People have left New York in droves this past decade, and Brian Curran is ready to put that trend at an end.
But doing so could mean finding some common ground between the Assemblyman and Gov. Kathy Hochul, who have some very different ideas on affordable housing.
During her State of the State address earlier this month, Hochul introduced a plan that would build 800,000 new homes over the next 10 years across the state. Affordable homes.
Curran agrees with Hochul that the lack of affordable housing is a major contributor to the mass fleeing of residents to other states, but fixing it is another story.
“The governor talked about migration of people out of New York right off the bat at the State of the State address,” Curran said. “This alarm has been sounded for the better part of the decade. But now, as even the governor noted, you can’t ignore it anymore.”
Curran returned to his Assembly seat earlier this month, after winning the November election against Judy Griffin in November — who had ousted him just four years before. Curran had first won his Assembly seat in 2010 after spending three years as mayor of Lynbrook.
Nearly 300,000 people left New York between July 2020 and July 2021, according to census data. Although New York City’s population jumped by 700,000 to 8.8 million over the last decade, the pandemic wiped away much of those gains, Curran said, through the aftermath of inflation, higher taxes, and even higher rent.
It’s the rent that Hochul is focused on the most, citing the Population Reference Bureau claims that more than half of New York renters are “rent-burdened” — meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
That, the governor says, is the second-highest rate in the nation.
Rent is bad, Curran said, but it’s something else that’s much more in the government’s control that is chasing people away.
“I think, very simply, the reason why people are leaving is because of high taxes,” the Assemblyman said. “Unfortunately, nowhere in Hochul’s State of the State did she ever talk about presenting a proposal in cutting taxes.”
And even Hochul’s proposal is missing some key variables.
“There are factors that you must consider before building these affordable homes,” Curran said. “Factors like how density affects the communities must be considered.”
Hochul’s proposal includes designating a half-mile radius around train lines like the Long Island Rail Road as fast-tracked property for higher-density — and, hopefully, more cost-effective — homes. While the governor wants local municipalities to take charge to implement such a plan, she has threatened to remove obstacles to development from the state level if local governments drag their feet.
Yet, such a plan could “over densify” communities, Curran said, which will make them lose their “Nassau County character.”
Curran also worries about what this means for local governments.
“She appears to be advocating for taking away the authority of local municipalities — including the villages of Lynbrook, Freeport, the Town of Hempstead, West Hempstead, Baldwin and Valley Stream,” Curran said. “Think about what this half-mile radius will do. On the Malverne line, there are all residential houses up and down the line. However, there is no dead space in that area to build.”
Maintaining that local autonomy is something Curran says he’ll fight for.
“The governor believes that she can come in here and tell the people of Malverne, Rockville Centre, Lynbrook, Baldwin and Freeport to just accept these drastic changes,” he said. “I think that’s for elected officials and residents in those areas to figure out how they want to go about creating affordable housing.”
And there are some good ideas already here, Curran said. For example? Lynbrook. The village worked on the site of the old Mangrove Feather factory on Broadway to help develop it into a $95 million, 201-unit transit-oriented apartment complex. It was part of negotiations that went on between the developer — Breslin Realty — and the village for years.
“Mayor Alan Beach of Lynbrook struck a deal with a realty company for the feather factory that was recently demolished,” he said. “So, there is a number of affordable housing units being built there, and they’re being done under local authority, elected officials, and community members.”
No matter what plans ultimately come out of Albany to address the state’s — and region’s — out-migration, Curran hopes they don’t become singularly focused.
“We should do everything we can to drive down the costs of living in New York,” the Assemblyman said. “But the creation of all these units isn’t necessarily going to lower the overall costs of people living in these communities in the first place.”