Monday, July 12, 2010

Cue The White Picket Fences

Slicing And Dicing At The Town Of Hempstead

Put away the Popiel Veg-A-Matic, folks. Kate Murray has taken a hacksaw to Charles Wang's Lighthouse plan, offering up a vision of Nassau County's future that harkens back to Levittown, circa 1950.

SEE Hempstead Town plan cuts Lighthouse Project in half.

Yes, when Nassau was but a sleepy bedroom community, and all of Suffolk a potato farm, the quaint notions of smaller is better, all must be contained within the confines of that white picket fence, defined suburbia.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, where Nassau is now part and parcel of a burgeoning metropolis -- or at least adjacent to it -- and Mineola is no longer the vacation spot of the likes of Edward G. Robinson, and the white picket fence theory all but implodes.

Forget that "small" (as in small minds, small ideas, small, immeasurable steps, unless you count the ones we take backwards) scale, the lilliputianesque myopia that mires Long Island in yesteryear. In terms of economic gain alone, the Town of Hempstead plan -- or should we call it, Murray Minutia -- does little to raise much-needed revenues, something which Town Supervisor Kate Murray all but concedes she did not consider.

A quarter of the housing units (now down to a mere 500) as first proposed for the Lighthouse. Far less density, despite Kate's myriad references to Smart Growth, which principles include higher density. More a portended Grand Avenue in Baldwin (or what a thriving downtown Main Street should look like) than an inviting, imaginative, sustainable (simply invoking the word does not make it so) grand centerpiece of a reinvigorated Nassau.

And what about the Coliseum? Oh yeah. Kate thinks that should be included in the scaled-down plan too. Somewhere. Somehow. WATCH Murray Minutia on YouTube.

And we wonder why our children, our seniors, our workforce, our businesses and our middle class are leaving Long Island in droves?

Even Nassau County Executive, Kate Murray's fellow GOPer, Ed Mangano, has trashed the Town's plan, calling it "economically unviable."

Then again, Ed Mangano, of the Mondello-D'Amato tribe, is of the mindset that a casino at the Coliseum is the salve to solve all of Nassau's woes, economic and otherwise. We wouldn't bet on it.

A casino at the Coliseum is madness. Murray Minutia is mindless.

Nassau needs to rekindle that grand vision of a glorious future, stepping out of the shadows of what the suburban landscape held dear for the likes of Levitt and Moses (that's Robert, not the other fella whose vision was of more biblical proportions).

We know. Let's compromise. Let There Be Light(house). Ten years ago, it seemed like a good idea. Today, it's an even better one.

One thing is certain. There is no more time to lose. The clock has run out. The vuvuzela has blown its last. Whatever is decided, let's get it started. And let's get it done, before the next decade is out. The world around us is not standing still. Nassau County can ill afford to remain mesmerized by 20th Century suburban lore, stagnating amidst the blight, the brownfields, and the asphalt wastelands that have become the Town of Hempstead.

When all is said, if not far from done, this is a heck of alot more than just about hockey on Long Island. This is about life on Long Island. Ours, and our children's. We need to sieze that grand vision. Build it, and they will stay!
- - -
Epitaph or Intermezzo?

Have we reached the end of the line at Nassau's hub, or is this merely an interlude, of sorts? Another stop along the Town of Hempstead's twisted, potmarked biways that lead, invariably, to the Twilight Zone?

To the casual observer, Kate Murray's plan actually rings true. A measured, almost well-reasoned, ode to suburbia, with the opportunity for developers to build within the newly-created "alternative development" zone's somewhat tight and conspicuously restrictive constraints.

To the informed and enlightened, about the only things missing from this disingenuous attempt to stave off urbanization are the Victorian-style streetlamps.

The real problem with Kate Murray's "plan" is, as with almost everything else she does (or doesn't do): it is too little (emphasis on "little"), too late.

Had this "vision" appeared before her, say, a decade ago, residents, from Elmont to Wantagh, would have chomped at the bit to put shovel to dirt. It is, after all, quintessential suburbia, with a touch of swank and a dab of smart.

As for the lament of the Lighthouse supporters, 2 to 1 means nothing on the blogs, in the print media, or at rallies. There's only one place such numbers count -- that's at the polls. In that respect, as Pogo once said, "We have seen the enemy, and he is us."

So there you have it. Another $255,049 of TOH taxpayer money (paid to consultants Frederick P. Clarke) down the tubes. [Money that, come to think of it, could have been spent on elaborate, four-page, full-color Murraygrams.] Progress cheated under guise of "protecting the suburban character." A meaningful, if not monumental project, a shot at renewal for America's first suburb, thwarted again. The future of Nassau County, nay, all of Long Island, delayed, if not denied in its entirety.

Yes, you still can fool most of the people all of the time. In thinking, on our part, that words alone will, in the end, speak louder than actions, we continue to fool only ourselves!


  1. Like virtually every other plan in Hempstead Town, Lighthouse Lite will likely go nowhere. Then again, that is always Kate Murray's plan -- to maintain the status quo under the guise of "preserving the character" of the town. Always look like you're moving forward, but, in reality, go nowhere.

    Preserving the character -- or more aptly, characters -- of and at the Town of Hempstead is something Kate Murray does very well.

    A more involved (evolved?) and enlightened (awake?) electorate would have voted Kate & Kompany out of Town Hall years ago. Stupid is what stupid does...

  2. The sad truth about Murray Minutia is that it will probably resonante with many Long Islanders, for whom small ideas have become mainstays of island life, and where progressive thoughts have not dared to be echoed since Teddy Roosevelt left Sagamore Hill.

    The universe favors chaos. So too, apparently, does the Town of Hempstead. Keep the populace fighting among themselves as modus operandi for divide, conquer, and share the spoils with political cronies, friends of the party, and, of course, family.

    Town of Hempstead. Where vision and sustainability go to die!

  3. Murray's comments, indicating a lack of concern about what she refers to as "profit margins", tell you all you need to know about why Hempstead is going nowhere fast. It is now clear that from the standpoint of its ability to attract the kind of private investment needed to get anything done, Murray's scaled-down proposal is dead on arrival. It's actually shocking that this doesn't seem to bother her.

    It's easy to be antagonistic to a guy like Wang, who after all, doesn't exactly elicit a lot of sympathy. And it's also good politics in this day and age to keep your distance from the business and financial community. But focusing on what is politically expedient won't improve the lives of people who live in Hempstead - now or in the future.

    As has been previously noted in this space, Murray can come up with any plan she wants to, but it won't mean anything without the involvement of private interests. Despite the obvious nature of this point, Murray has gone forward on her own anyhow, and the development community has reacted with a collective yawn.

    I'm not in love with the idea of a casino, but there's something to be said for the fact that if the Shinnecocks get involved, the Town of Hempstead would actually then have no authority
    as relates to zoning laws. This has to do with the Shinnecocks' status as a federally-regulated tribe, which effectively pre-empts local authority. This may be the only shot the taxpayers in Hempstead have when it comes to realizing the potential inherent in the real estate surrounding the Coliseum. It clearly won't happen as long as Murray is in control.

  4. Hempstead’s Coliseum Proposal is “Second Rate”

    Once again Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead have failed to deliver any sort of progress for the residents of the Town and for Nassau County. As many of our neighbors are facing record unemployment, foreclosure, and ever increasing taxes Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead have effectively killed a project that would have injected $3.8 billion dollars and 19,000 jobs into the local economy. Instead of just saying 'No' to development at the coliseum, they choose to string out the process for almost three years while wasting millions of dollars of taxpayer money.

    "They took a proposal to build a world class development and substituted it with a second rate plan. This could be a model for elegant density and smart growth that preserves the suburban quality of life," said William Biamonte, Town of Hempstead Democratic Chairman.

    The sad reality is that today we are no closer to transforming the coliseum property into a destination point for Long Island that would have brought new jobs, expanded our tax base, provided housing for the young and old and kept the Islanders on Long Island. It appears now our only viable option is a casino, which brings with it more of the same problems the Town cited in the original Lighthouse plan.

    "The financial media has been talking for weeks on how the economy is unable to restore lost jobs to recover from the recent recession. This scaled down version of the Lighthouse plan does not go far enough to help the local economy of an aging suburbia. Unfortunately Town of Hempstead officials are more concerned with preserving their political power base, and their political legacy, than they are with the economic well being of the people in the town," said Robert Young, Town of Hempstead Deputy Democratic Chairman.

  5. The original Lighthouse plan was a stupefying disaster. There was no plan to get people in or out except further burdening the Meadowbrook Parkway; the supposed construction costs and financial impacts were exaggerated three or four fold; there was no sufficient idea where all the fresh water and wastewater goes to; the various uses proposed were all incompatible with one another, guarantying inadequate use (who has a shopping mall next to a stadium you can't bring packages into?); and when I pointedly asked about any successful similar projects anywhere, my letter went unanswered.

    Lighthouse was never a feasible plan, just a landgrab for what would ultimately be not more than what the Town has suggested.

    Wake up to that, Nassau.