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LI Regional Planning Council gets $125G lifeline

The Long Island Regional Planning Council Thursday received a $125,000 lifeline to stay open until year's end.

The Suffolk County Economic Development Corp., in a 4-1 vote, agreed to sustain the master planner but not beyond Dec. 31. The corporation gives financial assistance to hospitals and other not-for-profits.

The planning council, which has existed in some form for more than 40 years, tackles big issues such as development, housing and education through research and recommendations.

Established by Nassau and Suffolk counties, the council has struggled since March 2011 when Nassau pulled $200,000 -- or almost half of the council's $500,000 -- because of the county's budget woes.

Suffolk then phased out its support, saying the council was supposed to be funded equally by county governments.

Council executive director Cara Longworth said Thursday the county executives had suggested requesting money from the Suffolk development corporation and Nassau County Industrial Development Agency. From each, the council is seeking $125,000 for this year and $250,000 for 2014.

The Nassau IDA promised on Aug. 14 to provide $125,000 for 2013. And the state has given $250,000 but the grant is contingent on funding from both counties, Longworth said.

On Thursday, members of the Suffolk development corporation said the group couldn't provide for the planning council long-term without risking its independence from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone or violating its mission to create jobs.

"I don't want to see you close your doors," said attorney David Rosenberg. "But the funding should come from the county. We aren't the county."

Paul J. Tonna, the corporation's outgoing chairman and a former council member, disagreed, saying both groups want to expand Long Island's economy. "I would not vote for this if I didn't think this was part of our mission."

The lone "no" vote came from Steve Rossetti, a business broker in Huntington. He said "the money belongs" in downtown revitalization and other programs now that the Suffolk IDA has hired another planning group for $300,000.

At a Glance

What it does: Research and advice on development, housing, education and other issues

Staff: Two

Budget: $500,000

History: Established more than 40 years ago by Nassau and Suffolk counties

Source: Long Island Regional Planning Council

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