There is barely a committee, organization or group that hasn’t, at one time or another, had Mitch Pally as a member or a director. His resume is so chockablock with names of government or private agencies that it would seem he would be a household name on Long Island. But Pally is more of a behind-the-scenes guy, preferring to roll up his sleeves and let the other guy take the credit, those who know him well say. He is currently chief executive officer of the Long Island Builders Institute, a post he has held since 2010. He was Suffolk County’s representative to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority between 2005 and 2019. He may best be known for his ties to the Long Island Association, where he was vice president for government affairs, from 1992 to 2006. He has also held a number of positions with the New York State Legislature.
What is the Long Island Builders Institute all about? We are the trade association for residential home builders and anyone else in the industry. That includes small firms all the way up to giants like Avalon Bay. It includes real estate people, lawyers, people involved in development. We have 575 members. We are the largest local organization of this type in the state and within the top 10 percent in the country.
Are you also lobbyists? That’s a good way to put it. We promote and lobby for the industry.
You have been fighting against what’s called the Scaffold Law. What’s that all about? The law goes back over 100 years. It says that any worker off the ground, it doesn’t say by how high, who falls and gets injured, there is no defense for the builder. New York State is the only one in the country that has such a law. The law increases insurance costs by 40 percent.
Has anything happened recently to cause you to fight this law? We have been working on this for a while. We don’t think it’s fair that there is no defense for the builder. We think if the builder is held 50 percent responsible, he should pay 50 percent. But under this law, the builder pays 100 percent.
Have you had much success so far? We’re getting more attention but not much success convincing the state legislature or the governor.
Long Island’s demographics are changing dramatically. What does this mean for builders? We are not building as many single-family homes as we used to. We don’t have the available land. Many of our young people and seniors want something where they don’t have to do maintenance work. As a result, the rental market on Long Island is strong. Downtowns are realizing that the way to survive is to build rental apartments.
So are the days of the single-family home on Long Island over? There will be a moderation of such building. As long as builders are able to build smaller, there will be a healthy market, but it will be a different market. Builders will have to change with the market.
It’s hard to think of Long Island without new single-family home construction. We don’t have the land and we don’t have the sewer systems.
Let’s talk about affordable housing. Do we have enough? We have to build more affordable rental apartments. There are not enough. The young people, and many of the seniors, want rentals in downtown areas, near train stations, shopping and entertainment.
How do you see our downtowns? Some of them are more forward-looking than others. Patchogue is the best example of being forward-looking. But other places are as well, like Mineola, Port Jefferson, and Farmingdale.
How is the industry doing on Long Island? Very well, as long as builders know their market, that it is less single-family and more rental units. There are also knockdowns. This means taking down an existing house and putting up something else. That’s going on a lot too these days.