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Movie studio among LI projects vying for grants

Parviz Farahzad, owner of Grumman Studios, speaks during

Parviz Farahzad, owner of Grumman Studios, speaks during the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council meeting in Melville Tuesday. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

A new home for a Sag Harbor performing arts center, a proposed movie studio in Port Washington, academic buildings on college campuses and a YMCA in Lake Success are among more than 50 proposals vying for “priority project” status and the state money that often comes with it.

The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, which makes funding recommendations, heard two-and-half-minute pitches on Tuesday for construction projects, marketing campaigns, training programs and research initiatives. Each hopes for a portion of the up to $20 million in grant funding available to priority projects. 

Not all proposals will be endorsed by the council, which consists of business executives, union leaders, educators and nonprofit leaders, all appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Since 2011, the local council has secured between $60 million and $102 million per year in state grants and tax credits.

This year, a record 20 projects came from the East End, said Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association business group, who together with Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz, leads the local council.

The ideas presented at the Melville meeting are diverse, from sewage treatment in Long Beach and flood mitigation in Patchogue and Port Jefferson, to lighthouse repairs in Montauk and on Fire Island.

Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts asked for $4 million toward a $20 million plan for a new theater.

“We are faced with potential displacement at our lease’s end in Sag Harbor,” said Bay Street executive director Tracy Mitchell, referring to the 299-seat theater building on the village’s Long Wharf. “We plan to actively acquire land and begin construction of a new theater and parking. … with the goal of a permanent home that allows for continued growth.”

The developer of Grumman Studios in Bethpage proposed turning a vacant building in Port Washington into a $15 million movie studio. The site had been home to the marketing company Publishers Clearing House until it moved to Jericho a several years ago.

Parviz Farahzad said his Grumman Studios is “fully booked” until March, as are the nearby Gold Coast Studios and production facilities in New York City.

“There is a need for another studio on Long Island to get a share of these high-paying jobs that are being created in [movie and television] production,” he said, referring to entertainment projects by Netflix, and Apple. The Port Washington building “is ideal for a studio because of its proximity to the city,” which is about 40 minutes away by train.

Farahzad said he hopes to build six stages in the building and wants $3 million from the state. The council had previously endorsed his Bethpage production facility.

Officials from Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College outlined plans for multimillion-dollar construction projects to accommodate surging enrollment, including an engineering building at Stony Brook costing $100 million, and a classroom and laboratory building at Farmingdale costing $53 million.

Robert V. Kukta, a senior associate dean at Stony Brook’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said its undergraduate enrollment has increased nearly 70 percent in the past seven years. The college also now ranks 19th in the country in number of graduates, up from 46th.

“We really need space,” he said, noting the council helped the college previously. “We’re really struggling to try to get more students in, to meet the demand” of employers for workers.

Kukta said Stony Brook is seeking $2 million for building design.

Addressing Cuomo’s directive to the state’s 10 development councils to boost day care options, the YMCA of Long Island is proposing to open a 42,000-square-foot facility in Lake Success with Northwell Health. The facility will accommodate 200 preschool children plus infants, many of whom have parents who work for Northwell.

“High quality, affordable child care continues to be growing barrier to employment for many young families on Long Island,” said YMCA CEO Anne Brigis. “Our high-quality child care options will decrease absenteeism, increase employee productivity and retention, and create opportunities for professional growth for employees” at Northwell.

She also said the new Y, costing up to $21 million, could become a model for future collaborations between the YMCA and growing employers. She requested $4 million plus an additional $1 million for a proposed Y in Wyandanch that received state aid earlier.

Proponents of these and other projects have until July 26 to formally apply for aid in the annual Regional Economic Development Councils competition. The Long Island council then will make funding recommendations to Albany in the fall and Cuomo will announce the winners in December.

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