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Panel approves use of Suffolk County land for start-ups at SCCC

A Suffolk legislative committee Tuesday approved an agreement to allow Suffolk County Community College to use 10 acres of county land next to the Selden campus so it can qualify for the state START-UP NY program, despite questions about parking and public input.

College officials are drafting a memorandum of agreement with the administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to permit the college to use part of 62 county acres in a trust. That would be enough to make the school eligible for state programs that officials hope will provide students with training and internships.

The college was passed over in the first round of the program because it did not identify a site where the new businesses could locate.

"Right now, we don't have a space on campus to put a building," said Ben Zwirn, director of legislative affairs.

He added that siting the business zone on county land avoids the potential loss of property tax revenues to the local community.

The education committee voted 4-1, with Legis. Thomas Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) abstaining.

START-UP NY seeks to attract small technology companies to New York State. They pay no state and local taxes for as long as 10 years in return for investment and hiring. Their employees pay no state income taxes for as many as 10 years.

SCCC trustee James Morgo said Stony Brook University, which already is in the state program, has received 400 applications, more than its capacity. Morgo said SCCC could benefit from the overflow, particularly with companies that need two-year graduates with technical training.

"Some of our kids move on to four-year schools, but others look to move into jobs right away," he said.

Legis. Louis D'Amaro (D-North Babylon) said he understands the economic benefits of the program but questioned whether the use of the land might aggravate the college's chronic parking problems. He also said nearby residents might object to the fact that construction plans would not have to be aired in town zoning hearings.

Zwirn said college officials have spoken to the local county legislator, Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), and notified other local officials of their plans. "We would do nothing to make the community unhappy," said Zwirn. Thomas Vaughan, a Bellone aide, agreed to amend the agreement to require public hearings on any application.

Zwirn also disclosed that long dormant plans for Empire State College to build a Long Island headquarters on 6.6 county acres nearby have been revived. The county Legislature in 2011 approved a $660,000 sale of land to the state, but the deal never closed. State officials say they will now go ahead with the 33,000 square foot two-story building on College Road.

Empire, founded in 1971, is part of the state university system and designed to meet the needs of adult learners doing independent study with qualified mentors.

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