The suburbs are thriving, but times are changing, and the long-accepted dream of a house with a lawn, driveway and easy commute to the city is evolving.
On Long Island, we are witnessing the rise of lively downtown districts within suburban counties, the increase of on-demand services; new mass-transit and micro-transit options; piles of delivery boxes from online stores; the evolution of the 9-to-5 workday, and the forging of a stronger, symbiotic relationship between New York City and the rings surrounding it.
As the top elected officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties, we readily embrace change. Our towns are no longer bedroom communities; they are true communities that have adopted a sustainable live-work-play model.
But without access to natural gas, this vision is in jeopardy.
A key to a more environmentally friendly future is transit-oriented development: apartment buildings and businesses clustered around train stations and transit hubs, which will allow residents easy walks to the train, not to mention create new housing options for folks without cars and easier access to other forms of transportation.
At the beginning of the year, Con Ed announced a moratorium on new gas hookups in southern Westchester County, saying it could not safely service new customers following the state’s refusal to approve new pipeline projects — putting in jeopardy numerous mixed-use developments currently under review.
National Grid has imposed its own moratorium on new natural gas service in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, saying it cannot reliably meet demand unless the Williams-Transco pipeline, which would run 17 miles underwater from New Jersey to a pipeline off the Rockaways, is approved.
The two of us believe strongly that without access to natural gas, there will be significant disruption for both the economy and the environment, as these transit-oriented developments will take more single-occupancy vehicles off our roads by encouraging greater use of mass transit options and creating walkable neighborhoods. Together, we implore Albany officials to ensure we do not have to halt the major progress we have made.
We care about climate change. We know how profoundly it will effect our island and our region. We want to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s because of, not despite, that deep concern that we know we need to develop our counties responsibly — by making use of a fuel that emits less carbon dioxide to build denser new housing and commerce where people need fewer cars.
The Williams pipeline will help us ensure that the historic progress we are making is not halted.
On Sept. 13, we traveled to Westchester to appear with our fellow county executive, George Latimer, at a business breakfast. The issue of the stalled pipelines and the ensuing gas moratorium came up again and again.
We are fully committed to new forms of renewable energy. We look forward to working together to implement New York’s Green New Deal. But changes like this take time, and we’re a long way from untethering ourselves from our reliance on cleaner-burning fossil fuels, which among other things provide reliable heat in the dead of winter.
Natural gas is the right “bridge” fuel for us while solar, wind and other energy technologies are implemented throughout the region.
The Williams pipeline alone was expected to displace the need for 900,000 barrels of oil consumption a year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in New York City and Long Island by 200,000 tons a year — the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road. We support it.
Smart development of our transit hubs will take even more cars off the road in the long run, and contribute to reorienting many people’s minds away from our car-centric transportation culture by reflecting the seismic shift happening to the traditional suburban lifestyle.
We can work through this issue together by proving to the rest of the nation that the ultimate pathway to a sustainable economic future is not reached by quickly severing the pipelines we need to get us there.
Bellone and Curran are the county executives in Suffolk and Nassau counties, respectively.