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Opinion

In the carefree days of the first summer of the first year of the 21st Century, those intrepid guardians of our regional welfare, the government of the Incorporated Village of Port Washington North, have received another proposal from the owners of the undeveloped sole remaining piece of property on the entire Port Washington peninsula ubiquitously known as "the 41 acres site."

This is, after all America: lawful property owners in zoned regions that can tolerate development have a right to propose usage of their rightfully held land.

And the sovereigns of the community where this land is located, otherwise known as the citizens and voters of the Village of Port Washington North, have the balanced right to hold their duly elected leaders accountable for possibly allowing a gargantuan assault on the ecology and traffic to slip silently into place. They say that government governs best when done, as Jefferson called it, in the "disinfectant of sunlight." Only after residents hooted derision did Mayor Pellegrino abandon his plan for a hasty Aug. 14 "public hearing" on this idea. Weighty public issues given hearings in August around here typify a government wanting to do risky business in the still of the dark night.

Let's start with a few 'premises,' albeit debatable ones:

We don't lack for traffic. The streets and byways each weekday and weekend day in and day out in Port Washington are not increasingly clogged up by a seemingly growing-like-topsy legion of cars, cars more cars, trucks, minivans, more vehicles, and even more cars. No, we don't lack for traffic congestion. Shore Road, Radcliff Avenue, Middle Neck Road and the whole circus of Harbor Road construction is not disruptive enough; we need more residents, housing, construction vehicles, detours, delays, accidents, dirt, grime, congestion and more registered vehicles in Port North. We don't have enough!

Every promise made by every developer is always honored with biblical solemnity and absolute adherence. All promises to 'only' have seniors and no one under 55 years of age, are always obeyed. Those tempted to blindly believe all of these promises have a bridge waiting for them across the East River that is for sale for only a few dollars.

Building multiple housing units on an already straining at the bits, ecologically challenged-to-the-max, trafficked-up sinkhole of overdevelopment and poor planning run amok can well and easily afford the introduction of several hundred more living units with many more numbers of people in them, none of whom will drive cars, need social services, flush toilets, take showers, use running water, utilize electricity, partake of cable television, be connected with telephones, or make any other modern and normal demand on services like the rest of us do. Yes, in the simplistic but fraudulent bread and circuses world painted by these interests, this plan will have absolutely no negative impact!

We're just brimming with underutilized classroom space in our schools. Yes, this housing will target residents without school age children. Life has a strange way of becoming real. Children will come into play here. Bet on it. Why, we are so flush with school solutions that we easily voted in a major bond issue and approved the budget first time out, right?

It is time to rejoin the real world. Of course, these suppositions that I have outlined above are tongue in cheek. There is no doubt that this planned development is more bad news for an already beleaguered, straining at the seams, and fully overburdened finite piece of land that has had far too much than is sensible, reasonable or right demanded of it. Village government calls this proposal a "revised" one. George Orwell taught us long ago how powerful it is to misuse words in order to confuse a mass public. The only 'revision' at play with this proposal is that it is submitted again.

There are powerful forces at work here: Those who own this land, and the seemingly endless 'freight train' of realtors, building trades, insurance companies, lawyers, banks, suppliers, insurance firms, title companies, and all of the other parties who will make a short term buck from this long term crisis. Rest assured: When traffic gets even worse than it is now, when life gets even more tense and soulless than it is now, when air pollution rises, resources snap, tempers flare, community bonds break, and the total quality of life in these parts declines, those benefiting the most from this plan will be safely ensconced behind the gates of their mansions, while their kiddies are elegantly bused off to the best provisioned private schools around. And if it gets too tough at times even for them, they can simply slip the surly bonds of this crowded place and jet off to their little elegant hideaways in the Hamptons, Vail, or St. Tropez.

For those of us who were born and raised here, we cannot turn the hands of time back and go backwards to a quieter, less crowded past. But those of us who care about and love Port Washington are sickened, daily, to see the wild and taxing overdevelopment that has become our town. Maybe some housing in this area is wise; maybe something can be well worked out. Perhaps. But to blindly shoehorn in more cars and taxing elements to our already overcrowded peninsula is troublesome. Saying no preserves options; blindly saying yes forever forecloses them.

Jon Weinstein


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