The New York Times Editorial Board’s Verdict On Anti-Density NIMBYs

Long Island, a.k.a., the Island of Lost Homes:

“…efforts to build higher-density ’smart growth’ developments have been vigorously, often rabidly, opposed by communities wedded to the single-family house behind the white picket fence.”

The money word is “rabidly,” even though rabies probably doesn’t qualify as a “societal plague.”

61 Responses to “The New York Times Editorial Board’s Verdict On Anti-Density NIMBYs”

  1. Josh Mahar

    What I’ve realized recently is that NIMBYism in certain neighborhoods forces development to concentrate in others, transforming the area perhaps a bit quicker than residents can adapt too. This, in turn lets those NIMBY neighborhoods say, “see, we don’t want that!” when its their own fault that other areas are being overly invested in. It’s quite unfortunate.

  2. Josh Mahar

    I will also say that this reinforces my argument over at Great City about the need to build an American Identity of urbanism.

    http://www.greatcity.org/blog/the-urban-disconnect

  3. Michael

    While Levittown (or perhaps the Hamptons) might be the iconic image of Seattle, much of Long Island was developed around the commuter rail line – the LIRR. So, there are town centers on transit lines which support some density, but not really that much. The station area often supports a parking lot, a neighborhood business district with one or two story buildings, and maybe a few apartment buildings. Then is is single family homes.

    Long Island really opened up when Robert Moses pushed through parkways. He also prevented the LIRR from going to Jones Beach — that was only for car owners. As opposed to Rockaway Beach, which one could reach by subway.

    I grew up on Long Island. While much older, there are some parallels to out here. The NY metro area is also typified by lots of water and bridges. Much of Long Island was farm land, even relatively close in, until overwhelmed by development in the 1950’s and beyond.

    Segregation by ethnicity is much more typical, however. One could cross an arterial and it would shift from black to jewish to white catholics to WASP enclave, and everyone knew where the lines were. This was thirty years ago, but I don’t know if it has much changed.

    The challenges facing these older suburbs is a different from the challenges of the new suburbs. Older, more ethnically diverse, not quite urban, not quite suburban. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/16/nyregion/16suburbs.html. Perhaps a lesson or two for us as Seattle suburbs age.

  4. John of Hundinger

    OK, you guys noted two sentences in that editorial.
    How about the other 99% of the piece, which returns a verdict on Big Brother’s attempt to forcibly socialize the housing market, resulting in the biggest financial meltdown since 1929?

  5. Dan Staley

    The American Dream of owning a house is socialist? Who knew?

  6. Matt the Engineer

    I did. As long as the socialization we’re talking about is creating the freeway system back in the 50’s.

  7. jkpete

    While the NYT oped addresses multiple causes and effects of Long Island housing woes (largely related to predatory lending and real estate speculation), here we discuss NIMBYs. As a proud and loud NIMBY, I feel I need to offer my opinion from my little corner of South East Portland OR, in one of the so called “smartly growing” cities of the Pacific NW.

    In my mind NIMBY really does mean not in my BACKYARD. As in I don’t want some giant, soulless, ticky tacky, piece of crap, condo bunker, “craftsman style”, “luxury”, “high end”, “townhomes”, towering over my PREVIOUSLY PRIVATE BACKYARD. I don’t want a new driveway/parking lot right on my property line. I miss the big backyard with fruit trees and vegtable garden next door. I miss the old lady next door and curse her wannabe developer/speculator/player d-bag nephew who got the place for next to nothing and then destroyed it and built some overpriced crap that has sat unsold for over a year now.

    Now we NIMBYs are not against all new development, even dense development. In fact, I am all for truly smart sustainable development. I hate sprawl and wildlife habitat destruction. I would like to see decent, affordable housing built close to jobs, schools, shopping, etc… The problem is, is that much of this so called “smart” growth is just more of the same speculatively driven growth for growth’s sake. AND many times this growth is forced into areas where it is unwelcome.

    Now if developers, builders, and planners would truly work with neighborhood organizations and individual neighbors they could achieve much of what they want, which is, I hope, more sustainable development not just $$$.

    If these developers and planners want to get all experimental and large scale with their projects, they should locate them in areas where there is least likely to be objection to the existing neighbors. These places include underused, previously developed land in the urban cores and along major transportation corridors (surface parking lots, strip malls, and brownfields).

    These developments should be minimally subsidized by taxpayers. In Portland we taxpayers have given the developers too many tax breaks and allowed ourselves to be saddled with the deferred burdens of infrastructure improvements (new roads, schools, sewers, etc…) that these new developments bring. The developer/planner promised low income housing associated with the Pearl and South Waterfront areas has failed to materialize. But we are on the hook to build the new highway interchanges, bridges, sewer upgrades, etc… to service these developments.

  8. Dan Staley

    Well articulated, jkp.

    This is pretty much what we hear at the permit counter, public meetings, etc. The issue is: what to do? There are no easy answers.

  9. joshuadf

    jkpete, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog, unfortunately townhouses fall below the SEPA and design review threshold (or equivalent in Oregon in your case). Of course, the lower the threshold, the tackier and more soulless the cheap construction becomes. This is not “smart growth” as all, it’s as you describe: speculation. If the proverbial nephew’s developer didn’t build townhomes it would be a McMansion instead.

    The only suggestion I’ve though of is that historic neighborhoods in active markets could create a Historic/Conservation District to prevent either type of speculation, which should push development toward more appropriate locations.

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