It seems that if the Jewish residents of Brooklyn and Queens are not moving to Miami Beach or Boca Raton, there’s a fairly good chance they’re moving into—or rather, squeezing into—the Five Towns.

They say that just about any home that goes up for sale in Queens is immediately bought by a member of the Bukharan Jewish community, who like to live with people of a similar background, which is our tradition, if nothing else.

The Queens residents who might be feeling out of place seem to prefer the Five Towns to any other location, while the Brooklyn natives are drawn to either Toms River or Jackson, New Jersey, which are satellite communities of Lakewood.

Here in the Five Towns, where we’ve lived for the past thirty years and published this newspaper for 25, there is a multi-story housing crisis that is being played out with no clear solution at the present.

Builders and developers in areas adjacent to the Five Towns own properties and some have already begun construction. Residents who live in the vicinity of these projects are either in full protest or panic mode, or possibly a combination of the two.

These words are going to be carefully scrutinized this week regarding my position on the matter, so I’m pleased to say that the ideas presented here are well thought-out, but at the same time, my aim is to air out the positions of various parties and not advocate in an extreme fashion for those who are either for or against the new construction.

The key to these new projects is that over the next five years, they could house a few thousand additional people. The difficulty with all this new construction, which is located mostly around the periphery of the Five Towns, is that our shopping areas will become highly congested, not to mention the increased vehicular traffic they anticipate.

Critics of the new buildings call it over-development and they make a strong point. The infrastructure of these small towns can only handle so much in terms of traffic and other services that a population like this requires. Others feel the congestion will affect their quality of life. This is beside the fact that there are young couples and families with young children who need affordable housing, of which there is a serious shortage.

Another angle regarding this new building, which is a positive aspect, is that older residents who want to downsize from large homes or move into this area to be closer to their children also need housing, which this type of construction project can provide.

The projects currently on the drawing board practically surround the Five Towns. Those familiar with the area understand that neighbors of the proposed construction project are literally up in arms over the plans. In some areas, where tony single-family homes are located, the project calls for the construction of buildings of up to five stories with hundreds of apartments.

While the plans call for largely upscale rental apartments, the housing law calls for as much as 20% of the apartments to be made available to low-income renters.

These plans have been under consideration for years, with the governing bodies overseeing the projects placing moratoriums on the construction for anywhere from six months to a year at a time. We’re at a point now where a decision has to be made, though there is a local group looking to invoke further delays from the local government agencies.

The sense is that this massive project, while providing vital housing for the people who seek to relocate here, will negatively impact our pristine, upscale community, possibly to the extent that it will lose its suburban cachet and become more like the overcrowded New York City neighborhoods these people are trying to escape.

Another concern is that the size of the proposed structures (as I mentioned, some are as high as five stories) will change the face of the Five Towns and nearby areas to the point that they will not resemble the communities we once called home, and could erase the motivation and attraction that made this part of Nassau County so attractive in the first place.

At a Town of Hempstead board meeting held on Tuesday morning, hundreds of citizens showed up who were fiercely opposed to these building projects. The focus by the speakers was largely on the motor vehicle traffic, which several speakers pointed out that in the event of an emergency or an evacuation, could make it dangerous, if not possible due to the overcrowding.

Another speaker pointed out that in her estimation, anyone who is in favor of further development in the Five Towns is doing so solely for the profit motive. The anticipation here is that there will be further delays on the development issue until the Town Board reaches a decision.


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