By Michael Daly
Your daughter can’t afford to live here on her new teachers’ salary.
You new friend can’t attend your birthday celebration because she lives 45 miles away and doesn’t “come east” on the weekends.
Your morning employees are always late because of the trade parade traffic.
Your Dad can’t navigate the stairs in the family home anymore and is sleeping on the couch in the den, next to the powder room with no shower.
To understand why we have such a shortage of Affordable Housing, Workforce Housing and Mature Adult (Senior) Housing on the East End of Long Island, we have to understand the phenomenon of NIMBYism.
NIMBY, which stands for Not In My Back Yard, describes a person or an attitude. A NIMBY might agree that a community needs affordable housing, but doesn’t want it placed too close to his or her own home or in their neighborhood. They’re concerned that it might impact their property values, create too much traffic or they might have to deal with people who are racially or ethnically “undesirable.”
From The Kemp Commission: Sound Advice For Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing, 1991, written by Jack Kemp for President George Bush:
“In Bridgehampton, Long Island, a 102-acre residential construction project that included low-cost dwellings was halted when New York State environmental officials happened to sight in a pond on the property a tiger salamander, a species classified as “endangered.” The project was halted over a year until the developer agreed not to build within 100 feet of the pond. To compensate for delay and compliance costs, the developer reduced the number of affordable units within the project by almost one-half. The result: less housing that working Americans could afford.”
Today, there are about 30 new homes priced from $2.5 to $4 million dollars on that site. I guess the salamanders got paid off! But one life-long Bridgehampton resident, who happens to be African American, didn’t and now lives in Northampton. She has an excruciating drive to and from her job in Southampton every day.
Fast forward to 2016, NIMBYism stopped another Bridgehampton project that would have included affordable housing units. NIMBYs said they wanted to “protect the pond” behind the property, which is already polluted by their own septic systems. It didn’t matter that the project was installing a state of the art water treatment system that would probably have helped clean up the pond.
The NIMBYs have intimidated the politicians and bullied developers into creating a world with high hedges and motorized gates in the Hamptons. Our community is aging, with fewer young people here to work the jobs we once held. And now that we’ve scared the bejeezus out of the Latino community with all the Immigration and Custom Enforcement threats, there are fewer employees to work the jobs that our entitled kids aren’t interested in.
We need local, affordable year-round and summer options to house teachers, business owners, interns at local hospitals, even town and village employees. Expecting workers to commute an hour or more each way to mow your lawn, make your macchiato, teach your children or file your permits is becoming less realistic every day.
It requires those of us who can stand up at town halls and village halls to demand that our politicians do the right thing to create thriving communities with diversity in ages, cultures and backgrounds. We need YIMBY’s!
YIMBY is an acronym for Yes In My Back Yard, a pro-development movement taking shape nationally in the U.S., in contrast to the NIMBY phenomenon. The first-ever YIMBY conference was held in Boulder, Colorado in June 2016. Typically the YIMBY movement supports responsible development of new housing in towns where rental costs have escalated to unaffordable levels. YIMBYs may also support public-interest projects such as clean energy sources like wind turbines.
I’m a YIMBY for every village and hamlet in each of the five East End townships to have at least one affordable housing community, for having allowable accessory apartments for workforce housing and for building senior housing that allows our elders to live comfortably where they have established lifelong family and friends. I’m a YIMBY for anti-discrimination and protection of immigrant rights. I am a YIMBY for fair and equitable treatment for the people of the Shinnecock Nation in my own backyard.
What can you be a YIMBY for? I encourage you to attend village and town meetings and find out what community groups and organizations meet nearby and show up. First seek to understand, then seek to be understood. JOIN ME. STAND UP and BE A YIMBY!
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 email@example.com.