by Michael Daly
Affordable housing or preservation? Workforce housing or grand estates? People or animals? Senior housing or clean water? Preservation or sustainability?
It has been (cynically) said that today’s home buyer is tomorrow’s environmentalist. As the belgian block is being laid, the privets are being planted and the gates are being installed, they’re at town hall crying “No More Development! It’s Too Crowded! We Have To Protect The Water/Pond/Scenic Vista’s/Salamanders!” They become NIMBYs.
It’s human nature for people to protect their turf and their investments. Rather than say the politically incorrect truth, such as “I’m afraid that the project will bring people that I don’t like here”, the traffic/pond/water quality/salamander excuse is used. Granted, it’s incumbent upon communities to choose sites for affordable housing wisely, where residents have access to shopping and public transportation. Realistically, every site will be in someone’s back yard.
With our aging and dwindling population and unaffordable housing costs on Long Island, the East End is on a course for becoming one big retirement community. Fewer young people living here will result in fewer children and students, and schools and businesses closing. We’re on an unsustainable course.
What is a Sustainable Community? The Institute for Sustainable Communities says:
A sustainable community is one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilient. It meets challenges through integrated solutions rather than through fragmented approaches that meet one of those goals at the expense of the others. And it takes a long-term perspective – one that’s focused on both the present and future, well beyond the next budget or election cycle.
It includes things such as:
• Inspiring, effective, and responsive leadership
• Conservation of water, land, energy, and nonrenewable resources
• Safe and healthy housing accessible to all
• The basic human rights of all community members are respected and defended against injustices including exploitation and psychological and physical harm
• Meaningful employment opportunities for all citizens
Looks like we have some work to do!
A reader of my last month’s “Be A YIMBY” column recently wrote, saying “I started expediting permits around 10 years ago. I have been beaten and bloodied by NIMBYs ever since…the projects I have worked on have been held up for as many as seven years… The most frustrating element in these altercations has always been the fact that the existing zoning often allowed the uses when the projects began. The NIMBYs filibustered and steamrolled boards into making changes in the code. Those changes…were then used to further undermine commercial development.”
Guys and gals, we have the technology available to create housing communities with safer water treatment. It’s not new development that is polluting our waters, it’s the old developments with outdated septic systems placed at the shoreline, where they were always placed in years gone by. That’s what’s causing the brown tide and algae blooms around our bays and ponds. Recent county and township initiatives to support replacing outdated septic systems, along with strict requirements for new development wastewater treatment will certainly help.
Want clean air? Then let’s create housing in our villages and hamlets, where workers don’t have to drive 30+ miles to get to work, so they can stop polluting the air and burning all those fossil fuels. We’ll have less traffic, too! When was the last time you tried to travel east in the morning or west in the afternoon?
And let’s not sit around waiting for our politicians to do this needed work. Many men and women who stand up and run for office in hope of making our community a better place end up sitting at the dais, getting screamed at, threatened and intimidated by the self-serving NIMBYs that come to protect their own little world. I just witnessed it myself at the June 13 Southampton Town Council Meeting on the PDD Extension for the Sandy Hollow Affordable Housing Project. The behavior of the neighbors to this development was disgraceful.
Change starts at the grassroots. We must go to village and town hall and demand decisions creating sustainable communities are made. If necessary, shame the NIMBYs and show support for our elected officials to make decisions in support of the greater public good. Then be prepared to share the burden by saying “Yes, In My Back Yard”. Let’s go!
Michael Daly is an East Ender and regular contributor to The East End Beacon on community issues that he cares deeply about. He can be reached at 631.525.6000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.