A grand opening was held on Tuesday, June 24, 2014,...

A grand opening was held on Tuesday, June 24, 2014, for the 291-unit New Village at Patchogue development, built by Tritec Real Estate. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Downtown redevelopment projects that include construction of apartments, once anathema to many residents, have blossomed on Long Island, suggesting a "shift in attitudes" with the realization that high costs are driving out young and old alike, officials said Friday at Vision Long Island's 13th annual Smart Growth Summit.

"What is exciting is progress is being made," Eric Alexander, Vision Long Island's director, told a capacity crowd of several hundred people at the summit's opening session.

"Massive infrastructure investments that we haven't seen in years" are being made, he said, pointing to a planned sewer project in the Mastic-Shirley area as an example of long-needed sewer development in Suffolk County.

About 1,100 people registered for the daylong summit, held at the Melville Marriott. The opening session, featuring Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and several town and village officials, drew a standing-room-only audience of local and state elected officials and business and community leaders.

The luncheon brought out about 700 people who heard from Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, now a congresswoman-elect; Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone; state Sens. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset); Kenneth Daly, president of National Grid's New York gas operation; and Donald Monti, president of Renaissance Downtowns.

Alexander, in a written report to summit attendees, listed a string of 20 communities where "transit-oriented development projects" have been approved, completed or are under construction -- including Great Neck Plaza, Hempstead, Mineola, Port Washington and Valley Stream in Nassau; and Bay Shore, Huntington Station, North Bellport, Patchogue and Port Jefferson in Suffolk.

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said his village is experiencing development "like never before," and projects are "not being built in people's backyards" but near the train station.

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said what she's heard consistently from residents is the need for affordable senior housing in the town, so older residents who want to downsize can stay in the community.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, pointing to the multiuse Ronkonkoma Hub project that is based around the train station, said, "We're beginning to see there is a path forward for remaking suburbia."

Investing in the infrastructure of the nation's oldest suburb, Schumer said, is crucial.

"Bottom line is, Long Island is a great place to live, but if we don't revitalize our infrastructure, it won't be a great place for the next generation," the senator said.

Later, in a workshop on fair housing and segregation on Long Island, Richard Koubek of the Huntington Housing Coalition said he is happy to see the Island's move toward smart growth. But, he asked, "Is this vision a welcoming vision? This is the challenge before us, because we are not a welcoming community for people of color."

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