Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled a sweeping infrastructure plan for Long Island on Tuesday — including a third track for the LIRR in Nassau County — which he said would reshape and ensure growth of the region’s economy.
The governor, in a speech to business executives and local elected officials, said the proposed investments in the Long Island Rail Road, airports, biotechnology and sewers in Suffolk County would spur business activity. He said his plan would increase the number of New York City residents working on the Island, keep young people here and support the creation of technology companies.
“This will determine your economic future,” he told about 800 people at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. “You do this plan or most of this plan and it’s going to be a different Long Island . . . and our children will have a better home than the home we had.”
The centerpiece of Cuomo’s initiative, to be part of his 2016-17 proposed state budget released next week, is a new plan for a third track on the LIRR’s Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville. He will ask the State Legislature for $7 million initially toward the project’s estimated price tag of $1 billion to $1.5 billion.
The governor acknowledged his proposals, most notably the 9.8-mile third track, would face criticism.
The Island’s powerful State Senate delegation signaled its opposition to the track, hours after Cuomo’s speech. However, some business and labor leaders expressed enthusiasm.
Cuomo challenged the audience to lobby the area’s 22 Assembly members and eight state senators for passage.
“This happens or doesn’t happen because of what you do,” he said. “This happens if your elected officials vote for it.”
Funding for the 13 projects that Cuomo unveiled to the Long Island Association business group would come from the federal and state governments. A previous allocation of $550 million for building projects in the metropolitan area, included in the 2015-16 state budget, will also be tapped, according to gubernatorial aides.
Besides the third track, Cuomo wants to:
- Spend $5 million to study the feasibility of a tunnel across Long Island Sound to either the Bronx, Westchester County or Connecticut.
- Provide $50 million for a parking garage for LIRR commuters at the Ronkonkoma station and other upgrades as part of the Ronkonkoma Hub development.
- Put $50 million into a proposed Center for Bioelectronic Medicine for the Nassau Hub. The $350 million center would attract biotechnology firms and create 650 jobs, the governor said.
- Invest $54.5 million for improvements to state parks on the Island.
Provide $6 million for a federal customs inspection facility at Long Island MacArthur Airport, allowing international flights.
Hire a private company, AvPorts of Dulles, Virginia, to run Republic Airport in Farmingdale, which is owned by the state; and reserve 27 acres at the airport and nearby for aviation businesses and other commercial development, and to reopen the LIRR station there.
Spend $1 million to study the feasibility of a deep-water port in Shoreham.
Cuomo delivers his proposed state budget to the State Legislature on Jan. 13. He and state lawmakers then have until the April 1 start of the fiscal year to agree on a new spending plan, which likely will top $140 billion.
Cuomo invoked construction of the Erie Canal in the 1800s and Empire State Building in the 1930s to encourage residents to embrace ambitious building projects. “Our history as New Yorkers was we took on the big challenges. . . . We need to reignite that ambition and that daring,” the governor said.
He urge residents to think big rather than reacting with a “not in my backyard” mentality.
“NIMBY and the shortcomings of the bureaucracy have stolen our capacity” for major projects, Cuomo said. “If we lived like this, and worked like this, we wouldn’t be here. Long Island wouldn’t be here. You would all be potato farmers,” he said, referring to the region’s agricultural past.
Business executives, union leaders and the Island’s two county executives hailed the governor’s plan.
LIA president Kevin Law called it “the largest investment in Long Island infrastructure since Robert Moses,” father of the region’s state parks and parkways.
Union chief John R. Durso, of the Long Island Federation of Labor, said the proposed investments “will provide economic benefits well beyond the dollars spent.”
Denise Richardson, executive director of the General Contractors Association of N.Y., called Cuomo’s proposal “the road map we’ve needed for a long time.”
In his 47-minute speech, the governor repeated his support for initiatives to reduce nitrogen pollution in local waterways and to protection communities against future hurricanes. The projects rely primarily on federal money.
Cuomo endorsed plans to connect nearly 10,000 homes in Suffolk to sewers, construction of an outfall pipe to the Atlantic Ocean from the Bay Park sewage treatment plant in southwest Nassau, and $300 million for the statewide Environmental Protection Fund.
He also announced an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will bring $230 million to a long-delayed dunes network to protect the Long Beach barrier island.
Cuomo, who takes frequent fishing trips to the East End, recalled seeing thousands of dead fish in Peconic Bay last year because of raw sewage. He said, “It takes your breath away. It’s a problem we have to get ahead of.”