Lavine says Long Island housing is ‘balkanized’

Faith-based housing proposal faces backlash

Is affordable residences idea a threat to existing neighbors?


A proposal to include a Faith-Based Housing Act in the New York state budget has sparked debate on Long Island, with concerns about its potential impact on local zoning laws and the ability of religious organizations to build affordable housing on their properties.

The proposal, brought forward by State Senator Andrew Gournades, a Democrat from the 26th Assembly District, ultimately did not make it into the final budget, but it has left a mark on residents and local officials.

Joseph Saladino, Republican supervisor for the Town of Oyster Bay, expressed concern about the proposal, arguing that it would strip towns of their zoning powers and hurt the public. He questioned the affordability of the proposed housing project, saying they could lead to higher costs for residents and impact the quality of life on Long Island.

“We are overcrowding the beauty of our towns on Long Island,” Saladino said. “The reality of the situation is that this is not affordable at all, and this will drive costs way up, not to mention have a horrific effect on our suburban environment.”

Saladino proposed an incentive-based approach instead, citing the success of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative in Hicksville. This initiative allowed the town to work with developers, consider the impact on traffic, water, and other resources, and involve public input. He emphasized the need to protect the environment and ensure there is enough clean drinking water for residents.

Chuck Lavine, Democrat assemblyman for District 13, was less concerned about the Faith-Based Housing Act, describing its proposal to the budget as symbolic and not a reality. He added that he believed that “the antics” of his Republican colleagues were overblown, and that the proposal was never intended to pass or be a part of the final budget.

Lavine emphasized the need for additional housing on Long Island and criticized the region’s “balkanized” zoning rules for preventing new developments. Balkanization refers to the process of fragmenting an area or region into many smaller units which do not work together effectively.

“The communities on Long Island need a lot more housing,” Lavine said. “There’s no places for seniors to go, there’s no places for young families to go, and as a consequence, the gap between those who have the most and those who have the least continue to grow.”

Lavine acknowledged the need for political courage to address the housing crisis on Long Island and create more opportunities for affordable housing. He suggested that the current budget provides for development in New York City, which could help control housing costs in the region.

Pamela Panzenbeck, Republican mayor of Glen Cove, opposed the idea of using religious properties for affordable housing. She said she believed most residents do not support the proposal, as it would lead to housing developments on church and temple grounds. Panzenbeck also wrote a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul expressing her concerns and emphasized that taking up large properties with housing would not be in the best interest of the community.

“People who live on Long Island, for the most part, we don’t support taking all the acreage from our churches and synagogues,” Panzenbeck said. “It’s just (Hochul’s) housing compact in a different form, and people spoke up against that two years ago, and she just brought it back in a different way.”

On the other hand, Gustavo Gitlin, cantor for Congregation Tifereth Israel in Glen Cove, said he supported the idea of religious organizations building affordable housing on their properties. He expressed concerns that there currently is not enough affordable housing in the area and believed the proposal would help alleviate the issue.

While Gitlin acknowledged that some residents might be hesitant about the changes, he pointed out that the need for affordable housing in the community is not going away any time soon. He added that he was disappointed by the constant backlash by some community members against the idea of affordable housing on Long Island, pointing to a recent example in Glen Cove.

“A few years ago people were trying to build a group house for women here in Glen Cove, and a group of neighbors went crazy,” Gitlin said. “It’s very sad that people’s compassion and sympathy is just ‘it’s nice, but not in my backyard.’”

Additional reporting by Roksana Amid.