Rosenberg: City vs. suburbs battle on horizon over affordable housing


The historic love/hate relationship between New York City and Long Island has a new and corrosive chapter.

A recent round table in Manhattan had urban housing experts examine Long Island’s housing policies for new multifamily and affordable residential construction. Much to no one’s surprise they pronounced it woeful. They specifically pointed to the lack of affordable housing for next generation. Some city planners are even asking why the MTA invested billions in building a LIRR link to Grand Central when the real population growth is in New Jersey. Moses Gates of the Regional Plan Association (RPA) inferred as much when he told the conference, “We can really learn that lesson from New Jersey.”

At a time when affordable housing units are literally going empty in New York City because of insufficient administrative staff to process paperwork, Long Island is deemed the villain by city-based planners. It is beyond ironic. It is unconscionable.

Annemarie Gray, who served as a housing advisor to NYC Mayor Eric Adams and is currently executive director of Open New York, a housing advocacy organization, is quoted in media as saying, “We don’t build enough of all kinds of housing as a result of exclusionary zoning and land-use practices. The suburbs, in particular, are not doing their part…”

Long Island may well have a shortage of affordable housing for our emerging generation, but it will not be solved by New York City based planners demonizing the region or by imposing a regional approach to residential zoning. Gov. Hochul previously experienced the political pain of proposing the legalization of illegal two-family houses, sparking rare bipartisan condemnation of the idea.

What this panel discussion revealed is an opening salvo by New York City liberal appointees that could see state mandates dismantling the ability of Long Island townships to define and enforce local zoning as they see fit. It comes at a time when the governor is drafting content for her January State of the State address where housing will surely be a component of her remarks. Reporters say Hochul has inferred as much during recent public remarks, suggesting inadequate affordable housing is harming the Long Island economy.

She is quoted as saying, “We have a situation where people have a job waiting for them in a place like Long Island or parts of New York City or the downstate area,” Hochul said at a separate event last week. “The jobs are waiting for them. They can’t find housing.”

If her near-death political experience this November provided her with any lessons it is that Long Islanders are suspicious of her agenda, believe her to be tone deaf regarding suburban issues, and wish to insulate themselves from the destruction of quality of life being felt by literally every New York City resident.  If she intends to assault municipal zoning authority on Long Island, she can prepare for political combat that will make grisly trench warfare look like a rugby match.

Manipulating statistical housing data, suggesting “suburbia” is a pejorative, and overriding local zoning authority have the means to create a schism that will only serve to further polarize opposing schools of thought between two powerful New York neighbors that drive much of the state’s economy. If the Governor seeks to steamroll the Island she will run the risk of making this November’s “Long Island red wave” a mighty river that will run for years to come.


Ronald Rosenberg, a graduate of St. John’s University Law School and resident of Old Westbury, is senior founding partner of Rosenberg, Calica & Birney LLP, a Garden City law firm.


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By Opinion