New York smart growth bill signed by Gov. Paterson
The Smart Growth Public Policy Infrastructure Policy Act, which aims to spend more of the New York State’s tax money on infrastructure in compact communities and less of it in sprawling locations, was signed into law at 8 PM Aug. 30 by Gov. David Paterson.
“At a time when I’ve been putting all State spending under a microscope, the bill will promote fiscally sound and economically beneficial investments of taxpayers dollars that will help New York survive and thrive in the New Economy,” Gov. Paterson declared in a written statement. He described the act (Assembly 8011B/Senate 5560B) as “an investment in the long-term fiscal economic and environmental sustainability of the State.”
The act, passed by the legislature in mid-June, instructs state agencies, authorities, and public corporations to align their spending on infrastructure with stated smart growth criteria,” Empire State Future, a coalition of smart growth groups that had lobbied for the legislation, said in an analysis available here.
Peter Fleischer, executive director of Empire State Future, noted that Gov. Paterson had told a Vision Long Island Smart Growth Summit last November that “not making smart growth choices” may explain why 49 states have been hobbled by declining revenues.
The state Department of Transportation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Department of Education, and the Empire State Development Corporation will be among the entities required to focus their infrastructure spending in developed areas.
Infrastructure projects will be mandated to protect environmental resources, foster compact, mixed-use development, and reduce dependence on automobiles. Agency heads can override the smart growth criteria only if they issue a written justification of their decision.
Many of the agencies must form advisory committees that include environmental and community stakeholders who will advise them on making spending commitments in line with smart growth principles. Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, said the legislation “will help prioritize infrastructure investments for our downtowns while limiting NYS subsidized sprawl on open space.”
The legislation passed with overwhelming support in both chambers. It was sponsored in the Assembly by Buffalo Democrat Sam Hoyt and in the Senate by Westchester County Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer. The law targets spending on roads, sewers, water lines, and utilities “toward Main Streets, downtowns, brownfield areas, central business districts and ‘municipal centers,’” Hoyt said.
Hoyt noted that according to a national study, modest increases in average density, along with other smart growth action, can save the nation $110 billion, or 11.8 percent, on state and local road costs by 2025. Albert Caccese, executive director of Audubon New York, said the smart growth act should help to save wildlife habitat now threatened by sprawl.