The following was written exclusively for The Foggiest Idea, and published on July 24, 2017.
Within the same week, two of the biggest and potentially most transformative development projects in Long Island history won key approval.
First to get the green light was the Long Island Rail Road’s Third Track project, which will span the 9.8 miles between Floral Park and Hicksville—the busiest transit corridor on the Island where four lines converge. After weeks of uncertainty, New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan finally signed off on the $1.95 billion needed to make the decades-old proposal a reality by effectively removing the last legislative hurdle it faced.
Next up was Heartland Town Square, Jerry Wolkoff’s massive $5 billion mixed-use development for the former Pilgrim State Hospital grounds in Brentwood, which has been on the table for 15 years. The first phase, building 3,500 units on 113 acres, was unanimously approved by Islip’s Town Board in a 15-minute meeting that was as anticlimactic as it was fast. As the Suffolk County Planning Commission reportedly weighs its objections to the rezoning, three neighboring towns—Huntington, Babylon and Smithtown—may still shoot it down, but so far Heartland is making some serious headway after a long delay.
Policymakers and stakeholders were quick to connect the dots between the two huge projects, with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone remarking that the approvals show “the thirst and hunger on Long Island for getting big things done.” Their success has created a buzz that a new day is dawning on Long Island—but not so fast.
In a recent editorial, Newsday took the notion a step further, citing Garvies Point in Glen Cove, Wyandanch Rising and the Ronkonkoma Hub as part of what it called Long Island’s “21st century bold rush.”
Aside from the approvals coming so close together, the similarity ends there.
A public need with many virtues and benefits, the Third Track is critical for Long Island’s future. Heartland, on the other hand, is a private development effort that is excessive in size and scale.
The Third Track is a must-have transportation infrastructural project, as well as an economic linchpin that will ensure the success of other sizable Metropolitan Transportation Authority investments being made across the New York metro region, including East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway.
For the LIRR system, the additional track will also generate additional capacity and resiliency while triggering the potential for transit-oriented growth along its rail corridors. The project is being packaged with the removal of street-level grade-crossings, along with signal improvements, station upgrades and parking increases to ensure that the rail network can meet today’s demands as well as accommodate ridership in the future.
In contrast to the many virtues of the Third Track, Wolkoff’s Heartland is a mini city that at full build-out could yield over 9,000 apartments, 3 million square feet of office space, and 1 million square feet of retail. The sheer scale of the project is the reason for its years of delay as the township has grappled with how best to handle its size.
Yes, Long Island needs the housing, but the apartments Wolkoff is pitching haven’t had defined pricing as of yet. The developer told Long Island Pulse that they would be “affordable market rate,” which does little to address the disconnect between what’s being built in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and what the region’s population of young professionals truly want.
Heartland Town Square will also create large swaths of office and retail space at a time when Long Island’s market for both segments may very well be near the saturation point, especially as the commercial real estate sector struggles to adapt to retail’s “new normal” of decline.
Despite this new—and flawed—narrative being touted by policymakers, the approvals are impressive in their own right. For a region known for its staunch opposition to anything and everything, they are unusual. Heartland has been in the works since 2002, and the LIRR Third Track proposal has been kicking around for a staggering amount of time – nearly 70 years.
At a recent Long Island Association luncheon in Woodbury, Gov. Andrew Cuomo rightly celebrated the Third Track’s assent. He also announced that the relatively under-the-radar but just as important double-track construction project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma would be completed a year ahead of schedule. Cuomo, who has noted the legacy of the region’s master builder Robert Moses, is following in the master builder’s footsteps by having New York State undertake several large, cornerstone developmental efforts that span roads, rivers, rails and air.
But when it comes to the other real estate efforts here on Long Island, let’s hold off before popping the champagne.
Although some of the developments like TRITEC’s Ronkonkoma Hub are rooted in decades of sound planning theory and symbolize a new corner being turned at an individual site, a project like RXR’s Garvies Point is a controversial private effort on environmentally tainted land in Hempstead Harbor that does little to address our region’s demonstrated needs for affordable housing and true transit-oriented development. Despite its best intentions, even Wyandanch Rising, the site of much-needed investment in a troubled area, is struggling to get the necessary momentum it will need to succeed.
Sure, it was an historic week for Long Island, but each project must be judged on its own merits. Both approvals are significant, but their implications couldn’t be more different.
If Long Island is entering a new era, let’s ensure that this time we embark on a strong foundation of solid community planning that benefits the entire region.
Richard Murdocco regularly writes and speaks on Long Island’s real estate development issues. He is the founder and publisher of The Foggiest Idea, an award-winning public resource for land use in the New York metro region. More of his views can be found on www.TheFoggiestIdea.org or follow him on Twitter @TheFoggiestIdea.
You can email Murdocco at Rich@TheFoggiestIdea.org.
Be assured it’s not the “thirst and hunger on Long Island for getting big things done.” It’s the corrupt politicians who obtain votes from Unions heads and contractors and campaign contributions from the developers and unions for getting big things done. No one in their right mind would support this project, except for uninformed people. I would guess that not many are aware of the following tens of thousands of high-rise, high-density projects approved or pending approval across Long Island. If they are not enough for the uninformed, then I recommend they move to Queens or NYC. Also, note that Wolkoff offered an opponent of the project, who has some influence, a free apartment; just saying.
High Density Apartment Developments/PENDING or APPROVED FOR Long Island
Amityville North (Greybarn) – 500 Units
Amityville (Liberty Village, Veterans Housing, (Concern for Independent Living) – 60 Units
Amityville (Artspace) – 35 plus Units
Amityville (Oak St.) – 12 Units
Aquebogue (affordable) – 30 Units
Amagansett, 531 Montauk Hwy. – 40 units
Baldwin – 142 Units Bayport – 148 Units
Bayport (Fairway Manor/Islip Green) – 260 Units (45 & 55 and over) Bay Shore – 132 Units + 55 Units Bay Shore (Maple Avenue) – 90 Units (4 story)
Bay Shore (5th Ave & Union Blvd.) – unknown
Bayville – Unknown
Bellport, North – (14 Acres) unknown
Bluepoint, The Vineyards – 280 Units (55 and over) Brentwood (Heartland) – 9,100 plus Units
Center Moriches, Vineyards at Brookfield -146 Units (55 and over)
Copiague (Great Neck Rd.) – 420 Units
Copiague (54 Railroad Ave.) – 90 Units Coram (Wincoram) – 176 Workforce Units
Cutchogue (The Heritage) – 130 Units (55 and over)
East Islip (Westbrook Village – Sunrise Hwy.) 320 units East Northport – 256 Units (Oak Tree Dairy) – (55 and over)
East Setauket – Setauket Meadows in the Woods – 100 units
Farmingdale (Cornerstone, Bartone Properties) – 39 Units
Farmingdale (Eastern Parkway) – 27 Units
Farmingdale (Fulton St., Hearthstone, Bartone Properties) – 24 Unit Townhouses Farmingdale (Jefferson Plaza) – 154 Units
Farmingdale – (Main St.) – 26 units + 14 units (Staller Associates) Farmingdale – 53 Units Farmingdale Village (Bartone Plaza) – 115 Units
Farmingville, the Arboretum – 292 Units Farmingville, The Bristal – 145 Units (55 and over)
Floral Park – (Koenig) – undetermined at this time
Fort Salonga Indian Hills Golf Course – 108 Units (55 and over)
Freeport (Plaza West Bldg.) 250 Units (55 and over) Garden City – 117 Units
Glen Cove (The Villas) – 176 Units
Glen Cove (Garvies Point) – 1,110 Units, 12 stories high Gordon Heights – 118 to 340 Units
Great Neck Estates (Middle Neck Rd.) – 40 Units
Great Neck Plaza (5-9 Grace Ave.) – 30 Units
Great Neck (Plaza Landmark) – 93 Units
Great Neck (Avalon Bay, E. Shore Rd.) – 191 Units
Hampton Bays (Canoe Place Inn) – 37 Luxury Apartments Hauppauge – 150 units
Hauppauge – 98 Senior Apartments (Joshua Path)
Hempstead Village – 3,400 Units
Hempstead, Harbor Island (Cibro Oil property) – 140 Luxury Apartments
Hempstead (Island Park, Barnum Island) – 86 Units
Hempstead (Bedell & Main St.) – 240 Units
Hempstead (Washington & Front Streets) 336 Units
Hempstead (Village Loft) 29 Units
Hempstead (Hempstead Ave) – 12 units
Hicksville (North Broadway) – 350 Units Holbrook (Islip Pines) – 450 Units (NE corner of Vets. & Sunrise) Holtsville – (The Bristal – No. Ocean Ave.) – 140 Units – (Assisted Living)
Huntington (Oheka Castle) – unknown
Huntington Station (West Hills Rd) – Assisted Living – 90 Units
Huntington Station (Country Pointe) – 76 Units
Huntington Station – 379 Units Huntington Station (Ruland Rd) – 117 units
Huntington Station, behind Gateway Plaza (NY Ave. & Olive St) – 66 Units
Huntington Station (Northbridge St. & New York Ave.) – 16 units
Islip (Freeman Ave.) – 96 Units
Islip (Main St., Spin City Realty) – unknown units
Islip Terrace – (Wantagh Ave.) – 26 Units (55 & over) Jericho (Town of Oyster Bay, Underhill Rd.) – 280 Units – Assisted Living
Kings Park (Main St. Revitilization) – unknown
Kings Park (Upland @ St. Johnsland) – 80/199 Units (55 and over) Knoll Farm (Brentwood) – 240 Units (nixed) Lake Grove, The Bristal – 136 Units (Assisted Living)
Lindenhurst – (Gail Grace Manor) – 29 Units (55 and over)
Lindenhurst – (Hoffman Ave.) – 260 Units (defeated by the board & Historical Society 1/2017) MAY BE APPROVED NOW
Lindenhurst – (Bower Elementary School) – 100 Condos (55 & Over) $400,000 per unit
Long Beach (Superblock, Broadway & Broadwalk) – 522 Luxury (15-Story)
Malverne (Hempstead Ave.) – 12 Units Condos
Manhasset (Community Drive) – 72 Units (Affordable Senior Housing)
Mattituck – 75 + Units (affordable housing) Melville (Sweet Hollow Park) – 261 Units (affordable senior units) Melville (Huntington Quadrangle – Rechler) – unknown as of 6/6/15)
Middle Island (Middle Country Rd.) – 123 Units (half Veterans, half affordable) Concern.org Mineola (Mill Creek) – 311 Units
Mineola (former Corpus Christi Elem. School, Searing Ave.) – 192 Units
Mineola (Mineola Properties (metro), 199 Second St.) – 266 Units
Mineola Master Plan (Old Country Rd. & Mineola Blvd.) – 1,460 Units
Mt. Sinai, Pond View (Canal Rd.) – 97 Units (55 and over)
Mt. Sinai, The Ranches – 230 plus Units (55 and over)
Mt. Sinai, 35 Acres (King Kullen Center) – 200 plus Units (55 and over)
New Cassel – 68 Units (Affordable Senior Housing) Nesconset – (Pierson St. & Wilson Avenue) – 66 Units
Nesconset (Story Brook Meadows) Smithtown Blvd. 23.17 acres – 192/228 Units (55 and Over)
North Hills (Ritz-Carlton Residences) – 121 Units
Oakdale Center – 109 Units
Patchogue – (assisted living) – 146 Units Patchogue (New Village) – 291 Units
Plainview (Country Pointe) – 792 Units Port Jefferson (Shipyard on W. Broadway) – 112 Luxury Units
Port Jefferson (Overbay – W. Broadway) – 52 Units Port Jefferson Station Hub, Texaco Ave. & Linden Pl.(THE HILLS) – 74 Units Port Jefferson Station Hub, Tsunis Property – 97 Units
Port Jefferson Station Hub – 800 Units approx.
Port Jefferson Station Vista at PJS (Bicycle Path) – 245 units
Port Jefferson Station (Assisted Living) – Route 112 – 170 rooms Port Jefferson Station (vacant Ramp Motors) – 85 Units (55 and over)
Port Jefferson Station, Heatherwood Golf Course – 200 units (55 and over) Riverhead – 97 Units (48 units @ Science Center & 45 units @ Peconic Crossing)
Riverside (Southampton Traffic Circle) – 2,200
Riverhead (McDermott & Main St.) – 118 Units
Rockville Centre – 349 Units Ronkonkoma Hub – 1450 Units
Ronkonkoma (Portion Rd.-30 Units for Veterans) – 50 units (Concern.org) Sayville, The Bristal – 144 Units (55 and over)
Sayville, Village Green – 64 Units (55 and over)
Sayville (Lincoln Ave. & Sunrise Hwy.) – 64 apartments
Sayville (Island Hills Golf Course, Lakeland Ave.) – 1,600 units
Seaford (Seasons) – 112 Units – Condos
Selden (mini-golf course) 126 Units
Setauket (Pond Path & Route 347) – 130 units (55 and over)
Shirley – 450 Units Smithtown – Lumberyard – 56 Units
Smithtown (Whisper Landing) – 103 Units (Assisted Living) Smithtown – Concrete Plant – 260 units (tabled for now)
Smithtown, Whisper Landing – 136 Units (55 and over) Smithtown, Uplands @ St. Johnland – 175 Units (55 and over) Smithtown (New York Ave., former site of Administration Bldg.) – 250 units
Smithtown (Country Pointe) – unknown number (55 and over)
Southampton (The Hills, Golf Course) – 118 units, assortment
Southampton (Oak Beach Inn) – 37 Units
Southampton – 73 Units
Speonk (North Phillips Ave.) – 38 Units
Stony Brook – near Baptist Church location – unknown units (student housing?)
Syosset (Cerro site) – 515 Units + 110 Single family homes
Tuckahoe – 28 Units
Uniondale (Nassau Coliseum) – unknown units
Valley Stream (Gibson Blvd.) – 39 Affordable Units
Wheatley Heights (The Colonial Springs Farm) – 264 Units
Westbury – Meadowbrook Point – 720 Units – Luxury Condos
Westbury (The Vanderbilt) – 195 or 178 Units
West Babylon (the Bristol, Route 27A)
West Sayville (Pollack Gardens) – units (Concern.org)
West Sayville (Island Hills Golf Course) – 1,600 Units
Westbury (The Source Mall) – unknown units
Woodbury (Woodbury Rd.) – 95 Units – 55 & over
Wyandanch (Straight Path & Station Dr.) – 167 plus Units
Wyandanch Rising – 1,200 Units
Yaphank (Rocky Point Rd.) – 112 Units (Concern.org) Yaphank/Shirley (The Boulevard @ Yaphank) – 850 Units – affordable
Yaphank (assisted living) @ The Boulevard – 118 beds
BARCLAYS CENTER, BROOKLYN – 2,200 Units
5 Pointz – Queens – 1,000 (includes 210 affordable) Units
Citi-field surrounding area – unknown
Excellent point. And as it should be noted, Moses was not a planner but a developer. Cuomo is doing a little bit more planning.
This being said, if anybody wants anything to be planned we need realignment and restructuring of transit systems. This requires giant pricetags but can you put a price on something that benefits all Long Islanders? Centralizing towns, modernizing state highways to be freeways (I’m looking at you, 347) condemning abandon property and reverting to undeveloped green space, grade crossing raising parkway bridges (or lowering parkways).
Heartland and Ronk. Hub are pointless and not transit oriented. It’s just near a train station. We don’t have the human geography of Nassau or Queens, everyone will still drive. FIX LONG ISLAND BEFORE WE BUILD!