Posts Tagged ‘zoning’

Huntington Town Board Sinks AvalonBay Proposal

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
By Spencer Rumsey on September 22nd, 2010

 

The Huntington Town Board rejected a rezoning proposal Tuesday night in a 3-2 vote that would have created a “transit-oriented district” to allow a developer, AvalonBay Communities, to build 490 apartment units on 26 acres in Huntington Station.

Avalon Glen Cove North in Glen Cove. The Avalon Bay company wanted to build a similar development in Hungtington Station rejected the zoning needed to move the project forward Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The decision came after months of increasingly heated wrangling as opposition grew to the proposed apartment complex, and the issue became caught up in local town politics. The developer had promised to set aside at least 20 percent of the rentals for affordable housing and provide the Huntington school district with up to $1.5 million in mitigation costs to make up for an anticipated influx of new students. The item on the agenda drew hundreds of people.

Outside Town Hall protesters chanted that AvalonBay, a nationwide builder of high-end developments, was unfair to local builders by using contractors and workers from Connecticut and elsewhere. Inside Town Hall, the corridors were jammed, and voices were loud.

Opponents seemed to outnumber supporters, judging from the proliferation of their printed red-and-white signs proclaiming “Stop AvalonBay and Downsizing Huntington,” their white-washed Burger King crowns stamped with the phrase “Say no to AvalonBay,” and the many blue and red Conservative Society of America T-shirts.

The Town Board room itself was filled to capacity. The local fire marshall wouldn’t even allow AvalonBay’s attorney from the law firm Farrell Fritz to view the proceeding.

Noting the intense atmosphere, Supervisor Frank Petrone said, “Your passion speaks loud and clear.” He added, “This town could be better for all the energy this has produced.”

Councilwoman Glenda Jackson, a Democrat, noted that she’d been “appalled” at some of the “vicious comments” from opponents to the project, which she said were “over the top.”

She said that as a single parent who’d grown up in the town and had lived in Huntington Station, the project would go far in addressing the housing and economic needs of her community. But many of the opponents didn’t agree.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Petrone said before the vote was cast, “you’ve shown leadership; don’t show dividedness.”

Under the terms of the rezoning proposal, the law needed a super majority to pass.

When Democratic Councilman Mark Cuthbertson followed Republican Councilman Mark Mayoka in opposing the measure, the crowd knew the law was toast.

Democratic Councilwoman Susan Berland, who’s made no secret of her political ambitions (such as for the supervisor job, some say), had previously announced her opposition to the zoning’s high density allowance (18 units per acre).

Cuthbertson cited the school board’s rejection of the Avalon project (after voting in favor of it last year), and said that “without their good faith” he couldn’t go forward.

In the end, two Democrats and one Republican defeated the measure, and only Supervisor Petrone and Councilwoman Jackson, both Democrats, were in favor.

After the vote, Berland told the Press that she still held out hope that AvalonBay would come back to the town with a proposal for much lower density, such as 14.5 units per acre. The site now allows for 109 single-family homes.

AvalonBay had said that without the higher density zoning it wouldn’t develop in Huntington.

Supporters of the project were disappointed, to say the least, but they were not surprised because the town board had been backpedaling for months.

“Their job is to lead,” said Lisa Tyson, executive director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “They reacted.”

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.”

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.”

Comments about this story? ACostello@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 269.

Town Board Rebuffs Mayoka’s Call for Moratorium, Will Move Forward with Avalon Vote in Two Weeks

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

By Rosey Mulderrig, on September 7th, 2010

Tuesday’s Town Board meeting started out with a bang. This was the last meeting before September 21st when Board will vote on whether to downzone 29 acres in Huntington Station for Transit Oriented Development (TOD). If TOD zoning is approved, AvalonBay will have cleared all zoning hurdles and move a step closer to beginning construction of a 490-unit high-density housing development in Huntington Station. If approved as written, high density TOD zoning is also approved for any developer that can assemble a 10-acre parcel of land within half a mile of Huntington Train Station. A group of TOD supporters held a rally in the front of Town Hall while opponents in a car with a bullhorn circled, loudly proclaiming all that they say is wrong with TOD. Among the Supporters who call themselves YIMBY’s (Yes in My Back Yard) were Dee Thompson, President of the NAACP’s Huntington Branch, Richard Koubek, President of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition and Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. Ironically, Thompson, Koubek and Tyson do not actually live in Huntington Station, the neighborhood that will have AvalonBay’s development in its backyard if TOD zoning is approved.

The Town Hall meeting was unusually crowded for a 2pm session. It was standing room only with most of the attendees showing up out to support their position on whether or not AvalonBay and TOD is good for Huntington. Resident Chris O’Donnell is so firmly against the development that he says he recently listed his house and will follow through on selling it and moving his child to a new district if TOD is approved.

Lisa Tyson says that Huntington does not need any more single family housing but must move forward with multi-family units to keep up with the times. She says that Long Island needs this TOD and implored the Town Board to approve TOD. She told them that this smart growth development will be their legacy.

Huntington Station residents Emma and Rick Riccardo went door to door with a petition against TOD zoning and found that 99 percent of the roughly 100 neighbors they visited are against the proposed development. Emma says that the schools cannot possibly handle any more students when some are already learning in closets. She has worked in the hospital and says that adding roughly 1,000 more people will stress an already overworked and overwhelmed staff. She also feels that trying to get an ambulance down Park Avenue with the additional cars that TOD will contribute is “an accident waiting to happen.“ She concluded saying “beehives are busy, good and useful but when you disturb them, well, see what you get.”

Huntington Station resident Dan Fucci says that although AvalonBay is powerful and has lots of money behind them, he feels that he and those who oppose the development have “the eye of the tiger and they intend to go the distance and win.” Fucci appealed to the Town Board to stand with the Huntington residents who live the American Way rather than aligning themselves with outside forces.

Alissa Taff commended the Town Board for moving ahead with their consideration of TOD despite threats of litigation it has aroused. Ken Christiansen, founder and director of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition says that it is important to look at the economics of the whole thing. He stated that the development would put spendable dollars on the street, which in turn will bring investors into the area.

Richard Koubek says that AvalonBay will bring $100 million in much needed funds to an economically challenged community. “When completed, AvalonBay will bring 360 families who could earn $120,00 a year with very few school children. With 122 units of affordable workforce housing for families who could earn between $45,000 and $120,000 a year, most of it rental housing, AvalonBay will help stem the flight of young workers and senior citizens who can’t afford“ to live in Huntington.

Huntington Station resident Zoe Taylor is a strong supporter of the development.  Her sons have moved away to lead successful careers and lives in another state. If housing were more affordable, it is possible that they would have remained and made solid contributions to Huntington, she opined

As the debate continued, both sides represented themselves very passionately, albeit the Say No to AvalonBay folks were a bit more boisterous. Councilman Mark Mayoka expressed his concern that the Town needs to focus on ridding the area of escalating crime before it adds high-density housing. He put forth a resolution to place a one-year moratorium on the vote for TOD zoning while the town focuses on fixing the area and investigating the impact the Avalon project will have on Huntington. Mayoka’s resolution was not seconded. Supervisor Petrone reiterated that he is committed to the down zoning vote taking place on September 21st and that is when it will happen.

Crowd rallies for planned housing near mass transit

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Originally published: June 28, 2010 8:22 PM
Updated: June 28, 2010 9:08 PM
By ZEKE MILLER  zeke.miller@newsday.com

More than two dozen people rallied late Monday afternoon to show their support for the proposed 490-unit AvalonBay Transit Oriented District in Huntington Station, a development designed to offer housing near mass transit to people of varying ages and incomes.

The demonstration, organized by the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a community advocacy group, came two weeks after a rally opposing the same development drew nearly 50 people to a Huntington Town Board meeting.

“This is a response to members of this community that are lying about the good this project will bring,” Lisa Tyson, executive director of the progressive coalition, said. “We want the board to know that the public supports this project.”

Holding signs saying “Yes in my Backyard” and shouting “YIMBY,” supporters of the project said it would reduce reliance on cars and bring needed tax and business revenue into the community.

The 26.6-acre site, north of East 5th Street and south of the Long Island Rail Road tracks, is within a quarter mile of the train station.

It is now vacant and zoned for single-family housing.

AvalonBay has proposed building both rental and for-sale units, with at least 25 percent devoted to “workforce housing” for people who work in the area and meet income qualifications.

Plans call for a clubhouse, swimming pool and outdoor play areas in addition to the housing units.

At the rally, David Hanover, a lifelong Huntington resident who is a junior at Cornell University, called for approval of the project so he can live in Huntington after he graduates.

“I want this to remain my backyard,” he said, channeling the LIPC rallying cry.

Ruth-Claire Weintraub, another lifelong resident, said that for years Huntington Station has been a dumping ground for the town.

“It’s not a dumping ground, it’s my home,” she said, “and I want it enhanced by AvalonBay.”

The Town Board must approve rezoning before Avalon Bay can proceed with the project.

Earlier this month the board postponed the vote until July 6.

Advocates: Play Ball With AvalonBay

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

By Danny Schrafel – dschrafel@longislandernews.com

HUNTINGTON STATION

Advocates: Play Ball With AvalonBay

Supporters urge town board to approve zoning for 530-unit housing development

A nearly three-hour marathon hearing regarding a 530-unit housing development in Huntington Station brought out a wide range of supporters along with pointed concerns about affordability, traffic, infrastructure and Section 8 housing in the development.

More than 50 people spoke at the Huntington Town Board’s public hearing regarding AvalonBay Communities’ proposal to invest $120 million to create 424 rental units and 106 for-sale town house homes located one-third of a mile from the Huntington train station. Of those, 132 will be market-restricted workforce housing – the largest such creation of workforce housing on Long Island. More than 1,100 people could live in the development, AvalonBay officials said.

The hearing was intended to address two issues – creating a special zoning district called the Huntington Station Transit Oriented District (HSTOD) that would allow for 20-unit per acre density and changing the 26.6-acre tract to that zoning designation once it is created.

Nat Board, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, the group that marshaled many of the supporters Tuesday night, framed his analysis by painting Huntington as a baseball team that needed all of its players – seniors, young people and growing families – in the game to thrive.

“If some of our players have no chance at all to do their best, then all of us are the less for that,” Board said. “Team Huntington needs all the strengths those people have to give, but they have to be able to stay here… they need AvalonBay and we need to give it to them. And so we say to manager [Frank] Petrone and his four coaches – please, play ball with Avalon.”

Eaton’s Neck resident John Lineweaver, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Marines, likened AvalonBay to Levitt developments for soldiers following the war.

“I am here because I’m motivated to express my concern and support for the up-and-outs living with the down-and-outs, and that’s what affordable housing is all about. That’s what America is all about,” he said. “We need to support young, skilled workers’ capacity to live in our hometown.”

Major focal points of concern and opposition were focused on the project’s density and impact on infrastructure like roads and sewers. Councilman Mark Cuthbertson stressed that concerns would be sent back to AvalonBay and Vice President for Development Matt Whalen for a response to be placed on the record.

“How do you fit 530 units on 26 acres? There’s only one way to do that. You build four-story buildings,” Matt Harris, who lives blocks form the proposed building site, said. “I’m not opposed to townhouse apartments on this property. It certainly beats the hell out of having the homeless … but four-story buildings? That’s a bit much.”

However, AvalonBay spokesperson Judy White said the site plan does not include any four-story structures, and the three-story buildings are to be situated at the rear of the property near the railroad.

Huntington Station resident Rich McGrath lashed out at the town board, accusing them of violating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the town not to concentrate low-income housing developments in Huntington Station.

“What I am totally opposed to was high-density, low-income housing that always found itself in one place,” McGrath said. “Where are the Donald Piuses, where is all the Section 8? Huntington, or maybe South Huntington… when you propose high-density, low-income housing, it’s always in one school district. The U.S. Supreme Court told this town, ‘stop it. It’s illegal.’”

McGrath said he initially supported AvalonBay because of the private sector investment and accused the town and AvalonBay of trying to sneak Section 8 housing into the Huntington development. Supervisor Frank Petrone said if management discovered qualified Section 8 tenants through their screening process for affordable units, they couldn’t dismiss a tenant just for that reason.

“As they review it and they find someone qualified, if that person happens to have a Section 8 certificate, you really can’t deny them. That’s federal law,” Petrone said.
Huntington Station Enrichment Center Director Dee Thompson threw her support behind the proposal and dismissed McGrath’s concerns about potential Section 8 tenants in AvalonBay.

“All of this hullabaloo about Section 8 – Section 8 people have to live also,” she said. “It’s affordable, there’s nothing wrong with it, so all of this is nonsense. If you manage properly, you won’t have to worry about who lives in the units.”

When the development is populated, each resident is expected to have less than 1.5 cars, while parking is being provided for 1.9 automobiles per head, a point of concern for several speakers. According to Tom Mazzola, of VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture, traffic studies based on standards in the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ trip generator manual and years of studying AvalonBay properties on Long Island indicate the Huntington Station development would generate an average of 266 vehicle trips during the weekday morning rush, 322 in the afternoon weekday rush and 273 during the Saturday rush.

Whalen said if a demand becomes apparent for shuttle service from Avalon to the train station, it’s something they would explore. They are also in talks with HART to re-route a bus to create a stop at the AvalonBay community. He said he has walked the route for the proposed walkway, and the density of the community, security, lighting and walkability improvements would make it a safer path to the train station.

Petrone urged Whelan and AvalonBay to continue their work with the community, and particularly those with concerns or in opposition.

“Lights, traffic and these are still things that still need to be discussed. These are things I’m sure we’ll be able to work through,” he said. “I will pledge to continue to work with you and the communities in attempting to make this a reality… the ultimate goal is something I don’t believe many people are in opposition to.”
Related website: http://www.longislandernews.com/papers/longislander/front/index.html

Saying 'Yes' to Affordable Housing on Long Island

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

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.