President's Viewpoint -

New Suburbanism and Next Generation Housing

Originally published in the 2006 newsletter of the American Institute of Architects, Westchester Mid-Hudson Chapter.

by Michael Shilale, AIA, LEED - November 2006

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Traditionally November fosters memories of falling leaves and Thanksgiving. It seems an appropriate time, as my term as president comes to an end, to thank those most responsible for what, I believe, has been a very successful year for AIA Westchester/Mid-Hudson.

I must first offer a heartfelt thanks to Valerie Brown, Hon. AIANYS, our talented Executive Director, who makes all of our chapter events run smoothly and whom I now consider a close friend. President-elect, Robert Stanziale, AIA, deserves a thank you for being a strong supporter and hard-working officer of our chapter. Bob has single-handedly taken charge of our successful golf outing, several chapter dinners and has supported numerous other committees and events. We shall be in good hands next year under Bob’s leadership as AIA celebrates our 150th Anniversary.

Carol Cioppa, AIA has served us well as Secretary-Treasurer, keeping us on a solid financial footing, along with taking charge of the Trade Expo and many other events. The rest of our board also deserves kudos, especially Ray Beeler, AIA for his great work with the Design Awards Committee and willingness to serve as next year’s Secretary-Treasurer.

The colors of fall, for me, are the most enthralling of any season. Along with providing a wonderful backdrop for Thanksgiving, autumn reminds us that change can be magnificent. Change was a clear undertone of our AIA New York State Convention in Garden City, Long Island last month. I was impressed with County Executive Tom Suozzi’s remarks regarding changes, both past and present in Nassau County. Rather than a New Urbanism, Mr. Suozzi is promoting a New Suburbanism.

He attributes skyrocketing property taxes to a lack of residential and commercial growth combined with rising expenses. Nassau County is therefore encouraging growth in three areas, Tourism and Entertainment, High Tech and High Skilled Commercial development and Next Generation housing. Next Generation Housing is the latest euphemism for affordable housing, which has also been know as work-force housing or volunteer housing and was previously referred to as low-income housing. No matter what you call it, the need is there and the idea is gaining widespread acceptance.

Mr. Suozzi understands the potential problems with the increase in density this growth will promote. The strain on traffic, infrastructure, school districts, and the environment will certainly be significant. His inspired belief is that the increase in density must occur mostly in our traditional, sometimes ignored, downtowns. His vision demands any remaining open space be preserved and any new growth be limited to brownfields and downtowns where multi-story growth will be a necessity. Change will occur no matter what we do and it is Tom Suozzi’s belief that if left to free-market forces it will not happen the way we would like.

I will leave it to others to tell you more about our fascinating convention this year and close by thanking all of you for your support of our chapter and our profession this past year.