ALBANY - Long Island faces big economic problems that belie its reputation for affluence, but the region also possesses businesses and research institutions that can create good-paying jobs if they are aided by New York State, officials said here Monday.
The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council made its case for Nassau-Suffolk to be one of four New York regions, out of 10, to receive $40 million each from the state. Council members spoke to a five-person review panel that alternately praised and questioned the council's plan to boost employment.
Near the end of their presentation, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo entered the Capitol meeting room. In a surprise move, he said he wouldn't select winners of the competition he launched in July. The review panel will make the final decision, which is expected by Dec. 15.
"I could have sat through the presentations and gone through all the applications; I chose not to," Cuomo said later. "The panel that is there is really good."
LI not immune to problems
Earlier, local council co-vice chairman Stuart Rabinowitz said the Long Island economy needs a boost from Albany. He estimated 42 percent of local residents cannot pay for basic necessities and reported the number of jobs has contracted for six months in a row, year over year.
"I want to begin by disabusing anyone of the perception that Long Island is a uniformly opulent and wealthy bedroom community without challenges or problems," said Rabinowitz, who also is Hofstra University president. "Perhaps the most ominous concern for our economic future is that our population is aging and static. . . . We need to reverse this trend soon or we will lack workers in the future."
Toward that end, council member Samuel Aronson of Brookhaven National Laboratory touted the potential of 13 "transformative projects" earmarked for $25 million in state money if Long Island is a winner. He said an initiative by the lab and Stony Brook University to reduce electricity costs would create 418 permanent jobs and reduce utility bills by 10 percent.
Kevin Law, council co-vice chairman and Long Island Association president, said state aid would be the impetus for movement on stalled developments such as the Heartland minicity in Brentwood and downtown renewal plan Wyandanch Rising.
Reviewers voice concerns
Still, panel reviewer Cesar Perales was skeptical, noting the state would only provide a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to complete each project.
Rabinowitz replied that state money for road and sewer improvements was crucial because developers often won't underwrite such work, saying it's government's responsibility. "If the state made a modest investment, everyone would agree and the project would get done," he said.
Panel reviewer Dall Forsythe questioned estimates of private-sector investment in some projects. "Some of the leverage numbers . . . don't seem reasonable," he said.
Rabinowitz replied that the projects endorsed by the local council had been scrutinized. "We picked out the projects that we thought were real and the numbers were real," he said. "No funds will be dispersed until they [developers] meet the metrics and you get a real return on your investment."
Long Island is competing with nine other New York regions to be one of four to receive $40 million each in state aid, consisting of:
$25 million in state grants for 13 "transformative projects" including:
Expansion of Amneal Pharmaceuticals in Suffolk County, creating 400 jobs
Ronkonkoma-MacArthur Airport Transit Hub
Heartland Town Square in Brentwood
More scallops in bay waters
Engineering partnership between Hofstra and Stony Brook universities
Projected job creation: 42,421 jobs over 5 to 10 years
$15 million in state tax credits for 14 expanding businesses.
Total Projected Job Creation: 3,799 jobs over five to 10 years
SOURCE: "Long Island's Future Economy," Long Island Regional Economic Development Council