Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Smart Growth Comes To Long Island

If Not To Stay, Then At Least To Visit

Did you know that New York State has a "Smart Growth Cabinet?" [We didn't even think they had a Smart Growth Night Table.] And wait until the armoire arrives.

Actually, a Smart Growth Task Force was created by former Governor George Pataki (remember him?) back in 1999. Look how smart we've become since then, and that level of "genius" that permeates through the marble halls in Albany is positively remarkable.

Seriously, though, the Governor of New York has assembled some of the finest minds in government (oxy what?), creating what is being touted as a "Smart Growth Cabinet," tapping Paul Beyer to be the State's top Smart Growth Smarty. [Can anyone tell us who Paul Beyer is -- or was, before he was appointed as New York State Director for Smart Growth Planning?]

Beyer was on Long Island -- Hauppauge, specifically (at the H. Lee Dennison Building, the very heart of smartness in Suffolk County) -- to talk about spiraling suburban sprawl, and to say to the folks at the Long Island Regional Planning Board (before whom he was speaking), "I'm not here to tell you what smart growth is on Long Island..." [Frankly, I don't know what it is myself...]

Geez, Paul. If you won't tell Long Islanders what smart growth is (he declined to define the term), who will? Surely, we can't wait another twenty-five years or more for the Planning Board (that last bastion of "best laid-away plans," such as it has always been) to figure this one out!

Yes, as Mr. Beyer explains, we need to create "places" again. And not simply "places" for "places" sake, but places with a sense of place. [We can still see the puzzled looks on the faces of members of the Planning Board. Faces that just can't fathom a sense of place in a place misplaced by suburban sprawl and zoned disgrace.]

Truth be told, in creating the Smart Growth Cabinet, Governor Spitzer made no mention of Long Island. Lower Hudson Valley? Yes. Adirondacks? Yes. Catskills? Yes.

Long Island wasn't even on the proverbial map. [Perhaps we missed it while we were under that Cone of Silence of Get Smart (Growth) fame.]

Oh, we've got places all right. Most of us can sense that.

Blighted places. Brownfield places. Economically distressed places. Places that used to be called the suburbs, now reclassified as part and parcel of some not-too-bright-growth urban renewal plan.

Not many places where our workforce and college grads can hang their hats, though. Too few open spaces, those sacred, now built-out places that used to be places we could walk, play, rejuvinate.

No real plans in the hopper, either -- aside from those long ago shelved, or more recently frowned upon and discarded by local town boards and their supervisors - to scrap the sprawl in favor of economically vibrant "downtowns" -- you know, those walkable, convivial, energized places where, ideally, we could work, live, and play. Places that were -- and could again be -- a whole lot more than vacant storefronts, crumbling facades, and block after decaying block of vacuous void.

What has happened to so-called "smart growth" on Long Island, other than the talk?

Well, as Maxwell Smart would have said, we've "missed it by that much!"

Okay, its a "bottom-up" process, as Mr. Beyer tells us.

Yup. That's what one could hear the folks at the Long Island Regional Planning Board saying as they headed to Hauppauge's local watering hole after the smart growth conference. "Bottoms up!"
- - -
Spitzer's smart-growth czar visits Long Island

In his first regional visit since becoming Gov. Eliot Spitzer's smart growth czar, Paul Beyer told an audience of public officials, civic and business leaders yesterday that "smart growth" -- a term he declined to define -- is essential to economic prosperity, but that it must be addressed by localities before the state can act.

"If we don't manage growth with a sense of creating places again, places with a sense of place," New York will lose its "economic competitiveness," said Beyer, whose official title is New York State Director for Smart Growth Planning.

Speaking before a meeting of the Long Island Regional Planning Board in Hauppauge, Beyer recalled a "great life growing up on Long Island" but said the region had failed to control the way it was developed in recent decades."Sprawl was basically uncontrollable," he said, and there were "economic benefits from sprawling development patterns."

The definition of "smart growth" is hotly contested, with some advocates cleaving to official standards set by national groups and others applying the term to any project that includes a mixed-use or pedestrian-friendly component.

Beyer would not articulate the state's definition of "smart growth," saying "I'm not here to tell you what smart growth is on Long Island ... Don't think we're going to give you the answers."

But he said that proper planning focused on issues like targeted density and access to public transportation that could solve a host of problems; from insufficient housing stock for young people and empty-nesters to the perceived conflict between economic development and open space preservation.

Because of the region-specific concerns that drive planning, Beyer said, it should be a "bottom-up" process, with local leaders sharing ideas with regional representatives and members of the Governor's Smart Growth Cabinet.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment