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LI pols: Keep 850 air traffic control jobs

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a news conference Thursday at MacArthur Airport in Islip, where local and state politicians made pleas to the Federal Aviation Administration to keep 850 jobs on Long Island and build its new air traffic control center at the airport. (July 12, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

Hailing from across the political spectrum, state and local politicians from Suffolk County had a message for the Federal Aviation Administration Thursday: Keep 850 jobs on Long Island, and make Long Island MacArthur Airport the home of your new air traffic control center.

The FAA's plans to combine two locations in Westbury and Ronkonkoma into a new $95 million building to be filled with state-of-the-art technology for the agency's switch to satellite navigation system NextGen has garnered attention statewide, and the possibility of losing Long Island air traffic control jobs to New Jersey or upstate New York has rallied local leaders.

Thursday's new conference, organized by Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, came days after the National Air Traffic Controllers Association announced a similar plea to keep the jobs on Long Island, and was the first unified public show of support from local politicians to build the facility at the 50-year-old airport.

"This facility has to be located at this airport, period," said Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko. "It's important to keep our air traffic controllers here in their homes . . . and it's vitally important for the economic development of our region."

Building the center, Croci added, would create "hundreds and hundreds" of new construction jobs, another potential boon for the area. "We think that the strength of the site and the strength of MacArthur is going to be formidable as the FAA makes their decision," Croci said.

FAA officials said in a statement that while the agency has "completed some preliminary engineering and design work for the new facility, a final location has not been determined." They are expected to announce the location by the end of the year.

Also present to support the location were County Executive Steve Bellone, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer, State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Clara Datre, president of the Long Island Builders Institute.

"These jobs would be the catalyst that the construction industry needs to get its engine going," Datre said.

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