Posts Tagged ‘smart growth’

Groups oppose MTA's plan to yank funding for LI Bus

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Updated: Jul 23, 2010 07:30 PM
By ALFONSO A. CASTILLO

A coalition of civic, transportation, business, labor, planning and environmental groups is opposing the MTA’s plan to pull its funding from Long Island Bus.

In a statement issued Friday, the coalition said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ‘s plan to withdraw about $40 million in funding from the Nassau County-owned bus company is misguided and a “system killer.”

“The MTA’s proposed cuts will obliterate the LI Bus system as we know it,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign , which supports bus service. “These cuts could very well mean that Nassau County will not have a viable bus transit system as soon as the next few years.”

MTA officials said this week they can no longer afford to make up the deficit it says is created by Nassau’s low contribution. Nassau County contributes $9.1 million toward LI Bus’ $133-million annual budget.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has said the county cannot afford to substantially increase its subsidy to the system. He says the county is paying the MTA more than ever as part of a newly created payroll tax.

The groups called on the MTA to retract the proposal, and for Mangano and state elected officials to work together to find a long-term solution to the bus agency’s funding problems.

“If ultimately LI Bus would cease operating, it would have a devastating effect on the business community in Nassau and Queens County as well as their workforce,” said Daniel R. Perkins, vice president of government affairs for the Long Island Association business group. “Let’s hope that the MTA, the state of New York and Nassau County can work together to find a solution so that doesn’t happen.”The Regional Plan Association, Long Island Progressive Coalition, the smart-growth group Vision Long Island, and the Long Island Federation of Labor AFL-CIO , also joined in decrying the MTA’s plan.

Mangano has said he is exploring the possibility of privatizing LI Bus, which serves more than 100,000 riders a day.

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 

Route 347 ‘Vision Plan’ Advancing

Monday, June 21st, 2010

by Ryan Lynch

Retrofitting strip malls: NYSDOT is looking into a frontage road concept for parts of Route 347. Buildings would front on the sidewalk and the agency has suggested it may work with developers to concentrate infill development on the large swaths of excess parking in the corridor (as seen in this rendering).A few years ago, it might have seemed as improbable as Steven Seagal winning an Academy Award. But last week NYSDOT Region 10 (Long Island)’s “Vision Plan” for Route 347 in Suffolk County was honored at Vision Long Island’s Smart Growth Awards for “providing a variety of transportation choices,” and agency officials said the plan would address the root cause of traffic — local land use.

During a presentation at the NY Metropolitan Transportation Council last Wednesday, NYSDOT officials floated the possibility of working with property owners and developers along the corridor to support “community centers” or infill development in areas with excess parking like the Smith Haven Mall.  This could go a long way towards retrofitting poor land uses along the corridor and promoting a more vibrant, walkable and smart growth oriented future for Long Island.

The “Vision Plan” was released in early 2009 and is the result of extensive cooperation between the agency and TSTC, Vision Long Island, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and local civic groups. It presents the road as a boulevard and suburban greenway complete with landscaped medians, a cycling and walking path and other pedestrian improvements, and improved transit infrastructure. The plan still calls for widening the road by one lane in each direction, but it reduces the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph and should reduce demand for future widening if it successfully addresses land use. Advocates have called on NYSDOT to reconsider widening in future phases of the project.

The plan has also been assigned the ‘Evergreen’ level of NYSDOT’s “GreenLites” transportation environmental sustainability rating program.  “Evergreen” is the highest level, reserved for only 2% of the agency’s road projects.

At the NYMTC meeting, NYSDOT officials indicated that the first of ten phases of this project will be included in the agency’s two-year proposed capital program. Region 10 officials told advocates that all aspects of the vision plan will be incorporated in this initial phase of the project, and that they intend to use completion of this first phase to push momentum for the remaining components of the plan.

NYSDOT Region 10 has been studying Route 347, which runs from the end of the Northern State Parkway in Hauppauge to 25A in Terryville, for nearly 20 years.  Initially, the results were not promising.  As late as 2007 the agency was still pushing major roadway widening and intersection expansion throughout the 15-mile corridor in the face of widespread local opposition. But the plan has made a major turnaround in the last two years.

Image: Rendering from “Greening 347″ presentation