Hempstead Town and Nassau County officials – and some South Shore residents – are up in arms over a zoning proposal within Governor Kathy Hochul’s 2022-2023 New York State Budget.
Dozens of officials gathered outside of an East Meadow home Feb. 3 to advocate against “Section AA” of the proposed budget, which would effectively eliminate single-family zoning across New York State. If the budget is approved, the provision would mandate that single-family homes be permitted to add at least one Accessory Dwelling Unit in all counties across New York State, including permission to turn basements, garages or attics into dwelling units.
Local zoning to completely prevent such units would be outlawed.
At the press conference last week, town and county officials warned that the provision could increase suburban traffic, strain resources and infrastructure, and overcrowd public schools.
“The governor is attempting to basically mandatorily require that anybody can put an accessory unit on their house,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin. “We are not standing for it.”
“It’s an attack on the suburbs, it’s an attack on the suburban way of living,” County Executive Bruce Blakeman said. “This is a power grab by New York City politicians and we’re not going to take it.”
Officials at the news conference called on residents to contact Gov. Hochul’s office and say they reject the proposal. A Feb. 4 letter to Gov. Hochul, signed by the Town of Hempstead Board, requested that she entirely remove the provision from the state budget.
Rich Nicolello, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, called this provision an “aggressive overreach by the Governor.”
Legislator Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore) said in a post-conference interview that the provision was slyly written as an attachment to the state budget. To vote against the provision, the state legislature would have to vote down the entire budget.
“The legislature already voted against that proposal,” said Rhoads. “It never made it out of committee. Putting it into the budget – you’re subverting the democratic process. And it’s permitted under state law. The state constitution is bizarre in that you can insert into the budget any provisions you want.”
Senior Councilwoman Dorothy L. Goosby said in a phone interview, “I’m saying no to this zoning proposal. We already have no place to park in our town. This zoning change would make us like Queens [in population density], so I’m in support of what Supervisor Clavin said about it.”
Legislator Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury), said in a written statement, “While affordable housing is a widespread challenge that must be addressed, we cannot respond with a one-size-fits-all approach. In the state's effort to address regional affordable housing shortages, they developed overbroad policies that would usurp local authority and run roughshod over the unique needs of individual communities. It would be best to instead focus on expanding programs, such as the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, that increase housing opportunities by incentivizing responsible and comprehensive economic development."
Lawrence Levy, dean of Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Studies, said the provision could serve as a solution to the affordable housing crisis.
“It's easy to understand why the folks running the county, towns and villages don’t want Albany telling them what to do, but the potential law reflects the frustration with advocates for more and better affordable housing,” Levy said. “This could be one of the solutions to the lack of affordable places to live and an opportunity for homeowners to get a little more revenue to defray the high cost of property taxes.”
East Meadow resident Raheel Ahmad said he’s against the change. He moved his family from Brooklyn to Long Island six years ago. “I moved in from Brooklyn, not because I wanted another city life, but because I wanted the suburbs,” Ahmad said. “What I believe is that the quality of life is better in the suburbs than the city and I want it to stay that way.” Ahmad has three children that are ages 7, 3 and 2..
Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said in a statement that Blakeman and the other officials against this provision are “dragging Long Island back to the 1950s.”
“They want to keep Long Island wealthy and white, at the expense of everyone else,” Tyson said in a statement. “Everyone knows there is an affordable rental housing crisis on Long Island, and Blakeman and his right-wing colleagues are trying to make it worse.”
If the budget is approved by the legislature, the provision would take effect on April 1.