Development Council backs 13 LI projects

The Heartland minicity project in Brentwood is among The Heartland minicity project in Brentwood is among those on Long Island getting support from the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council in its proposal to the governor. The agency is competing for $40 million to be given regionally. (March 2011) Photo Credit: Handout

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The Heartland minicity development in Brentwood, an initiative to graduate more engineers from Hofstra and Stony Brook universities, and replenishment of scallop stocks were among 13 projects recommended by local leaders Thursday for $25 million in state aid.

The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council did not include the hotly debated redevelopment of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on its list of proposals meriting immediate state funding. However, council leaders said they support revamping the 77-acre parcel and want a specific blueprint from Nassau County and Hempstead Town.

The Island is vying to be one of four New York regions, out of 10, to get $40 million each in state assistance. That help would consist of $25 million in grants and $15 million in tax credits over the next year.

The winners are to be named by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in mid-December. All regions will receive some money in the competition for $200 million.

Ranging from the Ronkonkoma-MacArthur Airport Transit Hub and sewer improvements for Hempstead Village to the Wyandanch Rising redevelopment project, the 13 proposals are the centerpiece of a strategy to boost the sagging economy. Together, they would create at least 42,421 permanent jobs over the next five to 10 years.

"We're trying to create a new economy out here based on innovation, our people, our environment and our communities," said Kevin Law, the local council's co-vice chairman.

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The five-year plan, to be delivered to Empire State Development Corp. on Monday, was unanimously adopted Thursday by the 22-member council. It identifies industries that, if nurtured, could produce the wages and wealth lost to Nassau and Suffolk counties when the defense industry shrank in the 1990s. The growth areas are advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and health care, homeland security, information technology and clean energy.

Some of the projects earmarked for immediate state funding were proposed years ago, such as Heartland, which seeks to transform the former Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center into a mixed-use development with housing and commerce. Others are relatively new, such as an office, residential and fitness facility in downtown Hicksville for information technology entrepreneurs and investors.

Law, who also serves as Long Island Association president, noted the council's support for Heartland was conditioned on the developer's resolving his disputes with Islip Town.

The 13 projects would help achieve four goals: bolster tech industries, redevelop downtowns and areas near Long Island Rail Road stations, strengthen industries linked to a clean environment such as fishing and improve worker skills. Each project would receive a sum, between $500,000 and $6 million, toward completion of a portion of the work, such as a feasibility study for the proposed cold-storage and distribution center in Calverton for farm products.

Separately, the council recommended that 14 companies share $15 million in state tax credits. The companies, many of them manufacturers, hope to expand, creating nearly 4,000 jobs.

Besides endorsing which projects should get state aid, the council also publicly backed some high-profile initiatives that it said either didn't ask for help or still are a ways off before construction could begin.

These projects include a controversial upscale mall slated for the former Cerro Wire plant in Syosset, redevelopment of areas near Belmont Park horse racing track, giving the former Shoreham nuclear power plant site to factories making renewable energy products, and a second track for the LIRR between Ronkonkoma and Farmingdale.

The council, appointed by Cuomo in July, will continue working next year, overseeing projects that receive state aid and making more funding recommendations.

"These are the projects we are recommending now," said Stuart Rabinowitz, co-vice chairman and Hofstra University president. "There may be other projects we recommend very soon."

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