Atlantis Marine World Hyatt Place, under construction in February next...

Atlantis Marine World Hyatt Place, under construction in February next to the Riverhead aquarium, is due to open soon. It won a Smart Growth Award from Vision Long Island on Friday, June 17, 2011 for its “compact design.” (Feb. 24, 2011) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Long Island developers, legislators, planners and land-use advocates gave themselves a pat on the back Friday for what they have accomplished so far in making Nassau and Suffolk counties "smart-growth" communities, but they also conceded they have a long way to go before the region becomes any type of model for the rest of the nation.

About 600 people turned out at the 10th annual Smart Growth Awards lunch at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, organized by Vision Long Island, an advocacy group that promotes smart-growth initiatives on Long Island.

"From where we've been [10 years ago] we've made a lot of progress," said Eric Alexander, Vision Long Island's executive director.

In the early 2000s, only three projects were approved on Long Island, which allowed the construction of 374 housing units near railroad stations.

In the latter part of the decade, 34 such projects were approved, to build 4,100 units.

But, said Alexander, "we have a lot of work to do" to achieve more smart growth.

Much of the Northeast, he said, is behind states like Maryland, Virginia and Colorado, where they have been quicker to build multiple-unit dwellings near transit hubs and include retail stores, entertainment centers and restaurants within walking distance of homes or apartments.

One of 11 awards given out Friday went to Great Neck-based Jobco Realty and Construction, which is planning a $60-million redevelopment of Glen Cove Village Square. Mike Puntillo, Jobco's president, said in two years the square will have the feel of the grand public spaces found in Rome and Venice.

"This is smart growth," said Glen Cove mayor Ralph Suozzi.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, the keynoter, said smart growth had different meanings. Judging by the awards, he was right. Bishop Harrison Hale, senior pastor of the Cornerstone Glorious Temple Church of God in Christ in Gordon Heights, was given an award for developing an Educational and Resource Center and Community Cafe that provides meals for kids and community members.

Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone won an award for creating a mix of land uses in the town. Smart growth may not be as far along as some would like, said Bellone, but advocates "have changed the conversation" about what must be done to achieve it.