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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Redeveloping LI

The Wall Street Journal published an excellent article last week about how the economic turbulence of recent years, coupled with $4 a gallon gasoline, has given rise to transit-oriented developments (TOD).

TODs are residential real estate projects built near train stations and commercial districts. They give people easy access to mass transportation, and are situated within walking distance of local businesses.

Sustainable Long Island has been making the case for this type of development for years, and I imagine TODs may be discussed at its 6th Annual Sustainability Conference on Friday, June 1, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Carlyle on the Green, Bethpage State Park, in Farmingdale.

In fact, Amy Engel, who joined Sustainable Long Island as its executive director in November 2011, said during a recent interview that, when the organization was in the market for a new headquarters a few months ago, she wanted “downtown office space that could be reached easily by bus or train.”  

Engel and her group’s six full-time employees moved in March 2012 to 399 Conklin Street in Farmingdale, a short walk from that community’s LIRR station, from their previous location in Bethpage.  Sustainable Long Island’s mission is to “promote economic development, environmental health, and social equity for all Long Islanders, now and for generations to come.”

“We love being in a downtown area,” Engel said, pointing to what she described as the Norman Rockwell-like touches (e.g., hearing the periodic ringing of St. Kilians’ church bells, one of their neighbors on Conklin Street) of being a regular LIRR commuter to Farmingdale from her home in Holtsville.  “I have less than a five-minute walk to work,” Engel said, describing how long it takes her to get to her office after she gets off the train.

“In Suffolk County, you get on the expressway and go somewhere,” Engel said, “In Nassau, it’s different.”  That’s for sure.  There are still some places in Suffolk you can drive for five straight minutes without encountering a traffic jam or a traffic light.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, the June 1 conference’s keynote speaker, was Babylon town supervisor when he worked with Engel, then a senior management analyst for the Suffolk County Executive’s office, as well as Sustainable Long Island, on a redevelopment initiative in Wyandanch.

“I feel as though it all came together,” Engel added, when assessing all the positions she held prior to her arrival at Sustainable Long Island.  Before working for Suffolk, Engel was KeySpan’s community development consultant, the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition’s executive director and the Long Island Association’s (LIA) deputy director of government affairs.

The LIA’s current president, Kevin Law, who arrived there long after Engel left the LIA, and Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz, will receive Sustainable Long Island’s ‘Getting it Done’ award at the June 1 conference’s luncheon.  Given each year to those “who move beyond the talk toward implementation,” Law and Rabinowitz are the co-chairs of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council (LIREDC).  The LIREDC was instrumental in securing $101 million in state monies for Island-specific economic development projects in December 2011.  If any of them take cars off of Nassau’s roadways, they will likely have my support.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net