The modern, auto-oriented, urban centers of Long Island are in crisis. Box retailers, changing economic winds and shifting populations are putting increased stress on those areas which remain. Urban planning needs to change, but we need not look very far for a solution. This concept involves rethinking how urban planning is to be conducted over the next decade by highlighting Long Island’s rich and colorful history. By using traditionally designed structures combined with simple roadway enhancements, newly created neighborhoods will reinvigorate flailing urban centers. Stony Brook and Smithtown are presented here as case studies, but this concept of redevelopment is applicable to any hamlet, village, town, or city. Read on to learn more about how the reemergence of past can help new centers prosper.
In order to redesign Long Island’s urban centers, we need to change the way we think about architecture. It influences our lives every day, from where we live to where we work. Utilizing styles commonly found in the region is key to creating neighborhoods that blend seamlessly into the existing fabric. A mix of small freestanding structures and large combined retail centers helps create the appearance of a traditional neighborhood. These new mixed-use buildings create greater concentrations of residential development, supported by ground-floor commercial establishments. Together, the blend of new and old can create a unified, desirable destination.
Located on NY Route 25 just north of the Long Island Expressway, Smithtown is representative of many Long Island communities which experienced post-war development. This development is not the enemy though, and can be used to our advantage. Utilizing roadway enhancements, along with street-front development, the entire face of Smithtown can be changed to foster a more welcoming environment. In this plan, Route 25 has been altered to a two-lane, slow-speed, multi-modal (bike, bus, and car) parkway with street-front parking. Box retail is maintained, but street-level development is added to attract clients and create a more walkable environment (the red circle indicates a 1/2 mile walking radius). Both large- and small-scale commercial development will work off of one another. Finally, through the addition of large street trees, and the reduction of asphalt, Smithtown gains back valuable green space, much needed in urban areas. The result is a vibrant and desirable new-old urban neighborhood.
Providing valuable green space is vital to Long Island’s future. Shade trees provide shelter from the sun, but also foster environments that welcome tourism, look beautiful in all seasons, and work to slow down traffic. Route 25 in Smithtown is a prime candidate for the creation of a new Parkway, reducing asphalt and bringing landscape to the center. Large shade trees placed in a center median, combined with sidewalk plantings and trees, will help create beautiful commercial street-fronts.
By creating areas which harbor traditional style buildings, we gain the appearance of traditional neighborhoods. These spaces will have a mix of redesigned architecture, with mixed-use commercial development at street level and affordable housing above. Together with green space and a sense of place, these spaces will foster much-needed prosperity in the region.
“Place” can be as small as a stoop and as big as a National Park. Imbuing a location with its own sense of identity is key to the rehabilitation of Long Island. Using greening, and traditional architecture to create neighborhoods, the combined area will be a tight-knit community with a sense of place.
Located near Port Jefferson, Stony Brook is a well-established rural community dating back to the 18th century. The principle focus of the existing downtown is a group of 1931 Colonial Revival shops around a town common. Stony Brook College, Grist Mill, and the Long Island Museum are all in close proximity, making the area a prime target for small-scale commercial enhancement. The development of freestanding commercial structures on the adjacent parcels surrounding the common will allow for increased density and a more tightly knit commercial center. Through selective removal and focusing of parking areas, Stony Brook will be enhanced by the addition of valuable green space. The result will be a more desirable location that fosters and attracts merchants and clients, and becomes special for its rural charm.
Stony Brook is already special thanks to its wonderful town common. A concept developed in the 18th century, commons are shared lands towards which early rural villages were focused. Prospering villages of today maintain this same focus. Creating commercial development to enhance the beauty of this natural green space is key. Traditional-style architecture helps connect the area to its roots.