In an aging suburban area with complex and nuanced land use needs, regional planning plays a critical role in shaping the future of both Nassau & Suffolk Counties. Our provision of affordable housing, the assurance of economic prosperity in the coming decades and preservation of our environment are all issues that cannot be dealt with on the local level.
Recently, it was announced that the Long Island Regional Planning Council (LIRPC) was given a lifeline by New York State and both Nassau and Suffolk Counties in the form of grant funding. This is good news for the region.
While the LIRPC is not a perfect entity, its mission is critically important for Long Island– to step out of the local way of thinking and plan on the regional level.
During the debate whether or not to allow the Suffolk County Economic Development Corporation to provide funding to the LIRPC, Steve Rossetti, a business broker in Huntington was reported as saying “This seems redundant with what we’re already doing, there haven’t been substantial results from the regional planning council. What are their achievements?” This attitude is very common- especially when regional efforts either lay dormant or stagnant
To answer Mr. Rosetti’s question-The LIRPC’s achievement is thinking beyond geo-political lines in an area where localized home rule is the law of the land.
Here are some facts as to why regional planning is so important, and why we need to start seriously thinking about our bigger picture.
In 2010, our region’s total population was 2,832,882 people, with 1,493,350 residents living in Suffolk County (52%), and 1,339,532 residing in Nassau (48%). All of these people live in roughly an area of 1,196.8 square miles. The average population density of Suffolk County is 1,637 people per square mile, while Nassau has 4,705 people per square mile. All of these people live in 948,450 households, and work in roughly 94,660 business establishments.
So keep these facts in mind for the following:
Our roads are antiquated, our rails are overtaxed, our power delivery systems are substandard, our shorelines are eroded, our aquifers are polluted, our sewage has nowhere to go, our offices and retail spaces are vacant, our taxes are too high, our housing is too expensive and our economy is too reliant upon the fickle retail and hospitality services. Factor in the debts of our County governments, and well, it’s a mess.
Long story short- one land use policy in Town X directly reverberates and impacts the quality of life and effectiveness of land use decisions in Village Y.
It is not in the best interest of local governments and villages to think beyond their metes and bounds or their jurisdictions. Nor is it in the best interest of local policymakers to think beyond the election cycle. The policies these entities craft reflect this. It was with this in mind that the Long Island Regional Planning Board, the effective predecessor to today’s LIRPC, was created.
Who will think on the scale of decades instead of months, and across our boundaries instead of political fiefdoms? Regional planners- Be it the Long Island Index, LIRPC, the Foggiest Idea or any other advocates for regional thinking, these entities exist solely to think about the betterment of Long Island as a whole.
The best means to creating these comprehensive efforts? The latest scientific data to back environmental claims, assessment of regional excesses and needs, and good old fashioned public input to help craft policies that work on both the local and regional level.
Nassau and Suffolk Counties’ local governments, municipalities and policymakers would be wise to start providing more economic backing and support for regional thinking. Our future success depends on it.