scorecardLong Island Republican warns of 'suburban uprising' over New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's plan to rezone land to allow greater density for affordable housing
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Long Island Republican warns of 'suburban uprising' over New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's plan to rezone land to allow greater density for affordable housing

John L. Dorman   

Long Island Republican warns of 'suburban uprising' over New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's plan to rezone land to allow greater density for affordable housing
PoliticsPolitics3 min read
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to build denser, transit-oriented housing developments on Long Island.    AP Photo/Hans Pennink
  • A Long Island Republican warned of a "suburban uprising" over Gov. Hochul's new housing proposal.
  • Bruce Blakeman said that Hochul's plan would trample over the autonomy of local communities.

New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has set her eyes on addressing the state's housing crunch, as the Empire State has long seen an exodus of residents daunted by the lack of affordable housing.

But her plans are running into resistance on Long Island, the politically-influential region that's home to millions of residents and boasts some of the most affluent communities in the United States.

Hochul is seeking to mandate new housing in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which are known more for their expanses of single-family homes than for densely-populated communities. As part of her push, the state would be granted new powers to override local zoning laws in communities that are not onboard with her vision of creating denser developments which she feels would finally tackle housing shortages in the state, and especially in the New York City suburbs, where homeowners pay some of the highest property taxes in the country.

In the 2022 midterms, Hochul won reelection over Long Island native and then-GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin by six points, but she performed poorly on the island, losing Nassau by over 10 points and Suffolk by nearly 17 points.

For generations, Long Island was a GOP bastion, filled with fiscally and socially conservative voters from across the political spectrum. In the 2000s and 2010s, Democrats had made major gains in the region, flipping key state Senate seats and routinely performing well in presidential contests.

But the GOP has come back strongly in recent years; the party now controls the entire Long Island congressional delegation, and has won back several state legislative seats and local offices.

Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, flipped the county executive position in the 2021 election, ousting then-Democratic incumbent Laura Curran.

And he told Politico that Hochul's housing plan would trigger a huge political backlash in an area that has long had autonomy over the nature of its communities.

"You would see a suburban uprising, the likes of which you've never seen before, if the state tried to impose land-use regulations on communities that have had local control for over a 100 years," he told the outlet.

LIRR
Gov. Hochul's proposal would push for more multifamily housing developments near Long Island Rail Road stations.      AP Photo/John Minchillo

Hochul is looking to have a bulk of any new developments centered near Long Island Rail Road stations, creating the sort of dense, transit-friendly communities that housing advocates have long pushed for in a region that has never had a huge supply of multifamily buildings.

And despite the suburban skepticism, she has not wavered in advocating for her proposal, arguing that the suburbs have to play a more robust role in addressing a housing crunch that she said could have a "potentially catastrophic" effect on the state retaining residents — many of whom have left in recent years for lower-cost cities in the Sun Belt.

Hochul's plan would push municipalities to add to their available housing stocks, as she seeks to have 800,000 new homes constructed over the next ten years.

"The whole objective is so families can stay in New York, kids can raise their own families where they grew up, employers don't have to worry about whether or not there's going to be employees in a community because they'll have a place to live," the governor told state lawmakers in an address earlier this month.

The governor said last month said that New York State built 400,000 new homes within the past ten years, but in that same timeframe, 1.2 million jobs were created in the state.

Still, her plan remains a tough sell for other Long Island politicians.

North Hempstead supervisor Jennifer DeSena, a registered Democrat who won elected office as a Republican, told Politico that the governor's proposal made residents "concerned about losing the quality of life they paid for."

And Democratic state Sen. Kevin Thomas — who expressed a willingness to look at Hochul's full plan — told the outlet that while there is a "great need for housing out in the suburbs," he was not keen on a drastic rezoning overhaul.

"Out on Long Island, we pride ourselves on our autonomous villages and towns, so to say, 'Hey, the state should come in and override what they want,' is a bit problematic," he said.




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