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'Great Opportunity Out Of The Disaster': Long Island Developers Seek To Capitalize On NYC Exodus

An apartment complex at One Third Avenue in Mineola, Long Island

The coronavirus pandemic presents a unique opportunity to build housing to support Long Island's sustainable economic growth, its development leaders said this week.

With Long Island-born millennials, who once flocked from their suburban homes to live in the city, returning amid the pandemic, housing developers said this is the time to be pro-development and create a suburb that caters to a demographic it has long tried to retain. 

“I think there is a great opportunity out of the disaster that we’re all facing right now,” Community Development Corporation of Long Island President and CEO Gwen O’Shea said on a Bisnow webinar about multifamily on Long Island

O’Shea said the majority of millennials on Long Island live in single-family homes with their parents, and they will soon look for opportunities to live on their own in Long Island away from the density of the city. 

“Post-COVID, the 19-to-40-ish age demographic now wants more than ever to actually stay on the Island,” she said. “Pre-COVID, they were looking to move off the Island, move into New York City.” 

Elected officials, community officials and developers need to be prepared to cater to this group’s housing needs as soon as funding on the federal and state level is available, O’Shea said. 

“We need to be ready on the Island,” she said. “Shovel-ready, with diversified housing opportunities and development, mixed-use development opportunities to get going, otherwise we’re going to lose out to other areas across the state.” 

Clockwise from top left: Albanese Organization President Christopher Albanese, Institutional Property Advisors Senior Vice President Jeffrey Daniels, Community Development Corporation of Long Island President and CEO Gwen O’Shea, Cronin & Cronin partner Sean Cronin, TRITEC Real Estate Co. principal James Coughlan.

An anti-growth and anti-development sentiment has long been to the detriment of building workforce and affordable housing like this on Long Island, said Institutional Property Advisors Senior Vice President Jeffery Daniels, the brokerage's national director of multifamily and student housing.

In order to sustainably grow, politicians and community members alike need to be on board with building new apartment buildings. 

“You need that pro-growth sentiment, and we don’t have that,” Daniels said. “So now that chicken is coming home to roost, so to speak … that’s going to hold us back, we have to find a way to change that.” 

Long Island needs a regional plan to foster sustainable housing growth, Daniels said. Without it, very few projects will get finished as political administrations change throughout the region, implementing their own plans instead of continuing with a centralized one. 

The Albanese Organization President Christopher Albanese said the area also needs affordable housing funding from the federal government. 

“We can only build it as fast as subsidies are provided,” he said. 

The progress of Long Island, especially after the coronavirus, will depend on the housing development that starts now, the speakers said. 

“We owe it to this Island to create the kind of communities, the lifestyle that these people want,” TRITEC Real Estate Co. principal James Coughlan said. “People want to have a walkable option ... That includes rental, that includes homeownership and a little bit more of a node environment where people can have a little bit of a walkability and a little bit of an active lifestyle.”