Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy (Sept. 14, 2011)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy (Sept. 14, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Suffolk County should add affordable housing, expand sewer systems, consider school district consolidation and protect the environment, according to a report prepared by Suffolk planning officials and released Tuesday by County Executive Steve Levy.

The 18-page document, part of the county's effort to develop a 2035 master plan, says Suffolk's population could grow from 1.5 million to 1.75 million in the next 24 years. The county must build more housing and promote economic development without raising taxes or adding to traffic congestion, the report says.

In an interview, Levy acknowledged the report reflected his agenda and said it was his last chance "to impart my eight years of accumulated knowledge" before he leaves office on Dec. 31.

"We've done a great deal . . . had a tremendous number of innovative initiatives, but there's a lot more to be done," Levy said. "It's a little bit of wanting to see that the seeds that we're planting blossom into something that improves the quality of life."

The report touts some of Levy's successes, such as "workforce housing," an effort to encourage school and fire districts to enter a joint purchasing program established by Suffolk and Nassau counties, and initiatives to place shellfish seeds in Great South Bay and build solar panels in parking lots.

But those programs should be expanded, the report says; for example, the authors say school district consolidation should be considered, though they acknowledge combining schools may be difficult "due to political issues."

The report also recommends expanding affordable housing by rehabilitating empty buildings, adding rentals and encouraging development near transit hubs. Levy acknowledged public opposition to affordable housing, but said it is "something we desperately need for the health of the county."

"Young people want a vibrant, nice place to live, and they don't have enough of it on Long Island," he said. "They'll go to Brooklyn before they stay here."

With the projected addition of 250,000 residents, Levy said, "We have to start thinking right now how to accommodate them in terms of traffic and the environment and our labor force."

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