Next year is likely to bring much change to Long Island — welcome and not so welcome. Here are 10 things Long Islanders should expect in 2010:
1. JOBS WILL STILL BE HARD TO COME BY
The region’s economy is expected to keep moving at a snail’s pace.
So new jobs won’t come soon, according to Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association.
Moving forward, she said, will require significant, structural change that will produce new types of jobs to replace those that have left. And schools and businesses will need time to retrain the Island’s workforce in newly emerging fields such as medical technology and “green” jobs.
Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Economic and Social Policy Institute at Dowling College, was only slightly more optimistic about prospects for full-time jobs in the region — but said he does expect growth in part-time jobs.
Perhaps by autumn.
2. A TOUGH YEAR FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS
With money so tight, this could be the year of larger class sizes, teacher layoffs and more teachers’ union concessions.
Spring school budget votes won’t come easy here.
And nobody’s talking about a property tax cap anymore.
There have been suggestions that teachers’ contracts be negotiated by region rather than district — a move with the potential to slow increases in salary and health care costs. And there’s the possibility of aggressive consolidation of school business functions such as payroll.
3. INCUMBENTS FIGHT FOR THEIR JOBS
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict more discord in state government. But 2010 offers fed-up voters a bonus: the opportunity to shake things up by shoving out incumbents come Election Day.
As it is, state Sens. Brian Foley of Blue Point and Craig Johnson of Port Washington, two local Democrats, are feeling the heat because they went along with the Democratic majority in supporting the onerous MTA payroll tax.
4. MORE FORECLOSURES ON THE WAY
According to Kamer of the LIA, the decline in home prices on Long Island appears to be ending.
But don’t start the celebration yet.
Next year, more local houses will enter the foreclosure process. And, according to Kamer, most of those involve prime mortgage holders who have lost their jobs.
The foreclosure crisis to not expected to ease until the end of 2010, she said.
5. CONTROLLING COUNTY TAXES
In Suffolk, where County Executive Steve Levy is eyeing the prospect of higher office — maybe even as a Republican — his tight-fistedness is paying off. The 2010 budget has a few one-shots but nothing the county can’t handle.
But in Nassau, incoming County Executive Edward Mangano has the bigger challenge. And it’s the same one outgoing County Executive Thomas Suozzi once had: assessment.
As long as residents don’t trust the assessment system, Nassau’s finances will be shaky. That’s because so many property owners grieve their assessments — and win — that Nassau continues to pay out millions in tax refunds and interest.
That’s why Mangano has identified assessment as one of his administration’s first priorities. Expect him to move swiftly.
6. MORE SEWERS ON THE WAY
There’s nothing sexy about sewers. But if the region is to grow — and get residents working — it’s essential they get built.
Mangano and Levy also will collaborate on another key issue: Stopping the spread of heroin.
7. THE BIG THREE MOVE SLOWLY
It will take a miracle to get a shovel in the ground next year for the Lighthouse in Uniondale, Heartland in Brentwood or Levy’s proposal to build a mixed-use development in Yaphank. And that’s not just because of a tight lending market.
Residents of the Land of the Single-Family Home hate the idea of higher density. Which is too bad, local economists and business leaders agree, because the region needs such developments to put construction workers back to work, create new jobs, house new businesses and provide relatively affordable housing so young people can stay on Long Island.
But there’s help on the horizon. It will come from two small villages, Mineola in Nassau and Patchogue in Suffolk. Both likely will break ground on higher-density, multiuse redevelopment projects in the next year.
“Long Island is a show-me kind of place,” said Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island. “Once people see that these high-impact projects aren’t onerous, it could make it easier and more acceptable to consider developing bigger projects.”
8. RACE IN THE SPOTLIGHT, AGAIN
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department will continue its examination of Suffolk County’s police department and allegations of discriminatory policing against Latinos — allegations that County Executive Levy denies.
And there’s reason to keep a watch on the Town of Oyster Bay, where the Justice Department and the New York State Division of Human Rights have launched separate investigations into whether the town’s actions on two affordable-housing projects violate federal fair housing by effectively contributing to a pattern of racial segregation.
No one can predict when the federal and state investigations will finish. But the trials in the Lucero case should begin within the first three months of the year.
9. KING REMAINS IN THE HOUSE
Rep. Peter King, who is garnering incredible news coverage these days, said he intends to keep talking — about homeland security, about what he considers to be a flawed proposed national health-care plan and about how New York does not get its fair share of federal funds.
King also said that — despite urging from prominent national Republicans, including Dick Morris and Karl Rove — the safe bet is that he will not run for Senate against Gillibrand. A Senate run against the Democrat, King said, “would take me out of doing what I am doing, repeatedly, now,” he said. “. . . I’m trying to keep my head on straight to pay attention to issues that rise above party and above region.”
I’m betting with King: He’ll stay in the House.
10. POLITICAL PREDICTIONS
It’s not whether, but when, Kathleen Rice, Nassau County’s newly re-elected district attorney, will join presumed gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo as a contender for state attorney general . . . State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a former state assemblyman from Great Neck Plaza, will have to pick it up in the fundraising and state exposure departments quickly if he is to survive a reported — but denied — Cuomo-inspired Democratic primary opponent to gain his first full term . . . Word is that a split may be brewing in the Nassau County Republican Party, with incoming County Executive Edward Mangano blazing a more independent path than past leaders . . . But Mangano will have no choice other than to stand as his own man in 2010. It is essential that his Newer Nassau bear as little resemblance as possible to Republican elected officials of old — the ones who helped push the county toward bankruptcy a decade ago.