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LI awarded $62M in state business aid; region not among big winners

Members of the Long Island Regional Economic Development

Members of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council gather Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in Albany for the state awards for the next year. Long Island got $62 million. Photo Credit: Hans Pennink

ALBANY

Long Island was awarded $62 million in state aid yesterday to support building projects and business expansions that will create hundreds of jobs.

But the Island fell short of its goal of placing among the big winners — as it had done in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 — in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s annual competition among the state’s 10 regions for development dollars.

This year’s big winners were Rochester, Utica, Albany, the Hudson Valley and, for the first time ever, New York City. Each received more than $80 million in state tax credits and grants that were announced at a ceremony here in a theater near the state Capitol.

The 2016 allocation to Nassau and Suffolk counties is $36 million less than the $98 million they received last year.

“I’m disappointed because we put a special emphasis on jobs in the projects that we recommended for funding,” said Marianne Garvin, a member of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, which vied with nine other councils from across the state in the aid contest.

However, she added, “there is always next year, and the awards that we have received have created jobs, helped the economy.”

The Island has now secured a total of $486.5 million for 569 projects since Cuomo established the Regional Economic Development Councils process six years ago to provide grass-roots input into how state government tries to spur economic activity.

The Island placed third in funding behind Syracuse and Rochester over the six-year period.

Kevin Law, co-vice chairman of the local council and president of the Long Island Association business group, said key local projects will receive money — just not as much as was recommended by the local council.

“You can’t win every year . . . and the priority projects still will be funded,” he said. “Any day that you leave Albany with $62 million for Long Island is a good day for our region.”

The 2016 award will be divided among 101 projects in Nassau and Suffolk. Some involve construction of buildings, while others involve training workers or developing products.

The most money, $2.3 million, will go to restore fish and wildlife habitat along Mud Creek in East Patchogue, the site of a former duck farm now owned by Suffolk.

The Wyandanch Rising blight-removal project, a past recipient of state aid, will get $1.4 million for another building with stores on the first floor and apartments above, and a new Long Island Rail Road station.

Rounding out the top recipients are three projects slated to each receive $1 million: pedestrian bridges connecting the Nassau Hub to Hofstra University, Nassau Community College and RXR Plaza; expansion of Luminati Aerospace LLC, a manufacturer of unmanned airplanes in Calverton; and a laboratory and factory at Farmingdale State College for Modern Meadow Inc., a Brooklyn-based manufacturer of “animal-free” leather.

“We recommended some great projects; I’m sorry that we didn’t win,” said Stuart Rabinowitz, co-vice chairman of the local council and Hofstra’s president. “But we will back next year.”

A scoring system determines how much money each project will receive. On a 100-point scale, the local council can award up to 20 points, and the state agencies with the funds, 80 points.

At the awards ceremony, Cuomo said New York State can compete for jobs in advanced manufacturing because of the large pool of skilled workers and training programs at colleges. He blamed automation for the lost of “low-wage, repetitive” factory jobs in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

“Those workers were displaced not by Mexicans, not by immigrants and not by Muslims,” Cuomo said. “Those jobs were displaced by robots.”

Later, Cuomo sidestepped a question about whether he was rebutting President-elect Donald Trump’s frequent assertion that U.S. manufacturing employment has plummeted because of free trade with Mexico and illegal immigration.

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