Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Gov. Kathy Hochul traded jabs...

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Gov. Kathy Hochul traded jabs at the Long Island Association event on Friday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman on Friday told state officials to butt out of Long Island affairs. Minutes later, Gov. Kathy Hochul shot back, saying if that were to happen, state money could stop coming to the region.

“Stay out of Long Island,” Blakeman said, responding to a question about what he wants from New York State this year before an audience of local leaders at a Woodbury catering hall. “Nassau and Suffolk counties send billions of dollars to Albany, to Washington and we get very little in return other than aggravation.”

Blakeman's comments led some in the audience of 1,100 business executives, union leaders and politicians to gasp, shake their head or laugh. There was no applause at the breakfast organized by the Long Island Association business group at the Crest Hollow Country Club.

Ten minutes later, Hochul took the stage, saying, “I'm walking in and I hear somebody doesn't want New York on Long Island … Should I just walk off the stage right now? You don't want me to take all the money with me though, right?” she said, appearing irked.

Hochul continued, “Bruce … I’m with Long Island because New York [State] cares about Long Island immensely … Nothing will keep me away from Long Island, and I will continue working with all of you.”

The dust-up between Blakeman, a Republican, and Hochul, a Democrat, took place 11 days before the governor is to unveil her proposed 2024-25 state budget.

The spending plan will include recommendations on funding for public education, environmental protection, economic development, building projects and other areas where Long Island has in the past received billions of dollars in state money.

Blakeman spokesman Christopher Boyle was asked on Friday whether the county executive wants Democrats and Republicans in leadership roles in the state Capitol to abstain from involving themselves in Island issues, or just Democrats. Boyle said on Saturday that Blakeman “was referencing the majority in the Assembly and the [State] Senate,” which consists of Democrats.

Previously, Blakeman and Hochul have sparred over bail reform, moving local elections to even-numbered years and her proposal last year to build more housing in the region by overriding local zoning laws in some instances.

The Hochul administration “has tried to dictate our local zoning authority from [Albany] with their initial policy toward housing,” Blakeman said, responding to a question from LIA CEO Matt Cohen, who moderated a discussion among Republicans Blakeman, Suffolk County Executive Edward Romaine and former Rep. Peter King.

Blakeman added that he supports housing near Long Island Rail Road stations in Farmingdale, Mineola, West Hempstead and elsewhere, “but that needs to be our local [governments]; it cannot be done in Albany.”

Hochul responded that Blakeman and other opponents of her housing initiative had “weaponized” an important policy issue and wrongly told the public that she wanted skyscrapers to be built in Nassau and Suffolk.

“I'm constantly changing and adapting to the voices that I'm hearing,” the governor said. “But I will not compromise on my belief that unless we are willing to build more housing in the right places, our prosperity will be held back because we'll lose the talent that wants to live here.”

Hochul said people are leaving New York State for Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey because those places are putting up housing at a faster rate.

She also said the state will continue to fund projects aimed at treating wastewater and protecting beaches and drinking water.

Blakeman presses for casino

“I understand how important the environment is, clean water, clean beaches and what's coming out of our faucets,” said Hochul, who has lived in Buffalo for decades. “I will … bring the resources we need here to ensure that this remains pristine as it always should be.”

The governor didn't mention the ongoing competition for three state licenses to operate three casinos in downstate, where she will determine the winners.

But Blakeman touted a forthcoming application from Las Vegas Sands, which wants to transform the site of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum into a hotel, casino and entertainment complex.

He predicted the $5 billion project would create thousands of jobs. He said Sands would employ 200 security guards and pay $1.8 million annually for Nassau police services.

“I cannot see the state not approving our license because if it's decided on the merits, we will have the best application in the state,” Blakeman said.

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