The Long Island Regional Planning Council intends to convene a summit this fall to explore the "challenges and opportunities" of a local surge in immigration, particularly among Hispanics.
With Hispanics now constituting 15.6 percent of the Island's 2.8 million people and Asians making up another 5.4 percent, council chairman John Cameron said it's time to talk about the issues that arise as communities undergo cultural shifts.
Besides the economic implications posed by a significant influx of immigrants, schooling is key, he said.
"Education of this new immigrant population is going to be a critical challenge for the Island," Cameron said during the council's meeting at the new Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.
School districts, he said, will have to provide remedial instruction to non-English-speaking students. And that means additional costs for districts grappling with budget cuts.
Cameron stressed that opportunities could also result from the rise of the immigrant population, such as new businesses that could ultimately bolster the economy.
He called for the summit, with the support of other council members, noting, "The council could act as a convener to discuss issues and potential solutions." The discussion stemmed from a presentation of 2010 census data for the Island by the council's chief planner, Seth Forman.
Among Forman's analysis:
There's been an "eastward population creep" on Long Island, where the biggest population gains since 2000 occurred in the towns of Southold (6.6 percent), Shelter Island (7.4), Brookhaven (8.4), East Hampton (8.8), and Riverhead (21).
Fifteen of the top 20 communities with the largest gains in population between 2000 and 2010 are in or east of the Town of Brookhaven.
Suffolk County now contains 7.7 percent of the New York State population -- its highest percentage ever. Nassau County's percentage dropped slightly, to 6.9 percent.
In other business, Cameron said the council had enough reserve funds to continue operating through the year while it seeks alternate sources of funding. Cash-strapped Nassau County has eliminated its $200,000 contribution to the group this year. "Reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated," he said.
Christopher Kent, Suffolk's chief deputy county executive, said his county will continue to fund the council through the year, reversing a decision last month to "phase out" its $200,000 contribution.
Kent said the county will also consider funding the council next year.