Looking for Direction

The first time I heard the word “entropy” was during a less than stellar introduction to high school chemistry. Thermodynamic applications aside, entropy is the measure of disorder in a given system. Recent world events would indicate that there has been a definite increase in societal entropy; and in particular, increasing entropy associated with the Long Island housing market.

Given the stagnant state of the real estate market, the increase in disorder was not unforeseen. In my April column, I wrote that Long Island was at a housing crossroads. Unfortunately, there aren’t any signs telling us which way we should go, to say nothing of the metaphorical congestion and angry drivers. Hoping to find some semblance of clarity, I asked for views on what heading we should point housing from a development perspective.

The responses were varied and were indicative of the confusion the market is experiencing. Some feared that further development is threatening the very fabric of what differentiates Long Island from Brooklyn and Queens. Others felt our inability to break from the mold of America’s first suburb will be our downfall and that new types of development are needed to maintain economic viability.

Despite the recession, housing remains comparatively expensive due to the issues mentioned above. For decades, planners—both local and regional in scope—have indicated that one way to lower taxes would be through consolidating the region’s hundreds of levels of government and related services. Given the midst of the current economic circumstances we find ourselves in, one would think this idea would be on everyone’s front burner. But it has caught little if any momentum.

Funny thing is everyone is for consolidation, at least in theory. And in almost every instance, that theory involves someone else’s school district, fire district, library district and/or local levels of government merging. Try proposing their schools consolidate and get ready for a bar fight.

Ironically, even as the regional approach to planning and development is discussed, more and more hamlets are seeking to take control of their own destinies and become villages, voluntarily establishing new layers of government. Also of note, some developers have indicated a preference for working with villages because of the immediate nature of a smaller governing body.

We know that whatever happens, the housing market that will emerge from the wake of this recession will not mimic the past—dwindling land supply and environmental requirements assure that. Given the state of the economy the housing market is not expected to make a roaring comeback in 2011. But that does afford the time to establish a consensus when it comes to housing and to be ready to act when we return to greater prosperity.

conor bly

Conor Bly has been writing about Long Island for the past 14 years covering, well, pretty much everything, from automobiles to zoning regulations. When not writing, much of his time is occupied by looking for that elusive perfect house.