At the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s annual meeting last week, principal members laid out their visions for growth over the next few decades. Principals, or their representatives, from Nassau, Westchester, Rockland, and New York City spoke in favor of smart growth and transit investment.
And then there was Suffolk.
“We want development, and we need more roads to support that development,” Suffolk County Deputy Executive Jim Morgo said. “Roadway expansion is absolutely necessary.”
Apparently, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy hasn’t learned much from his more built up NYMTC counterparts, Nassau and Westchester. Westchester County Executive Spano and Nassau County Executive Commissioner of Planning Patricia Bourne called for focusing development around existing or future transit hubs, and explained that they couldn’t fit any more roads into their dense, suburban communities. “Forty percent of Westchester is already built-up,” Spano said. “The last thing we need is more roads and sprawl.”
Indeed, Suffolk County has an incredible amount of growth planned, the centerpiece of which is the four square mile Sagtikos Redevelopment Zone, the site of the controversial Heartland project being pushed forward by developer Jerry Wolkoff. In total, this area is slated for 3.8 million square feet of commercial space, 2.1 million square feet of retail (the latter is equivalent to about 10 Super Wal-Marts), and 9,000 apartments. The area also includes the Tanger Outlet Center (805,000 square feet of retail) and Deer Park Shopping Center (115,000 square feet of retail), and another 407,000 square feet of retail to the north of the LIE. While Heartland is intended to be mixed use and walkable, the rest presumably is not, and neither is development along the Route 110 corridor, another planned growth area. (Interestingly, the Brentwood community is more up in arms about the proposed NYS DOT truck to rail intermodal facility [LI TRIM], also in the Sagtikos Zone, than to the proposed retail development.)
Suffolk’s antiquated development model was especially striking compared to written and public statements by NYC principals, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, which connected NYC’s need for livability with efforts to stem climate change and reduce driving. “City dwellers use less energy per person than people in any other type of settlement,” NYC wrote in the 2008 NYMTC Annual Report, adding that to become more attractive to residents NYC needs “better public space, safer sidewalks and streets, an excellent bicycle network and more reliable and efficient mass transit.”
Given the existing sprawl-fueled congestion on Long Island, it’s rather shocking that County Executive Levy would call for more of the same, especially since communities throughout the Island are calling for a change to old-fashioned road-focused transportation planning. NYMTC’s 2008 Annual Report spells out the NYMTC principals’ visions in more detail and is available here.