Tritec vice president of development Jimmy Coughlan Jr. speaks to...

Tritec vice president of development Jimmy Coughlan Jr. speaks to meeting on seeking affordable housing solutions as moderator and Regional Plan Association director Maulin Mehta and LI Progressive Coalition representative Kiana Abbady look on. Credit: Morgan Campbell

An advocacy group focused on promoting affordable housing, particularly for young Long Islanders, is betting that improving housing options starts with directing infrastructure grants toward marginalized communities.

Minority Millennials, a nonprofit based in North Amityville, plans to focus on the goal of infrastructure investment as it creates a separate 501(c)(4) organization to lobby state elected officials, founder and president Dan Lloyd said.  

The plan came out of a session Thursday night at Hofstra University’s ideaHUb, where the nonprofit convened leaders from the advocacy, government and business sectors to discuss affordable housing solutions.

Attendees discussed investments in infrastructure, such as roads, sewers and street lighting in areas that might otherwise be overlooked for housing development. Lloyd said the event aimed to generate ideas for the group's lobbying priorities.  

At the end of the evening, a few dozen attendees used a whiteboard to brainstorm and vote on their favored solution to affordable housing. They landed on the idea to “concentrate infrastructure grants in marginalized communities.”

“That will be the underlying foundation when we’re going to be drafting legislation” as the organization develops a multifaceted agenda, Lloyd said. 

More than 300,000 Long Island households are cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing, according to an October 2020 report from the Regional Plan Association.

Speakers discussed other obstacles to building more housing including financing the projects, navigating local zoning rules and getting community support for projects that would add apartments and attract new residents.

“Unfortunately, the narrative around housing is primarily dictated by NIMBYism, not in my backyard,” said Kiana Abbady, a board member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

The infrastructure proposal came out of a session led by entrepreneur and real estate investor Ani Sanyal, whose workshop Thursday at Hofstra is part of a series called Idea Exchange.

“We can’t do most of our projects without some sort of infrastructure support, and I think there are blatantly communities that need the infrastructure support more than others,” said Jimmy Coughlan, vice president of development at Tritec, an East Setauket-based real estate company, which specializes in development and construction. Tritec has developed about 90 projects in the metro areas around New York City and Washington D.C. Coughlan said Tritec is focused on transit-oriented, mixed-use development that includes a combination of affordable housing and market-rate housing. It has completed projects in Ronkonkoma, Lindenhurst and Patchogue among other areas.

“Our goal as an organization is to provide housing, particularly for young people to keep them on Long Island, that allows people to walk to work or the grocery store in a semi-urban environment that they want to live in,” Coughlan said.

Sidney Joyner, Suffolk County’s director of real estate, noted that part of his department’s role is to stimulate development by providing funding to builders of affordable  housing seeking to acquire land or invest in infrastructure needed for the project, such as roads or sewers. 

Speakers at the event noted how the dearth of homes in Suffolk County connected to sewers has held back development. About three-quarters of homes in Suffolk County, about 360,000 residences, are not connected to sewers and use septic tanks and/or cesspools, Newsday reported in 2018

“That’s part of the limitation of where you can build housing,” said Andrea Bonilla, a Huntington Station resident who attended the event.

In October, the county began a $409 million project to connect nearly 6,000 homes to the sewer system.

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a downtown planning organization, noted the availability of federal money that could be used to make these investments. 

President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in November, with $12.5 billion slated to fix New York's roads. 

“There’s an unprecedented amount of money available to fix roadways, crosswalks, medians and street trees,” Alexander said.  

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