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Suozzi blasts Hochul's proposal that looks to accessory apartments to curb housing crisis

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y.
Alex Brandon
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y.

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) blasted Governor Kathy Hochul’s plans to eliminate certain single-family zoning laws across New York. Suozzi is running against Hochul as a Democratic candidate for governor.

Suozzi claims Hochul’s proposal to increase accessory apartments statewide would be a dramatic change for most communities, especially Long island. Earlier this month, Hochul proposed requiring municipalities to allow New Yorkers to rent more basements, garages and other spaces to increase the state’s affordable housing supply.

Suozzi also wants to support affordable housing. But he wants the state to provide more funding to public housing and services that help people get out of homelessness.

“I don't believe in taking away zoning codes control from local governments. And I don't believe in eliminating home rule,” Suozzi said. “And I don't believe in the state, the governor of New York State or the state Senate and Assembly, imposing their will upon local governments.”

Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive and mayor of the city of Glen Cove, was joined virtually by elected officials and local civic organizations on Long Island, Queens and Westchester County.

“This is an existential threat to the lives of a huge percentage of the population of New York State,” said Paul Graziano, a land-use expert who had an unsuccessful run for New York City Council in 2017.

"Places that have large amounts of single-family zoning — obviously, Nassau and Suffolk County — I would say that the last time some kind of thing like this happened was probably when Robert Moses was still running the show in the 1940s and '50s, just bulldozing over local governments and deciding and making decisions like this."

North Castle Town Supervisor Mike Schiliro in Westchester said the proposal strips away his town’s authority to decide what’s best for their community.

“It's home rule,” Schiliro said. “We determine the zoning. We determine if there's enough parking, if there's water, if there's sewer, if there's setbacks, or variances. That's the localities decisions, not a broad statement from the governor. This is one of the poorest pieces of legislation I think I've ever seen, because it completely runs right over home rule. And one size does not fit all. And we all know it.”

Hochul outlined more of her plan during her State of the State address this month:

  • Help municipalities rezone to permit multifamily housing near commuter-rail stations in the New York City suburbs, including Long Island.
  • Allow sleeping rooms in existing hotels to be converted to permanent residences, as long as it is located in or near residential zoning.
  • Allow office-to-residential conversions of any building in Manhattan below 60th Street.
  • Support for a new tax-incentive program to replace a real property-tax abatement, known as “Affordable New York,” which expires this year.
Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.