Editorial: Long Island still needs big thinkers

Vincent Polimeni, a commercial real estate developer who Vincent Polimeni, a commercial real estate developer who proposed and pushed for building a road and rail tunnel linking Long Island to Westchester, died Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp, 2011

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Long Island lost a visionary last week, at a time when such people seem to be in very short supply here.

Vincent Polimeni, who died Saturday at age 70, was a commercial developer whose properties dotted the Island, but he also built as far away as Poland. His retail projects left a big footprint on the area, but many will remember him for his never-realized dream of a Long Island-to-Westchester tunnel.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

In 2007, Polimeni was visiting Poland and overheard contractors discussing the undersea Chunnel between England and France. That led to his vision for the Cross Sound Link.

The 16-mile road and rail tunnel would have connected Oyster Bay and Rye, and been privately owned. The cost was to be $13 billion, partly financed by big tolls, at least $25 each way. That sounds like a lot of money, but many who have driven the clogged roads between those points would gladly pay it. Such a tunnel would allow a lot of cargo to be delivered to the Island by rail instead of truck. And in case of a needed evacuation, there would be another route off Long Island.

Polimeni pursued his plan doggedly for years and spent millions of dollars on environmental and engineering studies, but the plan was shot down by the state in 2010. One of the greatest obstacles was residents on both sides of Long Island Sound objecting to construction.

Fear of change often holds this region back, sometimes wisely. Not every developer's fantasy makes sense (like an indoor ski slope for Riverhead). But sometimes these big dreams, like Polimeni's, are visionary, and still seem to have no shot on the Island dreams forgot.

Sign up for the Opinion newsletter and get the latest analysis delivered to your inbox.

You also may be interested in: