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Thursday, October 14, 2010
As seen on Port Jefferson Patch.com October 14th, 2010:
The Village of Port Jefferson is currently drafting a comprehensive plan for the area, with the goal to reduce congestion, control areas of growth and improve quality of life. However, the problem is that three plans have already been drafted by governmental and professional planning agencies. There is substantial overlap between what this fourth plan is trying to accomplish and what the past three plans have already done. These plans originate from the 1960s, with most aspects of the plans going unimplemented, resulting in haphazard improvements and lackluster results. Essentially, the Village picked and chose which aspects of the plans were convenient for them to implement. For the fourth plan to be successful, it is very important for the Village to avoid the pitfalls of past failures, and truly examine why these three sound and professional plans went mostly unused.
While it may be unnecessary for the fourth plan to be drafted, the Village is too far along, and has spent too much money to turn back. For any comprehensive plan to be successful, there must be true public participation, spanning all age groups and demographics, from the plans inception to implementation. There must be sound data-backed findings and community needs identified, as well as professional methodology employed in the research supporting the plan. The plan being conducted by the Village fails to meet any of these criteria. The meetings I have attended were nearly empty, with the same people showing up time and time again. The survey sent out by the Village was unprofessional at best in both structure and content. Most importantly, I have reservations at allowing a politically entrenched engineering firm to conduct a planning study, when there are various professional governmental agencies more than able to do the task at hand.
Much of Port Jefferson’s physical space is already built out, but there is potential for growth. The plan should focus on the redevelopment of Upper Port. Executed wisely, this area can be the anchor of an economic rebirth. According to a 2001 Suffolk County Planning Department study, “There seems to be substantial usage of the railroad for transportation to work in multi-unit housing complexes located near train stations.” With Transit Oriented Development (or TOD) being the “in” concept right now, the Village is susceptible to the whims of ideological planning. Much of the time, TODs call for more density without allocating open space for preservation. Port Jefferson must find a good balance between the conflicting forces of the residents wants, the community needs and what the local infrastructure and environment can handle. In the past, Port Jefferson has been its own worst enemy. If the fourth plan is to proceed, let it be a progressive and most importantly, a document that can actually be implemented.
The author has worked with the New York City Mayor's Office of Capital Project Development and studied planning with Lee Koppelman. He earned his B.A. from Fordham University in political science and urban studies and master's in Public Policy from Stony Brook University. He has written and presented various papers on planning issues across Long Island, and has been published in various Suffolk County newspapers. He lives in Setauket.