Vision Update: Complete Streets Summit, LI Lobby Coalition, Smart Growth Awards

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A report from Vision Long Island on the LI Lobby Coalition and a preview of the Complete Streets Summit. Save the date for the Smart Growth Awards now!

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2023 Smart Growth Summit

For more than 25 years, Vision Long Island has made a huge difference in our communities, connecting great people and generally helping all sorts of folks wrap their heads around the challenges and opportunities to improve our built environment on LI. Their 2023 Smart Growth Summit is happening Friday, December 1, 2023 from 8am-4pm.
 
It will feature over 1,000 local community, business and government, downtown revitalization and community development leaders. There will be nearly 20 workshops, 100 speakers, a trade show, and a concurrent Youth Summit. The breakfast “State of the Towns and Villages” session and luncheon alone are worth the program price. 
 
This is a great way to get an in depth, inside scoop on important local issues, including infrastructure, redevelopment, energy, human needs, small business, walkability, transportation and many others.
 
The LI Smart Growth movement generally attracts great people who care about the future of our communities. For an idea of the quality of folks who attend, check out these in-depth interviews hosted by Eric Alexander featuring a broad range of local leaders. You can also check out Vision’s YouTube channel to see important discussions they’ve hosted in the past, as well as people, projects and policies that they have highlighted. 
 
It’s really valuable stuff. Best to come check out what they’re talking about now!
 
Check out their website for details and get on their email list!

Complete Streets Summit – Let’s Do This!!!

Presser for the 2023 Complete Streets Summit. Photo by Katheryn Laible

Complete Streets Summit

The 2023 Complete Streets Summit recently convened by Vision Long Island was powerful and informative. This is an important annual event that brings local stakeholders together to address the tragic reality that Long Island has the deadliest roads in New York State, and to recognize the incredible potential we have to not only make our streets safer, but to make them healthier and more pleasant for our people, our environment, and our economy.

For the last 25 years, Vision has brought together folks who are passionate about community service; who care about better understanding their context, and who are willing to work together with others to make a positive difference in our built environment. At their events, there are always those who have taken great joy in being involved for years, and people whose faces are alight to be experiencing this group for the first time.

A big challenge Vision has is getting people to be quiet while the program is in progress. This is not due to lack of interest. In fact, the murmur often relates to the content. It happens because the relationships nurtured here are deep and valued. Folks are so happy to see each other, to catch up and to see how best to connect.

Those engaged cover fairly diverse sectors, perspectives, and walks of life. What they tend to share are fundamental values and care for this Island we call home.

Photo of presentation at the Complete Streets Summit. Vision Director of Operations Tawaun Whitty is speaking

The Tragedy is Real

I have always cared passionately about safe, inviting streets that are designed to serve human beings and that respect their broader environment. This year, though, the event hit closer to home.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Benjamin Daggart, a 16-year-old who went to my kids’ school, Benjamin suffered for two weeks before passing away after being struck down on South Oyster Bay Rd. while riding his bicycle to work at 10:45 on a Sunday morning.

He was not the only person I heard of lately who got hit, nor the only one who suffered for weeks before dying.

Surely. we can do better.

Benjamin was not the only person I heard of lately who got hit, nor the only one who suffered for weeks before dying. Surely. we can do better.

It's About Basic Quality of Life

At the event, I ran into Jorge Martinez, a longtime trustee of the Village of Freeport, business owner, and friend of Vision LI, who now serves an organization called The Age Friendly Center of Excellence. You can see a great interview of their leadership team with Vision Long Island here.

“You know,” he said, “being suitable for all ages isn’t just about the elderly, though that’s really important. It’s about our kids and their families, too.”

“Nassau County, in fact, is great in many ways,” he continued, “It hits six of the eight requirements for being considered an age-friendly community. The two it fails at are big ones, though.”

“Let me guess,” I responded, “Walkability/Transportation and Affordable Housing.”

He smiled grimly and nodded.

These are indeed key details.

“Nassau County, in fact, is great in many ways. It hits four of the six requirements for being considered an age-friendly community. The two it fails at are big ones, though”

Walkability/Transportation and Affordable Housing.

People Are Doing Something. Help Them.

I am grateful the folks of Vision persist at working with anyone who will engage to figure out how to solve our biggest challenges as a region, while operating fundamentally at the community level. I’m even more grateful that, each time around, more people seem on hand to listen hard, make connections and report on progress.

Ever human-focused, Vision’s work is incredibly down to Earth. Federal and state funding and other initiative are great, and they are a force at that level, but those regional solutions are really only as good as the local stakeholders who help shape and apply them. Our local elected officials live and raise their families here, care for their parents here, and more often than not work in the private sector here as well. It is these folks who know our communities and who roll up their sleeves and work with local civic groups to make things happen. Here.

We used to be grateful to have a roomful of people who cared. For years now, they have had roomfuls of people who are experienced and have real progress to share.

Stakeholders armed with markers and aerial views of well known streets considering the traffic engineering

Progress is Happening. More is Needed. Opportunities Abound.

Just imagine: Hopping on a bicycle and safely riding to the beach. Imagine not having to drive somewhere to bicycle safely. Imagine being able to get where you need to go without having to get in your car.

It’s possible. For many, often in the most dangerous places of all, it’s a necessity.

There was rich technical data offered by Elissa Kyle of Vision Long Island and Robert Nalewajk of GPI. There were resources available, and models to learn from.

Folks had much to report, including Daniel Flanzig of Flanzig & Flanzig LLC, Rosemary Mascali of US Green Building Council and Carter Strickland of the Trust for Public Land. It was noted that many walking audits have occurred. People from all walks of life came to testify how important safe streets are to them and what they’re prepared to do about it.

Over the last 20 years, about 40 projects have been undertaken. Legislation has been passed and funding has been dedicated, including at the State and Federal levels. There were over 150 stakeholders present at this Complete Streets Summit, including 18 elected leaders. Thoughts on how best to do things continue to evolve, as more and more models are springing up that are local and inspiring.

This is progress, but it is not enough.

Still, it is refreshingly cross-political, multi-perspective and thoughtful.

Dan Burden with Vision Assistant Director Tawaun Whitty

The Return of Johnny Appleseed

This year, we even got a visit from the Johnny Appleseed of Walkability himself, Dan Burden. Dan was one of Vision’s first inspirations and seemed honestly excited about the progress we’ve made in the 20 years since he last worked here seriously. He was impressed by the quality of those gathered. This is good, because making things better requires a great cross-section of stakeholders as isolated successes only go so far when the challenges are systemic and mounting.

We need this. People overwhelmingly want this. Let’s do it already.

Dan is over 80 years old, now, not that you’d know it to look at him. His presentations are based on lots of data, cutting edge engineering, and interesting models. Some of what he explains is counter intuitive in the best of ways. It’s very technical and deeply researched. At core, though, it’s simple.

Dan’s message is grounded in human values. As he was quoted in Newsday, “If we built what we value — we care about kids, we care about ourselves and our elders — then we will start making the right decisions.”

We reflected on those values, and considered the data. We then applied that information to real-world examples and thought about how we might make those places healthier.

In the end, folks stood together and brought it all home.

It was a hopeful day. I am grateful.

Thanks.

Here is the Presser from the Vision Long Island Complete Streets Summit

The run-up in LI Business News

Coverage in Newsday

At core, it’s simple. Dan’s message is grounded in human values. As he was quoted in Newsday, “If we built what we value — we care about kids, we care about ourselves and our  elders — then we will start making the right decisions.”

 

Let’s do this.

Grateful Thanks, Trudy

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” Shakespeare

I have an announcement! Many, actually, but this comes first: After 10 years as Vice President of Laible & Fitzsimmons Inc, Trudy is retiring.  I feel a bit like Dumbo without his feather. Even more, I am grateful for Trudy’s friendship, support and more as we’ve worked together in one capacity and another for over 20 years “to serve and celebrate folks who care for Art, Science and the Common Good on LI and Beyond.”

As Founder Emeritus of the Synchronicity Network Newsletter, Trudy will be the first member of an honorary advisory board that we look forward to inviting others into soon. For now, though, let us focus on Trudy.

She will tell you that since coming into this world in 1952 she “has done every crazy job that was legal and moral.” In the last 20 years I’ve known her to serve as a field manager, a seamstress, an architectural assistant, interior designer, bus driver, snowplow operator, cleaning lady, and a receptionist. She has worked with microchips and in product testing. She often serves as a poll worker during election season. In 2009, she informed me that she “wanted to volunteer somewhere she was really appreciated.” She then proceeded to become a nanny that gave Mary Poppins a run for her money, magic carpet bag and all. It was around then that she also became my business partner.

That story actually begins in 1997, three years before I met her when Charles Agius of Cablevision went through Long Island’s only community leadership program, Leadership Huntington. As he was her employer, Trudy ended up learning a lot as she assisted his participation. The nine-month intensive program was designed to Develop, Connect and Engage diverse community leaders using the Town of Huntington as a living laboratory, fostering stewardship across diverse perspectives. Once graduated, Charlie came back to Trudy – who was already an entrenched volunteer in her church, for local theater and in organizations surrounding her children — and said he would nominate her to go through the young program.

She did it, while at the same time fighting cancer.

Trudy became an ardent volunteer for Leadership. She attended in her own way to every class, save a few when she was caring for her mother and after completing her service in 2014. She was a board member for years. In 2010, when Leadership was suffering the Great Recession, she found herself almost single-handedly coordinating the program. She and Dianne Parker pulled me in. Trudy and I quickly ended up becoming Program and Acting Director together. She got to know many graduates of classes she’d missed and for a long time also volunteered in diverse capacities for the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce whose Chamber Foundation founded the organization. In 2015 the Chamber bestowed upon Trudy its prestigious “Klaber Award” to honor her deep and enduring service to the Town.

Through Leadership, Trudy became involved in Vision Long Island, a regional force for Smart Growth with a particular focus on down towns and local endeavors, and a champion of education and relationship development across interests. One of her Class of 1999 fellows, Ron Stein, was planting the seeds of this organization that first germinated as Vision Huntington. As a founding Vision Board Member, Trudy tended to every Board and Huntington Smart Growth Steering Committee meeting and did a lot of the organization’s early videography. I myself became involved when they hired me in 2000. Trudy played a meaningful role in early community planning processes and provided thoughtful, practical support to the development of the Smart Growth Awards and Summit. Since Vision’s maturation as a regional force for smart growth planning and policy, Trudy has served Vice President, Treasurer, and now Co-Chair. The role she really plays, tho, and probably always will, is deeper…

Trudy also served as Chair of the Ladies Auxiliary of both the Huntington and Suffolk County VFWs. In addition to much basic support to both bodies, she played a key but quiet role in securing State funding for much needed roof, electrical and other repairs to her local VFW Hall. She then served on the board of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, as well as the Huntington Housing Authority. She was also an early board member of The Moonjumpers Charitable Foundation, which was founded by Larry Kushnick, Robert Benson and Peter Mazzeo.

In the worst of circumstances, Trudy has been there for her community with soup, a blanket and informed guidance. FEMA certified, she served Suffolk Country Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), acting as both a trainer and a support provider in times of local crisis, as well as assisting in the creation of the organization’s Standard Operating Procedures. While Superstorm Sandy came the same day as her latest grandchild, she still did not hesitate to also lend a hand to that monumental cleanup effort.

Trudy Fitzsimmons is a loving mother, grandmother and an extraordinary friend. She has been a dearly appreciated sounding board and guide to countless folks who have endeavored to make a positive difference on Long Island. I am grateful for this opportunity to celebrate her, and look forward to great things going forward. I love you, Trudy.

The Summit is Coming! We Get to GO!

Can’t say it enough: These in-depth interviews hosted by Eric Alexander featuring a broad range of local leaders are fantastic. Learn and get inspired by these amazing Long Island community members….We do!

Honestly, like they always seem to, the good folks of Vision Long Island have done an incredible job of turning the challenges of the COVID-19 era into new opportunities to highlight people making a huge difference in our communities, and generally helping those folks wrap their heads around the challenges and opportunities of today.

Still. We’ve REALLY missed being able to see these folks in person. We are so excited that the Smart Growth Summit is being held November 17-19, 2021 and will have an in-person component on the final day!

 

Check out their website for details and get on their email list!

Vision Long Island Highlights Local Leaders

These in-depth interviews hosted by Eric Alexander featuring a broad range of Local Leaders on Vimeo are fantastic.

Check ’em out.

FOR MORE: Follow the Vision Long Island Facebook Page and the Long Island Main Street Alliance for news and information, much of which is particularly aimed at helping Long Island’s small businesses.

They’ve also got great stuff on YouTube covering and exceptionally broad range of local issues. Check it out.

Main Street News is a Must-Read

We’ve said it before, we’re going to keep saying it:

THIS IS VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT.

Vision Long Island and the Long Island Main Street Alliance continue to release daily issues of their new Main Street News.

This is a grounded, productive, community-oriented force for those who care about the economic aspects of this crisis. It’s sobering, comprehensive and helpful.

There’s news about what’s happening, what’s open, resources, proposed legislation and whatever else they can find to help folks weather the storm. They have also added a “Good News” component that highlights folks doing the right thing.

Check out their website. Follow their Facebook.

Vision is one of our strongest advocates for Long Island downtowns, and has been generally connecting diverse local stakeholders to learn and work together for the betterment of our communities for over 20 years. We strongly believe they are a huge reason why there’s as much healthy communication and collaboration in the name of true public service and community development on Long Island as there is today. We are grateful.

Support Local Business & Community Groups

Main St, Northport

Photo of Northport Village by Katheryn Laible

This is a really tough time to be a small business or a not-for-profit organization. While everyone is rightly encouraged to stay home and keep their hands off the world, bills are still coming due and people are wondering what’s going to happen to their income.

When you see one of your most go-getting survivors of a friend seeking donations for her employer, you have to stop and think — What are we going to do for our people here?

Vision Long Island is one of our region’s strongest advocates for Main Street. They have just released their first Main Street News offering a great guide to what people can do in terms of personal initiative, resources and advocacy.

Another strong advocate for local business that has been posting good stuff on their facebook page is the Long Island Business Council.

In general, some ideas that have seemed good to us include:

  1. Buy Gift Certificates. Consider simply sending a donation to your favorite local business
  2. Realize small businesses are often better for social distancing because they tend to be less crowded. They may even have that hard to find supply!
  3. Restaurants are closing, but can still do takeout/delivery. Even for alcohol!
  4. Realize many of these places care about their own health, your health and the community more than most ever realized. Know that many local shops are going out of their way to safely keep on keeping on — Book Revue in Huntington, for example is offering curbside service and even delivery. We’ve heard report of local hair stylists all but wrapping their stylists in bubble wrap. Look up their website/social media. Even if they aren’t advertising it, call them to inquire!
  5. Special events are hugely important for organizations. Had an event cancelled? Send a donation! You can check our newsletter archives to find 100s of great local organizations
  6. Strongly consider supporting policy proposals that directly support individuals and small businesses. While they are going out of their way to come up with creative means of keeping going, there is only so much they can do,
  7. Just be kind — Especially to the cashiers, service providers and others working through this. Just. Be. Kind.