By Mara Certic
In a conversation with members of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee last week, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, a candidate for Southampton Town supervisor, said he would like to see the town impose a moratorium on new applications for proposed planned development districts, or PDDs, in order to reevaluate the law.
While much of the evening was spent with committee members asking Mr. Schneiderman what he would do for the Southampton residents still tormented by noise from East Hampton Airport, Mr. Schneiderman also spoke about how he would try to promote affordable housing, rein in development, control traffic and protect infrastructure and water.
Mr. Schneiderman, who has been county legislator for the past 12 years, announced his run for supervisor earlier this year. He has served the allowable number of terms as legislator, and although a former Montauk resident and East Hampton Town supervisor from 1999 to 2003, he has set his sights on Southampton, where he has lived for the past several years, and where his children go to school.
Mr. Schneiderman said he could speak as both legislator and candidate for supervisor, as he discussed his experience representing Southampton on a county level for the past 12 years, and as supervisor in East Hampton for the four years before that.
“The South Fork is the South Fork. There’s no magic that happens when you cross that line,” he said about the similarity between the two towns.
Among his past successes, he said he helped pass the first no texting while driving law—before the ubiquity of cell phones; facilitated traffic on County Road 39; increased bus service to run on Sundays and holidays; and more recently, secured $6 million for the Hampton Bays community.
“And the people of East Hampton seem to remember me fondly, which is nice,” he said.
One of the big hot topics among CACs throughout the town is the issue of PDDs, which allow for zoning districts to be changed to allow for new development. While the PDDs can be used to improve areas by providing services, and are supposed to include greater community benefits, many have become concerned that they allow for large-scale, big box development in already overcrowded areas.
“To me, the PDD thing makes a lot of sense if the town is sponsoring it, or if it’s a not-for-profit, but we haven’t seen a bunch of those,” Mr. Schneiderman said. The majority of the applications before the town were initiated by developers.
Mr. Schneiderman said the PDD seemed like a useful tool, and makes sense for certain projects, the like the plan to revive Riverside.
“What I would likely do is look for a moratorium, for a year, on new PDD applications and give the town a chance to look at the law and see if it’s doing what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “It would give the town the ability to hold off. There are a lot already on the table.”
“In many ways we’re past the carrying capacity of our environment and of our roadways,” he added.
The handful of CAC members in attendance seemed much happier with that response, than they were with some of the legislator’s answers to their airport queries.
When asked what he thought of the airport restrictions the Town of East Hampton proposed earlier this year, Mr. Schneiderman said, “I thought the curfews made sense. I was concerned about the weekend prohibition. I did think the one-time a week thing didn’t make sense,” adding that for some people, air travel is their form of transportation. “If you told me I could only drive across the town line once a week, that’d be the problem,” he said.
When asked if he would consider a weekend ban on helicopters, he said, “I’m not prepared to say I would ban categories of aircraft.” Mr. Schneiderman also did not criticize current Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst’s demand for an aircraft diversion study before the restrictions were put in place.
“That’s just due diligence,” he said.
Sag Harbor resident Eric Cohen asked the candidate what he would do to create affordable housing in one of the most expensive places in the county. Mr. Schneiderman said allowing affordable accessory apartments would be one way to start.
The town could administer a program, he said, in which homeowners could get a low-interest loan to build the apartment, that wouldn’t increase taxes.
“That could provide units without burdening school systems, and it would be reducing traffic problems, because you’re getting the employee closer to where they work,” he said.
Providing affordable housing, along with continuing to improve bus and train service, would be one way to help the traffic flow along Noyac Road, which residents say can be dangerous.