Ask the Architect

We neighbors are kept in the dark


Q. How is it possible that a big development, meant to replace an existing one, damaged by Hurricane Sandy, could be permitted without the neighbors knowing about it until it’s already approved by the county Industrial Development Agency and the town? I live nearby and thought it would make a great park, or would be rebuilt the same size, not twice as big. How is that possible?

A.There are many more questions than answers when it comes to a large project like the one you’re referring to. Some of those questions were researched and answered in the very long process that takes place just to figure out financing, tax implications, infrastructure (like water, sewer, power), environmental impact, traffic impact, real estate value impact, aesthetic appearance, projections for the local economy and social implications.

Unfortunately, the way the process is developed for private property, you, as a neighbor, don’t get to know what’s about to go up on the other side of the fence until the process is very far along. When that happens, the time frame to educate yourself about the project is limited to about three or four weeks, depending on the municipality and state notification time requirements. The people proposing the development have already had as much time as they needed to formulate their plan(s). This leads to much resentment.

I’ve been on both sides of this scenario, as a planner and a citizen. I was fortunate to study city planning in Europe and the U.S., and saw great differences in governmental systems. In Germany and Holland, citizens are part of the process, and community participation is required. In Italy, they really get a well-studied consensus that can take years. In Florence, I was involved with one project for three months as a student that took 25 years to be approved and completed. I went from student to grandparent before the project was completed!

The thing that you, as a citizen, need to grasp is that the system doesn’t necessarily favor the individual, and private property owners don’t generally need your individual permission, unless you want to use legal means to slow the approval process long enough to fully understand the full effect of any development. Even so, you can ask for clarification, but have no right of approval or disapproval.

There are positive parts to the proposal, like the potential for young people to get an affordable foothold in the local economy to stay on Long Island, and the ability to live next to mass transit. But your concerns about the size of the development, the increase of site and community population, traffic congestion, tax impact on the local economy, sewer, water, educational and social strains require much more than a three- to four-week learning time to really understand. The projections are only estimates, in either case, so you must hope that the decision-makers are either educated, trained or certified planning professionals.

© 2018 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.