Numbers questioned as Hochul’s housing plan fades

Numbers questioned as Hochul’s housing plan fades
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena speaks at the Port Washington LIRR station. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s controversial housing plan that is not likely to be in the state’s 2024 budget used incorrect data on multi-family dwelling units on Long Island, according to Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander.

“We’re kind of low-balled here,” Alexander said in an interview with Blank Slate Media  Friday.

The core of the plan, as of Friday, will not be included after strong opposition from local officials, according to Politico and multiple reports. Alexander, who has worked for the regional smart growth organization for 25 years, said that the multi-family unit census data used by the state in Hochul’s proposal was not an accurate representation.

The state, according to Alexander, used a figure of 6,500 multi-family dwelling units that were approved on Long Island during the past dozen years. A pair of 2022 spot checks by Vision Long Island and Carolyn Grossman Meagher, director of the New York City Regional Planning Division, revealed that in Long Island’s downtown areas, there had been 16,000 such units approved in the past 17 years, he said.

That figure surpasses 20,000 such units approved in all of Long Island during roughly the last 17 to 20 years, Alexander said. Data used by the state showed that Mineola had 300 such units, Alexander said, when the spot checks revealed the number was really 1,200.

Efforts to reach state officials for comment on the matter were unavailing.

Hochul’s plan called 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 was intended to address a shortage of 800,000 housing units in the New York metropolitan area.

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.

The deadline to finalize a state budget was April 1, although nothing had been passed as of Tuesday.

Alexander said the plan would have negatively affected all of Long Island and that a regional-based approach to solve a need for housing will not work in Nassau and Suffolk County. Providing affordable and general housing, he said, is still a necessity, but he fears the heated opposition to Hochul’s plan could jeopardize responsible development in the pipeline.

“This has been a disastrous setback,” Alexander said. “The process of fighting this…this battle that people want to continue will set back housing production.”

Alexander said rational discussions without “finger-pointing and attacks” should be had in every municipality about multi-family dwelling projects, mixed-use proposals and zoning laws. Proposals such as these can help accommodate areas where the general population may be rising, he said, and promote supporting local businesses.

“These constituencies coming out against housing now makes it a lot harder to plan from the bottom up, which is what we should do,” Alexander said. “We should plan these things from the community level. So this four-month battle has been horrific to the creation of more housing on Long Island.”

Working at Vision Long Island for a quarter century, he said, revealed how unique localities here are, how differently each function and how a regional housing or zoning approach would be detrimental to the overall quality of life. The residential voices, Alexander said, became lost during these months of strong backlash over the governor’s plan.

“I learned by listening that…people like the neighborhoods they’re in and you can make a change by working with those local people,” he said. “I think the voices of the community got lost in this bigger debate.”

Polling 350 civic associations, chambers of commerce, mayors, elected officials and developers since Hochul presented her housing proposal in January found that 340 were against [housing] mandates, Alexander said.

“These are people who support housing in communities,” he said. “We’re not talking about people who are anti-everything.”

While many areas and downtowns on Long Island have conducted responsible development, Alexander said, some localities, including those on the North Shore, need to take steps to create more affordable housing and transit-oriented development.

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said the governor should take the opinion of those who would be directly affected into consideration, calling the plan “ridiculous” and “ill-advised.”

“It’s high time the governor realized that overriding local zoning and imposing more unfunded state mandates without offering local government a seat at the table to advocate for the best interest of those we represent was the absolute wrong approach to solving the affordable housing crisis,” DeSena said in a statement to Blank Slate Media.

DeSena, along with Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin, Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino and a myriad of local mayors and trustees led the charge in Nassau County against Hochul’s plan.

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