LIers suggest ways to create LI jobs

Gus Wade, who owns Wade Associates landscape design

Gus Wade, who owns Wade Associates landscape design in Wheatley Heights, addresses members of the Long Island Economic Development Council during a public forum in Melville on Wednesday evening. (Sept. 7, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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An elevated train connecting western Suffolk communities to Long Island MacArthur Airport, a new venture capital fund and day trips for tourists were among the suggestions offered last night to a state panel looking to create jobs.

At the first of four public forums, members of the Long Island Economic Development Council listened to residents' concern about protecting the environment, specifically groundwater, and enhancing museums and other cultural institutions. They also heard pleas for apartments and good-paying jobs that could potentially slow the exodus of young adults from Nassau and Suffolk counties.

For more than 50 minutes in a bank meeting room in Melville, 15 speakers pitched strategies that they hope will be included in the council's five-year plan for boosting the economy. The plan is due to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration by Nov. 14 and then will compete with those of nine other councils across New York for millions of dollars in state grants and tax credits.

"I know you are going to say it's too expensive but an elevated rail line from Babylon Town to MacArthur airport is doable," said Peter Quinn, who testifies frequently to Suffolk lawmakers on transportation and education. "If we did this and we had a truck terminal at the airport, we would have fewer vehicles on the roads."

Quinn, a West Islip resident, said the cost of such a big transportation project would largely been borne by the federal and state governments, not Nassau and Suffolk.

David Crane, an entrepreneur who has started five companies in three states, decried the dearth of venture capital. He said he is having difficulty attracting investors for a new startup despite his more than two decades of experience.

"You should set up a fund that's tailored to Long Island and can provide startup funding of $50,000 to several hundred thousand dollars," he told the audience of 60 people.

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A few expressed fear about the economic impact of 20-somethings leaving.

Gus Wade, founder of Wade Associates landscape design in Wheatley Heights, said large corporations such as Olympus were forced to move their headquarters out of state because young hires could not afford to buy homes.

"This is really a terrible situation," he said. "Only 15 percent of the affordable housing in the tri-state region is on Long Island."

A second forum is planned for Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Hofstra University's Mack Student Center in Hempstead.

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