With the initial state budget deadline of April 1 in the rearview mirror, disagreements on measures to expand housing as well as changes to the controversial bail reform bill continue in Albany.
After state lawmakers Monday passed another weeklong extension for negotiations to continue, Assemblyman Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor) dropped into a Town Board work session in Southold Tuesday to discuss some top issues holding the budget up and their local impacts.
At Tuesday’s work session, Mr. Thiele voiced his opposition to using the state budget to draft policy, particularly when it comes to the governor’s housing compact plan.
“[It’s] one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. It’s really awful, in my opinion,” he said.
Mr. Thiele noted that there is widespread, bipartisan opposition to the plan, which calls for 800,000 homes to be built across the state over the next decade to address the housing crisis.
Long Island’s housing stock would increase 3% over the next three years through a series of measures including major rezonings around Long Island Railroad stations to encourage more dense development. The state would also be able to supersede local zoning and override environmental review regulations that are typically part of planning applications.
In her budget presentation, Gov. Kathy Hochul included a $250 million infrastructure fund and $20 million planning fund to assist municipalities in their efforts to build new housing.
Many lawmakers, including Mr. Thiele, feel the housing issue should be debated apart from the budget and include input from local stakeholders.
He also equated the mandate to a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t take regional differences into account — like spurring development near railroad stations.
“The concept of transit oriented development is a good planning concept, but it presupposes that people use train stations to actually commute,” Mr. Thiele said. “Our district … we have train stations, we just don’t have any trains.”
Supervisor Scott Russell said Tuesday that Gov. Hochul has met with town supervisors associations to try and garner support for the proposal, but didn’t get very far. “I mentioned that we don’t even have the infrastructure to reach that and she said there’s money in the plan for sewer expansion,” Mr. Russell said, referring to the $250 million allocated for infrastructure to expand sewers. “That wouldn’t cover Suffolk County.”
Local officials across Long Island have been speaking out against the housing proposal, from town supervisors to school boards who say the influx of housing could overcrowd schools and put strain on other local infrastructure and resources.
It’s also been met with resistance from environmental groups including Citizens Campaign for the Environment, who argue that such intense development would negatively impact the island’s fragile water supply.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of CCE, said in an interview Tuesday that the organization would not support any proposition that eliminates assessment under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which requires government agencies to consider environmental impacts associated with development proposals.
“We have to find the solution to affordable housing and protect our environment simultaneously,” Ms. Esposito said. “We shouldn’t be asked to choose one or the other. We’re an island — we have to stop ignoring our environmental resources.”
The new deadline for approving the state budget is Monday, April 17.