Governor Kathy Hochul has dealt with the suburbs with clear and articulate animus, as she has proposed policies attacking local zoning controls in favor of the ‘genius’ of Albany repeatedly.
Last year’s attempt was thwarted under the leadership of Assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo (R-Sayville). Through his leadership, enough local officials stood in solidarity against Hochul’s ill-fated auxiliary dwelling unit (ADU) plan that threatened to congest suburbia with an overnight doubling of the population without any consideration for regional infrastructure, home prices or environmental considerations.
Hochul’s new plan, as outlined in her State of the State address, is to create 800,000 new housing units in New York over the next ten years. Areas adjacent to LIRR and MTA stations must increase housing stocks by 3% per year, and surrounding areas must meet a 1% year-over-year target. Given the numerous challenges multifamily and high-density dwelling face in many jurisdictions, the crux of her plan is to create a fast-tracked approval process (independent of local zoning mechanisms and bodies) and waive the environmental review process in favor of one of equal strength.
As many supervisors have already noted, they would have their backs pressed firmly against the wall when making zoning decisions if this goes through.
Albany’s rhetoric does not mention the recent progress made by many municipalities in transitoriented development at speeds dictated locally. Localities are already making efforts to diversify housing stock, rework and strengthen existing public transportation, and attract the workforce of tomorrow. If Hochul could be in every town board meeting across the state, she would know this – the obvious point being that she can’t, just as she cannot have complete knowledge of what goes on across the state.
Also absent from Albany is the funding needed to upgrade and install wastewater infrastructure. Instead, the entire state is offered a pittance of $270 million in planning and infrastructure funds. The money provided by the state is dwarfed by the current sum of infrastructure demands on infrastructure throughout the state without factoring in Hochul’s radical revoking of local zoning control. $270 million is not even enough to meet the demands of Long Island’s present infrastructure (sewers, bridges, roads) costs.
Communities are left to choose suicide over homicide. Will you choose to destroy your quality of life? Or will you wait for the state to haphazardly erect housing wherever the housing czars see fit? With any luck, and the determination of our local leaders, communities will not have to choose. With any luck, over 100 years of local control will be respected.
This year’s assault on local zoning has only just begun, yet officials from across the region have already voiced their concerns. Concerns are mounting from environmentalists reticent about brushing by the traditional review process. Zoning boards are concerned with the application of their laws. And civic leaders are concerned about resources going toward their communities, among other issues.
If local leaders want to be victorious, they would be wise to follow the example of Jared Gandolfo and build on it.
1. Partisanship is fine and dandy, but regional concerns trump all. It is not important who gets the Newsday quote when you win; it is much more important for your constituents that your side is victorious, not that your win is advertised.
2. Chambers and civics are your friends. Call out to your local social and business leaders who have ownership in the community. Have them mobilize their membership with you. After all, they are the community.
3. It won’t be the last time. Whatever wedge issues emerge in the coalition for local control, remember: you’ll have to fight this again. Don’t let momentary spats allow Hochul and Albany bureaucrats to divide communities and turn Long Island into Queens.
4. If you’re not a local leader, as most people aren’t, let them know your opinion and get involved. Throughout every level of government, there is a local office with a staffer eager to hear your opinion – so dial away.
Albany loves to call upon Long Island to fix its problems. Need money, space or water? Look no further than to the East. But this cannot be allowed to continue. Single-party domination of the state is a dangerous thing, but has already proven capable of withstanding its worst excesses.
Hochul could have chosen to work with communities, offering incentives, not punishments. But Hochul does not speak the language of spirited cooperation and consensus building. She was second-par-one-Andrew Cuomo during his heavy-handed governorship. The difference is: Cuomo knew when to stop (in matters of State). Cuomo knew when to stop gnawing at the same bone.
Hochul’s pitbull tendency to not let go, need not be rewarded with complacency. It ought to be punished with sheer force of will and resilience.