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From Sustainable Long Island - February 5, 2010

Planning: Community By Community

What motivates people to action, to make changes for the better? There’s the annual New Year’s resolution. There are tragedies and scares. There are new ideas and innovations. And there is the power of a movement, like-minded people joining together to make change.

At Sustainable Long Island, we work with communities all the time to come together setting aside their own personal needs, agendas and priorities to meet the common, greater needs of their community. We bring together residents from all parts of the community who might have competing desires for their community and show them how to find the middle ground. Together, they create a plan for their community that will revitalize their downtown or commercial strip to attract new businesses, to expand their tax base and create jobs and enhance the physical environment to create a safer, greener, cleaner, more attractive community.

Sustainable Long Island has helped nearly 15 communities across Long Island to put the betterment of the greater community ahead of their own needs. There was no tragedy driving the will of these communities to change. They had just had enough – enough of the status quo in their communities. They wanted something better, and we helped to show them how to build the momentum and will for change.

The question is – have the rest of Long Island’s communities had enough? Have we finally reached the tipping point? The Rauch Foundation recently produced a short film that suggests that Long Islanders are running out of time to make the necessary changes to revive our ailing economy, preserve open space and stop the exodus of Long Islanders from our region. I agree that time is not on our side. Long Island’s quality of life has been eroding for decades. There comes a point when what’s gone is gone. When businesses and jobs leave or public transportation is cut or our open space has been eaten by sprawl – eventually it will become impossible to reverse these trends and their impacts.

It’s hard to say if we are approaching the point of no return - especially in light of the fact that communities across Long Island have been making significant strides over the last couple of years to reverse these trends. There is a growing movement on Long Island of residents who want change and are willing to set aside individual agendas for the betterment of the greater community. Communities like Wyandanch, Patchogue, Mineola, New Cassel, Huntington Station, North Freeport, Elmont and Roosevelt have been putting their community first by coming together to create a plan for their future – a plan that addresses attracting new businesses, creating jobs, expanding the tax base, providing a range of housing options, and integrating access to public transportation. This is not pie in the sky – this type of change is happening right here, right now.

When will this growing movement of putting community needs first to drive change gain enough support and momentum to become mainstream on Long Island? How do we extend the values of redevelopment and planning from the 20 or so currently engaged communities to spread across the region and become the driving force behind the solutions to our regional problems? It happens community by community and person by person. Make your community next.