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New tool hopes to change how Long Island understands its complex zoning

Members from Community Development Long Island, the Rauch Foundation, the Long Island Community Foundation and CUNY Graduate Center taken at the news conference.
Jennifer Solomon
Members from Community Development Long Island, the Rauch Foundation, the Long Island Community Foundation and CUNY Graduate Center taken at the news conference.

Long Islanders can now access a new tool to help understand residential zoning districts and how they interact with municipalities, service districts and even environmental areas. A group of nonprofit organizations created an online map that shows the 1,200 different zones that impact homeowners, developers and housing advocates.

The online tool, called the "Zoning Atlas," gives a bird’s eye view of what kind of housing is permitted across Nassau and Suffolk counties. It can be filtered to show details like public transportation routes, downtown areas, current land use and special districts for services like sewers, schools, ambulances and sanitation.

The mapping tool could be used to help address the island’s housing crisis according to Gwen O'Shea, president of Community Development Long Island, because it shows which areas permit multi-family housing with overlays for other services. DCLI partnered with the Rauch Foundation, the Long Island Community Foundation and the CUNY Graduate Center to create it.

“This tool provides an opportunity for individuals and governments to really look at, what are the zoning districts, what are the opportunities, what are the challenges and barriers to creating and growing a community in a way that allows the region — individually and collectively — to really thrive,” O'Shea said at a news conference on Wednesday when the nonprofits announced the map's launch.

It can help developers see what building opportunities are available, and help officials and housing advocates understand how housing policies impact homeowners and communities.

“One of the central issues that we see is this lack of affordable housing and these high housing cost burdens which are keeping people from really meeting their full potential," said Sol Marie Alfonso-Jones, program director at the Long Island Community Foundation. "So it’s really exciting to see a tool that can help address all Long Islanders' issues because housing affects us all."

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.