Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Need For High-Density Housing

Some people who oppose the Lighthouse Project say that high-density housing does not work on Long Island. Those people are, increasingly, on the wrong side of history.

In the Fall of 2007, the Long Island Index conducted a public survey (available here) gauging Long Islanders' opinions of the housing situation. The results were shocking (though not to me): 61% of those surveyed support apartment-style housing in downtown areas, shattering the myth that the single-family home is sacrosanct in suburbia.

As I said, I'm not surprised by this, because I see it every day. I've already told you in my profile that I'm a 20-something single person living on Long Island, and I don't feel welcome here. Most of my friends, who went to school thanks to the school taxes (and in some cases, private school tuitions) of citizens, took that education and bolted around the country and the world to places that provide better opportunities. I believe I will have to leave the area soon; regardless of my opinion of Long Island, I feel this decision was made for me years if not decades ago. I look at all those kids who made the finals in the Intel Science Fair thanks to our tax dollars, and I can't help but wonder how many of them will move out of the area in search of better opportunity. How many millions in tax revenue will they pay to other communities? How many jobs will they not create on Long Island? How many innovations and families will take root somewhere else? (More on this at a later point - you can tell this is close to my heart)

Communities on Long Island pay choking property taxes, and this heavy burden has resulted in, for the first time, property values in QUEENS being comparable to those of the supposedly idyllic suburbia. The lack of high-density housing has resulted in a veritable epidemic of illegal apartments and subdivisions that are a risk to both local communities and those who live in illegal units. Communities all over the US, from Glendale, Arizona (whose arena/stadium complex is a great blueprint for the Lighthouse) to Ballston, within the Washington, DC, suburb of Arlington, VA, are embracing the walkable, mixed-use community as "new suburbia."

What does this mean for the Lighthouse? Everything. We've all discussed the benefits of this project, and we will continue to do so. However, in addition to the benefits, the time is right to do this and embrace our future. This is not 1959 anymore; the era of car-driven sprawl is over. Long Island is in decline largely because of its inability to embrace this fact. Local leaders will need to embrace principles of new suburbia and smart growth in order to ensure the economic viability of Long Island for generations to come.

The world is changing, and it will not wait for us to catch up. The Lighthouse should be in the vanguard of this renewal of the Long Island spirit.

As always, thanks for reading. Don't forget to sign the petition and pass it on. I welcome your feedback at


  1. As a 27 year Town of Huntington resident I feel like Nick. Most of my acquantences from High School have moved on and unless you have a significant other or roomate its almost impossible to get by. I'm afraid that I'll be in that boat one day as well. I don't want to share a house forever.

    If there was affordable housing in the form of rental apartments I would be there in a minute.

  2. Amen. Same reason I left over 10 years ago. Had to find work in NYC after college and couldn't even dream of buying a home on LI at the time. Too expensive. So I moved to NJ. Even my parents, who have lived on LI for close to 40 years, are looking to leave.

  3. I am a NYC professional but I still live here on LI. Almost all of my friend who grew up here with me on LI are now gone. My friends dont even understand why I still live in the TOH. But its my home and I love it... I dont want to leave it because of its problems, I want to stay and maybe help make things better.

    I rent an apartment now but if the Lighthouse project has mass transit I would buy a home there- I really honestly and truly would.