Marc Nicols, a loyal reader from Deer Park who has been here almost since Day 1, sent me this guest post, and while I cobble some things together for the site, I thought it was too good to keep from everyone.
Marc writes as a Long Island resident and a father who is concerned his two young children will not have a future on Long Island once they are old enough to move away. He speaks to many who believe Long Island requires a new way forward and that the Lighthouse Project is the perfect starting point.
(Interesting sidenote: I witnessed the encounter with an older gentleman who opposed the Lighthouse that he describes in his piece)
Remember, you can email me if you have a guest post you'd like to share. Also remember that the views in Marc's piece are his own, and by posting it I am saying I believe Marc is making a good, eloquent statement.
Without further ado, here's Marc:
The Town of Hempstead and the Lighthouse Project
by Marc Nicols
There's an old Yiddish saying "A cat who gets bitten by a snake is afraid of rope." This saying always come to mind when I hear opponents of Long Island developments claiming how any change to an area will turn us into a city, or "the sixth borough" of New York City. They seemed to be scared of something based on past experience without taking a good look at exactly what it is.
While the Town of Hempstead has finally take a pro-active step with the Coliseum property re-development by performing it's own zoning study, proponents must be fearful of seeing elected officials lead and determine the scope of this project. While developers Rechler and Wang have been described as "visionaries", I doubt Supervisor Kate Murray or anyone on the Town board has been described that way. Watching these bureaucrats for a few hours at the zoning meeting on September 22nd confirmed that. They reminded me of another saying, provided to me by my Micro-Economic Theory professor 16 years ago: "Anything the government does is inefficient." Let's hope Hempstead doesn't scale the project down so far that it defeats the purpose of turning the site into a destination spot and economic incubator for the area.
For those who fear that a large development will turn Nassau County into the 'sixth borough' of New York City: One must realize that the failure of Long Island to develop and sustain its own economic engines and provide apartment style housing will result in the region being wholly dependent upon New York City for jobs and housing for young adults who were educated on Long Island. That will turn us into a borough faster and deeper than developing 77 acres of asphalt in the middle of a downtown commercial area.
At the zoning meeting, several of us were involved in an animated discussion with an older gentleman, a Garden City resident, who I classify as a prototypical Lighthouse opponent and NIMBY. He was against everything and anything being built on the site for fear that it might disturb his quiet home. He was against any project that might result one more car per day to traverse his tranquil village. When I asked him what he did want, his answer was terse and forceful: "I want to be left alone."
Unfortunately for Long Island, if projects such as the Lighthouse and the Heartland in Brentwood do not move forward, Long Island will be left alone. Our young adults, many of whom were educated on Long Island with our tax dollars will continue to flee to New York City, North Carolina or Arizona. These young adults who someday might purchase a home in Garden City, will buy a one somewhere else. Jobs and industries will continue to leave the area, weakening our tax base. In the past 20 years, nothing seems to get done on Long Island. We've lost Grumman, Roosevelt Raceway, the Jets, and countless companies. With the possibility of losing the Islanders and the Belmont Stakes in the next few years, what will become of Long Island's identity?
I've met many Lighthouse supporters in the past year: Many Islanders fans who just want the team to stay; young adults, looking and hoping for a way to remain on Long Island; and many in my situation - Yes, I'm bleed Islander Blue and Orange, but I'm approaching middle age, I own a home in Suffolk County, and I have a stable job (knock on wood) in downtown Manhattan. Odds are great that I'll never personally benefit from the jobs or housing in a mixed-use development such as the proposed Lighthouse project.
But, most importantly, I'm also a parent of two young children. As my children become adults in the next two decades, I don't want to be "left alone." I don't want to have to take a plane ride to see them. If they don't want to have the long commute into New York City for a job, I want local opportunities to be available to them. I want to be able to see my future grandchildren as often as possible. Maybe this is as selfish as the Garden City NIMBY. Yet I feel there is a profound difference. I'm for progress that will benefit the current and future generation of our area. In my field, technology, one quickly learns that you can't stop progress, you can only ignore it. And if you ignore it, you will be left behind. Maybe that's fine for a group of senior citizens in an affluent neighborhood, but it's not for an entire region.
At the August public comments meeting, I had a brief discussion with an older lady who was vehemently against the project. She asked me where I lived (Deer Park) and told me that if it was my backyard I'd be against it also. This is another easy thing to say, but it is in fact incorrect. In October 2007 the new Tanger Outlets opened up less than two miles from my home. I was in favor of the project before, and now. The added traffic that everyone was so concerned about is negligible, except during the holidays. Yet, I am okay with it since I benefit from the tax base and the discounts I receive get while shopping for clothing for my toddler and infant. Also, the proposed Heartland project, whose proposal is bigger in scope than the Lighthouse, is less than 5 miles from my home. I am also greatly in favor of the project for the housing and jobs it will bring to the area.
Long Island was once a brave new place, yet in the past decade we seem afraid to take any risks that might change our landscape. Maybe the Lighthouse and the Heartland projects are a bit too grand, maybe they need some scaling down. Yet, before we make deep cuts in the proposals, let's remember one more saying: "One who is afraid to go out on a limb will never get the fruit."