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James Moore “Redevelopment Challenges and Opportunities”.
February 8, 2008 @ 12:00 am EST
This morning our speaker was Dr James Moore of HDR Engineering. HDR is a nationwide firm that employs 6700 people throughout the country and will open an office on Long Island in a few weeks.
The nature of their work is large scale projects, and they encompass buildings, roads, and rail systems.
Dr Moore began with the statement that estimated cost of bringing present infrastructure into class A status is $2 trillion. Yes, that’s trillion. In addition there are numerous opportunities for urban rebuilding. Moore stated that we have seen numerous pictures of visionary refurbishing and there is a long divide between pictures and reality. The reason according to Moore is the conventional zoning we have adopted will not let us get there. A whole new systemic approach is needed to make real progress.
Dr Moore explained in some detail the problems of zoning. We build parking lots near office buildings and then mandate that no housing can be built in the same relative space. If we had multi dwelling housing across from the office buildings the parking spaces would be used by the residents when the business day was closed and the residents returned to their homes. In addition any such mixed use campus must have transit interwoven into the fabric of the community. Sewers are also needed for a comprehensive plan.
It’s not that we are overbuilt, but that we are dumbly built (my words, not his). I brought up to Dr Moore an experience I had in London in 1985. While on a tour bus we passed a cemetery where 65,000 people who perished during the plague were buried. I said to the tour guide "while 65,000 people is a large number in relative terms with the size of London, it does not seem like a large proportion of the population." He informed me that there were only 100,000 people in London at that time. London was "overcrowded", but overcrowding is relative to the infrastructure you have to support the population.
Our present land use policies makes our present day Long Island overcrowded. There are ample redesign possibilities that would render being stuck in traffic a most unusual occurrence. Unusual because either a car was not needed to get to where you want to go, as in downtown living such as Northport or Great Neck or easy and frequent inner city transit as we have in New York City.
The picture painted by James Moore was very encouraging. He showed numerous examples of redevelopment schemes that worked in other cities. He also warned that one size does not fit all. Each situation needs to be looked at considering its unique geography, and desired outcomes.
Long Islanders who wish to maintain open space, need to plan the space they want to use more thoughtfully.
In that way we will have ample living spaces, mobility, and easy access to entertainment and commercial centers.