It appears that Gov. Kathy Hochul has made a conscious decision to declare political war on Long Island.
In her proposed statewide mandate to increase the number of affordable homes by 800,000 units over the next 10 years, Hochul seeks to override local zoning control that is directed, in large measure, by the people who live there. For Long Island, home rule defines our region just as much as Jones Beach and rush hour traffic on the LIE. Make no mistake: Hochul’s housing plan is taking aim at the Island by imposing a 3 percent increase in affordable housing one way or another.
In an effort to couch it in humanitarian terms, she told the State Legislature, “Housing is a human right.” That’s bold rhetoric, but in truth, there is nothing in the federal or state Constitutions stating that housing is a basic right guaranteed by government. On the other hand, our state Constitution says, “Effective local self-government” is one of the “purposes of the people of the state.” Thus, the governor’s intent to allow the state to override local zoning ordinances is contrary to a basic tenet of our governing document.
If citizens in a democracy wish to support initiatives that provide subsidized housing, then government can invest in efforts such as the New York City Housing Authority. With broken elevators, poorly maintained boilers, lurking crime and other assorted issues, however, you have to admit that NYCHA has proven that government-subsidized housing isn’t exactly a panacea. That may help explain why over 30 percent of those renting from NYCHA didn’t pay their rent last year.
Hochul had a near-death political experience last fall, when Long Island did not give her a majority at the polls. There are a number of reasons for the Island’s antipathy toward her, but one was her earlier call to allow illegal two-family homes to become legal. Yet after retreating from blistering bipartisan opposition to that proposal, she has come back with yet another draconian housing “solution,” one driven more by ideology than market forces. Perhaps her call to dismantle local zoning is her punishment for a region where voters found her the lesser candidate.
Ronald J. Rosenberg has been an attorney for 42 years, concentrating in commercial litigation and transactions, and real estate, municipal, zoning and land use law. He founded the Garden City law firm Rosenberg Calica & Birney in 1999.