The landscape of development on Long Island continues to change. The election this week is the latest evidence. Voters chose new leaders who promise to work hard to move the region on a path that is critical to its future.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time. Increasingly, candidates have been talking about the need for more rental housing and truly affordable housing, for building it near transit hubs and for creating walkable communities — all with the goal of turning Long Island into a vibrant place where young adults want to live, not a calcifying region they are desperate to flee and can’t afford. These candidates point to successful turnarounds like Patchogue as models.
The highest-profile change could take place at the Nassau Hub. With the victories of Hempstead Town Supervisor-elect Laura Gillen and County Executive-elect Laura Curran, the stars might be aligned to finally unlock the Hub’s potential to be the beating heart of Nassau. Both see it as a destination. Both want to incorporate a mix of uses — housing, entertainment, retail, business, transportation. More important, both are willing to collaborate to make it happen. Curran says getting the Hub right is a necessary part of “rebranding” Long Island for young people. She’s right.
New housing also could be on the horizon for Smithtown, which has languished for years. Edward Wehrheim, who will be supervisor, is a sensible negotiator. He understands that new development must be tightly focused. He’s concentrating on the areas around the train stations in Kings Park, downtown Smithtown and St. James. He knows that sewers are the linchpin, rental housing is urgently needed, and smaller apartments and some height will make rents cheaper. He’s on the right track.
Huntington Town supervisor winner Chad Lupinacci, on the other hand, carefully avoided charting clear positions on these issues. He says he knows new housing is needed for young adults and retirees but is no more specific. We share his general concerns about density and traffic. But Lupinacci should view those as factors that shape needed projects, not as reasons to simply kill them. The town has taken steps toward overcoming its tortured history with rental housing in general and workforce housing in particular, and cannot afford a relapse.
But we’re encouraged by returns on the East End. East Hampton Town supervisor winner Peter Van Scoyoc made housing that year-round residents can afford in a billionaire’s paradise a signature issue. Shelter Island winner Gary Gerth stressed the island’s lack of year-round rental housing. Laura Jens-Smith, Riverhead’s supervisor victor, promises to prod the long-overdue development of Enterprise Park in Calverton — and to push on revitalizing downtown Riverhead. She grasps the magnitude of that task and should use all the tools at hand, even some tax breaks, to build housing that can bring young people to the downtown.
These new supervisors understand their communities and what projects can work where. We welcome their ascension. These winds of change are just what Long Island needs. — The editorial board