The NextLI map showing the percentage of single family homes vs....

The NextLI map showing the percentage of single family homes vs. multiple units in each area of Long Island. Credit: Newsday

Daily Point

How far are you from Queens? Crows only

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s housing plan divides the downstate region into four “tiers.” Depending on where you live — and which train station you’re near — the plan’s impact could vary widely.

(Here is the NextLI map showing the percentage of single family homes vs. multiple units in each area of Long Island and what the half-mile radius around each train station looks like.)

Hochul’s new zoning proposal would require villages and towns to rezone the half-mile radius around their train stations. In Tier 1, that zoning would have to allow for an aggregate density of 50 units per acre. Tier 2 would require 30 units per acre. Tier 3 would be zoned for 20 units per acre. And Tier 4 stations would have to be zoned for 15 units per acre.

It seems that nearly all of the Long Island Rail Road stations in Nassau County would fit within Hochul’s “Tier 1,” which is defined as being within New York City, or 15 miles or fewer away from the border of where Queens meets Nassau. And it’s not 15 miles by car — but measured by a straight line.

By a rough analysis, that would seem to include every station on the Far Rockaway, Port Washington, Oyster Bay, Long Beach, Hempstead and West Hempstead branches. And it likely would include most of the Nassau County Main Line stops, and the Babylon line through the Massapequa Park stop. The Farmingdale station would seem to be right on the border. By one straight line measure, it would just fall into the Tier 1 designation, by less than half a mile. By another, it falls into Tier 2, by less than two-tenths of a mile.

By the state’s definitions, that means the same zoning requirements would apply to the areas around train stations in Westbury, Mineola, Carle Place, Merillon Avenue, and Locust Valley.

Tier 2 covers any train station that’s between 15 and 30 miles from the city line. That would cover much of the Port Jefferson branch, likely as far as the Smithtown station, stretch past the Islip station on the Montauk branch, and encompass territory beyond Brentwood’s station on the Ronkonkoma branch.

Tier 3, which includes train stations that lie between 30 and 50 miles beyond the Queens line, would encompass much of the rest of Suffolk County, except for the East End. That would include the rest of the Port Jefferson branch and likely stretch past the Yaphank and Mastic-Shirley stations. Tier 4 — stretching beyond the 50-mile mark — would encompass the East End.

According to the budget bills, some land — like cemeteries, highways, parks and other non-buildable property — would be exempt from the requirement. And since it’s an aggregate, not every piece of land in the half-mile radius would have to be rezoned. But as some local officials have noted, for every part of the community that has single-family homes on large lots, another part — likely closer to the station — would need to accommodate even higher density to balance it out. The State Legislature would have to approve the entire plan, as part of its budget negotiations. And for sure, some provisions will change.

Also in Hochul’s budget bill: A measure that would require localities to provide housing creation and zoning data to the state, which would be used to create a statewide mapping system. That, of course, would be helpful to determine just how the new zoning the governor is proposing would work, but since it’s part of the same package of budget bills, it couldn’t be done before the zoning plan is approved.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Meanwhile in Brazil

George Santos has an interesting lawyer for his years old Brazilian check fraud case: Jonymar Vasconcelos, who was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2007 for his connection to a gang execution, the Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported on Wednesday.

Vasconcelos, who was outside on a motorcycle while the killing happened, is not a widely known lawyer, according to Júlia Barbon, the Rio de Janeiro-based reporter who broke the story and chatted about her findings with The Point.

The lawyer’s practice is not found online and no office is listed, Barbon said by text on Thursday, en route to the mountain outside Rio to cover the anniversary of a flood.

“He said Santos got referred to him (didn't say by whom or how) on the merit of his success trying criminal cases over 7 or 8 years,” said Barbon, whose colleague translated her messages from Portuguese for The Point. Vasconcelos did a portion of his term under house arrest and went on to study law, Barbon reported.

Santos did not provide information on how the two got connected, either. After Barbon called the freshman Republican’s cellphone twice, he returned her call quickly but she didn’t have time to pick up. Barbon says Santos then texted her in English, “Who is this?”

She told him in Portuguese that she was a reporter profiling his lawyer and sent a list of questions. He texted back, "I'm sorry, who is this? I don't understand you” — despite having spoken to the media in Portuguese in the past and residing in Brazil for years.

Barbon sent the same questions in English but alas: “He stopped answering me.”

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

A crushing responsibility

Credit: R.J. Matson, Portland, Maine

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Reference Point

Mental health care: A sad echo from the '50s

The Newsday editorial from Feb. 2, 1953.

The Newsday editorial from Feb. 2, 1953.

The difficulty of caring for those suffering from mental illness is in the news as America grapples with a national crisis. It also was in the news on Long Island 70 years ago, as Newsday’s editorial board grappled with a local mental health care scandal.

“The shocking stories that have come out of Kings Park State Hospital in the past few weeks make clear that an investigation is needed into the hiring of attendants there,” the board wrote in a Feb. 2, 1953 piece called “Investigation Needed.”

The board noted a litany of recent problems — an escape by 17 teen patients, a “riot” among girls at the hospital, and a report from two former attendants, “Mr. and Mrs. Russell Nelson, who said they quit ‘because we couldn’t stand seeing patients used as punching bags.’”

The board cited a history of “brutality” at the hospital as a factor in the 324 escapes logged in the previous year, as well as there being “no compulsory training of attendants.” The board also said that the low salary for attendants left the hospital chronically shorthanded.

“The Nelsons told Newsday that they were not told how to handle patients, and that they were told that no one paid attention to the rule book,” the board wrote.

Kings Park and its fellow Long Island psychiatric hospitals — Pilgrim State and Central Islip — were critical elements of the mental health care system for the region. In the latter 19th century, New York City’s psychiatric asylums had become seriously overcrowded. Kings Park and Central Islip opened in 1885 and 1889, respectively, as so-called “farm colonies” because various farming activities were part of the therapy. But they, too, became overcrowded and Pilgrim State was opened in 1931. By 1954, Kings Park peaked at 9,303 patients and Pilgrim State was the nation’s largest such facility with 13,875 patients, numbers that began falling with the introduction of new drugs to replace such treatments as prefrontal lobotomies and electroshock therapy.

In 1953, though, the alleged abuses at Kings Park had prompted an investigation by Dr. Newton J. Bigelow, the state mental hygiene commissioner who had previously worked at Pilgrim State and was among the first psychiatrists to use group therapy and comic books to treat mental illness. But his probe “seems to have died aborning,” the board lamented.

“The patients at Kings Park are, for the most part, curable,” the board wrote. “They are not considered dangerous. Well trained, sympathetic attendants to complement the hard work of the doctors and nurses could help to cure these people. Brutality and petty tyranny will only make them worse.”

The advent of medications, lawsuits filed by activists, and the growing belief that many patients would be better served by smaller centers led to the depopulation of Kings Park and its eventual closure in 1996, part of a trend of closing big psychiatric hospitals seen nationwide. But the number of smaller community centers never matched the need, which contributed to the phenomenon of mentally ill people living on the streets, swept up and confined in jails and prisons, released back to the streets, and arrested again.

It's a vicious cycle that also has escaped a cure.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie, Amanda Fiscina-Wells @adfiscina 

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