Manufacturing Jobs Are Driving Rezoning Efforts On Long Island
From Inwood to Mount Sinai, villages throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties are pursuing rezoning efforts to open up parcels of suburban land for denser residential and commercial uses. These Long Island towns are hoping to spur economic growth and attract new residents, including millennial commuters and their families.
But there is another impetus behind these rezoning efforts: the manufacturing industry on Long Island. According to residents and experts, some of the demand for affordable housing stems from a wish to keep Long Island’s manufacturing industry strong.
“There’s definitely a push to keep people on Long Island, to make sure that people who grow up here have good jobs and affordable places to live,” said Marcy Greenfield, an audit partner at Berdon LLP and a resident of Melville, Long Island. “Manufacturing is at the heart of Long Island’s economy, and we want to preserve that.”
Nassau and Suffolk Counties boast over 72,000 jobs in manufacturing. Though the island has not been immune to the general decline in American manufacturing over the last century, manufacturers specializing in aerospace equipment, pharmaceutical devices and food and beverages still keep their headquarters on Long Island.
The Hauppauge Industrial Park — a conglomeration of thousands of industrial and manufacturing companies — employs 55,000 people and accounts for 8% of Long Island’s gross domestic product.
The issue is that Long Island is among the least affordable places to live in the nation. The average Long Island resident makes half of what it takes to buy a house in the same towns where they live. The high cost of housing means that natives tend to move away in search of more affordable lifestyles in other cities or states around the county.
In the village of Westbury, 25 miles from Manhattan, a plan to rezone 50 acres of industrial land surrounding the local Long Island Railroad station is nearing approval. While this sort of transit-oriented development is sure to appeal to New York City commuters, the village government has made it very clear that the developments will create housing for residents at all income levels.
The proposal includes bonuses in height and density for developments that offer increased percentages of workforce housing or give preference to veterans and seniors. Greenfield explained that these villages are serious about not altering the landscape of their industrial workforce.
“These communities want to preserve their businesses and the makeup of their towns,” she said. “That’s why we’re seeing them carve out spaces for workforce housing, low-income housing, seniors and veterans in addition to working millennials.”
Farther out along the island, in Mount Sinai, New York, a request has been submitted to rezone almost 22 acres of undeveloped, single-use land south of Route 25A into a mixed-use town center. About a fifth of the housing in Mount Sinai is already dedicated to seniors, so the new development is being created with the goal of attracting younger talent to the town.
With its proximity to manufacturing hubs, three major hospitals and numerous research labs, Greenfield said, the village needs to offer housing that is affordable and attractive for recent college graduates.
“If the town wants to keep these skilled manufacturing and healthcare jobs, they need a pipeline of good housing for graduates,” Greenfield said. “Stony Brook [University] is right next door, as are Adelphi, Hofstra and Post. If we can keep that talent here, we’ll be in good shape.”
She added that manufacturers are not just providing thousands of jobs to those who work in production, but also many high-paying jobs for researchers, managers and executives.
Closer to New York City, the hamlets of Inwood and North Lawrence have approved a bulk rezoning of the area north of their respective LIRR stations. The new zoning laws will allow rowhouses and apartment buildings along avenues that the towns hope to turn into economic hubs.
The plan has been met with a warm response from local officials — the board voted 7-0 to approve the rezoning — and from residents, who are eager to see industrial land and parking lots turned into something more useful.
For the towns that want to stimulate new economic growth, Greenfield said, it is important to bring residents on board, then get zoning approvals from officials, then find the right developers.
“Some people do it out of order, and bring in the developers first,” Greenfield said. “Then the approvals process can drag out for years while residents get up in arms. The most successful projects get buy-in and enthusiasm from the local community right off the bat.”
Local residents can also advise developers about what their community wants and needs, allowing them to feel personally invested in the success of their towns.
Altogether, Greenfield said, rezoning efforts are speeding up. Many villages have rezoned in the last five years, others are in the process of rezoning and others are awaiting approvals.
“People realize how much of an economic boost it can be for their town,” Greenfield. “It’s not just about preserving the manufacturing jobs that are already here, but also about building for the future.”
This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Berdon. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.