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Long Island

LI nets additional $550M in state budget for economic development projects

ALBANY -- Long Island advocates scored on the final day of New York's fiscal year.

Provisions tucked into the state budget allocate $550 million for large-scale development projects on the Island, a last-minute victory for local leaders who had been petitioning for a big portion of the state's windfall from national banking settlements.

A specially designated $400 million fund will be for "transformative" projects in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Another $150 million will come from New York's $5.4 billion share of settlements from national mortgage lawsuits. Senate and Assembly officials said the special fund was intended to compensate the Island for receiving a comparatively small bit from the banking fund.

"As I've been saying, this budget is going to be regionally balanced and we've been able to secure this critical funding for Long Island," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

The $550 million isn't tied to specific projects, but Skelos said a proposal to create a research center connecting Hofstra University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory would be considered.

In the rush to finish a roughly $150 billion budget over the last two days, lawmakers said they expected to approve $5 million to combat nitrogen pollution on Long Island, establish a tax-free development zone around Republic Airport in Farmingdale, extend state control over the entity that operates Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack, and greenlight repowering studies for power plants in Hempstead and Port Jefferson.

They said they rejected proposals to install video slot machines at Belmont, raise some motor vehicle fees in Suffolk and telephone fees in Nassau, and withdraw authorization for school zone speed cameras in both counties.

Since the fall, local business leaders had campaigned for a "Long Island Billion," mimicking the "Buffalo Billion" -- an aid package Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pushed through in his first term. They targeted money from the banking settlements.

But in January, Cuomo unveiled a plan for the money that focused upstate and set aside roughly $100 million for two parking garages on the Island. The Democrat amended his plan Monday to give the Island $150 million but for no specific projects.

The governor and house leaders Tuesday signed off on a capital project that included the $400 million "Transformative Investment Projects" fund. Documents show the fund would be "appropriated for the payment, over a multiyear period, of capital costs of regionally significant economic development initiatives that create or retain private sector jobs."

The head of the Long Island Association, which led the "Long Island Billion" effort, called it "great news." He said business and civic groups battled the perception that Nassau and Suffolk counties didn't need state help.

"We're always fighting the perception that Long Island is wealthy and is without any challenges," said Kevin Law, association president and CEO. His group and others "put our advocacy into high gear" over the last few weeks to urge lawmakers to set aside discretionary funds for the region.

Environmental, civic and labor groups campaigned in Albany in March, as did Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley, who lobbied for the research collaborative.


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