Construction, business, environment and labor leaders yesterday called on the New York Works Task Force to invest in making improvements to the deteriorating infrastructure in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Members of the state panel charged with devising a new approach for capital spending were in Farmingdale as part of a listening tour for the effort Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he hopes will better coordinate planning and financing by 47 state agencies.
Getting people back to work on infrastructure improvements "has a ripple effect" across the entire economy, said Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors' Association. "We have to get those people back to work."
Herbst, a former Republican assemblyman from Hicksville, said that 16,700 jobs were lost in construction from May 2010 to May this year, in an industry that's traditionally one of the strongest economic drivers on the Island.
Michael Posillico, executive vice president of Farmingdale-based engineering and construction firm Posillico, who also heads the local chapter of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said Long Island needs strong leadership to get key projects moving, among them the Long Island Rail Road's proposed third track and widening the Sagtikos State Parkway.
"People on all sides of politics can agree . . . get this done," he said in reference to bipartisan support for the task force from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).
State Budget Director Robert Megna told the gathering that New York is projected to come within $600 million of its statutory debt limit in fiscal year 2014. That meant the state must adopt a more disciplined approach to every dollar of the $16 billion the 47 agencies spend annually on transportation infrastructure, environmental assets and university buildings.
Every dollar spent on Long Island yields more for the state than any other area, given the tax revenue the area provides, said Michael Harrison of Massapequa, former Gov. David A. Paterson's regional representative.
"When it comes to return on investment, Long Island delivers a bang for the buck," Harrison said.
Long Island Regional Planning Council chairman John Cameron, the region's sole representative on the task force, said after the meeting that the group hoped to have a final plan by year's end, but acknowledged Long Island's immediate concerns.
"There's a real concern that nothing major's happening here," Cameron said. "If one of your largest contributors to state tax revenues -- Long Island -- is stuck in neutral, that's a problem for the state."