Sidestepping Problems - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2056313

Sidestepping Problems

When Tommy John Schiavoni recently hawked the affordable housing fund to the Southampton Village Planning Commission, he was vague on procedures but adamant that the town would have to hire “more people to administer it.”

More people? To add to Kara Bak, the director of housing, who echoes the “need,” conflated into a “crisis,” for “affordable workforce housing,” but has never made an appearance at public hearings for Liberty Gardens to verify that that is what it is? To add to Michelangelo Lieberman, senior planner, who, as “conduit between the Town Board and the Town Planning Board” on Liberty Gardens, seemed befuddled by what he should have been on top of, and coy instead of direct?

When questioned about the division of the property into two lots, with one omitted from review, which is segmentation and illegal under SEQRA, he was “not sure (sic) if segmentation made it into final scoping” to be considered for review in a draft environmental impact statement. That is the equivalent of a divorce lawyer in a contentious negotiation being “not sure” if the kids made it into the agreement.

The Planning Board, reiterating concerns that it is a terrible location and expressing lack of enthusiasm for the 60-unit development [“Citing Traffic and Limited Access, Town Planning Board Expresses Liberty Gardens Concerns ‘All in Caps,’”, November 22], questioned how it will be apportioned.

Misrepresentation, dissembling and intentional confusion have defined this $39 million deal, $29 million of which is provided by the New York State Office of Mental Health, which clearly dictates: “Individuals eligible for the project in question must have a mental health diagnosis and a functional deficit that impacts their ability to remain stably housed. As these individuals are also veterans, the most common mental health challenges these individuals face are post-traumatic stress disorder.”

When Lieberman was questioned pointedly about Concern for Independent Living’s actual statements about eligibility, he responded, like someone reading tea leaves: “It slowly revealed itself.”

“It” revealed itself fast enough when the public looked at the documents. Lieberman knew, should have known or should have sought out the state involvement and mandate and made it crystal clear to the town, and the public, what was proposed. This is a basic function of his job. Instead, he demurred and said the town is asking for a “marketing plan” from the developer that details fair housing requirements. Unfortunately, with a Town Board like this, and “professional planners” of this stripe, marketing is planning.

Addressing Planning Board concerns about bad location, Lieberman said, “It might not be the best location, but it answers a need.” The public must demand to know: Which need? And how is local need met by this high-density, risky, circumscribed development?

Can we afford planners like this to sidestep problems like that?

Frances Genovese