Officials Cite Infrastructure Concerns in Hochul Housing Push

Huntington officials cited infrastructure problems in expressing concerns about Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to increase housing that could allow the state to override local decisions on projects.

“The governor’s plan for statewide zoning control is ill advised,” said Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth. “The issue of housing in areas of the state like Huntington that are fully developed is a very complex issue, but it all starts with the necessary infrastructure to support redevelopment. Local zoning and planning boards are in the best position to understand the needs and challenges of specific communities.”

Hochul said Tuesday that  her plan would require local communities to hit specific targets for growth in housing units. Downstate communities, such as Long Island, would face a target of 3% growth in housing every three years.

Aging infrastructure, from roads to sewers and even all-volunteer fire departments who sometimes oppose developments because of manpower issues, have been cited in recent days by groups concerned about adding more housing. Suffolk County banned the construction of new cesspools in 2020, requiring that new construction install pricier septic systems to reduce the level of nitrogen pollution that eventually enters the waters.

But housing organizations that have lobbied for zoning changes, such as the legalization of basement apartments and more multi-family units, cheered Hochul, saying that young and middle-class residents are often shut out because of the limitations on available housing.

“As an organization with a decades-long history of fighting exclusionary zoning on Long Island, we proudly support the concepts and ideas of Governor Hochul’s New York Housing Compact Plan,” Hunter Gross wrote Wednesday. “This proposal will set local housing targets, increase funding for infrastructure projects and create the much needed transit oriented development.”

The governor’s plan for the suburbs did not address the issue of affordability.

Hochul’s plan was announced just as Huntington is once again addressing the question of available housing.

Last week, three members of the Town Board pulled a hearing on the legalization of new basement apartments because of concerns raised by firefighters about their safety. But they said the resolution be returned to a board hearing once it was “tweaked,” Councilman Sal Ferro said.

Ferro, Joan Cergol and Dr. Dave Bennardo supported the resolution which would have restored a permit process for new basement apartments, which were legal until 2019 when several other changes were made to housing code. Those already in existence were allowed to continue.

Ferro and others argue that basement apartments, if subject to inspections and code standards, could help address the shortage.

On the Hochul plan, Ferro said, “I think that the agenda to improve the housing stock has some merits. The housing stock on Long Island needs to grow to keep our youth here, to keep our seniors here. But this is putting the cart before the horse. Our infrastructure cannnot support the growth she’s looking for.

“The No.1 issue is, how does this affect our first responders, our fire departments and our  ambullance corps? They sometimes struggle to handle the volume of calls they receive. This (the state plan) would put the cart before the horse,  taking away decision making at a local level because that’s very dangerous. Residents elect  to represent them.”

Bennardo said the plan was a warning to Huntington from Hochul to “clean your house or we’ll clean it for you. f I’m really pushing for a way to do things safely.”

The town is also planning another public session to hear from residents on a proposal to turn a corridor along Route 110 in Melville into housing and other development. That session  is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 26, at a location to be determined.

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