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TODs Could Help Long Island With Its Millennial Problem

Rendering of Long Island's New Village at Patchogue TOD, with 291 apartments and over 36K SF of retail and restaurant space

Long Island has historically had one of the nation’s highest millennial export rates. Its relatively high cost of living and lack of transit-oriented development do not appeal to this increasingly car-less demographic.

That is changing, as local developers and city officials attempt to build TODs to capitalize on new transit infrastructure improvement projects in the works.

To learn how these projects can redefine Long Island’s landscape and economy, we caught up with Berdon LLP partner Marc Fogel. He believes large-scale mixed-use can help Long Island attract and retain millennials and major corporations by creating employment centers.

“Millennials largely want to live near subway, rail and bus hubs as well as their jobs, especially if they don’t want to own a car,” Fogel said. “In TODs, those with a combination of residential and office space make a convenient self-contained community.”

Many landowners with the desire to build TODs are stymied by the arduous and long approval process.

“There’s a lot of red tape, with zoning, permits and applications, so it takes a long time, about five years on average,” Fogel said.

Developments aspiring to integrate residential and retail face another challenge.

“When developing TODs, it is hard to determine what the best formula for success is. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg issue,” Fogel said. “Retailers want to know the demographics and how they will shape the community’s demand, whereas the renters are often waiting to choose a new location based on what shops arrive nearby.”

Despite these challenges, as public transit improves, Fogel expects Long Island to become more desirable for young people and big-name companies seeking lower rents than those found in New York City.

“Something that bodes well for the future is the approval to build a third track for the Long Island Railroad,” Fogel said.

This $2B project will lay almost 10 miles of track between Floral Park and Hicksville to facilitate the commutes of 500,000 daily LIRR customers. Commencing later this year, it should take three to four years to complete.

“If you live on Long Island, you know that all these MTA investments will solve delays and give better access to and from the city,” Fogel said. “For instance, the $10B East Side Access project provides access for LIRR riders into Grand Central Station, which will make commuting for Long Islanders who work on the east side of Manhattan easier. I think the hope is that, eventually, these investments will also inspire people to do the reverse commute — living in the city and working on Long Island.”

The train line is expected to be operational December of 2022. The MTA’s investments are expected to benefit Long Island by increasing land values.

“In the past, train stations were considered eyesores and undesirable, and could depress property values,” Fogel said. "Now, millennials and others are paying a premium for the accessibility they provide."

Although current and expected developments are clearly making efforts to bring more millennials and businesses to the area, one issue that still needs to be addressed is the difficulty traveling north-south presents.

“East-west roads have HOV lanes, but north-south ones don’t, so there’s no benefit to carpooling and no way to streamline,” Fogel said. “Getting from North Shore to South Shore, you still really need a car. Uber is an option for millennials, and is reasonably priced off-peak, but during rush hour it can cost twice as much, so a better solution is needed.”

Overall, there is a lot of optimism in the market, and with the right programs and incentives, development in Long Island, although challenging, is exciting and achievable.

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Related Topics: Berdon LLP, Marc Fogel