LI business, education leaders lobby state for development aid
Local business and education leaders Wednesday made the case to state officials that Long Island should receive $25 million in development aid from Albany.
Members of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council reported on how $161.3 million -- awarded to Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2011 and 2012 in statewide contests -- has created jobs, commuter housing near LIRR stations, skills training for young people and new products born of university inventions.
A judging panel of top state agency officials took a 41/2-hour bus tour of building projects backed by the state and then listened to a 45-minute presentation by council members. The seven-member panel will recommend five of the state's 10 regions to each receive $25 million in grant money; every region will get $10 million in tax credits. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will announce the winners next month.
Council co-vice chairman Kevin Law, referring to the damage wrought by superstorm Sandy, said Wednesday: "Now more than ever, we need the injection of state regional council dollars to further stimulate the Long Island economy as a whole." Law also heads the Long Island Association business group.
Of the grants sought by the council, the biggest award, $4 million, would go to two projects in Glen Cove. One is to reconstruct a road connecting the waterfront to downtown, and the other would create a public piazza as part of a housing and retail project, also in downtown.
But the judges seemed most intrigued by proposals aimed at preparing students and unemployed residents of Wyandanch for jobs. The initiatives expand on the Wyandanch Rising blight removal project, which also has received state help.
Through $3.3 million in state aid across 16 projects, the council hopes to "change the paradigm of extreme distress that has plagued this community for decades and realize the dreams of the next generation of Wyandanch residents," said council member Pat Edwards, community development vice president at Citigroup.
One judge, state General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito, lauded the initiative, particularly the involvement of Wyandanch residents in the planning. "You've done a great job," she said.
Several judges also noted the remark of a top official at Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC., about its difficulty in finding workers for a factory in South Yaphank compared with New Jersey, where the company also has operations. "I can fill my vacancies very fast in New Jersey, it's a challenge here," Amneal's Chintu Patel told the group during a tour of the expanding Yaphank plant.
Stuart Rabinowitz, council co-vice chairman and Hofstra University president, said he hoped the state's previous investments would train people for jobs at Amneal and elsewhere: "We have used the [state aid] money wisely."