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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

$1B from many state pots may be in Long Island's future

Workers put in a sewer pipe down the

Workers put in a sewer pipe down the middle of Straight Path, in Wyandanch on Feb. 2, 2012. Credit: Ed Betz

Almost a billion dollars.

And a dream.

That, it turns out, is a very real possibility for Long Island.

Because the region, as of yesterday, stands to receive almost a billion dollars, combined, from multiple pots in the New York State budget.

That's plentiful fuel for jump-starting the dream of bolstering the infrastructure, economics and quality of life in the nation's first post-World War II suburb.

But the success of that effort depends on setting priorities, and being smart about determining how the funding is distributed -- and who makes the decisions on where the money will go.

First, let's count the money.

Some $150 million will come in one-time funding from New York's $5.4 billion share of settlements from national mortgage lawsuits.

Another $400 million will come from a specially designated fund earmarked for "transformative" projects in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Which brings us to $550 million.

But there's more coming from a statewide transportation fund. And that could end up being somewhere between $200 million and $250 million. Which -- at max -- would bring us to some $800 million.

And then there's anticipated funding for the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, which likely has a floor of some $90 million.

And that sum does not include the potential for additional funding from the program that would come should Long Island's council -- as it has in three out of four contests -- emerge again as a big winner in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's competition for capital grants and state tax credits aimed at creating jobs.

In 2011, Cuomo appointed Regional Economic Development Councils to vie with one another for aid.

If the region wins again, that floor could rise to a ceiling of about $105 million, which would bring our total to $905 million.

Add to that another $5 million in state money coming to Long Island to help with the environment.

That would push our state budget funding for Island long-term projects to $910 million, enough -- thanks in large part to state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who pushed through the "transformative" fund -- to round up to that cool billion.

That's a very big deal in a region that, too often, is overlooked by Albany because Long Island's wealth obscures the very real need for infrastructure and other projects.

"While we didn't get a billion from the surplus, we got a billion from the state budget to invest in our infrastructure that will help create temporary and long-term jobs," said Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, the region's largest business organization.

So what comes next?

It's likely that the Long Island Regional Planning Council could be tasked with overseeing the environmental funds, which would be put toward water and related studies.

But the state would do well to funnel the biggest portion of the funding -- for "transformative" projects -- to the Long Island Regional Economic Council.

The council, co-chaired by Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, has done a masterful job screening and prioritizing local projects for Cuomo's state competition.

The region would do well with the council -- working in conjunction with the region's political, business, higher education and others -- lending some expertise to ensure that the Long Island (almost) billion dollars is well spent.

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