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Long Island

Forum set on use of $16B in infrastructure

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shown

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shown in this file photo. (Jan. 17, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Long Islanders will have a say in the radical shake-up of how the state plans and finances $16 billion annually in improvements to roads, bridges, university buildings and other infrastructure.

Key members of the New York Works Task Force will be in Farmingdale Wednesday for a presentation to the public and local construction, finance, transportation, labor and planning leaders.

Concerned about a lack of cohesion and coordination in the way billions of dollars in state investments are allocated, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in May the effort to coordinate a statewide infrastructure plan, with backing from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The goal: By year's end, 47 state agencies, from the MTA to LIPA, including the Port Authority, the SUNY system and the state Transportation and Environmental Conservation departments, will have a new, streamlined approach to plan and finance major projects.

New York faces a statutory cap on public debt and the task force is exploring alternate funding strategies to try to inject more private capital into infrastructure investment.

Wednesday's public forum will be led by Long Island Regional Planning Council chairman John D. Cameron, the Long Island representative on the 15-member task force. Tuesday, Cameron said public- and private-sector leaders he had spoken with remain concerned by the state of the economy and whether Long Island is getting its "fair share" of infrastructure dollars.

"This is an exciting challenge -- it's never been approached this way before and the governor has made it clear he wants a plan that helps leverage capital investment with a goal of 20 private-sector dollars for every public dollar invested in our roads, bridges, wastewater-treatment plants and other environmental infrastructure," he said.

Among sources of private capital being considered are public and private pension funds, including those from the construction industry whose workers, advocates say, stand to benefit the most from such investment.

Wednesday's forum starts at 10:30 a.m. at the Molloy College Farmingdale campus' Sustainability Institute. It will include presentations by state budget director Robert Megna and task force executive director Margaret Tobin, a finance and economic development specialist.

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