Readers Write: Democrats propose pre-empting local zoning control

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, is leading a charge to ban single-family zoning, limit local control over zoning codes and mandate extreme density requirements on local governments.

Sen. Hoylman has introduced bill S.7574 that would severely impact suburban communities, especially those in densely developed areas like Long Island. That, of course, is the point.

Hoylman’s bill would mandate that incorporated villages such as Williston Park (where I reside and am a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals) shall not: 1) establish a minimum lot size of more than 1,200 square feet (imagine a 30’ x 40’ building lot); 2) require the construction of off-street parking as a condition of permitting construction, or impose restrictions on height, setbacks, floor area that “effectively prevent construction” in a residential district; 3) prohibit the construction or occupation of a dwelling for six or fewer families on a single lot (remember that 30’x 40’ lot now with up to six families on it and no off-street parking) if such lot is within one-quarter mile of any commuter rail station.

One-quarter mile equals 1,320 feet. A standard Williston Park lot is 100’ deep. Two lots back-to-back measuring 200 feet. The bill would extend this high-density zone approximately six and a half blocks westward from the East Williston train station.

This high-density, high-impact development would be allowed “as of right” meaning village officials can do nothing to stop it. As of right! urbanists, house flippers, absentee landlords are salivating. The Williston Park you know no longer exists.

Hoylman relies on an NYU Furman Center study wherein local zoning laws are condemned as “exclusionary.” In developed villages such as Williston Park, single-family homes hardly constitute a weapon of exclusion.

As a Board of Zoning Appeals’ member, I often hear testimony from former residents of Queens and Brooklyn who sought their escape from crowded NYC neighborhoods. They are often the most protective of the suburban quality of life that attracted them to Long Island. Many represent the wide breadth of diverse demographics evident throughout our neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, Gov. Hochul has bought into a state takeover of local zoning. In her recent State of the State document, “A New Era for New York”, the Governor states, “To spur transit-oriented development, Gov. Hochul will propose legislation to foster multi-family construction in zones drawn by municipalities around rail transit stops within commuting distance to New York City.”

She also states that “This action will expand housing options and job access for New Yorkers while reducing the need to own a car and minimizing traffic impacts.”

Whoever wrote this for her clearly does not live on Long Island. Hochul proposes erasing local zoning control in favor of state mandates to permit “affordable dwelling units” in areas zoned for single-family homes. For example, turning garages into second homes on a single-family lot. More congestion.

Affordable housing is undeniably a serious issue. There are many tools available to local governments to add affordable housing options to their communities.

Some have chosen high-density development around train stations or downtowns (although affordability is debatable). Allowing 2nd and 3rd floor apartments over stores in commercial districts is another available option.

These, however, reflect conversations and choices made locally. Gov. Hochul, Sen. Hoylman and progressive urbanists show contempt for local government and opt for centralized power and decision-making unresponsive to local residents.

Slamming “as of right” 6 family homes on 30×40’ lots with no off-street parking, setbacks or height restrictions is absurd.

The reality of New York politics in 2022 is that there is no progressive policy that is too progressive. Governor Hochul wants to be elected and is showing a willingness to bend to the progressive wing at the expense of suburban neighborhoods.

Long Island Democrats in the New York Senate and Assembly might want to remember how popular bail reform was in the last election.

As a final note, Sen. Hoylman objected to an upzoning proposal for Soho/Noho (in his Manhattan district) because he said larger buildings would change the character of the area. Yup. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Call your senator or assemblyperson. If Manhattan has its way with your community, bye-bye local zoning control.

Brian Cunningham
Village of Williston Park

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