Glen Cove Combs the Beach
Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi’s shoreline city has had to cope with cleaning up one of America’s 16 worst Superfund sites—a place so polluted the federal Environmental Protection Agency has to oversee its remediation. He has some sympathy for the less toxic struggles that Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray is grappling with.
“It’s tough to be a leader at any time,” says the Democrat. “The thing is, as long as she feels she’s doing right for her community you’ve got to admire that.”
By all measures, Suozzi is certainly doing right for his community with the Glen Cove Waterfront Revitalization program. The metal-working factory has been torn down, the belching smoke is gone, 120,000 cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste has been shipped to Idaho and Utah, and progress has been made on other polluted properties in the targeted area.
“The sites are cleaner than they’ve ever been in my life time,” says the mayor with pride.
The ambitious project combines environmental rejuvenation and infrastructure remediation, along with innovative development and smart growth philosophy. Glen Cove is working with state and federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, along with private developers. The revitalization project is being managed for the city by Michael Posillico, Donald Monti and Scott Rechler, who formed RXR Glen Isle Partners in 2007. They’ve invested more than $15 million so far, said Michael Posillico, who is also an executive vice president of the Posillico Group.
“It’s about a billion-dollar project,” says Posillico. “We keep spending money and we’re committed to the project.”
“They’re in the final phases of approval,” says Pat Halpin with appreciation. “That’s a $2-billion project. That one has really been under the radar.”
“It’s not under the radar, you’re just not looking at the radar screen,” explains Suozzi. “There are a lot of moving parts. The last thing you do is put the buildings up! It’s like when you go on vacation and the kids say, ‘Are we there yet?’”
Last year the Glen Cove waterfront plan received special recognition from the Long Island Regional Planning Council (LIRPC).
“The regional significance of the Glen Isle waterfront redevelopment is defined by its elements of smart economic growth and sustainability,” noted Michael White, executive director of LIRPC, “the result of environmental cleanup and public and private investment to provide jobs, housing options, a revitalized waterfront and enhancement to the vibrancy of the City of Glen Cove.”
By the time it’s all done, there will be 19 acres of open space, a mile-long waterfront esplanade, waterfront dining, hiking and biking trails, and venues for farmers markets and crafts festivals. A ferry terminal, which has just broken ground, would connect Glen Cove with Manhattan to the west and, if Mayor Suozzi has his way, other scenic ports to the east along the North Shore.
The mayor says he thinks he’ll be “in office for the ferry terminal ribbon cutting, but I don’t know about the rest of it.” Indeed, the project began two administrations before he even took office.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and a member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, is impressed by the way Glen Cove’s political leaders worked long and hard to get public support for the project they envisioned.
“I don’t think they’re encountering as much opposition,” says Esposito. “And I don’t think it’s surprising because they included the community early in the process. That’s a big difference. People have a right to understand what their community is going to look like. When you invest in your home and your community you invest most everything you have.” That’s a concept Moses put too little stock in.
“We’ve been very conscientious about what we’re doing here,” explains Suozzi. “We put together a new master plan because we want to control the development in the areas that can handle it. We want to preserve the suburban quality of our neighborhoods, the single-family homes, but in the areas that can take new development, like the waterfront, like the corridors that are coming in, and the transit-oriented development, we want to embrace these things but control them so we’re using modern planning principles. That’s what the new master plan was all about, and the zoning underpinning it. We’re looking at this professionally. We’re taking the long-term view. We’re playing chess, not checkers.”