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BLOG: Planning to Plan is No Way to Plan

Community based planning needs to expand its scope and include all members of the community, not just stakeholders who always participate in the process.

Long Islanders used to get things accomplished. We built F-14 Tomcats that roared across the skies of Calverton, we discovered DNA in Cold Spring Harbor, and we invented the MRI at Stony Brook. These days, Long Islanders are known more for our high taxes and serial killers than our many historic accomplishments. This has to change. We, as the public, must become more engaged with our home.

As a young professional on the Island, I find it disconcerting how many of my contemporaries are disengaged with policy on Long Island. It’s not a sleek, sexy or fun topic, but policy is an important arena that permeates through all 2.7 million people who live on Long Island. Policy directly impacts the water we drink, taxes we owe, stores we frequent and quality of life. Sound land use plans shape our landscape for decades. The decisions being made now will directly impact each and every one of you for most of your adult life. The end result of my generation’s complacency is that the important decisions that I’ve outlined above are now being made by stakeholders, civics and policymakers who are detached from us. While some have good intentions, policies are being crafted by an older generation that basically will outline where live and work.

For example, the Town of Brookhaven recently voted to approve a measure that will plan two community planning sessions in the next months, in an effort to save the Carmans River, and create a much needed multifamily housing code. In the end of a long, arduous dog and pony show, the Town essentially voted to plan a meeting, where the “community” can plan. Planning to plan is not true planning. Planning is the process in which goals are set, data is collected, and the best approach is chosen to reach those goals.

Supporters of this approach tout this as an exercise in “Community-Based” planning. I say they are half correct, and challenge policymakers in the Town to take it a step further. Instead of actively engaging civics, who are so engrained in the development process that they themselves just as much insiders that they vehemently oppose, why not engage citizens from across the board, across a variety of age groups? Honestly, I am tired of being the youngest person in the various meetings, and I am 25. Why not craft land use policies that will support those not only in the 55-64 demographic, but 18-25 as well? It is almost comical to hear person after person speaking about “housing for our fleeing youth” and the “need to stop the brain drain”, yet none of my generation are actually there to say what type of housing we want, or why they are choosing to leave the Island.

It is the job of government to conduct planning studies, with full participation by the public. By “public”, I do not mean the same citizens who participate in the process time and time again, but rather, a wider, more accurate representation of the community. Villages, Towns and the Counties on Long Island should visit colleges, universities, solicit households and consistently interface with its constituents, asking them what they would like to see in their community, and how land use policies should be made. The findings of such a study should be made approachable to the public, and serve as an input to the Planners, who then will use an on the ground inventory to create an assessment of what is surplus and needed in the community. The end result should be a plan that is both implementable by government and created by the people. This is not a hopeful and whimsical request, but a throwback to the way planning used to be conducted, back when planning to plan was unnecessary. 

Richard Murdocco is a land use policy professional. Follow him on Twitter @TheFoggiestIdea. He lives in Setauket.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Matthew Lott May 01, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Well, you certainly can be called a Political Elite, as an employee !
John Easterbrook May 01, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Great editorial Rich, Since I was 25, I have been involved in many community forums and I too often felt odd seeing the next youngest person was about 45. The older generation seems to simply have more time to be involved. Young people have to find a career, a family, a place to live. Instead of spending the time to make Long Island a better place, they just go the easy route and move to areas they find are already more exciting and culturally diverse. They don’t think it’s easy to change the tide of suburban sprawl that has infected our land and our minds. Brookhaven is flooded by an older generation who left the slums of 1970’s Queens and Brooklyn behind to find a nice suburban place to live on Long Island. In my community when the younger people speak up and ask for downtowns and cluster developments to save open spaces, the environment and add culture, they are quickly squashed by the loud and powerful older generation who fear we are trying to turn brookhaven into 1970’s queens. I’ve seen super intelligent young people with great ideas get squashed by narrow minded older folks who are the noisy minority. Eventually the young people often throw in the towel and move out of state. Its political gridlock that wont change easily for years I fear. Are you familiar with the Rauch foundation? Read this article if not: http://www.longislandindex.org/Bricks-and-Mortar-Won-t-Stop-the-Brain-Drain-September.381.0.html
Matthew Lott May 05, 2012 at 11:15 AM
How can you state that "All of my writings conveys opinions that are my own, and is not affiliated with the Pine Barrens Society" ? Please tell us how that is possible ? It's a neat trick.
Matthew Lott May 05, 2012 at 12:27 PM
53 year resident says..."But I will agree with John: "I’ve seen super intelligent young people with great ideas get squashed by narrow minded older folks who are the noisy minority." This happens all too often." It's the Way Of The World, but in Brookhaven the Corruption is so institutionalized, normal conventions get squashed when it comes down to Money and Politics. And the next generation has the same weaknesses as everyone else. This "astro turfing" by the Pine Barrens Society is an illustration in point. Here is the next generation getting in a plug about the Carmans River debacle...like we are to suspend our intellect and say it's something else. It's the same old game.
RockyPointDiver May 07, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Hmmm... "astro turfing" and an obsession with campaign contributions, after using "Kabuki theater" in a previous post. Gee, "Matthew" sure reminds me an awful lot of another poster who was banned here under a different name. I wonder WHO he could possibly be? Rich, don't bother wasting your time trying to explain your "neat trick" of having your own opinions to "Matthew", he's a conspiracy theorist of the highest order. He's convinced EVERYTHING in this town is driven by campaign contributions, and EVERYONE in local government is in on the fix. As for his crap that more people don't get involved because they're "resigned to the fact that" Brookhaven is a corrupt "Feudal State" that can't be changed... I'm sure you recognize the ultimate cop-out of a chronic whiner that just wants to sit back and bitch & moan about the world around them. Don't let him get under your skin. BTW... nice to see an under 30 that remembers the Tomcat and recognizes it's impact and importance to LI. Bravo Zulu, young man.

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