Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran mapped out their priorities to build a Ronkonkoma Hub and a Nassau Hub, create more varied housing stock and develop transit-oriented downtowns Friday morning at one of the largest annual gatherings of political and business leaders on Long Island.
But they also spoke of needs to be addressed — holding the line on decreasing crime, the need for a permanent cap on local property tax increases — and defended Nassau's property reassessment plan during their State of the Region address. More than 800 attended the sold-out breakfast event hosted by the Long Island Association at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
“We are making progress on every one of these issues,” Bellone said. “I believe the sky is the limit . . . Long Island has unlimited potential.”
Bellone, in his 25-minute speech, touched on efforts to connect the Ronkonkoma train station to Long Island MacArthur Airport; adding rapid transit bus service from Stony Brook University to Patchogue to create a Nicolls Road corridor; a Long Island Rail Road station to bring people to Brookhaven National Laboratory; strengthening Suffolk County’s sewer infrastructure; eliminating the MS-13 gang presence; and addressing the rising opioid addiction problem.
Curran, who recently completed her first year in office, spoke about her administration’s cornerstone initiative to reassess Nassau’s properties for taxing purposes and the redevelopment of the county-owned land around NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. She also vowed to keep unionized labor costs in Nassau at bay.
“Down in Washington they are shutting down the government, but here in Nassau, we are moving forward,” she said.
She spoke about the overhaul to the tax assessment system for more than 400,000 properties, saying: "Fixing assessment is fixing what's wrong with Nassau County government."
Curran drew laughs from the audience when she jokingly noted a billboard truck traveling around her county blasting the song “Rich Girl” while depicting her photo next to a large red arrow labeled “Assessment Taxes!” pointing up. The truck belongs to the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, one of five major unions recently at odds with the county executive over negotiations for a new contract.
Attorney General Letitia James, who took office less than two weeks ago, also spoke at the event, vowing to address crime, particularly MS-13 gang activity, and "remove those bad actors on Long Island who are bringing down the quality of life."
The event included representatives from nearly every sector of the Island’s economy: education, environment, law, hospitality and health care.
“It’s really bringing everyone together to discuss Long Island’s legislative priorities,” said Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, the business group that was the primary host of the event.
All of the region's six Democratic state senators were present. Dubbed “the Long Island Six,” the lawmakers were of particular focus on the eve of a new power shift in Albany that for the first time in years ensures Democratic control of the governor’s office, Assembly and State Senate.
"My colleagues in the Senate majority and I share the same vision as both county executives for bringing a modern 21st century economy along with necessary infrastructure upgrades to our region, and we will fight hard to obtain our fair share of state funding for the critical projects that support this vision," said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).