” she added. “That’s not what the world is about. And that really takes some active work to change.”

Less housing, less business

A lack of affordable housing pushes not only residents away from Long Island, but businesses as well.

With housing costs as high as they are, the cost of living on Long Island is much higher than in other areas. So to pay their workers a livable wage, businesses would have to pay higher salaries — something they can’t always afford.

“And as a result, business aren’t coming here with the kinds of jobs that would fuel the economy, because they know people can’t find homes here,” said Golob. “So a lot of businesses are looking to move elsewhere, where they can pay their work force the kinds of salaries that are supportive to what they need to get their businesses going. And they know the workers would then be able to find housing.”

According to a 2005 report from the Urban Land Institute, communities with affordable housing units were more desirable for businesses. That same study also said that a large and diverse labor pool — two things Long Island isn’t known for — was the most important factor when businesses were choosing where to relocate.

“You find a lot of new businesses going to other areas where there is more affordable housing available,” Golob said. “So the way this problem ricochets and creates other problems in the overall economy is scary.”

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.”

Let's All Be Huntingtonians – Town Hall Debate Over Avalon Bay, Downzoning Vote Postponed

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

By Village Tattler, on July 7th, 2010

Huntingtonians listen to Station Resident Chris O’Donnell explain why he’s opposed to Avalon Bay 

Tuesday night’s Town Hall meeting was dominated by a spirited discussion of whether downzoning Huntington Station and allowing Avalon Bay’s proposed 490-unit development is good for the Town and Huntington Station. The Town Hall auditorium was packed with advocates on both sides of the issue, and while not everyone registered for a three-minute turn at the dais, enough did to stretch the meeting out over four hours to a late end well past 11:00. Ironically, a flicker in the power supply may have lent a merciful hand to keep the meeting from running even longer by temporarily knocking out the air conditioning. For every degree the temperature in the room rose, a couple more seats lost their residents, and the line of speakers shortened. The temperature of the debate was just as high as the scorching heat all day, hecklers and supporters on both sides of the downzoning issue were disruptive enough that Town Supervisor Frank Petrone had to threaten cancelling the public portion of the hearing. Invoking civility, Petrone insisted the crowd hold itself to a higher standard imploring, “Let’s all be Huntingtonians” and respectfully allow everyone the right to hold and express an opinion without being interrupted or jeered.

No downzoning vote
In a last-minute move several hours prior to the meeting, the Town Council removed a vote on downzoning from the meeting agenda. The Trustees themselves were divided on whether it was appropriate to further extend the deadline they impose upon themselves to vote on the issue. Ultimately they decided to extend the deadline to September with Supervisor Petrone and Councilwoman Jackson in opposition. Both indicated they did not feel an extension was in order, because there was still plenty of time within the existing deadline for more consideration of the issues surrounding downzoning. The supporters of extending the deadline noted that additional time will allow for Avalon Bay to hold 2 – 3 more public information sessions that were promised last night and Councilman Mark Mayoka noted that the additional time will also be helpful for the Council to understand whether or not a supermajority will be required to approve the downzoning proposal.

Avalon Bay VP, Development of Long Island explains the benefits his company’s proposed Huntington Station project will bring to the town 

Avalon Bay spokesman Matt Whalen expressed his disappointment with the extended deadline while acknowledging the company has work to do in order to be “welcomed into the community”. He asked that interested parties attend the new information sessions AB will hold because the company feels that much opposition to the project is a result of misinformation and rumors that AB would like to address directly. The new info sessions have not yet been scheduled, but Whalen promised to keep everyone informed with updates on the AB website and elsewhere. Whalen went on to say that high-density housing is not a bad thing and in fact the large numbers of new residents that the proposed AB development would bring is a good and needed change for Huntington Station. AB and Whalen say that the influx of new residents will come at a low price to the schools because AB’s data indicates their development will add 84 – 95 kids to the district while building 109 single family homes as the current zoning allows for the property will add 120 – 135 kids.

What is the cost of this development to the rest of town?
Resident Charles Manos expressed skepticism with Whalen’s student projections. Manos claims it is more than a coincidence that the estimated property tax increase associated with the AB plan ($2,000,000 of which $1,600,000 will go to the school district) so closely matches the estimated additional cost to the school (80 kids X $20,000/year = $1,600,000). Manos suggested that the number had been reverse-engineered and in the process the projected number of students lowered so that the projected school district costs for the new kids would not exceed the projected new school district revenue that will result from the development. Manos says the district should expect the project would add between 170 and 230 kids – a number consistent with the nearby Highview development. Using the midpoint, 200 new students, Manos says the cost of these new kids to the district will be $4,000,000 leaving the district with an annual shortfall of $2,400,000 between the new tax revenue stream and the new students costs. Manos said he’s sympathetic to those looking for affordable housing, but pointed out that “in the interest of affordability, every other house in the district becomes less affordable” because the houses in the rest of the district will see their taxes rise to cover the shortfall he predicts AB will create.

Charles Manos says costs to the school district will be much higher than projected 

Other cost concerns raised by residents include sewage, traffic and abatement of toxic chemicals in the parcel’s soil. Park Avenue resident Loretta Luiguino says she’s wanted to hook into the sewer district for years and called AB “line jumpers” for being given permission to hook 490 new housing units to the town sewers before the homes in her neighborhood. Several residents of Huntington Country Farms, which is adjacent to the proposed development, described existing traffic patterns in the neighborhood as “at capacity” and asked how adding another 700 – 1000 cars in AB could be accommodated without bringing Park Avenue to a standstill and overwhelming Huntington Village parking lots when the new residents inevitably drive into town for shopping, dining and entertainment.

Smart growth
Advocates of AB voiced themes of smart growth, the need for affordable housing and the notion that a large number of hardworking, taxpaying new Huntingtonians living next to the train station will bring energy, eyeballs and cash that will combat crime and blight in Huntington Station not to mention being a boon to businesses in the Station and the rest of Huntington. A number of civic and business groups were represented as supporting the AB development including the League of Women Voters, Huntington Chamber of Commerce, the Huntington Housing Coalition, Vision Long Island and the Long Island Progressive Coalition. Former Huntington resident Maritza Silva-Farrell of the LIPC explained how she and her family had to leave Huntington and move to Brooklyn because they could not find affordable housing in Town.

Centerport residents Mike White, Tim White and Jeff Love say Avalon Bay should be allowed to build in Huntington Station 

Many AB supporters carrying YIMBY signs echoed the LIPC call for more affordable housing to prevent a brain drain that they say is causing Huntington’s young people to move elsewhere in search of more affordable housing. YIMBYs Mike White, Tim White and Jeff Love are Centerport residents and Harborfields HS grads living with their parents and looking for affordable digs so they can stay in town. When asked to quantify “affordable”, the White brothers noted that student housing at SUNY Stony Brook runs $500 – $700/mo and that something under $1,000/mo fits their affordable definition. By all appearances these are the kind of bright, energetic young people the town should be encouraging to stay. Hitting their pricepoint for housing may be a stretch as even the lowest priced one bedroom units proposed by AB will cost more than $1,000/mo. On the other hand, a search on Craig’s List for Huntington apartments priced $1,000/mo or less returned 90 results this morning.

As the debate gets more complicated, sometimes it is hard to know which way is up 

Huntington Station Resident Ira Trane who lives nearby the proposed development expressed his concern that a small group of vocal naysayers will successfully derail a proposal he supports wholeheartedly and believes will be of significant benefit to Huntington Station and the Town. Station resident Sarah Lansdale also supports the proposal because of the range of housing it offers and it is in walking distance to the train station, which she believes will cut down on traffic. Supporter and Station resident Barbara Joe Kingsley pointed out that in her opinion those in favor of AB had been more polite and quieter throughout the evening, but that the town council should not mistake that for meaning there are fewer AB supporters in the Station than opponents.

Daniel Karpen checking the footwear – maybe the EIS is lost in a clog? 

Is a crowded hollow still a sweet hollow?
As the meeting wound down, Alyssa Sue Taff, Sweet Hollow Civic Association’s President, explained how there have been multiple high-density developments in South Huntington. She says that individually, they are not problematic and many are well run. Her concern is that the cumulative impact of these developments adds to the congestion, pollution and what she believes is an already over-crowded Long Island. Taff fears that downzoning a square mile of Huntington Station will accelerate this trend by making it easier for multiple high-density projects to move forward in the neighborhood and that even if AB is a positive on its own, continuing to add density to the Station is not a good long-term plan.

All VT Avalon coverage here.

Alyssa Sue Taff is concerned about ever more crowding