A new Long Island delegation serving in the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives could be the key to unlocking resources previously unavailable to local municipalities, Nassau and Suffolk town supervisors on a forum panel agreed Friday.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin told his fellow supervisors that he believes the time has come to “put in those wish lists” with Long Island’s federal representatives.
“I really do think it’s a great opportunity for Long Island,” Clavin said. “We now have four members of Congress who have crucial votes in maintaining a majority. They have a vested interest in providing what I think has been lacking for decades in respect to funding real projects for Long Island.”
Clavin made his comments before an audience of about 900 business and government leaders during the opening panel at the annual Smart Growth Summit hosted by Vision Long Island at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
The discussion, moderated by Newsday associate editor and columnist Joye Brown, offered a rare opportunity to hear from the supervisors of seven Long Island towns and five mayors on the same panel, where they also discussed affordable housing and downtown revitalization efforts in their respective municipalities.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said towns are “making a mistake” if they look at the affordable housing issue without also addressing transportation.
“We need to look at transit, because transit in Suffolk, at least in Brookhaven, is antiquated,” Romaine said. “We have three train lines running through my town, all of which rely on a 19th century dirty technology called diesel.”
Romaine said he would like to see the state and federal governments help fund electrification of the Long Island Rail Road lines in his town, while also increasing subsidies for bus transportation.
“If we look at affordable housing without also looking at transportation, we’re going to be kicking ourselves,” Romaine said.
Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said for her town the transportation needs extend to Long Island MacArthur Airport, where she said federal marketing dollars and expanded service could make it a more appealing option for Long Island travelers who make the trip to New York City’s airports instead.
“We’re not going to put them out of business for sure, but it gives relief,” Carpenter said of improving the Islip airport.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said he would like to see a focus on addressing water pollution needs on Long Island, citing funding to assist in the cleanup of contaminants in drinking water.
“And we need to move far more quickly in finally cleaning up the Grumman Navy plume [in Bethpage], so people who are living here can live safely and happily with peace of mind,” Saladino said.
In January, Long Island will send four elected Republicans to Congress, including three freshman: Nick LaLota in the 1st Congressional District, George Santos in the 3rd and Anthony D'Esposito in the 4th. Andrew Garbarino, the only Long Island incumbent to seek reelection, won in the 2nd District.
Clavin said he expects those four members of Congress to have clout as Republicans look to keep control of the House.
“Infrastructure, cleaning up well waters, improvements on the roads, this is our opportunity,” Clavin said. “Have our members go down there and bring back that money that we’ve been sending to Washington, D.C., for decades that we have never really seen.”