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Advantage Downtown II: Community Leadership: 'Be a Part of the Change....'

Changes are happening on Main Streets across Long Island. Folks also honored some of our region's best downtown projects and community leadership this week at the 2012 Smart Growth Awards .

I am blessed to have a job where I am on various Main Streets working with the smartest, most passionate and dedicated people on Long Island.  I see the economic power of a small business opening downtown, residents working to improve their neighborhood, redevelopment projects finally underway and the diligence of local elected officials planning the right projects in their community.  Folks are organizing local events, building new businesses, and working on public safety, beautification, charity and basic public service.  In short, when I am on Main Street in any number of LI downtowns, I feel empowered. 

When I travel to meetings and interact with even more powerful people, oftentimes folks viewed as regional elites, I sometimes get depressed.   The conversations we have on an Islandwide level remind me of the late 70’s with Jimmy Carter, his sweater and famous message of national malaise.  This regional malaise discussion is insidious as it can reinforce endless stereotypes about why progress cannot happen on Long Island.  There is no denying we have been through an even worse recession than the one in 1989-1992 with an even slower recovery.  The story now needs to be about what we are collectively doing to make changes in our communities, build our infrastructure and grow our local economy. 

This contrast challenges us to do a better job sharing the work that continues to be accomplished by the Smart Growth movement in communities across Long Island.  The Vision Long Island Smart Growth Awards honorees are this year’s testament to that hard work, collaboration and accomplishment.  They speak to the power of entrepreneurship that drives our economy, balanced with the public service ethos that preserves our communities. 

This year’s honorees include:  Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy for chairing the NYS Regional Economic Development Councils, which have funded many Smart Growth projects such as Wyandanch Rising and Hempstead Village sewers; Dolores Thompson of the Huntington Station Enrichment Center, who has worked for decades to revitalize Huntington Station and provide meaningful programs for her community; and David Schieren of EmPower Solar for clean energy leadership in projects throughout Long Island.

Many of the honorees are projects that directly improve the built environment, including: Metro 303, a 166-unit, rental housing development in Hempstead Village by Mill Creek Residential Trust; The River Walk, a 163-unit, owner-occupied townhouse development in the Village of Patchogue by GRB Development; Water Mill Station by Koral Brothers, which builds compact office space in the hamlet of Water Mill; The Paramount in Huntington, a bold new downtown theater that seats over 1,500 and draws major national acts while revitalizing Huntington Village; and Bartone Plaza, a hotel and 115 unit mixed-use project in the Village of Farmingdale by Bartone Properties.

In addition, achievements in policies and regulations that will go a long way to incentivizing Smart Growth projects are honored.  These include: NYS Senator Charles Fuschillo and community leader Sandi Vega, who overcame a family tragedy, for their work to pass the NYS Complete Streets law to make roads safer for all users; Jean Celender, Mayor of the Village of Great Neck Plaza, for a transit-oriented development zoning code that will allow for additional housing within her walkable downtown; and The Elmont Mixed-Use Zoning District in the Town of Hempstead, which creates design guidelines and allows for mixed use development.

So if you are part of water cooler discussion about everything that doesn’t work about our region, take a moment and read up on some of these leaders.  If you are motivated, reach out and see what is needed to take their success to another level.   If you are even more energized, figure out what project you are going to create in a local downtown - maybe something similar … maybe different… maybe better.   

Another way to contribute is to join your local chamber of commerce, civic association or participate in your local government and be part of the actual decision making in Long Island communities.  We need folks to get off the sidelines and help advance downtown and infrastructure projects, and provide intelligence and resources.  Let’s break the chains of depression and malaise and be a part of the change that is occurring on Long Island.  In fact, if you look around we already have.

Eric Alexander is Executive Director of Vision Long Island, a group that advocates for smart growth projects on Long Island.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jimmy murphy June 19, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Eric why are you promulgating this Smart Growth BS? Who is financing you and your group’s propaganda? The developers? The Builder’s Association? Long Island Housing Partnership? The Democratic Party? I am sick of hearing about “Smart Growth” which we all know is a thinly veiled term for high density housing. What is your real agenda Eric? Don’t you think that we have enough of these kinds of “developments” happening already? Half of them are empty. Go spread your propaganda where there is a real need for more development. Not on congested Long Island. Quoting Jimmy Carter is not helping your cause either. Please disclose who is financing Vision Long Island.
steven June 19, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Give it a rest. Long Island is overcrowded and overdeveloped. Folks like you want places like Patchogue to become Queens. Enough is enough!
Lee June 20, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Jimmy & Steven, I agree with both of you. Who is this Eric dude and who does he work for? I wish he would GO AWAY!
Matt June 20, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Yeah, how dare you create jobs and improve our dilapidated infrastructure. Our economy is in great shape, unemployment is at a record low and we don't need an improved sewer system.
Judy Pepenella June 20, 2012 at 05:28 AM
To answer the questions about Vision Long Island, their Board, who Eric is is simple. A lot of info can be found on their website at www.visionlongisland.org and their vision for LI is one of removal of sprawl (sorry but your single family home and yard is considered sprawl) and replacing it with multi-family sustainable housing . The Board members are here: http://www.visionlongisland.org/boardofdirectors.htm Eric is the Executive Director. This is one of many groups throughout the Country that is pushing this multi-dwelling sustainable housing complexes, some near train stations like the Ronkonkoma Hub, some on Main Streets, like our 4 corner project here in Patchogue. Either way you try to explain these projects...they are just more apartments, brownstones. condos or multi-family residential complexes that are a part of the City or Urban communities. Many people left the urban communities to move to residential communities with single family homes. For the record, their goal is not to preserve Long Island as it is, but to change it to a more urbanized, congested city-like mess.
Jaguar-Guy June 20, 2012 at 10:46 AM
In addition, "achievements in policies and regulations that will go a long way to incentivising" . . . . sheesh. Solyndra anyone ?? More over-crowding in already crowded places to squeeze in multi-home units near train stations ?? Just great . . . .
Rick Hoyt June 20, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Yikes Al Gore, Carbon Credits.It's Just a An Agenda 21 Control Freak Invasion, Be Informed, When They Say "Green" - You Should Be Seeing Red.Thank God For The Internet, More People Are Waking Up.
Jack White June 20, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Not fast enough. They just passed 21 units per acre in Huntington last night, thanks to the Dems and a woman named Alisa Taff. Here comes Queens.
Linda Otta June 20, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Huntington is ruined. Thank yoiu town board. What you did last night nailed her coffin. Mark Mayoka just lost the backing of the republican minded people, the tea baggers and most of the folks that opposed Avalon Bay and who once supported Mark Mayoka. Sadly this now means the Democrats will keep the majority in the next election (2013) and continue to build more high density housing taxing us all out of our homes.
JSC June 20, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Seems to me that to revitalize Huntington/Huntington Station, we need to attract more businesses that will provide jobs that can sustain a family! We have enough population here to support this, they need jobs and can then afford to buy or rent from the housing stock that is already here. I see no need to build multi-family projects all over LI. Who is going to live there if there are no jobs for them to pay the rent/mortgage and bills? Something is wrong if my little house and lawn are now considered "sprawl" that needs to be gotten rid of!
Matt June 20, 2012 at 02:28 PM
It must stink driving your Jaguar past the low income housing projects.
Judy Pepenella June 20, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Please know that I too am for 'smart growth'. Growth within the current zoning laws, without using Transfer of Developmental Rights to swap property zoning laws between different parcels; building within the context and/or conformity to the existing area (that does not mean 4 - 5 story apartment complexes on Main Street, Long Island and creating jobs within the community, not just adding in a few more hourly waged positions. We need to take REAL inventory of what our LI assets are and develop what FITS in our communities and NOT bring NYS into our back yards and Main Streets. We are here on LI because we do NOT want to live in an URBAN city. Enough is enough!
Frank June 20, 2012 at 09:28 PM
RVC's idea of "smart growth" is expansion of Section 8 housing. Just take a look at Maple Avenue.
Frank June 20, 2012 at 09:30 PM
AMEN JUDY!
Tom Olsen June 21, 2012 at 10:44 AM
'Vision Long Island' is funded by various architects, builders, construction companies and developers looking to make a buck. "Fake Growth" is right. This is not some altruistic movement to provide housing for young people. It is a way to create opportunities for development at the expense of quality of life in small towns and Villages on Long Island. Open Newsday and see how many of these "transit oriented" projects are being shoved down the throats of towns across the island. There is way more supply than demand for this housing. The jig is up.
Matt June 21, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Ok, so no more low-income apartment buildings, no streetscaping don't improve the infrastructure. Then what do you do with an area like Huntington Station? Leave the abandoned buildings, continue with 4 families living in a three bedroom house that isn't maintained and in disrepair? Drugs and gangs have taken over Huntington Elementary School, as a result it was closed because of all the shooting etc. All the aforementioned NIMBYs, let's hear your plan for putting a stop to the steady decline of areas like Hunt Station. I see why you don't want large apartment buildings, but low income people are here to stay, so now tell us where they should live.
Hikerr June 21, 2012 at 11:41 AM
We the people are letting our town boards get away with this BS. Sure they make construction jobs, but once the over build is done, the neighbors have to deal with the empty buildings.The construction workers and developers move on to destroy the next town.
Brian June 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Our downtowns should look the way they currently do forever. They are just perfect the way they are. Heaven forbid we followed the lead of TOS growth that has occurred in other parts of the country. Just look at all those new ghettos in the suburbs of DC. Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville, Arlington - all ghetto filth!!! So what if they've increased their tax base, kept traffic at the same levels, and built beautiful and modern housing that has attracted young people - they're all liberals anyway.
Frank June 21, 2012 at 02:50 PM
@ Matt. Who wants panhandlers wiping their dirty sleeves on his windshield? Panhandlers... where did they come from? Oh yeah, Section 8 housing; 'cause that's what vision LI is all about: Turning our downtowns into Fallujah. Keep the Boros out of our towns!
Frank June 21, 2012 at 02:59 PM
People wake up. LI pols are looking for the easy cash grab for NYS tax dollars and nothing in NYS flows more freely and sweetly than welfare. Only hope is the eventual gentrification 100 years down the line... See, that's how NY works: Let neighborhoods run down beyond repair then wait for the tax subsides to help "turnaround" the neighborhood. Just look at NYC. Places like DUMBO and LIC were deadly back in the day. Today, they're the go to spots for the nouveau riche. What I want to know is why accelerate the decay? Why can't we preserve the towns we all grew up in and love? why must everything become a housing project and why must we accept section 8. There's no place for Section 8 on LI. Send the paupers to Albany. they won't notice: 90% of the population there is on welfare anyway.
Matt June 21, 2012 at 05:50 PM
@Frank. And your solution to fix Huntington Station (and similar areas) is what? Ignore it, it won't spread....."I'll just bury my head in this nice cozy pile of sand" Not improving these areas increases crime, the ghettos spreads and one day the misery is on your door step, your home gets invaded while your sleeping in your cute little robe and slippers and the Jaguar got got car-jacked.
Matt June 21, 2012 at 05:59 PM
@Frank. What's wrong with the massive improvements in LIC? Multimillion dollar apartments flying off the shelf, new top notch schools and library and and enormous environmental clean up has been completed so far. Those projects created hundreds of jobs. Get a clue...
Frank June 21, 2012 at 06:40 PM
@ Matt. You seem to lack reading comprehension skills. the point is why spur the decay of Huntington in the first place? You think urbanization in a suburban environment is a good thing? If your theory is to accelerate the decline of the neighborhood fast enough to eventually gentrify it, it won't work. this is not NYC. Just look around. Hempstead village has the highest population density on LI and look what that place turned out to look like! To date, no one has ever tried to gentrify Hempstead, and believe no one ever will. All this "vision" will only bring NYC living at its worst to LI . The reference to DUMBO and LIC is to highlight that these urban centre were in decline and were revitalizated by rich people by DISPLACING the poor people. The key is that they were urban areas to begin with. Gentrification doesn't work in Suburbia. Think this "vision" will attract the rich and displace the poor? Too funny. Take Newburgh (http://nymag.com/news/crimelaw/newburgh-2011-10/) you think smart growth would fix their problems? My Fix? Police like we mean it Cut section 8 and welfare Deport illegals Bring back industry to provide good jobs to LIers
Frank June 21, 2012 at 06:42 PM
My fix: My Fix? Police like we mean it Cut section 8 and welfare Deport illegals Bring back industry to provide good jobs to LIers Stop the liberal socialist agenda End entitlement
Matt June 21, 2012 at 07:15 PM
@Frank. Did you download that list from Rush Limbaugh's web site? You can start rounding up the illegals yourself in Hunt. Sta., see how long you last.
Matt June 21, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I comprehend just fine. I don't have all day to educate you, so I'll just make it easy for you to realize you make up whatever facts you want to support your fantasy world. LIC was heavily industrial/commercial, not residential. Look it up, it was mostly the former Pepsi Plant and vacant lots. No displacement of poor people happened there. I'm not following your links, but thanks. Now go back to watching fox and Friends.
Frank June 22, 2012 at 05:37 PM
See Matt. That's the problem. All the political correctness. If we enforce the law as written on the books, huntington station wouldn't be in the predicament it is now in. BTW i love Rush!
Frank June 22, 2012 at 05:38 PM
@ Brian. Try to talk some sense into Matt.
Brian June 24, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Learn the definition of sarcasm, Frank

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