Advocates Rally for Affordable Housing in Huntington

Advocates Rally for Affordable Housing in Huntington
Group braves the cold to show support for development

More than a dozen supporters, organized by the Massapequa-based Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC), chanted “Yes In My Backyard” in support of the Avalon Bay development planned for Huntington Station amid a pro-affordable housing rally at Huntington Town Hall on Saturday.

A pro-affordable housing rally was held at Huntington Town Hall on Saturday.

LIPC’s YIMBY campaign, as it’s called, aims to counteract those who tend to be opposed to developments in their communities, a sentiment commonly referred to as NIMBYism, or Not In My Backyard. The Avalon Bay project is a proposal for more than 500 mixed residential units—a quarter of them affordable housing—within walking distance of the Long Island Railroad’s Huntington station.

“The lack of affordable housing on Long Island is forcing members of our generation to leave the island,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, the rally’s organizer. “We are tired of finding our only affordable rental option to be a basement apartment. We need affordable rental apartments as we build our careers and set down our roots.”

The shortage of rental properties on Long Island has long be known to contribute to what has been dubbed “The Brain Drain,” in which the region’s college graduates move to New York City or out of state in search of a place to live within their means while earning an entry-level salary. There has been a 35-percent decline in the number of people between the ages of 25-34 on LI, according to a 2008 report by the Long Island Index.

“I think it really speaks to what the need is on Long Island,” said Christopher Capece, development director for the Long Island region at Avalon Bay. The firm owns 2,000 units in eight communities. The most recent one to open is Avalon at Charles Pond in Coram. Avalon also has plans in the works for similar developments in Rockville Centre and Mitchell Field.

“We have been working with Avalon Bay to refine their plans,” said A.J. Carter, Huntington town spokesman, who added that the town supports the project, which was proposed last year.

“Long Island cannot afford to lose any more of its best and brightest due to the inability of our Towns to provide affordable housing,” said Jay Goldman, a local young professional who was at the rally. “We want to stay.”
Related website:

Saying 'Yes' to Affordable Housing on Long Island

Saying ‘Yes’ To Affordable Housing On Long Island
— By Deborah Wetzel

Everyone’s heard of NIMBY (“Not in My Backyard”), but you’ll soon be hearing more about YIMBY- “Yes in My Backyard.”

It’s a campaign that’s been started by the Long Island Progressive Coalition to create more affordable housing. In their rollout meeting in December, representatives of groups including Catholic Charities, Vision Long Island, the LIA Housing Committee, AARP and Sustainable Long Island created an advisory board and reached a consensus: to build a movement to rally supporters to attend town hall meetings where affordable housing initiatives are usually derailed and to bring the issue of affordable housing to elected officials.

“We always hear about NIMBY and the negative connotation behind it. We feel YIMBY has a positive message. It means that we can all share in this issue,” says Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “We need people to stand up and say ‘Yes, we want affordable housing.’ It’s changing the paradigm in how people look at their communities.”

Affordable housing is becoming a crisis on Long Island, according to Maritza Silva-Farrell, the coalition’s affordable housing organizer. “And so many groups have been working for years and years and don’t succeed because everything stops at the town hall meetings. And then nothing gets done. What’s unfortunate is that the ones who get to the town hall meetings are the opponents. The ones who need the housing don’t get to the meetings – those are the people we want to represent.”

Silva-Farrell adds: “It’s not just about developing new housing. It’s about keeping the housing we have already and keeping rents controlled. Some people might be concerned about taking open spaces and tearing trees down and it’s also about keeping what we have right now and better living for everyone.”

The goal of YIMBY is to support smart growth initiatives, cluster development and to ensure new housing is LEED – or Energy Star -certified. Support for individual projects would depend, at least in part, on their environmental characteristics: redeveloping brownfields is good, while developing open space less so.

Another goal is to support initiatives like inclusionary zoning, which is being considered in Southampton. Inclusionary zoning would mandate that a certain percentage of new housing units be affordable. “We have support from the community on this and also from the mayor of Sag Harbor and it’s just a matter of time to see what happens,” Tyson says.

The organizers hope that, one day, YIMBY will be credited as the campaign that helped create affordable housing in Suffolk and Nassau counties. “And everyone can come to us when they need help. We can guide and teach people about grass roots organizing and make a difference,” Silva-Farrell concludes.