Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sustaining Sustainable Communities

If Only. . .

For those of us old enough to remember August, 2004 -- pre-blog, with The Community Alliance in its infancy -- here's a blast from the past, floated (and, perhaps, still floating) somewhere out in cyberspace, as mission statement, wish list, cause celebre, of sorts.

Ahhh. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Are we standing still, or is the world around us whirling and whizzing by so fast that it only seems as though we're motionless, frozen in time?

Call it prologue, the precursor of better days to come. Call it epilogue, an epitaph to way too much "visioning," theorizing, and talking, and far too little in the way of actually cultivating ideas from ideals, and putting them galantly into action. More deed. Less word.

Call it sleep, if you'd like. Just don't call it "done."

Our work here at The Community Alliance, as activists, advocates, community organizers, and protagonists -- among other names we've been called, many of which cannot be published here -- is far from finished. In fact, we've only just begun.

Stay tuned. . .
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From The Community Alliance:
August 10, 2004

There has been much talk over the years of the “sustainable community,” which, in reality, is not so much of a place as it is a process. A means to bring residents and merchants, government and civics, young and old, rich and poor, together. A method to define and, with any luck, to develop and implement, strategies for a more livable community environment.

To many of us here on Long Island , the term “sustainable community” is more an oxymoron than a viable reality. True, we speak freely of “smart growth,” “regional planning,” “community visioning,” and the like, but we challenge any one of you to drive down Old Country Road in the vicinity of Roosevelt Field on any given Saturday afternoon and find even a glimmer of vision, planning or “smart growth.” We ask you to walk through your local business district and discern any vision or “plan.”

Visit our hometowns – particularly the unincorporated areas that dot Long Island’s South Shore – and “sustainable community” takes on a whole new meaning. Our outdated (and outsourced) business districts and “Main Streets” reduced to ghost towns. The aging infrastructure crumbling. Our housing stock out of reach by seniors, the workforce and young families. Suburbia turned into an urban nightmare by the perils of illegal housing, the absence of code enforcement, and a “vision” of community that often extends no further than inside the front door.

Indeed, our hamlets, once the green fields of the Hempstead Plains, are now the brownfields of suburban neglect. “Blight,” “economic decline,” “sprawl” – words often associated with the ills of our urban centers – are now the language of Long Island’s landscape.

“Sustainability” – particularly for those of us who reside (to say “live” would be a misnomer) on the forgotten South Shore – is more akin to “life support,” our communities tethered to respirators taking the form of local civic groups and a hodge-podge of community organizations, while the great healers, our local governments, take on the visage of so many Dr. Kevorkieans rather than the Dr. Schweitzers we so desperately cry out for.

Now, we could complain ad nauseum about the two Nassaus or the two Towns of Hempstead – one for the wealthy and connected; those who can afford a property tax bill upwards of $10,000 per year; those who can seek asylum in incorporated villages, each with control of what goes down within their own borders; those for whom “affordable housing” is but the bane of someone else’s backyard. And one Nassau/Town of Hempstead for the rest of us – those who struggle daily to maintain a suburban quality of life amidst the encroaching turmoil of urbanization; those who must constantly reinvent the wheel against the backdrop of the Band-Aid approach of Town and County government; those who believe they are disenfranchised, underrepresented, economically disadvantaged and without power to change the course of community. But where has that gotten us?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "The future is literally in our hands to mold as we like. But we cannot wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow is now." It is, with this understanding, that we find ourselves compelled to take action. Today, and not tomorrow. Together, and not as ships that pass silently in the still of night.

It is for us - not as outposts of community fighting on isolated fronts, but as a cohesive force, organized, mobilized and energized – to envision the future of community, and, reaching beyond that vision, to both ennoble and enable our neighbors through inclusion in the community-building process, creating communities that are truly sustained and sustainable.

This, in essence, is the mission of The Community Alliance, the very core of our being. To partner “townies” with Town Hall; to explore and create opportunities and choices in housing, in business district revitalization, in transportation, in new directions for our neighborhoods; to build consensus, encouraging residents – the real stakeholders of community – to leave the sidelines of complacency and indifference, and to infuse tomorrow with the empowerment of their participation.

Attractive, distinctive communities with a strong sense of place is the premise for “smart growth” and at the very heart of sustainable living. Together, we can build and rebuild these communities – our hometowns. Together, we can reshape the very landscape of community, taking our Town from blight to bloom. Together, we can turn vision into that long sought after, hard fought for reality, sustaining that “sustainable community” - our sustainable Long Island - for our generation, and for the generations yet to come.


  1. Sadly, the leaders at Hempstead Town Hall haven't done anything concrete to promote smart growth in the 6+ years Kate has been Supervisor. While there is talk of change, our communities need to stand up and demand their talk turns into action. We can no longer accept the Town's empty promises connected to smiling faces. 2010 must be the year that we put shovels in the ground rebuilding our depleted downtowns into smart and attractive destinations!

  2. KGG,

    once again,kate sailed to victory because she again had no serious opposition.the next four years will be more smiles,promises that are lies while she takes care "of her own".and progress remains halted,theres no forward motion on the lighthouse,downtown after downtown continues to struggle,and communities that are on the edge continue to teeter.

    lets hope-though im very skeptical-that mangano and maragos turn out to be better than the typical nassau republican-but i wont be holding my breath.