DeSena, school board officials make push to nix proposed housing plan from state budget

DeSena, school board officials make push to nix proposed housing plan from state budget
Roslyn Board of Education President Meryl Waxman Ben-Levy. (Screencap by Robert Pelaez)

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena was joined by local school district officials on Monday to make a final push against a housing plan proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Hochul’s plan call for a 3% increase in housing units over three years, the possibility of the state stepping in if the 3% goal was not met and the use of transit-oriented developments to achieve that objective.

The plan is intended to close a shortage of 800,000 housing units in the New York metropolitan area.

DeSena, who has vocalized her opposition to the plan in previous months, urged state officials to consider the impact Hochul’s plan would have on Nassau’s public schools.

“The school districts in our towns have worked hard to rightfully earn their distinctions as some of the best schools in our nation,” DeSena said. “But even some of the best schools would face a significant challenge handling the sudden influx of students that high-density zoning would surely bring.

If the proposed legislation were to pass, the state would have control of zoning for 29 miles of area in Nassau County within a half mile of its 58 train stations, officials said. Recent villages and local municipalities have approved transit-oriented developments without direct state interference and it should remain that way, according to officials.

Herricks Board of Education President Jim Gounaris said leaving the housing plans to local municipalities rather than the state would be in the best interest of the school districts so that their capacity can be effectively monitored and not put under heightened stress.

“There is no one standing here that does not support affordable housing,” Gouranis said. “A government mandate like this would only compromise school districts from being able to provide the excellent services, classrooms and programs they provide, especially for us here in Herricks.”

Meryl Waxman Ben-Levy, president of the Roslyn Board of Education, said the work she has undertaken to aid the public school system for more than 20 years was not so that the state would mandate housing in those areas.

“We need partners in Albany to understand the way of life of our communities,” she said. “School boards and the general community have been given precious little of information about the housing compact.”

The housing issue, Ben-Levy said, should not be considered a partisan one. 

Hochul and the rest of the legislators in Albany have until Monday to come to terms on a new state budget.

The governor unveiled her plan to build 800,000 new homes over the next decade to address the state’s housing shortage in January. Included in the New York Housing Compact are local participation requirements and incentives to achieve housing growth along with requiring municipalities with MTA stations to rezone for higher-density residential development.

Hempstead officials estimated that more than 14,000 additional housing units would be established in Nassau County as a result of Hochul’s proposed legislation. Nassau and Suffolk counties, under the plan, would be required to grow housing stock by 3% every three years along with downstate areas such as Westchester and Putnam Counties, while upstate New York would be required to grow by 1%.

Data from the 2020 Census showed there were more than 78,000 households in North Hempstead. A total of 2,364 housing units would have to be constructed in the town over the next three years to meet Hochul’s 3% goal.

Nassau’s population has also decreased by more than 32,000 since 1970, with 1.35 million residents reported in the 2020 Census. DeSena and the six North Hempstead councilmembers sent a letter to Hochul in January urging the governor to have local officials maintain control of zoning the areas they were directly elected to govern.

In 2022, Hochul rolled out a $25 billion, five-year housing plan aimed at creating and preserving 100,000 affordable homes throughout New York, 10,000 of which would have support services for vulnerable populations.

Hochul also called last year for changing zoning laws for Accessory Dwelling Units, which include basements, attics and garages, but it was criticized by Long Island officials. 

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