Written by Matthew A. Piacentini Friday, 02 October 2009 00:00
County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi held a meeting at Nassau Coliseum to present his plan for a “New Suburbia” in Nassau, proposing that strategic development of 10 percent of the county would help preserve in the other 90 percent, “all that is good about suburban life.” He addressed and then took questions from community leaders, government officials, civic groups and business interests, all of whom were called upon to join the “90/10 Coalition,” which will collectively address the four major problems in this county - property taxes, a lack of young people, traffic congestion and pockets of poverty. The group will help maintain things like single family homes, low crime, good schools, parks and open spaces, while also planning “mega projects” - like the redevelopment of Nassau Coliseum and the Glen Cove Waterfront, meant to create industry, jobs and sales tax - and “cool downtowns,” which would bring young people back into Nassau.
“More than 60 years after Levittown, Nassau County has stopped growing. We are suburban sprawled and there is nowhere else to go. We’re seeing an exodus of young people - a brain drain of our next generation, we pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation, our roads are choked with traffic, and pockets of poverty are putting a strain on our economy. We must address these problems,” said Suozzi. “We can do that and still preserve what we love most about living in Nassau County. We have great schools, parks and open spaces, beautiful North Shore waterfronts and South Shore beaches, low crime, and low unemployment, all within a stone’s throw of New York City. New Suburbia won’t change any of that.”
A video, presentation and panel discussion dealt with the specifics of how, under the New Suburbia plan, 90 percent of Nassau County would remain as single-family neighborhoods, parks and open space while the remaining 10 percent, comprised of 18 downtowns, four mega projects and the reuse of underperforming malls, would be re-imagined to create vibrant, attractive downtowns, with shops, restaurants, businesses, parks, and housing all within easy access to public transportation and major new redevelopment at the mega projects sites.
The message was that major changes had to be made within Nassau in order for the county to move in a positive direction. “The 90/10 Solution for New Suburbia will re-direct development away from single-family neighborhoods and reduce development pressure on greenfields, protecting our remaining open space. It will re-imagine suburbia so that Nassau County can remain competitive in the 21st century,” said Suozzi.
He made comparisons between the situation in Nassau versus that in other places like Suffolk County and the Hudson Valley. He said that in recent years, a clear trend has emerged in which these other places, with more open space and friendlier attitudes to development, are gaining young people, industry and sales tax. The presentation showed that in recent years Suffolk has surpassed Nassau by $165 million in tax revenue.
“If I had $165 million, I would have paid you all to come here today,” joked Suozzi.
The presentation began in a positive light, encouraging smart moves to create a bright future, but some on the panel were cautionary in their take on things.
“This is an urgent crisis,” said John Cameron, chair of the Long Island Regional Planning Board. “Anyone who doesn’t think so is either not paying attention or in denial. We are at a crossroads where we either deal with the issue or it’s game over. We are not sustainable without change.”
Joining Mr. Cameron on the panel were Patrick Duggan, Nassau County deputy county executive for economic development; Patricia Bourne, executive director, Nassau County Planning Commission; Michael Dowling, CEO of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System; Robert Scott, president of Adelphi University; Stu Rabinowitz, president of Hofstra University; Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island; Sarah Lansdale, executive director of Sustainable Long Island. These people represented the various points of view from different segments of the county who will work on the 90/10 Coalition. The coalition currently includes more than 65 organizations representing 90 members.
“This unique group of dynamic leaders will help to shape the future of Nassau County,” said Suozzi. “I’ve said before that ‘it takes teamwork to make the dream work,’ and the members of 90/10 Coalition will work together and use their collective expertise, knowledge, and experience to make New Suburbia a reality. I look forward to working with the coalition.”