A 60-story tower in the heart of Nassau County. Mechanical windmills anchored just offshore of one of the best beaches in the world. Farmland, or what remains of it, razed and developed into strip malls; townhouses packed in like sardines; or oversized, overpriced minimansions happening or proposed.
Wake up, Long Island. Pretty soon you’ll be living an area that starts to look an awful lot like the heart of Brooklyn or Queens, where dwellings and industrial buildings cohabitate the same neighborhoods.
I am just old enough to remember the many small- and medium-size open spaces that were so characteristic of Long Island. Many of those spaces were family farms. Understandably, as the economy changed and the farms were no longer viable businesses, they passed into the hands of people and developers who saw a different value for the land. Regrettably, one by one, the greenbelts disappeared. Thousands of transplants from the city and elsewhere clamored to occupy the housing that sprouted up.
A look back will give you a hint at what the future holds. Think five, 10, 15, 20 years back and then think about what has changed. Will you still want to live here if it continues?
Unchecked development, especially deep money, special interest projects, will eventually destroy the look and feel of Long Island. And as the space to perform these seemingly progressive developments dwindles, the powerful and political types will start to look at areas and neighborhoods and possibly whole towns that can be redone for greater economic gain. Do the words “eminent domain” mean anything to you?
There needs to be a theoretical stop sign installed in the building departments and zoning boards from the city line to Montauk. Long Island is unique in terms of choices for living and recreation. Millions of tourists are returning to our shores. Without the abundant activities, especially the shoreline, who will want to spend time here?
I am not against progress. The world has always moved on. My message is, “Be careful with the decisions that dramatically affect the Long Island characteristics that have served us so well.”
Greg Demetriou is CEO of Lorraine Gregory Communications.