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Report suggests building housing in downtown LI

Downtown Mineola (Jan. 20, 2010)

Downtown Mineola (Jan. 20, 2010) Credit: Kathy Kmonicek

Build it on a parking lot downtown.

So suggests the Long Island Index 2010 report out Thursday that focuses on places where new housing can be built in 111 village downtowns and 45 train station areas.

The report identified about 8,300 acres of unbuilt land near the downtowns and rail stations - parking lots, unprotected open space, and other vacant land. More than half of the acreage is in the parking lots.

The report sees the lots as prime locations for multifamily housing that costs less than single family homes. Those are seen as key to maintaining and attracting young adults and seniors, who now feel priced out of Long Island. Ideally, it would be a mix of apartment buildings, town houses and garden apartments.

Not all the parking lots would be suitable for development, "but it is the place where you start to look" to see what's possible, said Christopher Jones of the Regional Plan Association, which prepared the report.

Added Ann Golob, director of the Index: "You need a really good design that will incorporate the parking underneath, and then [place] all the other functions, such as housing, above it."

The report, at, also has interactive maps, prepared by the mapping service at the CUNY Graduate Center. People can see the unbuilt land in communities and other data.

Nancy Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation, which publishes the Index, anticipated a common criticism by saying that "all the historical facts" show that increasing housing density in downtowns doesn't lead to more students in the school system, and subsequently, a rise in school taxes.

The developments usually attract people younger than 35 and those older than 55 - people without school-aged children, she said.

But Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto disagreed.

Hicksville, an unincorporated area in the town, was one of three large downtowns that the report said had high potential for downtown development. But Venditto said: "You can't solve regional problems on the backs of Hicksville and its residents, or a handful of other communities."

Venditto added that he supposed "there does come a point where you put enough people in a community," it would generate more revenue. But he said that would mean "radically altering the lifestyle of people" by creating an urban environment within the suburbs.

Others embraced the ideas in the report.

Mineola Mayor Jack Martins' village downtown redevelopment was lauded by the Index. He said housing built downtown and those recently approved "will provide significant tax revenue," and the potential for more residents to use downtown businesses.

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri said downtown housing and a theater attracting about 135,000 people annually "has been an economic generator," with new restaurants opening.

>> MORE: Click here to go to the Long Island Index 2010 report Web site


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