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Islip apprentice law unlikely this year

Time has run out for Islip's Democratic-dominated administration in its effort to pass a law mandating state-approved apprenticeship programs in large-scale construction projects.

Supervisor Phil Nolan has spoken with dissenting Democrat John Edwards in an attempt to allay his concerns after 400 people -- mostly union members and beneficiaries of apprentice programs -- packed a public hearing last week at Town Hall.

But Nolan and Edwards agree there is not sufficient time before the clock runs out on Nolan's 3-2 Democratic administration. On Jan. 1, Republican Supervisor-elect Tom Croci assumes the helm of a 5-0 Republican/Conservative town board majority.

At the hearing, Edwards effectively kicked the proposal -- drafted by fellow Democratic councilman Gene Parrington -- to the new administration by moving to have it tabled, citing concerns he had with the definition in town code of a "commercial building." His motion was quickly supported by Republican council members Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Steve Flotteron.

Edwards said later his primary objection is one of principle: "I'm just not in agreement that government should extend itself into the private sector in the way the resolution asks."

Nolan said government already is involved in regulating the private sector, from building permits to zoning changes.

"But to me, this was always about trying to keep Long Island jobs going to Long Islanders," Nolan said. "We've seen instances where major job sites were literally littered with out-of-state plates . . . That's an outcome that's unacceptable when so many of our local contractors and workers are out of work."

The issue is seen by many in Islip and beyond as a broader proxy battle between organized labor and Heartland Town Square developer Gerald Wolkoff, who has sparred with unions over their role in working his mega-city project proposed for Brentwood.

Wolkoff's son, David, said at the hearing the family company had put on hold construction of two 150,000-square-foot facilities -- part of an existing industrial complex that would adjoin the new development -- in anticipation of the law, which he warned would deter business and job creation.

Croci said in an interview he couldn't predetermine the judgment of his incoming board, but is willing to give the proposal fair consideration. "At this point, we haven't opened or closed any doors on this issue, we're still in the process of investigating its potential impact."

Jim Castellane, president of the Nassau/Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council, said Monday he looked forward to meeting the new administration on the issue.

"We're going to make it a No. 1 priority in the building trades to get this proposal through in Islip," he said. "It's vital that fair wages and benefits are paid if Gerry Wolkoff ever wants to build Heartland."

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